Without an iota of doubt, I totally subscribe to the assertion made by the great Abraham Lincoln in the above statement. Power has always been and would ultimately remain the most reliable test of every Man’s character. Our ability or otherwise to effectively manage power in its diverse forms goes a long way to determine exactly who we are and what we stand for. Leaders like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi who wielded power and yet remained uncorrupted by its magical might went on to write their names in gold and are till this day fondly remembered in historical confines. Conversely, leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Idi Amin who lent a more than necessary chunk of credence to the assertion that power turns Men to beasts and beasts to demons, by virtue of their gross misdeeds, while in positions of power have had their names confined to the trash bin of historical villainy.
It would however be an act of gross omission on my part to limit this article to political power alone. Power exists and is manifested in diverse forms which include political, metaphysical, economical, military, physical, intellectual and psychological powers. Man is a power thirsty creature and the entirety of his life is lived in the relentless pursuit of one form of power or the other. The effect that power has on us is more evident not in our actual utilization of power itself but in the several actions we undertake in its acquisition. Everyday we go to extreme lengths to gain power. We work from dusk to dawn in pursuit of economic power, we spend hours in the gym to enhance our physical powers, our churches, mosques and other places of worship are always besieged by mortals seeking spiritual powers, students sit through several hours of lectures to secure intellectual power, most nations of the world allocate billions of dollars to their armed forces just to boost their military power; I could go on and on. The efforts we put into gaining power are tremendous and yet subliminal. Virtually every anomaly that our contemporary world is bedeviled by is a direct consequence of Man’s insatiable quest for power and his deliberate misuse of it.
WHAT IS POWER?
Having successfully established the fact that power means several things to different people, the onus lies on me at this juncture to give a clear definition of power from a broad perspective.
Power is simply the ability to cause something to happen or to make an individual or group of individuals act in a specific way. This ability can either be exercised through inducement or by coercion. For instance, a very pretty lady can use her physical attributes to make a man act in a way that she wants him to act and on the other hand a man wielding a gun can also get an individual to act in a way that he desires. In both instances, the power wielders successfully utilize the forms of power at their disposal but the difference in both scenarios is that the individuals on whom both forms of power are exercised respond voluntarily and involuntarily in the respective cases.
Power is primarily concerned with getting things done. Whether those who would be used to get them done do so of their own volition is not of great import to power. What really matters is the end result which is that they are done. Power uses its might to eliminate any obstacle that stands in the way of achieving what it desires. Therefore, it becomes imperative that for power to be properly utilized, it must be backed up by authority. The concepts of power and authority are like Siamese twins; authority is simply legitimate power which points to the fact that the wielding and exercise of power must be done within the ambits of the law. When power is not supported by authority, there is bound to be an abuse of power which would inadvertently precipitate a situation of unrest.
EFFECTS OF POWER AND THE INSATIABLE QUEST FOR POWER ON MAN AND THE WORLD IN GENERAL
Man’s fervent lust for power and his inability in most cases to effectively manage power have collectively plunged the world into crisis as evidenced by the following factors.
The whole world is today faced by the potent threat of terrorism. Over the years, terrorist activities in different parts of the world have resulted in unquantifiable loss of lives and property. Countries like the United States, France, Germany, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and my country Nigeria have at various times been victims of terrorist activities. Most terrorist organizations like ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram hinge their despicable actions on the propagation of a hateful religious ideology which negates tolerance and freedom of worship.
Their abilities to successfully carry out such atrocious acts can be traced to their access to economic, military and other forms of power.
Political corruption manifested in the perpetration of financial crimes by government officials has sadly become a trait in my country Nigeria. Government officials use the political powers bestowed on them by the citizenry to loot the national treasury and in the process, amass stupendous measures of unscrupulous wealth for themselves and their cronies while the majority of the population continue to wallow in abject poverty.Persons elected into various government positions on the premise of their purported integrities and sense of accountability have, upon gaining political power, degenerated to bandits stealing the nation blind with a sense of impunity and a gross lack of conscience.
The crisis in Syria is a great testament to the susceptibility of man to the abuse of power and the dangers portrayed by such acts of indiscretion. As I write these words, a major war looms between the United States and North Korea over the apparent defiance of the North Korean leader to the principle of peaceful coexistence. Both World War I and II were direct results of power misuse. It is really disheartening that most World leaders use their positions of power to pursue various agendas of hate and selfishness which have consistently created room for distrust and conflicts within and between nations.
I would conclude this article by stating that power is like fire; we can either choose to illuminate our paths with it or be totally consumed by it. We must therefore not let our characters be tainted by power but rather we must use whatever forms of power at our disposal to benefit humanity and to make the world a much better place for all of us.