Students of psychology will understand Napoleonic complex as a peculiar trait of short people. It developed off Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and it speaks of a kind of inferiority complex found mostly among short people. According to Psychology, short people tend be very aggressive. They also express some form of domineering characteristics which makes them to seem to measure up and be heard when in the midst of other persons. Psychology also says persons who exhibit Napoleonic complex tend to lie a lot. It is said that Emperor Napoleon, who was five feet and six inches, exhibited these characteristics and used them to measure up as his height was considered a deficiency to mark him out as a noble, aristocrat or an army officer.
Napoleon became the first Emperor of France, in spite of these. He had to ensure that his height was no deficiency in his quest for power. Available literature said that Napoleon “compensated for his lack of height by seeking power, war and conquest”. Those were his only validating escapes. The British media at the time, described him as a ‘short-tempered small man’. Some psychologists also refer to Napoleonic complex as the short-man syndrome or Napoleonic syndrome.
However, there have been studies to disprove Napoleonic complex as a behavioural trait of short people. But a 2018 study by evolutionary psychologist, Mark van Vugt at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam found that “men of short stature behaved more aggressively in interactions with taller men”. The study concludes that in “competitive situations when males, human and nonhuman, receive cues that they are physically outcompeted, the Napoleoncomplex psychology kicks in”.
The Urban Dictionary defines Napoleonic complex as “a personality complex that consists of power trips and false machismo to make up for short height and feelings of inferiority”, while the Merriam-Webster says it is “a domineering or aggressive attitude perceived as a form of overcompensation forbeing physically small or short”. This seems to be the summary of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s outing as National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) since 2018 when he was used to upstage fellow Edolite, John Odigie-Oyegun. As at the time Oshiomhole took over leadership of the APC, the party was in control of 24 states against 11 for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and just one for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). About two years after, the table has changed such that APC, under Oshiomhole’s management, lost six states to PDP. Many members link the change of fortune for APC directly to Oshiomhole’s overbearing attitude which they claim is forcefully aggressive and unaccommodating of superior opinions.
There is no other way to review his leadership of that party. With his recent travails, several voices are up and alleging a total departure from the leadership traits of Bisi Akande and Oyegun which positioned APC to lead Nigeria. Not many people gave PDP the chance to rebound the way it now has. This is simply an indication that APC missed its way soon after the 2015 general elections that ushered it in. As at 2019 general election, APC had been fatally fractured that its members only waited in the wings to use it as a vote-winning tool, not as a political party that had vision and focus and that could galvanize a national rebirth through strategic policy conversation and input. Even its position on restructuring, to which it set up a committee, is at best dead. The leadership of the party failed the day Oshiomhole was foisted as replacement for Oyegun. Oshiomhole’s leadership style seems not to appreciate the importance of consultation. It also does not seem to appreciate that successful leaders succeed because they built and worked with teams. Perhaps, that is the APC leadership model. Many at the APC headquarters in Abuja now accuse Oshiomhole of running the party like it was his personal estate. Pointers to this lie in the several plots to remove him from office less than one year after he was made chairman.
His management of party primary elections and, selection process, which were basic factors that cost the party somestates, is another pointer to the allegation that Oshiomhole believes in his way or the high way. His disagreements with Godwin Obaseki, a man he marketed very well in 2016 as a most worthy and most capable successor leaves him punching the air on all sides and exposing his shortcoming as a man who wouldn’t allow the towering stars of another to outshine his. Remember that Oshiomhole had told the listening world that academic attainments do not make for good leaders. Without thinking through his words, he says actually that though academic attainments are a proof of scholarship, but that he, as Oshiomhole, who did not achieve same, does not respect superior learning and as such, will not allow himself to be intimidated by it. In essence, he tells us that he is not comfortable with men of superior learning. That is an understandable manifestation of the Napoleonic complex.
Before Obaseki, Oshiomhole worked very hard to demystify the towering image of Chief Tony Anenih, now late. Anenih was not nicknamed ‘Mr. Fit It’ for nothing. As a political gladiator, he loomed very large over national politics and got things done without shouting and without dancing in the sun. Working to demystify Anenih and, destroy his place in Nigeria’s politics, seemed to Oshiomhole a huge task an achievement of which would deliver masturbatory pleasure. No wonder he was in celebratory mood when he declared that he had defeated Anenih and destroyed godfatherism in Edo politics. But what he failed to realize was that Anenih was not just a man unto himself. Anenih created streams of followers and also built political leaders across the national divide. It takes much more than mere pronouncements to pull such a leaderdown, even in death. Anenih’s spirit may be hitting back. That could be why Oshiomhole’s effort to become the new godfather in Edo is crashing like a pack of poorly arranged cards.
Even where this is not the case, Oshiomhole’s exhibition of leadership has been abysmal. He probably has been unable to wean himself of his position as a unionist. Leading a political party where members see you simply as first among equals, is different from leading a trade union and agitating against government. One demands ability to organize, negotiate policies and trade positions. The other demands more of clenched fists and banging tables over welfare negotiations. Simply put, trade union leadership is more about the interest of a percentage of the whole. Many unionist fail woefully when brought into political leadership because they fail to see the differences between the two. Lech Walesa in Poland and Frederick Chiluba in Zambia both failed as presidents after they rose to political leadership on the background of successful outings as trade unionists. Chiluba particularly exhibited same Napoleonic complex.
For Oshiomhole therefore, being a good unionist does not necessarily translate into a good political party leader. That is the lesson that Oshiomhole is now learning and in a most demeaning way. It is also a lesson for those who aspire to political leadership in a country like Nigeria. Up there is too cool to relax. But the fact is that there are too many people chasing the same spot. That makes it hot too. So, pulling down won’t ever be strange. The average span may come to two years. So, whatever the game is, either for 2023 or not, Oshiomhole may have had his fun. Even if he returns as chairman of the party, the center will never hold again for APC as the next chapter is for others who are equally ambitious to hold the ace up there, even if momentarily. This is because one thing humans in a political environment abhor is the feeling, by an equal, that others and their views do not matter.
The case of APC is made worse by the inability of the party leadership to inaugurate a Board of Trustee (BoT). Despite appointing people to the board since 2015, it was unable to find a chairman for the board and hence, unable to inaugurate it. A BoT serves as an elder’s committee to help nurture party leadership and cohesion with superior wisdom. APC clearly refused to show leadership in this direction. And, it is paying for it.