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Why do People in Power Change Radically? By Pat Utomi

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I was one of seven professors who facilitated a leadership training in my university here in Georgia for local government chairmen from a major Nigerian southwestern state.

In the course of the training, I adverted to a January 13, 2018 column I wrote about how power literally damages the brains of people who wield it and causes them to be dissociated from reality.

A few of the chairmen at the training initially said they “rejected” what I said “in Jesus’ name.”But the more I expounded the research on the psychology of power, the less resistant they became. In the light of the interest it excited among these local power wielders, I thought I’d share a revised version of the column for the benefit of other people in power.

Almost everyone I know wonders why people in power change radically; why they become so utterly disconnected from reality that they suddenly become completely unrecognisable to people who knew them before they got to power; why they get puffed-up, susceptible to flattery, and intolerant of even the mildest, best-intentioned censure; why they appear possessed by inexplicably malignant forces; and why they are notoriously insensitive and self-absorbed.

Everyone who has ever had a friend in a position of power, especially political power, can attest to the accuracy of the age-old truism that a friend in power is a lost friend. Of course, there are exceptions, but it is precisely the fact of the existence of exceptions that makes this reality poignant. As the saying goes, “the exception proves the rule.”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Look at all the power brokers in Nigeria—from the president to your ward councilor—and you’ll discover that there is a vast disconnect between who they were before they got to power and who they are now.

Also look at previously arrogant, narcissistic, power-drunk prigs who have been kicked out of the orbit of power for any number of reasons. You’ll discover that they are suddenly normal again. They share our pains, make pious noises, condemn abuse of power, and identify with popular causes. The legendary amnesia of Nigerians causes the past misdeeds of these previous monsters of power to be explained away, lessened, forgiven, and ultimately forgotten. But when they get back to power again, they become the same insensitive beasts of power that they once were.

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So what is it about power that makes people such obtuse, self-centred snobs? It turns out that psychologists have been grappling with this puzzle for years and have a clue. Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at the University of California Berkeley, extensively studied the brains of people in power and found that people under the influence of power are neurologically similar to people who suffer traumatic brain injury!

According to the July/August 2017 issue of the Atlantic magazine, “people who are victims of traumatic brain injury are “more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.” In other words, like victims of traumatic brain injury, power causes people to lose their capacity for empathy. This is a surprising scientific corroboration of American historian Henry Adams’ popular wisecrack about how power is “a sort of tumour that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.”

The findings of Sukhvinder Obhi, a professor of neuroscience at McMaster University, in Ontario, Canada, are even more revealing. Obhi also studies the workings of the human brain. “And when he put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, ‘mirroring,’ that may be a cornerstone of empathy,” the Atlantic reports. “Which gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the ‘power paradox’ Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.”

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Take Buhari, for example. Before 2015, he was – or at least he appeared to be – empathetic. He supported subsidies for the poor, railed against waste, thought Nigerians deserved to buy petrol at a low price because Nigerian oil was “developed with Nigerian capital,” and so on. He even said foreign medical treatment for elected government officials was immoral and indefensible, and wondered why a Nigerian president would need a fleet of aircraft when even the British Prime Minister didn’t have any.

Nothing but power-induced brain damage, which activates narcissism and loss of empathy, can explain Buhari’s dramatic volte-face now that he’s in power. This fact, psychological researchers say, is worsened by the fact that subordinates tend to flatter people in power, mimic their ways in order to ingratiate themselves with them, and shield them from realities that might cause them psychic discomfort.

“But more important, Keltner says, is the fact that the powerful stop mimicking others,” the Atlantic reports. “Laughing when others laugh or tensing when others tense does more than ingratiate. It helps trigger the same feelings those others are experiencing and provides a window into where they are coming from. Powerful people ‘stop simulating the experience of others,’ Keltner says, which leads to what he calls an ‘empathy deficit.’ ”

Researchers also found out that excessive praise from subordinates, sycophantic drooling from people seeking favours, control over vast resources they once didn’t have, and all of the staid rituals and performances of power conspire to cause “functional” changes to the brains of people in power. On a social level, it also creates what Lord David Owen, a British neurologist-turned-politician, called the “hubris syndrome” in his 2008 book titled In Sickness and in Power.

