The cult of self commands our politics. It thrives on the sinister quirks of sociopaths: superficial charm, grandiloquence, and conceitedness; a need for constant adulation, a penchant for violence, crass sentimentality, sophistry, the inability to feel guilt or remorse, and the inclination to kill.

This is, of course, the ethic promoted by our dysfunctional social complex. It is deeply cultural and hardwired into the Nigerian psyche.

It is the ethic of unfettered fanaticism, the principle of partisan zealots. Ask Sam Omatseye. For the umpteenth time perhaps, the celebrated lyricist, journalist, and chairman of The Nation’s editorial board, has received death threats; this time from the murderous mob rooting for a presidential aspirant.

This is our reality. A society in which the social space inhibits the growth of diverse, independent voices; a space where citizens foster a vicious, poisonous echo chamber that reinforces selfish whims and doctored truths.

Any truth that conflicts with our views of ourselves is deemed maleficent, unfair and untrue. Any perspective that bashes our bigotries and imparts unpleasant truths to us, is deemed abhorrent.

The death threats to Omatseye and the subsequent threats issued by his aggressors to citizenry holding uncomplimentary views of their preferred candidate, among other things, reveal us to ourselves.

Nigeria thrives on the cult of self hence our affliction by murderous citizenship and mob tyranny. The cult of self would be our greatest undoing. Already, its manifestations are rife. It is the misguided belief that one is always right and everyone else got it wrong; it is the conviction that homicidal bias and personal interest, mistaken for individualism, are the same as patriotism and democratic rights.

In fact, homicidal bias, discernible in our distaste for the view of others, has become the highlight of our perverse citizenship and inclination to stifle others.

 

The cult of self, wielded by mob tyrants, foster their desire to impose their views and vanities on others. It enhances their threats to unleash death and mayhem on anyone or any group courageous enough to campaign for and vote for any other presidential aspirant aside from their preferred candidate.

Violence and angst, a sense of victimhood and monopoly of protest, become their justification for threatening and inflicting chaos on anyone whose opinion challenges theirs.

It is this perverse culture – accentuated by material impoverishment and poverty of the mind – that birthed us terrorism, armed banditry, and the highly lucrative kidnap for ransom sub economy. The cult of self afflicted us with the triggers of these monstrosities, that is, the soulless leadership and business class who mindlessly looted the nation’s treasury, trashed the economy and masterminded nationwide mayhem in furtherance of their selfish interests.

There is little difference between the cyber-terrorists running our political space amok, and the bloodthirsty hordes of Boko Haram or the armed bandits quietly laying siege to our hitherto peaceful communities.

The war up north has finally found its way to our doorsteps down south. We can no longer embrace aloofness as our armour against the fierce winds of chaos.

The fragile peace of the south that we once coveted and celebrated with a smirk was after all, an illusion. It diminishes against pervasive terror.

But how have we responded to this looming apocalypse? By gas lighting it and immersing in morbid rites of escape, like the cult worship of a political idol and his totems of dubious rhetoric.

“The professional celebrity, male and female, is the crowning result of the star system of a society that makes a fetish of competition,” wrote C. Wright Mills.

In Nigeria, the political celebrity, among others, is the major beneficiary of our dysfunctional social complex.

Yet millions of Nigerians embrace ignorance even as the toxic underbelly of their political celebrities cum the oligarchic enterprise is hurled in our face; just recently, a viral video of two new governor-elects of rival political parties doing a celebratory dance in a shared private jet made the rounds. It was apparent that the duo shared a tight bond immune to the ravage of acrimony and toxic partisanship pervasive of their neighbouring political spaces.

Reality asserts the political class’ clinical approach to politics and their commitment to it as a game, where you either win or lose – only to retreat, realign and try another day.

Little wonder that supposedly sworn political enemies have been seen to unite by their children’s marriage, or betrothal to each other’s daughters. Outside the circuits of their gated commune, ignorant electorate clash and bawl, maim and kill each other in a manic fit to further the interests of their respective political messiah.

This malady is borne to the point where a man who couldn’t muster a convincing explanation of his ambition to lead, let alone a visionary manifesto, is maliciously shoved to our consciousness as the best President Nigeria could ever have.

The malaise aggravates whereby a man or woman gets celebrated as a national treasure due to his or her ability to loot public office and deceive us. Then there are those we celebrate for their ability to dribble and score goals on the football pitch, or breast the tape faster than others in a track and field event. Of course, the latter in particular shouldn’t be faulted for exciting a cult following among mostly superficial beings addicted to entertainment as escape from our self-inflicted woes.

On the flipside, however, the teachers responsible for furnishing Nigeria with all manners of genii, visionaries, technocrats, sports champions, and nation builders, and the security operatives responsible for protecting our lives and property, are treated with disdain by the citizenry and the state.

The policemen, soldiers and the press, who are burdened with the task of protecting us from the worst from abroad and among us, are persistently humiliated and tortured by the Nigerian collective.

The institutionalised degradation of our teachers, security operatives and the press offers public spectacle until their humiliation and debasement hits too close to home and our comfort zones.

The lingering ASUU strike that has rendered several youths “useless” and frustrated, the humiliation and debasement of the striking lecturers; death threats to journalists amid institutionalised harassment of the press; and the disdainful treatment of the nation’s armed forces currently hit too close to home.

Recent intelligence reports suggesting that the federal seat of power in Aso Rock, Abuja, and Lagos State among others, are on the radar of some persons planning terror attacks across the country and the widespread apprehension of the citizenry and political class are instructive.

At this crucial period, who are those we look to for solace and security? Is it our celebrity politician, reality show vixen, pornstar, sports star, actress, musician or social influencer?

Who are those we look to for direction and reassurance that all would be well? From whom do we seek conviction and extract a promise that we’d be safe? Is it the menacing herd prowling the social media and public space, hurling invective and death threats at anyone with differing political views? Is it the virulent horde wishing anarchy on Nigeria from home and abroad?

The chaos of naira decline, looming food crisis, and the threat of cyber-bullies rarely prick the illusions that warp our consciousness like the incumbent threat of nationwide terror attacks.

To deal with the latter, we look to the police. This is quite instructive.