Sunday, July 29, 2012



Philip Ochieng'

Posted Saturday,
July 28 2012

The science of psychology suggests that there is no such thing as absolute mental sanity. This should follow, at any rate, from the fact that every natural phenomenon is a double-edged self-contradiction.

That is probably why, despite our high level of specific intelligence, every human being suffers from one delusion or another.

Megalomania — the delusion of self-importance — is among the most common of all such conditions that Brian Masters describes in his illuminating book The Evil That Men Do. It was what pursued Amin, Bokassa, Bush II, Franco, De Gaulle, Hitler, Lon Nol, Marcos, Mobutu, Napoleon, Stalin, Thatcher and others with such fury.

The term megalomania is composed of megalo and mania. The Latin mania refers to a mental state characterised by uncontrolled excitement or euphoria and often violence.

A mania is an obsession, fixation or preoccupation with, for instance, money, sex, power or war — all driven by deep-seated and morbid egotism.

In Kenya, many link kleptomania with the Moi and Kibaki regimes. For the functionaries steal big. That is why kleptomaniacs can also be called megalomaniacs. The Greek megalo or mega — means big, bloated, grandiose and exaggerated, especially in the pursuit of power, characterised — on gaining it — with a streak of sadism.

Thus, even without reading Miguna Miguna’s book, Peeling Back The Mask, those with television sets will have seen for themselves — and to their utter horror and dismay — a man powerfully consumed by his own genius, a man full to overflowing with his own greatness, a man whose ego only a psychiatrist can fathom.

That is why Kenyans should be grateful that Mr Miguna is no longer in the service of anybody so close to ultimate power as Raila Odinga.

For the probability of Mr Odinga romping to State with Mr Miguna in his retinue was very great. I shudder violently at the mere thought of it.

Had Mr Miguna reached State House, would even Cabinet Ministers have escaped his wrath — his chest-thumping bigness, his bloated heroics, his devil-may-care oral fisticuffs, the know-it-all conceit with which he dares even President Kibaki? Mr Miguna is probably acutely intelligent and highly skilled.

But it takes the inordinate haughtiness for him to be the one announcing it to the world.

It reminds us of the character in Kenneth Grahame’s satitical novel The Wind in the Willows: Of all the great intellects of our world, none knows half as much as the Great Mister Toad! I know people in that office — like Salim Lone and the son of Clem Lubembe — who are at least equally intelligent and skilled.

A critic with any sense of proportion would have known much better than to stand in the agora to proclaim to the whole world that he was the only one who ever did anything worth doing in that office.

Habitual self-praise is often but the fig leaf with which to cover the inadequacies of one’s intellectual genitals. But it seems extremely difficult for our hero to work with others, listen to their views and — for the sake of harmony — occasionally yield to their suggestions.

Imposing one’s own ideas on one’s colleagues is just incompatible with the democracy that we desperately need.

Nor is the habit of sending to newspaper offices very badly written articles with the instruction to the editors that they are not to remove even a comma and then calling them all sorts of names when they reject this. The only saving grace is that Miguna Miguna is not alone in this empty-headed arrogance.

Our government offices are chockfull of three-piece-suited characters who rate themselves extremely highly and will react with extreme oral violence whenever you point out their shortcomings to them.

That is why I often admonish Mr Odinga to surround himself with aides who are firm and intelligent but humane and humble.