Nigeria; The Stockholm Syndrome And Many Psychological Disorders-Joe Onwukeme

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Stockholm Syndrome: "is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with their captors".

These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.

(Source: wikipedia)


This is the syndrome we are synonymous with here in Nigeria, the only difference is that hostage taking are not perpetrated by captors but by our leaders in comparison to the former. I can't really say exactly when we got embroiled in this Stockholm syndrome and many other psychological disorders, from my little research, I have come to realize that the nature of our colonial history and series of military interferences in our government contributed a whole lot to many of these ignorant and psychological disorders.


The transition from military rule to democratic government in 1999 didn't change our mentality, the series of human rights violations perpetrated by past military administrators had psychologically altered our mindset.

It wasn't long before we realized in terms of governance, there is no much difference between military rule and democratic government, the issue of poverty, economic decline, lack of basic and social amenities, unemployment, insecurity, corruption etc that characterised the military administration have also not been addressed by both past and present democratic governments. Our political class have continued to wallow in their chutzpah in monumental corruption and have failed totally in the fight against corruption, with little and infinitesimal performance to show for our near 16 years of democratic rule.


The decay and rot in our democracy so far, and from the posturing of our leaders towards governance, it won't be wrong to say most of our leaders are suffering from a psychological disorder known as Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD).

It is characterised by a long standing pattern of attention seeking behaviour and extreme emotionality. Someone with Histrionic personality disorder wants to be the centre of attention in any group of people and feel uncomfortable when they are not, while often lively, interesting and sometimes dramatic, they have difficulty when people aren't focused exclusively on them. (Source:  


HPD is a microcosm of what is wrong with majority of our politicians, they are always longing for appreciation, to achieve that, they engage in persistent manipulative behaviours. Anybody that sees himself in position of authority and don't take advantage of such to enrich his or herself is assumed to be a fool, anybody that don't attach titles or recognises those in authority present at an event no matter how insignificant they are is assumed to be rude. We have been manipulated to think about our politicians from an ignorant mindset and prism, we have been so used to their jaded style of leadership and their infinitesimal performance that any stroke of effort above average in terms of performance is glorified and blown out of proportion.


We find it difficult to distinguish between what is real and unreal. Not distinguishing what's real and unreal is also a psychological disorder known as Schizophrenia: Often a significant loss of contact with reality, Nigerian citizens have not only lost touch with reality, we have an altered perception of reality. When you lost touch with reality, Schizophrenia sets in, when Schizophrenia sets in it could lead to another psychological disorder known as Self Defeating Personality Disorder: a pervasive pattern of self defeating behaviour, the person will not like to be associated with anybody or group of persons that may want to bring a change, they rather identify with people or situations that will bring dissapointments, failures or mistreatment even when better options are clearly available. This disorder exactly describes Nigerias situation especially in politics. Nigeria is in dare need of a change of government, yet many are still comfortable with the below average performance we are getting presently and can do the unimaginable to make sure this abysmal failure continues.    


Celebration of mediocrity hold sway in our society because we have been so immuned to Stockholm syndrome and other psychological disorders.

That explains why we celebrate our government whenever they perform their civic rights like, paying their workers their salaries at the end of every month, construction of new roads or renovation of air ports, or privatisation of our moribund power sector.

We celebrate under performers and compare their insignificant achievements to that of world's heroes like Martin Luther King, Lee kuan yew and Nelson Mandela etc.


We stoically accept, obey and defend every idea or instructions given to us by those in authority no matter how clueless such instructions are:


Our lecturers will publicly announce in class, "if you don't buy my text book, you won't pass my course", we become more interested in buying and passing the course to reading and knowing the content of the book- Stockholm syndrome.

When we go to synagogue for miracles and out of the pastor's greed and negligence church building collapses on us, we attribute it to the will of God- Stockholm syndrome.

When our politicians manipulate their ways to power and tell us, "it is the will of God, God puts his people on the throne" and we believe them- Stockholm syndrome.

When our president confidently tells us there is a great difference between stealing and corruption and we believe him- Stockholm syndrome.

When our security institutions take up arms against the citizens in favour of government's selfish interest and we see nothing wrong in their barbaric actions- Stockholm syndrome.

When a group or government institutions go on strike or protest over unfulfilled promises of the government and we condemn them for demanding for their rights- Stockholm syndrome.

When some rag tag boys lay siege in North Eastern parts of our country, terrorising, raping, kidnapping and killing people with impunity and we justify their actions because we think they are fighting a just course- Stockholm syndrome.

The list is endless, you can help me write down your own experiences of stockholm syndrome.


We have accepted in good fate that corruption is part of dividends of our democracy. What we argue and compare in every government is who has appropriated more state funds for personal enrichment than the other, whose government is more corrupt than the other. In fact, the debate going on now is that in government, stealing is quite different from corruption.


Government's insensitivity towards the affairs of our nation over the years contributed immensly to these psychological disorders mentioned above. The disorders, knowingly and unknowingly have really affected our sense of reasoning, behaviour and emotional expressions towards our leaders, we are quick to forget their nonchalant  attitude towards our plight and are ever ready to vote and defend their incompetence over and over again, that is, we have developed feelings of appreciation for their perceived benevolence even where it doesn't exist.


How do we get out of this unmitigated failures?

Coming out to vote for our preferred candidates during elections is not enough, if it is about going to the polls, why have we not gotten the preferred candidates since 1999? Why do we keep electing politicians that can't add value to our predicaments? We should start looking beyond elections.

We all need to admit we have a problem and start changing our perception towards our leaders, we should learn to accept leaders with great visions for our nation, transitional leaders that can transform our nation, leaders that will initiate policies his/her successors can key into regardless of party, ethnic or religious affiliations.

As the 2015 general elections draw near, I see two kinds of political actors in Nigeria: The focused driven politicians in accord with the tenets of democracy and the politicians that are coming to consolidate their hold on the territory with mere sophistry and propaganda projects.

Its left to us all to choose from any of the political actors, am proud to be identified with the former.  


Joe Onwukeme: An Idealist, Is a Social and Political affairs analyst, writes from Enugu

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