Wednesday, 27th September 2023

The reign of the mad king

By Hope Eghagha     
09 July 2018   |   3:09 am
The immediate reason for this essay is one of the reactions to a post which I made on Facebook last week as a short term method of ventilating frustrations with local and international events which I often read about. The simple post read: ‘The madness of the king is the problem of the kingdom’ and…

The immediate reason for this essay is one of the reactions to a post which I made on Facebook last week as a short term method of ventilating frustrations with local and international events which I often read about.

The simple post read: ‘The madness of the king is the problem of the kingdom’ and one of the responders countered: ‘the king’s problem is the king’s problem.’

Now, on social media everybody is an expert. People are free to express their countering inanities even when you seem to have made a profound point.

It got me thinking. How many people know the overall and fundamental importance of leadership in nation-building?

Why have most advanced countries tried to put forward their first eleven for leadership positions?

How is the king’s problem his problem? How is the king’s problem that of the kingdom?

An anecdote might help. It came to be that the king went mad, after many years of powerfully ruling over the land, promoting agriculture, education, commerce and rapid industrialisation.

His rule made no real difference in lives but people just got on with their lives and didn’t mind him and his ways.

One day he woke up and passed a royal decree that foreigners should not be allowed into the kingdom anymore.

He expelled all foreigners in the land and directed his subjects to take over their businesses.

There was wild jubilation as the people saw this big bouncing buffoon as the messiah of the land.

Encouraged by the mass jubilation he promulgated more decrees that put all structures in the hands of indigenous businessmen.

Sadly, these indigenous businessmen had no idea about running businesses. Before long the businesses collapsed.

The economy was ruined and the people blamed the dictator for their fatal end.

The king’s madness had a method; so it was difficult to pronounce him mad.

Adolf Hitler’s madness also had a method and mass appeal. He had flashes of greatness and lucid thinking.

At such times he would harangue his cabinet for hours inside the Council Chambers.

He barred anyone from taking notes. Yet he wanted them to implement his orders. His wife the queen was anxious.

She went into an alliance with a powerful warlord from the creeks to prevent scavengers from taking advantage of her husband.

She could not accept the hard truth that The King had gone Mad. Thenceforth, things started to go downhill.

The economy collapsed. Different vassal states sought their independence. When the demented king refused there was open rebellion.

And so the great kingdom collapsed. The kingdom lost its glory. The king was imprisoned and within ten years there was not a trace of Obako Kingdom!

Is the madness of the king his business alone? Certainly not. When the king goes mad the people must take notice. A king is the number one citizen.

When he is healthy he will take healthy decisions. These decisions have implications on the lives of millions.

It is worse with dictators. Dictators tend to dictate on the details of the lives of citizens along their own vision, warped or healthy – who to love and who to hate, when to laugh and when to cry.

Father-dictators fall into this category. George Orwell also captures this in his highly political novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Indeed there is popular or benevolent dictatorship too.

A leader who rides to the seat of power on popular sentiments could change into a popular dictator with time.

For some of them, a populist appeal could provide a platform.

There are many mad kings around the world right now, in Europe, America and Asia. Of course I do not have to include Africa on the list.

Our continent is sweet home to mad kings, both in the past and in current history.

All or most students of African Literature in Nigeria ought to be familiar with Ola Rotimi’s hilarious drama Our Husband has Gone Mad Again!

The play is centred on a politician who ruins his cocoa business because of his presidential ambitions.

Lejoka-Brown the main character is an ex-soldier who sees politics as a way of eating a juicy frog’.

Populist sentiments are on the rise in Europe and America.

While in Europe the immediate cause could be the mass migration of asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East, in America the doors are being shut against Muslims and migrants from Latin America.

These sentiments may not be profound or long-lasting; they may not serve the defined, eternal purpose of the State.

Yet a leader could simply epitomize the declared sentiments of a group, religious, political or ethnic.

The group could even seize the media and impose itself on the entire populace.

While that sentimental administration lasts, the populist leader remains the face of the country.

It should be stressed that a mad king could actually pursue an agenda that has elements of truth.

But more often than not, that agenda is a smokescreen to achieving a broader sinister goal.

How else do we explain the rise of Donald Trump as President of America?

A mad king therefore is a danger to the survival of a kingdom.

Our elders say that once the head of a fish is rotten the other parts of the body will be no good.

Things flow from the head. Whereas in the affairs of a kingdom headed by a monarchy a king may never be removed till he serves his time (or removed by a Council of Chiefs), in a democracy the people have an opportunity once in every four years to make a change.

It is important to note that the pressure of the office of a king is enough to make a brittle king break down.

Sometimes I wonder whether Trump and his counterpart in North Korea ever sleep.

Do they close their eyes and sleep soundly? How can a monarch who quarrels with everybody, preach hate, ignore existing norms, preach parochialism, promote ethnic bigotry, tweet twenty-four eyes sleep well?

How can he give a balanced judgment in state matters? How can any leader who is not healthy physically or otherwise be good enough to lead his people?

It is possible that late President Yar’ Adua would have lived longer if he didn’t accept the Presidency. State Governorship should have been enough for him.

So let the world be mindful of the caliber of men they entrust with high office.

Our own FRSC used to subject some drivers who infringe traffic laws to a psychiatric test.

Is this too much to demand of anyone who wants to hold office in Nigeria?