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Underlings And The Tocsin Of Power

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The corrosive nature of power and influence are subjects that have continued to awe men, and one which there will be no end to psychoanalyzing. As in the affairs of man, wisdom, though profitable, is always in short supply in the corridors of power especially amongst underlings and their likes.

Recently, I took to reading Nathan Englander’s The Twenty Seventh Man, which is actually a story from the collection, ‘For the Relief of Unbearable Urges.’ In Chapter 184 verse 8, he waxes poetically; ‘That which cometh unto you hath the essence of your godhood. Arise and be exceedingly wise! Walk and be exceedingly humble!’

I must confess it took a while for this to sink in and once it did, I felt like Archimedes must have felt when he yelled, ‘Eureka,’ upon his discovery that the buoyancy of an object placed in water is equal in magnitude to the weight of the water the object displaces.

Having worked closely with those in the corridors of power, it has become obvious that some aides lack the essence of their ‘godhood’ (their principals) even when such a one exudes wisdom and humility. Owing to, is it naivety or simply lack of confidence in their abilities, some of these aides birth unintended consequences for their bosses.

Seth Cline, Staff Writer with the U.S.News, makes the point that presidents of the United States are not just any sort of Heads of State, rather the supervisors of the entire federal bureaucracy and as such, employee misbehaviour often reflects poorly on the commander-in-chief, even if he is not personally involved.

While Cline might have been particular about the United States, I doubt if it is entirely different in our country, Nigeria. After all, the principle of vicarious liability still exists and the buck stops at the boss’s table! To understand how widespread the problem of some aides are to the prospects of their principals, one has to read Paul Krugman’s article, White House Aides and the Principal-Agent Problem, in The New York Times.

Krugman, a respected columnist, had sought to weigh-in on the anti-left outburst by President Barack Obama’s White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs against liberals who had accused the president of being more concerned with deal-making than ideological purity.

Krugman observed that a whole lot of Americans were missing an important point: what’s good for Obama is not necessarily good for his aides. And tellingly stressed; “Of course, aides aren’t supposed to put their own interests above those of the man they serve.”

Given that the issue of demi-gods’ aides are universal, Nigeria has a fair share of its own. At every turn you find them wielding powers which is not theirs. Analysts have pondered if it boils down to some form of paranoia. Having interacted with quite a few, I have come to the conclusion that those who suffer from this over bloated sense of self do not just lack awareness of the needs of their principals, but are deficient in confidence and a competitive environment.

Olatunji Ololade in his acerbic piece, Nigerian Media Aides and the Tantalus Plague published in The Nation Newspaper of October 20, 2017 tries to situate the matter. Though I do not wholly agree with some of his summations, I am wont to admit that I subscribe to his take that “the citizenry’s deadliest aggressor, however, are journalists turned media aides in the corridors of power.”

Sometimes, to mask their incompetence, every form of assistance in the mould of outsourcing that does not come directly from their little corner is viewed as an encroachment to a territory that is not theirs to keep, and peradventure were they have to keep it, it could not last past eight years.

Beclouded by the sudden vestige of authority, they become immune to the expressive transience of power and its paraphernalia. They become boastful, masters of treachery and petty gossips. As a result of this, they fail to realize that the media space has become so vast given the place of the Citizen Journalist in putting out anything and about everything without the benefit of verifying.

The media, even at its infancy, requires ‘eyes’ outside the bureaucracy of government and for this reason, some aspects are outsourced to competent and efficient PR managers.For those who are yet to learn anything, Dr Reuben Abati’s My Phones No Longer Ring, two months after leaving office as Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, should serve as a stark reminder.

To what end will it profit you if you are adversarial to those in your sphere and only to fall from your assumed pedestal and find out that these are indeed the people you really need later in life? Like they say, time unravels all!


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