My long lost friend is very wealthy and powerful. He suffers from Hubris Syndrome. Hubris Syndrome is a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for years and with minimal constraint on the possessor of the said power.
He called me last night. It was an out of the blue call. As I had not heard from him since our humble days at the University of Ibadan. The story continues, as posted in an online conversation.
His call began with his trademark booming laugh, but it was bereft of its traditional warmth. Instead, it was clinical, forced, strained but it ended with his triumphant call – Idada!
I instantly knew who it was. I called out his name. He went quiet for a moment.
Then he spoke in a bare whisper. “No one has called me that in ages.” “Well if folks knew you in the days when you were nobody in UI, they would call you that.”
“Jude, even our friends in school, call me “The Honorable!” “I am sure they call you that in a lighter mood.”
“No, they fawn about me, bro. You should see them, standing up when I come into the room, offering to carry my bags, even responding with Sir when we converse, it is just sad.”
I went silent. He joined me in silence. It stretched out as our minds without aforethought strolled down memory lane. “Jude, where are you? I came into Lagos today, and I want to see you.” I was surprised.
Everything I had heard through the grapevine was that he was pompous, disconnected, carried himself like his fart was a perfumed honour to whoever was blessed enough to hear and perceive it.
He proved otherwise when he walked into my apartment, an hour and a half later dressed in a simple white brocade ensemble with a white cap and white leather slippers. His face was chubby in its beard gang mode and his skin was smoothly unblemished.
He shone with the opulence of luxury as though he had bathe in a tub of coconut milk, shea butter and honey. My floor mate in the days of dreams and endless unmet desires had transformed into a – biggest boy. I knew it was hubris.
He hugged me tightly as soon as I opened the door. The hug held for a prolonged time, his perfume embraced me with pleasure as he tapped me twice on the back, before we separated.
He looked at me as he walked into the living room. “Jude, you no dey age?”
I just smiled. He sat down. And as I made to offer him something to drink, he announced matter-of-factly…
“Jude, men, I am tired of yes men. I need a toe holder. Someone to bring me back to earth. Someone who would tell me the truth without fear and open the curtain for me to see the real world. Look, bro, this power and money has totally killed the real me. I can’t even feel for people no more. Remember me those days at Teddar naa! I was amongst awon boys, the soul of the party. Look at me now, cold as a dead body.”
I sat down beside him. “It is the power paradox.” It is the hubris of office.
“Power Paradox? Jude, you are still blowing all this your big grammar.”
I smiled. He tapped me on the knee. “I follow you on Facebook. I read your stories. That is why I reached out to you bro. Please speak life into me. Prophet of words and senior sense.”
He finished with his booming laughter. Warmth had started to creep into it. Which one come be power paradox and hubris again?
“Power paradox is the phenomenon that occurs when once you have power, you lose some of the capacities you needed to gain that power in the first place. You change. You suffer an empathy deficit.
You can no longer mirror the humanity that you once could see and feel in people. The mirroring that made them connect with you and help you up on your way to attaining power. So now that you can no longer empathize, you can no longer connect, you can no longer relate to the plight of people who are not of the same class you are.
You become a user instead of a partner. A boss instead of a leader. You begin only to hear what you want to hear, and because of that, only the people who tell you what you want to hear, you keep around yourself. Sooner or later, you become cut out of reality. You are assailed by hubris.
In a false bubble, you exist. And in that bubble you begin to make mistakes, ill-informed judgement, power gets into your head, you believe the lies of the praise singers, you become deluded and in that start of delusion you do things that you would not have done if you were connected with reality.
These things are grave mistakes, and these grave mistakes lead to your downfall. That is the tragedy of Power. It’s paradox. If you don’t hold onto the virtues and people who helped you to power in the first place, their absence will be exactly what will make you lose power at the end.” That’s what hubris does to many in authority.
Another bout of silence descended on us. He finally broke it with a sigh.
“So this is the beginning of my end?” “No, your brain has not been totally damaged by the hubris of power. That is why you knew to reach out for help.”
