Anyone who can indulge into insincere flattery to gain advantage is a sycophant. Such a person tries to win favour from another person especially wealthy or influential people by flattering them. In other words, a sycophant is a servile self-seeking flatterer, a brownnoser, a flunky, an apple polish, a bootlicker, a toady, a slanderer, a calumniator or a suck-up who goes overboard with compliments for selfish gains. A sycophant will never criticize or correct his superior. Being fawningly pleasant, he acts to attract attention for personal goals and undermine others.
Like what happens in lame opposition where someone opposes everything and proposes nothing, sycophancy suggests someone who brings all kinds of charges and proves none. Sycophants bring charges against those who have done no wrong.
“Sycophants were viewed as uncontrolled and parasitic, lacking proper regard for truth or for justice in a matter, using their education and skill to destroy opponents for profit in matters where they had no stake, lacking even the convictions of politicians, and having no sense of serving the public good” (Wikipedia)
On the other hand, sycophancy politics is the political art where the practitioner deliberately goes out of the way to hoodwink his principal with acts capable of deception for political gains. It is perfected using someone, often a superior or an opponent, as a cover up. It thrives on blackmail and backstabbing.
Bad as it is, there is a kind of patronage and reward for sycophancy in politics. It can help an undeserving person to get an appointment. Even though it can result in the erosion of internal democracy, in some places it has become the basis with which people are elected into political offices. And guess what? When a sycophant gets to power, propaganda becomes the rule. This creates a system of “us against them” that brings about mediocrity, abysmal performance and eventual failure.
Sycophants are purveyors of half-truths. They call black white and labour in vain to make people believe that vices are virtues. The intelligent ones manipulate data to serve their selfish interests and they can do so without regards for decorum and civility while the loquacious unintelligent ones can wrestle like pigs and dance naked at the market square. However, with a change of baton they can easily switch loyalty and shamelessly turn against their former principal.
Whatever the approach, every political sycophant secretly seeks political relevance through the back door and can stop at nothing to achieve this.
When someone in a position of authority is surrounded by sycophants, he becomes a victim of emotional manipulations with false narratives and assurances. To insulate him from reality and keep him in bondage they can tell him that his evil is the best. With persistent lies they divert their victim’s attention thereby giving room for mediocrity and abuse of office that if not remedied in time will compound and worsen situations.
However, it should be noted that in some instances and to some extent, politicians are happy with sycophants and encourage a higher degree of sycophancy. To massage their ego, some rulers appoint some praise singers.
Effects of sycophancy on governance are enormous and expensive – and more people suffer the consequences.
Association is affective and character is inductive. The company we keep affects the life we live. “When the goat that does not eat yam begins to mingle with the ones that eat yam,” says an Igbo proverb, “it will begin to eat yam.” The things we repeatedly hear can change our perception and mindset.
That evil communication corrupts good manners is also true in politics and government. Whenever a man is held hostage by liars with lies, after some time he would begin to buy and believe those lies to be true, and it becomes worse where sanity of the mind is deficit.
The major consequence of sycophantic politics is that it creates a culture of deception in a system of falsehood, promotes bitter rivalry with bigotry and thuggery, leading to suspicion, fear and erosion of trust even among party members with resultant acrimony, conflict and division.
The danger of sycophantic politics is bad governance through desperation and corruption. When someone in a position of authority is surrounded by minions and sycophants, listening to their fairy tales, he will begin to lose consciousness, causing him to drift away without the right to make informed choices. As time progresses, he begins to see things from a skewed point of view and with a poor sense of importance. Sycophancy politics contributes immensely to the making of tyranny and the emergence of an emperor. Whatever the case, the people suffer and the society deteriorates.
Knowing the effects and consequences of sycophantic politics, everything should be done to checkmate it and if possible stop it.
The way out is for a leader to be true to himself and the people he serves, having absolute loyalty for his oath of office. Simple as this may sound, it needs emotional maturity and a high degree of unselfishness in love to achieve.
There is also the need to run an all inclusive government whereby appointments and political patronage will cut across party lines. This way, the best brains even among the opposition would be made part of the government and with them constructive criticism and robust opposition will not be lacking. Indeed, opposition brings out the best in every government that listens to the people for instead of being carried away by praise singers, they will be challenged to be meticulous and do more through due process and rule of law with a good sense of accountability.
It is imperative we know the true essence of power and government for abuse is common where value is not known.
Everyone who believes in the transient nature of life will realize that position and power are also temporary. With this realization a leader should put in his best knowing well that his actions and inactions will stand for or against him when he would have gone so he will be humane and accountable not being carried away by the intoxication of power.