An international media, Update African Magazine has rated The Founder and Pro-Chancellor of Tansian University, Very Rev. Msgr. John Bosco Akam as Man of the Year. The Occasion for the award took place at the National Merit Award Centre, Abuja on 20th, March, 2010 amidst fanfare and pageantries.
The academic guru delivered a lecture which was widely revered.
The Greek word for sycophancy is sykophantes. It suggests someone who brings all kinds of charges and proves none. It is the practice of sycophants to bring charges against those who have done no wrong. For these they would gain most profit. In this context the word entails false accusation, malicious prosecution, and abuse of legal process for mischievous or fraudulent purpose.
In the ancient Greece the word was the Anthenian counterpart of the Roman dilator, a public informer. In Modern Greek the term has retained its ancient classical meaning, and is still used to describe a slanderer or a calumniator.
Sycophancy can be understood in three dimensions:
1. Obsequious flattery; servility
2. False accusation; calumniation; tale bearing
3. The Character or characteristics of a sycophant
Alternative phrases are often used such as:
Apple polishing, bootlicker, brown nosing, crawler, fawning, flunky, hang-on, kowtowing, lackey, lickspittle, toady and yes men.
Psychological Manipulation of Sycophancy
Attention, flattery, giving gifts, giving money, grooming, praise, seduction, smiling, superficial charm and superficial sympathy.
Anger, character assassination, crying, emotional blackmail, frowning, inattention, intimidation, nagging, nit-picking criticism, passive aggression, swearing, threats and victims blaming.
Deception, denial, disinformation, diversion, evasion, exaggeration, indoctrination, lying, rationalization abuse, advertising, confidence trick, media-manipulation, mind control, propaganda, scapegoating, smear campaign etc.
Democracy in its commonest meaning, is the government of the people by the people and for the people. So far in Nigeria, we have no regret embracing democracy and its challenges. Since transition from military rule in 1999 we have had the opportunity to take our cherished democracy through successful successive rebirths. Our democracy as been a major factor for the changes, development and growth which we share today. This cherished democracy as taught us how to checkmate people placed in responsible positions in our bid to fight poverty, ensure social cohesion, facilitate the development of our social services, deepen political development, ensure the freedom of speech of the citizenry and above all sustain the peace of one Nigeria.
If we are able to sustain these monumental responsibilities given all the necessary support and energies; correcting our mistakes and deepening those better results, there is certainly no reason why we cannot develop dignity and human capital in our dear country. But there is this dangerous cancerous enigmatic culture which if not tackled has the propensity to derail our democracy and crumble our gigantic efforts to build a better Nigeria. This “cancer” is what I call sycophantic culture which is more dangerous to our democracy than the coup makers. I consider sycophantic culture in our socio-economic and political lives as the biggest threat we face even as we shape our democracy. People are out to lick the shoes of people in the various levels of authorities in the name of loyalty; some to score personal goals and/or undermine others.
Loyalty and sycophancy have thin line. People no longer mean what they say, and say what they mean. The worst is when there is no more correspondence among the trio: what we think, what we say, and what we hear. In other words, we are in an age where thoughts and words do no longer represent reality. The original Greek concept of truth as “aletheia” – unconcealedness is gone. The German idea of truth as “Unverbogenheit” is rare to find. Today in our polity people say and act just to attract attention of the powers that be for their own personal gains. Our politics is sadly infected and infested with professionals who have the habit of singing “hosannas” when they really mean “crucify”. So, as they shout “Crucifige eum” what people hear is “hosanna filio David”. It is most unfortunate when what the speaker thinks and says is “crucify him” while the people hear “hosanna, praises to the son of David”.
Sycophantic culture is a culture where people seek favour by flattening people of wealth or influence. These groups (Sycophants) do not make waves or criticisms. A sycophant will never criticize or correct his superior, being careful to be fawningly pleasant. Too often we get confused over criticisms and impoliteness. We need to distinguished between “constructive, destructive, and deconstructive criticism.
We are in trouble today because we have allowed the above mentioned sycophantic fangs to exist in our politics and governance. We have allowed a culture of corruption and dishonesty to permeate the fabrics of our political institution and pollute our public discourse.
At any failure in democracy, we tend to blame the military for breeding sycophantic culture in our polity but it is very clear that sycophantic culture embraces both the military and civilian sectors of our society and that is the bane of our democracy. Its depth and pervasiveness may well be an indicator of political and managerial leadership more interested in gluing itself to power for selfish interest than to the real interests of the Nigerian people.
