I hope the “ressentiment” of Ekweremadu opens the eyes of politicians to the dangers they face as a result of their malfeasance. Elite shelter has blinded many of Ekweremadu’s status to the psychic damage done by economic suffering to many… For years, resentment of the left-behind, has been building up, stoking the pleasures of victimhood without any notice…


On May 22, 1856, an important and dramatic event was recorded in the history books of the United States’ Senate. A member of the House of Representatives entered the Senate chamber and beat a senator into unconsciousness. It was said that Representative Preston Brooks used a light cane, of the type used to discipline unruly dogs, to savagely beat Senator Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts antislavery Republican. Since then, we have seen anger visited on people for their actions when in positions of political power. Anger is powerful! It is so possessive that it ignores the stature and physical state of the angry. Anger, even if repressed, has always been a prop in the theatre of political absurdism.

Ekweremadu was beaten in Germany like a poisonous snake. He was made an example of, for being part of those who manipulate our destinies. One can surmise that he was beaten because his attackers thought it is an acceptable risk to send a strong message, using him as an example. He was visited with what Friedrich Nietzsche called “ressentiment” – “a whole tremulous realm of subterranean revenge, inexhaustible and insatiable in outbursts.” His attackers saw a member of the political class who plundered their commonwealth, confined them to a life of scrapping by, strutting about, feeling welcome in their midst, and their anger boiled to the surface. In far away Germany, he had his torn garment to show for the discontent of the furious majority.

Expressed anger can easily be the route to political and cultural awareness for the hopeless, whose paternity has been stolen with disdain and official arrogance, as if it is a virtue. We may disagree with them but revenge, retribution are are ways to demonstrate a sense of outrage.


Like Ekweremadu, the political class and the socio-economic elite seem oblivious of the discontent and simmering political rage at home and abroad, about the Nigerian condition. They seem unable to see and feel an anger so profound as to raise deeper concerns about a fundamental breakdown in civility across the nation. Expectedly, the official reaction to the beating shows the persistent power of unreason in government circles. The focus has been on prosecuting and punishing the attackers, instead of looking deeper into the causes of the underlying anger. Except to the sheltered and privileged, what is happening is not difficult to fathom. People are angry and powerless! Angry political confrontation leading to physical attacks is bad and lawless but anger can be the only way to feel powerful to the powerless and the disconnected. Expressed anger can easily be the route to political and cultural awareness for the hopeless, whose paternity has been stolen with disdain and official arrogance, as if it is a virtue. We may disagree with them but revenge, retribution are are ways to demonstrate a sense of outrage. In 1915, Sigmund Freud, warned that the “primitive, savage and evil impulses of mankind have not vanished in any individual”.

Diaspora Nigeria gives a lot to the home country from their remittances and advocacy. They are victims of the Nigerian state. The rosy picture of living abroad, discounts the emotional impotence caused by familial dislocation of people who left not because it was fun to leave. It can be quite lonely abroad, with everyone trying to earn a living. Old age away from where one’s kith and kin are, can be a nightmare. Some of us would rather live with the familiar where community is everything. We all are homo economicus – calculating subjects whose natural desires and instincts are shaped by their ultimate motivation: to pursue happiness and avoid pain. We all fear losing honour, dignity and status, and we appreciate stability and familiarity. We fear pain and we are angered and prone to react violently when pain is inflicted on us.

These are not good times and the political elite must beware! What happened to Ekweremadu will happen again because such actions once started, are hard to stop. At times of crisis, there is nothing better than an object of rage.


I hope the “ressentiment” of Ekweremadu opens the eyes of politicians to the dangers they face as a result of their malfeasance. Elite shelter has blinded many of Ekweremadu’s status to the psychic damage done by economic suffering to many. The truth is, the affluent, whether by their own industry or through self-enrichment, are endangered within and outside Nigeria. For years, resentment of the left-behind, has been building up, stoking the pleasures of victimhood without any notice by the elite. Tempers are rising, the mobile phone has opened people’s eyes and ears to possibilities. The masses know we can do better. Competition is becoming keen, opportunities are dwindling, the gulf between the rich and poor is widening. America and other developed nations are asking questions about the effect of globalisation on the poor. They are learning from the anger-driven reaction that elected Trump, fueled Brexit and the rise of far right ethnonationalism. They are thinking of ways to redistribute income without killing enterprise. Nigerians leaders must think deep and learn too.

There is a sense that our democracy has benefitted the elected demagogues and their chosen few more than the average Nigerian. The promised ideals of individual empowerment and equality of social conditions in a democracy have become difficult, if not impossible. The elected and unelected elite must confront the built-in injustices in the system to tame this anger. The solution to rising anger is to stop doing stupid things and focus on working for the PEOPLE. These are not good times and the political elite must beware! What happened to Ekweremadu will happen again because such actions once started, are hard to stop. At times of crisis, there is nothing better than an object of rage.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo