Of all the books about love and romance I have ever read, and I have read quite a few, nothing compares with Robert Greene's latest book, The Art of Seduction, which confirms that the young Los Angeles based writer who has a degree in Classical Literature is one of the best scholars of this generation. The book, which came to the market only a few weeks ago, is a sequel to his earlier work The 48 Laws of Power.
Even though it costs a whopping N10,000 in Nigeria, I think it is a worthwhile investment for anybody who wants to spice up his or her love life while those who think they are masters of seduction would learn more tricks; and who knows, it may even open their eyes to the fact that all along they were just being manipulated by their partners. As those who are adept at the game will testify, seduction is a serious business while Greene identifies the characters and analyses the process on how to create a spell, break down resistance and ultimately compel a target to surrender. The characters in the game of seduction include the Siren, the Rake, the Ideal Lover, the Dandy, the Natural, the Coquette, the Charmer, the Charismatic, the Star, the Anti-Seducer etc.
Relying heavily on the memoirs of great romantic men and women in history (Casanova, Don Juan, Errol Flynn, Natalie Barney, Ninon de l'Enclos, Marilyn Monroe) as well as biographies of others like Cleopatra, Josephine Bonaparte, Mark Anthony, John F. Kennedy, Duke Ellington etc., Greene provides insight into how seducers gain mastery over their targets. It is full of tales of Kingdoms that have been won and lost; lives that have been ruined as well as careers that have been made and unmade on the laps of men and women from the Biblical period through the Napoleonic era and mediaeval age to contemporary times.
But even when the book is about seduction and the power associated with it, anybody who can read between the lines will know that Greene is thinking beyond the bedroom which he, however, sees as perhaps no better place to begin the process for political power which is actually my main concern here. So at this point I may have to disappoint those who believe I have gone junk and may want to report me to my pastor or my wife. This is not particularly a piece about romance even when I am relying on a rather suggestive literature as a reference point. According to Greene, "creating love and enchantment becomes the model for all seductions-sexual, social, political. A person in love will surrender."
Now that we are expecting our political office holders to declare their intention to run for second term, I have taken it upon myself to offer free consultancy for some of them so that they can avoid dangerous pitfalls. We are well aware none of the 36 Governors has signified his intention on 2003 but we also know all of them want to run again and are only waiting for the signal from Aso Rock.
Meanwhile, President Olusegun Obasanjo told some 'powerful' women in Abuja on Monday that he himself is waiting for God to tell him what to do. In Nigeria, we know what that means, the man has already decided he is running again but he wants to give his ambition some spiritual lures. It is all part of the game though he should have invented something more original. Even Abacha put some colour in it when he gathered some prayer warriors in Abuja for three days so that they could reconfirm to him the instruction from the heavenly that only he could keep the country together.
But when the President, like Moses, takes the commandment from God to run next year (how do you query or say No to God?) then he may have to learn some things about we mortals who he has no choice but rely on to actualise the dream through our votes. But let us return to Greene's book. The most fascinating chapter is where the author identifies the Seducer's Victims which are eighteen types; and these victims, according to him, are categorised by what they are missing in life-adventure, attention, romance, a naughty experience, mental or physical stimulation etc.
Any of our current public office holders who can identify the 18 types and know how to handle them is already on the way to success in 2003 without having to rig the coming elections since he would have done the manipulation through the human minds. We can begin today by looking at how Greene identifies them and many of the strategies in the book can be useful beyond the arena of love, because whether we admit it or not politicking is about wooing, and seduction is useful in all departments of life.
The Crushed Star: We all want attention, we want to shine, but with most of us these desires are fleeting and easily quieted. The problem with Crushed Stars is that at one point in their lives they did find themselves the centre of attention.. but those days are gone. They may seem to have accepted this, but the memory of having once shone is hard to get over. So to get along, Crushed Stars learn to tamp down their desires; but failing to get the attention they feel they deserve, they also become resentful. You can recognise Crushed Stars by certain unguarded moments: they suddenly receive some attention in a social setting, and it makes them glow; they mention their glory days, and there is a glint in their eye; a little wine in the system and they become effervescent...
Of course the first task is recognising this group, who are they? In politics as in love, we have them in abundance, the ex-this, ex-that. The ambitious Councillor will do well to keep his eyes open where the once-popular-but-now-retired Village headmaster is concerned. The local Pastor of the orthodox Church who once wielded immense influence before the Born-Again fever swept off his congregation is another person to look out for.
Then there is the once-powerful lawmaker of another era and the former military administrator who invested all his loot in a farm which has now collapsed or a bank now distressed. And of course, a former Head of State who has now been rendered redundant. These are some of the Crushed Stars that any politician desirous of a second term will do well to avoid hurting because like in love, heaven hath no fury like a Crushed Star scorned. But how do you seduce them? Here is the solution as proffered by Greene but it is also not about politics.
"Seducing this type is simple: Just make them the centre of attention. When you are with them, act as if they were stars and you were basking in their glow. Get them to talk, particularly about themselves. In general play the charmer. The reward of seducing Crushed Stars is that you stir up emotions. They will feel intensely grateful to you for letting them shine. To whatever extent they felt crushed and bottled up, the easing of that pain releases intensity and passion, all directed at you. They will fall madly in love."