There is no gainsaying that political sycophancy has always been part of the world politics. Most people based on personal interests would invariably go out of their ways to sing praises to those in the corridors or power as a way of attracting attention to themselves. “Quid faciamus?” I leave you to reflect on this.
SECOND TERM AND SYCOPHANCY
In recent time, the political atmosphere has been awash with the clamour for a second term for the President, Governors, Senators, members of the House of Representatives, LGA Chairmen, Councilors, Chairmen of Boards of Parastatals and even First Ladies.
Second term, for some serves as a compensatory period for political thugs and sycophants; a period of aggrandizement for all and a callous watch on the exploitation of the masses who temporarily witness a new lease of life during first term in office. Second term syndrome has challenged the ingenuity and wisdow of a number of politicians and left several with their reputations in letters. First term office holders generally focus on being re-elected for a second term syndrome greatly influences rhetoric priorities.
There should be a benchmark for gaining second term ticket. Any political holder seeking re-election should give account of his stewardship. There should be transparency as much as possible; sycophantic culture should not be a yardstick for the appointment for re-election. We should be more strict and careful in our selection and assessment.
IT’S TIME UP FOR SYCOPHANTS
My fear is that we have not been able to separate opinions on national issues from attacks on one’s authority leading to many people who want to stand up to their opinions fall victims to unnecessary politicking. When this happens, those who could not believe in themselves to make it to the highest possible level, based on their own capabilities, end up singing the hymns and praises of those in authority.
For the sycophants, it is better to swallow pride, crash valued opinions and play the second fiddle people in authority than to believe in themselves to make it to the highest level. Sycophants will be happy to go this way than to be honest and straightforward enough to speak their minds no matter the cost.
For them putting up a debate on an issue against the powers that is not in their dictionary simply because they do not want to have written ‘finis’ to their ‘career’ when they can just quench their ideas and continue to enjoy ‘honey and milk’ within the corridors of power.
From another perspective, we have to take note of the fact that sycophants are so powerful that they can easily reduce a performing government to that of a disgruntled one. They can mesmerize you to such a point that you feel like you are an alien to the system you have been part of its operation. Their motives are simply to infect and to infest the system of government and hence end up doing grave damage to our democracy and the development of our country. That is the evil scaring our democracy.
The question is: Do we need these sycophants in this 21st century democracy? The obvious answer is NO! And the time to make it impossible for them to continue their slaughter of our democratic process is NOW. Understood in the sense of the meeting point between the already and the not-yet. Or better still, TODAY can be the understood as the tomorrow of yesterday and the yesterday of tomorrow.
There is every need to be strong on political sycophancy and to take every step to discourage such grossly disturbing instances of ingratiating behavior anemic ti democratic sustenance. Of course political loyalty is extremely vital, but it should not be allowed to mutate into unashamed throwing of incense and genuflection at the powers that be, which has the potency to undermine the future of our democracy. It is our collective interest to vanguard against the evil and debilitating sycophancy. Let us be concerned about the high level of unquestioning loyalty feuding into our social, political, economic and cultural nerve ends. Any experienced politician or leader can differentiate between loyalty and sycophancy and we should be bold enough to stem (sycophancy) out of our corridor of polity.
I must tell you that the vigor of democratic debate as been stifled, muffled and muted due to sycophantic culture. We do not wish to have a democracy where alternative view points are less valid.
We always come up with new ideas but saddled with old ways of solving problems- sycophantic approach and lip service. People in the saddle of leadership have consciously or unconsciously become euphemisms for sycophancy. Politicians excel in pandering by constantly telling the people the idea of solving national problem but end up without creating and establishing meaningful and beneficial change in government programs.
A nation of sheep is bred by sycophants. The sycophants are more a danger to our society because they create failure while the critics point the way to human progress and understanding. Critics not sycophants will lead us away from dead ends to the reality of the nation we desperately need. I belong to the school of thought at the hem of which is harry Truman who said: “I want people around me who we tell me the truth, who we tell me the truth as they see it. You cannot operate and manager effectively if you have people around you on the pedestal and tell you everything you do is right because that in practice can’t be possible”.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!
Prof. J. B. Akam (Very Rev. Monsignor).