03/23/2011 03:26 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Understanding the Mindset of a Dictator

In 1999, the most populous African nation, Nigeria returned to democratic rule. Prior to this time, Nigeria was ruled by military dictators. Most notable of these were General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the self-proclaimed "Evil Genius" and General Sani Abacha, who died mysteriously in 1998, paving the way for civilian rule. Abacha's rule was a reign of terror with many journalists going underground and many opponents mysteriously disappearing. He had a special killing squad led by the infamous sniper Sergeant Rogers. Despite the billions of dollars these dictators had stolen from the government coffers and the permanent financial security they and their families would enjoy for years to come, they were never willing to relinquish power. The story of dictators in Nigeria is just one of many such stories around the world, most especially in Africa and the Arab world. The question every right thinking person would ask is, what motivates these people to act in the barbarous and unconscionable ways that they do? Simply, what is their mindset? It is not like that of many other people that we know.

There are traits that are found in most dictators in the world. They are egoistical, narcissistic maniacs with low self-esteem. For this reason, they surround themselves with very greedy enablers who insulate them from the plight of their people. Through the unrighteous hard work of the morally depraved sycophants who hang around them, the dictators are oblivious to their true standing among their people. These sycophants assure them of their popularity among the people and their indispensability to the stability and well-being of their nations. Keeping this in mind, it is not strange that despite the oppression that the people of Libya have faced in the hands of Gaddafi, he confidently proclaimed to Christiane Amanpour of ABC News that, "All my people love me. They would die to protect me."

Dictators do not see the uprisings against them as a sign that their regimes are unpopular. They seek to suppress the opposition believing that their opponents do not truly represent the will of the people and they are nothing but miscreants whose sole purpose is to foment trouble and to obstruct the "peace" and "stability" of the nation. Thus, opponents are treated as undesirable elements.

The world a dictator lives in is different from the world of his citizens (or subjects as he might consider them). His is an imagined, non-existent world. It exists only in his head. His sycophants over time become also citizens of this imagined world and they begin to believe the lies that they have been selling to him. Together with the dictator, they are ready to fight and defend this world, even unto death. He does not care how many citizens of his nation he takes with him. Thus, he uses them as human shields. At the end of the day, their mindset is not only an illusion but also a delusion. This is dangerous for everyone who lives in that world.

General Sani Abacha's death remains a mystery. Many believe he was poisoned. A few think he died a sudden natural death. If Gaddafi remains hard and impervious, his fate would be no different from that of Abacha or Saddam Hussein, who vowed to remain in power under all circumstances. If Gaddafi, Saleh and other African and Arab dictators truly have any dignity for their own lives and the lives of their people, the only option they have is to vacate power immediately and stop using their people as objects for their own insatiable desire for power.