January 13, 2024


The phenomenon of King Baby Syndrome is marked by an entitlement-driven disregard for the rule of law. How does it occur and how do we navigate a world in which it is an influential factor?


More by Waweru Njoroge

The dark side of ‘King Baby Syndrome’

The dark side of ‘King Baby Syndrome’

“The child shall have things better than his parents: he shall not be subject to the necessities which they have recognized as dominating life. Illness, death, renunciation of enjoyment, restrictions on his own will, shall not touch him; the laws of nature, like those of society, are to be abrogated in his favor; he is really to be the center and heart of creation, “His Majesty the Baby,” as we once fancied ourselves to be.”
— Sigmund Freud, “On Narcissism”

In the complex realm of political leadership but outside the typical context of alcohol and drug addiction, the phenomenon of King Baby Syndrome, marked by an entitlement-driven disregard for the rule of law, often emerges as a double-edged sword. While it poses a significant threat to democratic principles and institutions, there are instances where deviations from the norm, driven by a sense of entitlement, may paradoxically serve the greater good.

This opinion piece seeks to navigate this tightrope by examining specific examples where leaders succumbed to King Baby Syndrome, and instances where such deviations were deemed necessary for broader societal benefits.

The dark side of King Baby Syndrome

Leaders who fall prey to King Baby Syndrome often exhibit a sense of entitlement that challenges the very foundations of democratic governance. Instances of this are vividly exemplified in the political histories of figures like Mobutu Sese Seko, Robert Mugabe, and Sani Abacha. These leaders, driven by their self-serving desires, left a trail of corruption, erosion of institutions, and disregard for the welfare of their people.

Mobutu Sese Seko’s prolonged rule over Zaire showcased a glaring sense of entitlement, with an extravagant lifestyle funded at the expense of his country’s resources. His reign was marked by widespread corruption and an erosion of democratic principles, leaving a nation in economic ruins and institutional decay.

Robert Mugabe’s leadership in Zimbabwe provides another poignant example. His suppression of dissent, manipulation of legal systems, and unchecked entitlement created an atmosphere of fear, stifling democratic values and leaving a once-thriving nation in political turmoil.

Sani Abacha’s regime in Nigeria further illustrates the corrosive impact of King Baby Syndrome. His widespread corruption and lack of accountability weakened institutions, eroding public trust and hindering the nation’s progress.

Necessary deviations for the greater good

However, it is crucial to acknowledge that not all instances of leaders bending or breaking the rules are inherently detrimental. There are scenarios where deviations from established norms become a necessary means to achieve the greater good.

One compelling example is Nelson Mandela’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa. Faced with a crisis, Mandela deviated from international patent laws to provide affordable antiretroviral drugs, saving countless lives. This deviation, driven by a sense of urgency for the greater good, showcases the delicate balance leaders must strike in navigating the gray areas of political decision-making.

Similarly, the civil rights movement in the United States, led by figures like Martin Luther King Jr., is another instance where deviations from unjust laws became a force for positive change. Through peaceful civil disobedience, King challenged discriminatory norms, paving the way for transformative social change.

Paul Kagame’s leadership in Rwanda post-genocide is another example. His innovative policies deviated from conventional norms to promote reconciliation and economic development, demonstrating that sometimes, bending the rules can be a necessary catalyst for rebuilding a nation torn apart by conflict.

The phenomenon of King Baby Syndrome in political leadership is not a monolithic narrative. While it oftentimes brings about detrimental effects, there are instances where necessary deviations propel society forward. Understanding this duality is crucial in evaluating leadership actions critically.

Leadership demands a delicate equilibrium between adherence to the rule of law and courageous deviations when the greater good necessitates it. It calls for discernment to distinguish between self-serving entitlement and deviations aimed at uplifting societies.

In navigating this complex terrain, leaders must wield their authority responsibly, prioritizing the welfare of their people over personal gain. It’s this balance that distinguishes leaders who succumb to King Baby Syndrome from those who harness deviations for the genuine betterment of society.

Recognizing King Baby Syndrome in ourselves: a call for self-reflection

In examining the phenomenon of King Baby Syndrome, the importance of recognizing these traits within ourselves cannot be overstated. This self-awareness entails acknowledging tendencies toward entitlement, resistance to criticism, and even occasional inclinations to bend rules in our personal lives. By doing so, we foster empathy and understanding, emphasizing that these traits are not exclusive to political leaders but are universal aspects of human behavior.

Entitlement in personal lives

The first step towards self-awareness involves acknowledging our own sense of entitlement. This might manifest in various aspects of our lives, such as expecting preferential treatment, demanding unquestioned compliance, or placing our needs above others. Recognizing these patterns allows for introspection and an opportunity to cultivate humility and empathy.

Resistance to criticism

Another dimension of King Baby Syndrome involves an aversion to criticism. In our personal lives, this resistance may surface as defensiveness, denial, or an unwillingness to consider alternative perspectives. Acknowledging this resistance opens the door to personal growth, fostering a more receptive and open-minded approach to constructive feedback.

Bending rules in personal convenience

Whether in minor daily choices or more significant decisions, there may be instances where we find ourselves tempted to bend rules for personal convenience. Recognizing these moments prompts reflection on the ethical implications of our actions, encouraging a commitment to integrity and a more principled approach to decision-making.

Fostering empathy and understanding

Self-awareness of King Baby tendencies contributes to the development of empathy. Understanding that these traits are inherent aspects of human behavior enables us to connect with others on a deeper level. It reinforces the idea that we all grapple with similar challenges in navigating the complexities of our personal lives.

Universal nature of human behavior

Emphasizing that these traits are not exclusive to political leaders underscores the universal nature of human behavior. Leaders, after all, are individuals shaped by the same psychological and social forces as everyone else. Recognizing these shared tendencies encourages a more compassionate and forgiving view of both ourselves and those in positions of authority.

In conclusion, acknowledging and reflecting on our own inclinations toward entitlement, resistance to criticism, or bending rules in our personal lives is a crucial aspect of personal growth. This self-awareness fosters empathy, understanding, and a recognition that the complexities of human behavior transcend the realms of political leadership. It invites us to strive for personal development and ethical decision-making while cultivating a deeper understanding of the shared challenges we face as individuals.


If you liked this article, consider reading more by seasoned journalist Waweru Njoroge:

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