“What do I do?” I held my words tight to myself. He glanced over at me. His brow was furrowed. “Come on, tell me.” I let out my breath and leaned forward.
“You have to give up the unnecessary symbols of power. The surplus cars, the houses, the adornments, the profligacies, the wanton girls. These things are imprisoning you. They are forcing you to live as what you are not. To take as yours, what is not yours!
“Do not give them power over you. Do not make them into gods. If you do, they will rule you through greed and destroy you through avarice.”
He also leaned forward, removed his cap and listened. “You have to cut away the enablers from you.”
“The yes men?” “Everyone who is not professional enough to do their job without shielding you from the truth to satisfy their own goals. Everyone around you that has no purpose that is aligned to the achievement of your purpose. Everyone around you, who you know in your heart is there only to get something from you for their personal gain. The chameleons, the wolves, the ostriches, the vultures, the leeches, the hyenas and the principalities and powers.”
“If I do that there would be no one left around me.”
“Remember the sun does not come out at night. And because it does not, the moon and the stars have a field day. Bring the sun back.”
“The sun?” “The sun is the truth.” The yes men incubate and fester the hubris. It is this atmosphere of hubris that violates your “self” Get rid of the air of darkness.
“The truth?” “Yes.” “I don’t understand.”
“Why did the people vote for you?” “Because they believed I would do what I said I would do.” “What did you promise them you will do?”
“I will serve them. I will represent them at the federal level and fight for their interests. I will lift them from the place they find themselves to the place where they would be able to live a fulfilling life.”
“And have you done it?”
He fell silent and bowed his head.
I could feel his shame. “Bro, the truth is waiting to shine. Just give it a chance. It will lead you to where you are supposed to be headed to.” His eyes were misty as he looked up at me.
“Jude, can you be my senior special adviser?” “No.” He paused. Incredulity spread on his face. “I will pay you very well.”
“I am sorry, that is not my purpose.” “But you know what to do?”
“Knowing and doing are two different things.” “Come on Jude, we can do this together.” “I will not walk a journey that is not mine. I have served my purpose, bro.”
“How?” “I have pointed out the way. Now it is for you to walk towards the shore of your fulfilment.” “What if you are meant to do more?”
“Then I would have felt it in my spirit man, the same way you were led to me today to speak to you.”
Another bout of silence descended. He looked away for an instant and then looked back at me, before he slowly went down on his knees.
“Please pray for me.” “No.”
It was an audible whisper that was coated with a thin layer of disappointment.
He looked up at me. “What?”
“Do not deify me because I spoke truth to you. That is the mistake you are running away from, don’t run back to it. Do not give power or divinity to people who are simply doing their jobs. Do not lift a mere man to a demi-god because you are impressed with his skill, talent or whatsoever.”
“But God is speaking through you, Jude. He is using you.”
“Then pray to God to speak to you and use you too. You can do it yourself. You do not need me.”
“But Jude…” “Who prayed for me, for God to speak to me and use me?” He went silent.
“You see. Power is the journey it is not the destination. It is the tool and not the crown. It is about service and not an avenue of self-aggrandizement. It should give and not take. Build and not destroy. Elevate and not stagnate. Do not make it what it is not. Use it, don’t allow it use you. It is right there in you. It is a truth. Approach it with a clean heart and open hands, and you would see how great the achievements you will wrought with it in your hands.”
“Jude I want you to pray for me.” I stared at him.
“Please.” I knelt down by his side and held his hands. They were clammy.
“I will not pray for you bro. I will pray with you. As an equal.”
And we prayed. Together. In humidity, in honesty, in faith and in total surrender.
He left lighter than he had come. An uplifting of his shoulders and an angling of his head that signaled a man who had finally earned his redemption and found his purpose.
I sit here still in awe and in incomprehension. Why me? Lowly me? Carnal me? Fallible me?
What is truly my purpose that I would have been placed so surefooted at the crossroads of the life of another soul? There is no answer save for the yawning silence of the lonely night.
Even then, strange as it is, I feel the warm fingers of a calming peace, slowly embracing my troubled mind.
I am not alone. Hubris hurts.