The warning: "If you yourself have any star or dandy tendencies it is wise to avoid such victims. Sooner or later those tendencies will come out and the competition between you will be ugly"
Note: Without going very far, we can easily identify several Crushed Stars today. We have them at every level of government. The late General Sani Abacha was very clever. He identified one and played by the book, President Olusegun Obasanjo does not seem to understand and may pay heavily for this seeming naivety. Given what we now know of him, Abacha could not have created the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) because he believed in accountability even when we must concede the man he picked for the job, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, has always had a reputation for integrity. But today, just imagine what Buhari says about Obasanjo as compared to his idolizing Abacha. Because the late dictator allowed him to shine after General Ibrahim Babangida had consigned him to history for eight good years, the same thing that Obasanjo has done now. If Buhari has a say in the way Northerners will vote next year, then Obasanjo should know by now he is in trouble.
The New Prude: Sexual prudery still exists, but it is less common than it was. Prudery, however, is never just about sex; a prude is someone who is excessively concerned with appearances, with what society considers appropriate and acceptable behaviour. Prudes rigorously stay within the boundaries of correctness because more than anything they fear society's judgment. Seen in this light, prudery is just as prevalent as it always was.
The New Prude is excessively concerned with standards of goodness, fairness, political sensitivity, tastefulness, etc. What marks the New Prude, though, as well as the old one, is that deep down they are actually excited and intrigued by guilty, transgressive pleasures. Frightened by this attraction, they run in the opposite direction and become the most correct of all. They tend to wear drab colours; they certainly never take fashion risks. They can be very judgmental and critical of people who do take risks and are less correct. They are also addicted to routine, which gives them a way to tamp down their inner turmoil.
New Prudes are secretly oppressed by their correctness and long to transgress. Just as sexual prudes make prime targets for a Rake or Siren, the New Prude will often be most tempted by someone with a dangerous or naughty side. If you desire a New Prude, do not be taken in by their judgments of you or their criticisms. That is only a sign of how deeply you fascinate them; you are on their mind. You can often draw a New Prude into a seduction, in fact, by giving them the chance to criticize you or even try to reform you. Take nothing of what they say to heart, of course, but now you have the perfect excuse to spend time with them and New Prudes can be seduced simply through being in contact with you. These types actually make excellent and rewarding victims. Once you open them up and get them to let go of their correctness, they are flooded with feelings and energies...
All the Governors and Council Chairmen who want to come back next year need to cultivate the New Prude because they are like the proverbial leper who can not milk a cow but can spill the milk. They have their own uses not in terms of support but basically because they are dangerous as enemies. The next-door 'Fryo' who can mobilise the students for any aluta, the social crusader who is perpetually seeking court injunction against one policy or the other, the newspaper columnist who never sees anything good in government, the editor who relishes bad stories, the labour leader whose solution to every problem is 'strike', the fiery Imam who preaches 'Sharia', the critical pastor who always predicts doom and indeed all those potential trouble makers.
Once you seduce this type, with time, they will begin to tell the people to give you another chance because you mean well, making excuses for your failures even when they, out of a compelling sense of duty, launch half-hearted campaign against your policies. While most of the Governors are doing well with the New Prude, President Obasanjo needs a lesson in this regard. He definitely needs to learn how to take care of the menace that a man like Adams Oshiomhole has become. He needs the lesson to take care of the "skirt chasing" academics that have become irritants to him. He needs the lesson to get at the Nigerian Bar Association and all those Human Rights campaigners who will not let him be, the Festus Keyamos of this world. He may not like them, and he does not have to, but he has to put up with them, at least until after the elections next year, when he can then bare his fangs. The President and our Excellencies, the Governors, should remember this type "can be seduced simply through being in contact with you".
The Idol Worshiper: Everyone feels an inner lack, but Idol Worshipers have a bigger emptiness than most people. They cannot be satisfied with themselves, so they search the world for something to worship, something to fill their inner void. This often assumes the form of a great interest in spiritual matters or in some worthwhile cause; by focusing on something supposedly elevated, they distract themselves from their own void, from what they dislike about themselves. Idol Worshipers are easy to spot, they are the ones pouring their energies into some cause or religion. They often move around over the years, leaving one cult for another.
The way to seduce these types is to simply become their object of worship, to take the place of the cause or religion to which they are so dedicated. With this type you have to hide your flaws, or at least to give them a saintly sheen. Be banal and Idol Worshipers will pass you by. But mirror the qualities they aspire to have for themselves and they will slowly transfer their adoration to you. Keep everything on an elevated plane, let romance and religion flow into one. They are to worship you; you are not to worship them. Idol Worshipers make perfectly adequate victims in the short term, but their endless need to search will eventually lead them to look for something new to adore...
I don't think any public official in Nigeria needs a lesson here on how to identify and go for the underbelly of the Idol Worshipper. Because that is what the offices of Minister, Special Adviser, Senior Special Adviser, Commissioner, Special Assistant, Press Secretary etc. are essentially created for. These types will run your campaign for you even before you launch it. They will tell the world you are so uninterested in the office that they have to virtually beg every day before you, out of sacrifice, agree to run. They will come to your office with their over-powdered faces saying no-one-but-you. They will be on the pages of newspaper telling the world how transparent your government is even when they and everyone know you can manipulate any law to suit your ambition. They will lie, even swear, that their governor has a zero-tolerance for corruption when they know he is a big time thief. But their loyalty and the dirty jobs they do is only to the extent in which they are kept in office. If you sack the idol worshipper, then you have invited upon yourself a very formidable foe. It is then you will know he or she never meant a word of those praise...
• This piece was first published in February 2013