What psychology tells us about FDC’s claims to have won last year’s presidential election
By Andrew M. Mwenda
This column is a logical thought experiment. Recently, opposition presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye, claimed on a television show that he won the last presidential elections and that he has evidence to prove it. This was a very vital revelation, which Besigye has actually made many times in the past. I was surprised the moderator did not ask him to table his evidence.
Indeed I have always wondered why Besigye can possess such critical evidence and keep it to himself. He claims he was blocked from presenting it to the Supreme Court last year. Fine. He can give it to the media. Well, he could say the media have been “bought” or are intimidated (or both) by the state, which is presided over by his rival, President Yoweri Museveni. Although this is an absurd claim (since most media houses and journalists are very critical of Museveni and openly biased in favour of Besigye) let us also accept it – at least for argument’s sake.
There is social media where Museveni and the state have little or no influence. Besigye can post his evidence on his Facebook page, on the FDC website or on a blog or website of one of his friends and allies or better still post it on a What’s App group chat and it would spread like wildfire (in today’s language, it would go viral). Why has someone who won a presidential election, is also in possession of evidence of his victory, spent the last one year making this claim but has not presented the evidence to the public?
It is possible that Besigye knows that he lost the election and has been looking for a way to spin his loss in order to please his supporters. That would be understandable. Yet whenever I watch him, I get the sense that he is sincere in his assertions. I learnt from psychology that if you tell yourself a lie very many times you grow to believe it. Therefore, the logical conclusion from this is that Besigye is a victim of his lies i.e. he is delusional. But given that delusion is not a virtue, this would suggest that Besigye lacks the basic qualities that make an ideal leader.
Here is where psychology astounds us in its analysis of politics. While being delusional is a sign of poor qualities of an ideal leader, it is a basic, if not necessary, quality that makes a successful politician. To lead people, one has to convince himself that he is a person of exceptional leadership ability i.e. he/she must be egotistical and delusional. One has to listen to the “Yes We Can” speeches of candidate Barack Obama in 2008 to see what I am talking about. But this is not a criticism of Obama alone, but most politicians.
The evolutionary psychologist, Robert Trivers, makes this argument in his book, `The Folly of Fools’. He argues that the worst victim of your lie is yourself. You have to lie to yourself first that you are a truly great leader. It is only when you have internalised such a lie that you can transmit it to others in a convincing manner. This is because you will speak with total, complete and absolute certainty, a factor vital to convince the hordes that you are the guy. Most voters look out for confidence in a candidate. So delusion is the stuff that makes successful politicians.