Some features of hubris syndrome, Owen points out, are, “manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence.” Sounds familiar? You can’t observe Buhari’s governance – or, more correctly, ungovernance – in the last four years and fail to see these features in him.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. Powerful people can, and indeed do, extricate themselves from the psychological snares of power if they so desire. Professor Keltner said one of the most effective psychological strategies for people in power to reconnect with reality and reverse the brain damage of power is to periodically remember moments of powerlessness in their lives – such as when they were victims of natural disasters, accidents, poverty, etc.

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They should also have what American journalist Louis McHenry Howe once called a “toe holder,” that is, someone who doesn’t fear them, expects no favours from them, and can tell them uncomfortable truths without fear of consequences.

Winston Churchill’s toe holder was his wife, who once wrote a letter to him that read, in part, “I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner; and you are not as kind as you used to be.” Was Aisha Buhari performing the role of a toe holder when she publicly upbraided her husband in the past? I doubt it.

Her disagreements with her husband are often opportunistic and self-serving. They are triggered only when her husband’s puppeteers in Aso Rock limit her powers to nominate her cronies for political positions and to dispense favours to friends and family.

Another potent way to reverse power-induced brain damage is to periodically get out of the protected silos of power and solitarily observe the quotidian interactions of everyday folks – their humour, laughter, fights, etc. – without the familiar add-ons of power, such as aides, cameras, security, etc. This helps to stimulate the experiences of others and restore empathy.

This is particularly important in Nigeria because power, at all levels, is almost absolute and unaccountable.

Please read and prayerfully ask God to reveal your “ toe holder” to you.

Credit to Operanews

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EXCLUSIVE: Armed robbers invade Aso Rock, empty Buhari’s chief of staff Gambari, admin officer Maikano’s residences

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Armed men suspected to be robbers invaded the residences of two senior aides to President Muhammadu Buhari inside the precinct of the Presidential Villa, administration officials and security sources have told Peoples Gazette, raising fears that the rising insecurity across the country was drawing closer to the elite than previously estimated.

The incident on May 9 (yesterday) prompted Ibrahim Gambari and Abubakar Maikano, the chief of staff and admin officer, respectively, to abandon their residences, sources said.

“Their houses were robbed and the robbers packed money and other valuable assets from both houses,” an aide to the informed about the robbery told The Gazette.

It was not immediately clear whether or not valuable documents of state interest were carted away by the intruders, but The Gazette heard that the residences were thoroughly ransacked.

“The robbers took away as much as possible from both places,” a security officer that confirmed the incident said. “What is more unfortunate is that no one has been arrested.”

Officials also said Mr Gambari was given an official residence at the Defence House, but has not been living there, preferring instead to live inside Aso Rock and be close to the president.

Nigeria’s presidential palace just west of the city centre has long been seen as highly fortified and far beyond the reach of burglars, bandits and other criminals currently holding the vast swathes of the country to ransom.

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But as criminal activities overshadow other matters of national consequences, Mr Buhari has faced calls to act urgently before it would be too late.

Armed bandits have abducted thousands of citizens since January alone, claiming billions in ransom payments at an alarming rate.

No explanation was immediately rendered for the invasion and why it was not prevented by the ubiquitous contingent of security officers, especially those of the State Security Service, guarding the fortress.

Mr Gambari did not immediately return a request seeking comments. 
A spokesman for the SSS said he would not comment on the matter and a spokeswoman for the police in Abuja abruptly disconnected the call upon hearing The Gazette’s enquiry was about a security breach at the Presidential Villa.

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Tinubu Support Group Appoints Ganduje As Patron

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The Bola Tinubu Support Organisation (BTSO) has appointed the Kano State governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, as its national patron.

This was contained in a press release obtained sent to LEADERSHIP and signed by the national coordinator of the organisation, Comrade Abubakar Abdullahi Kuso.

