The unwholesome effect of power

Recently, Justice Danladi Umar of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), walked into the eye of the storm with reckless abandon; which in a saner society, he would have by now either jump or been pushed out of office.

He has fallen deep into an ignoble depth which will surely remain an albatross round his neck. Aside acting as a restraint, his position and exposure should have conscientized him of the consequences of physical assault or any other misconduct not least in public glare in this time and age.

Furthermore, if his action was compromising, the press release rigged with solecism which was meant to be an attempt at damage control was counterproductive. It only worked magic in putting the chairman and CCT in ridiculous light.

The corruption judge waltzed into our consciousness with the trial of Bukola Saraki which ended in an acquittal much to the chagrin of not few despite huge expectation and interminable wait. Instructively, he sat on the judgement with heavy moral burden of allegation of corruption in 2012.

In 2019, he landed a mortal blow to Justice Walter Onnoghen. And, in the most magisterial manner he threatened journalists covering the case with imprisonment which drew public ire.

Subjecting a security guard to indignities for innocuously asking for compliance with the parking rules was a naked display of power. And it reminded me of the advertisement slogan of the iconic tyre makers Pirelli that – “Power is nothing without control.” The reprehensible action has brought sharp focus on unbridled power and its misapplication by powerful people.

Consider the power of gushing water. It could be destructive or beneficial depending on how we channel it. So, power is neutral. It is left for the holder to decide on how to use it.

The quest for power and influence is inherent in mankind but the need for control and influence through acquisition of so much of it comes with a corrupting effect. Every day, the seduction of power impels otherwise ‘normal’ people to lose balance between power and control.

Not few of our leaders are routinely betraying signs of megalomania and its close cousin narcissism. They are in a delusional state that constrain them into thinking that they are superior to others and any perceived challenge on their power in whatever form is not taken kindly.

Indubitably, strange things happen in the brains of powerful people. Not a few studies have shown the effect of power to the brain and psychology of the holder. Dacher Keltner, psychologist and author of “Paradox of power “with two decades in research lucidly and exhaustively provided explanation. He established inextricable link between power holders and impulsivity; proved that power makes people more likely to break rules because they believe rules and laws are not made for them and also show tendency to objectify people-see other people as a means to their grandiose ends and exhibit a sense of entitlement. In addition, they easily lose self-restraint, break social codes, show less empathy and compulsively lie.

Interesting, it makes powerful people take risk. On this score, researchers have hypothesized that holders of power have higher testosterone which helps reduce fear. Dacher Keltner stated that “my own research has found that people with power tend to behave like patients who have damaged their brain’s orbitofrontal lobes…. a condition that seems to cause overly impulsive and insensitive behaviour. Thus, the experience of power might be thought of as having someone open up your skull and take out the part of your brain so critical to empathy and socially appropriate behaviour.”

So, those completely under the tight grip of power prioritize their interest, thinking, desires against the views of others. Aside the psychology factor, the social factor plays a part in the misuse of power not least the people around them and also the larger society acting more as enablers by failing to make them accountable.

Sadly, as the pathology burgeons, they seek to dispense with objective aides and instead surround themselves with pliable and sycophantic underlings.

Recently, I witnessed the humility that attends the loss of power at a social gathering. Unknown to me, I was sharing a table with a former political office holder and we had animated exchanges throughout the life of the event. And, it was on my way home that sweltering evening, that a friend called to ask if I knew who held me captive in the course of the event and I couldn’t hazard a guess!

And, it hit me like thunder when he dropped the name of my ‘new friend.’ He was unpretentious and without airs and it did really look good on him! He gave rapt attention to views even though diametrically opposed to his and in fact, he took notes.

As stated earlier, a lot of people carry with them inflated images. They simply carry on with an immortality swagger! The allure and lustre of the office is so blinding that they fail to see the transience of today. Political power holders need to remind themselves every day that “Power has only one duty- to secure the social welfare of the people.” Holders of power need to evaluate themselves routinely, stay humble and rooted in reality.

Silence is an oblique form of acquiescence to unacceptable actions by power holders. Impunity shouldn’t be enabled by silence. They need to be held accountable

Ungbo writes via

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