Presenting the letter of appointment  to Governor Ganduje, Kuso said the organisation appointed the governor as its patron considering his commitments and support to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

 

Receiving the letter from the leadership of BTSO, Governor Ganduje appreciated them for honouring while accepting the appointment.

Recall that Asiwaju Tinubu, had last month visited Kano State where he celebrated his 69th birthday anniversary with an annual colloquium

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FCCPC Commences Investigation Over Alleged Unprofessional Conduct Leading To The Deaths Of Two Persons:

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Pursuant to Sections 17(a), (e), (h), (l), (s), (t), (y) of the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPA)

Monday, May 10, 2021: Between Friday May 7th and Sunday May 9th, the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (Commission) learned from multiple channels and sources about the sad and unfortunate deaths of Mrs.

Peju Ugboma after a surgical/medical procedure at Premier Hospital, Victoria Island, Lagos State; and Ms. Omolara Omoyajowo after receiving care at Beachland Specialist Hospital, Arepo, Ogun State.

With respect to Late Mrs. Ugboma, publicly available information suggests that she was admitted at Premier Hospital, Victoria Island, Lagos State, on Thursday, April 22nd, 2021, to undergo what appeared to be an elective procedure on Friday, April 23rd, 2021.

The information also imply that the procedure appeared to be uneventful, and the patient survived the operation.

However, subsequent to the procedure, complications may have arisen. Premier continued management, including intensive care. The patient invariably deteriorated. On Sunday
April 25th, 2021, a decision was made to transfer the patient for further care and management to Evercare Hospital, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos. She was transferred accordingly. Mrs. Ugboma ultimately died in the afternoon of Sunday April 25th, 2021.

Similarly, available information seems to indicate that Late Ms. Omoyajowo was admitted at Beachland Specialist Hospital in Arepo, Ogun State on Wednesday May 5th, 2021, where she was receiving medical attention. Her condition appeared to deteriorate, and the hospital decided that the patient needed to be transferred to a teaching hospital in Lagos State. She was thereafter transferred. Ms. Omayajowo was declared dead on arrival at the next facility on Thursday May 6th, 2021.

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In both cases, relatives and friends allege mismanagement including failure of professional standards; as well as patient care/customer service standards including timely responses to requests.

The Commission in 2018, in collaboration with multiple healthcare professional associations led by the Nigerian Medical Association, and the Federal Ministry of Health promoted, created, and secured the adoption of the Patients’ Bill of Rights (PBoR). The rights enshrined therein are provider obligations that otherwise exist in other enforceable instruments/codes governing healthcare delivery.

Further, and in addition, the Federal Competition & Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) mandates the Commission to enforce “any enactment with respect to the protection of consumers, conduct investigations into matters related to consumer protection; ensure consumer interests receive due consideration, and provide redress to obnoxious practices; ensure service providers comply with local and international standards of safe service delivery” Section 17(a), (e), (s) and (y).

The Commission does not investigate or evaluate conduct to determine professionalism, ethics or violation of professional/ethical codes. The Commission does not make determinations with respect to the professionalism or adopted procedures of qualified and authorized professionals. However, the Commission investigates and considers whether service providers sufficiently respect rights of consumers and applicable standards of care in compliance with those rights, including providing redress or remedies for injured consumers.

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Initial information gathered is sufficient for the Commission to open an active investigation into these cases. As such, the Commission has today issued Notices of Commencement of Investigation & Summons to Produce (NCISP) to relevant persons/entities. The Commission is also communicating with the Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), to expand engagement to the extent that any pertinent conduct may be otherwise unprofessional and, or may be subject of any disciplinary process (if applicable).

The Commission invites information from the public that may assist in this investigation, including where same is not directly applicable to these incidents, but potentially relevant to a robust and more meaningful inquiry into the subject matter or similar/ancillary occurrences with respect to the parties identified in, or relevant to these investigations. The Commission requests that such information be sent electronically to: [email protected]

Finally, considering the sensitivity of these sad events, and in respect and deference to families/affected persons or reputation of both professionals and facilities, the Commission advises candor and restraint in discussions and pronouncements about the occurrence and investigation.

Babatunde Irukera
Executive Vice Chairman/ Chief Executive

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