MACHIAVELLISM IN OBASANJO’S POLITICAL DISPENSATION: A PHILOSOPHICAL EVALUATION
Machiavelli is one of the political philosophers who contributed immensely in the discourse of governance in our contemporary society. In The Prince he says that “he who builds on people builds on mud”. He believes that it means nothing for a ruler to be a man of integrity, upright, faithful to his promises, humane or religious but rather pretend to be all these by trick, cheating and manipulation of words. Many politicians all over the world directly or indirectly copy him. Nigerian politicians are no exception. The research exposes the political tenets of Machiavelli and traces the political development in Nigeria from 1999 – 2007 under Obasanjo’s civilian dispensations. The aim is to show the influence of Machiavellian principles in the way Obasanjo piloted the ship of the Nigerian state. He almost ran the state using Machiavellian principles. The research adopted critical and comparative analysis. The thesis argues that to sanitize Nigerian politics, the ex-military and corrupt leaders must be barred from politics and a proper reorientation be given any person that is voted in as a leader. It is also the contention of this thesis that what is not democratic in Obasanjo’s political dispensation should be rejected. It is then we can have a true democracy where security of life and property will be guaranteed and proper observation of rule of law.
1.1 Background of the Study
History is filled with the search for the best way to govern the state. This gave rise to various theories of government. Some of the theories have worked in some places and not in others. Nigeria is no exception. The question is, are the systems bad in themselves or do Nigerians make them bad? It is an obvious fact that justice and good moral standard are the hallmark of an ideal state. In a state where justice does not exist, the state according to St. Augustine is “…a kingdom of gangs of criminal on a large scale.”1 So any system of government devoid of morality is a threat to the people of the state in question, because the state would be a replica of state of nature in Thomas Hobbes, “…where the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”2 A state where might is right and where in the words of a Sophist, Thrasymachus “Laws are made by the ruling party for its own interest.”3 Come to think of how one man’s interest is considered supreme, worse still, when he is a dictator or uses deceit, lies as cover up for his devilish motives, in such a situation life would be unbearable to the people.
Consequently, Nigeria as a case study here is not free from such a political situation portrayed above. Then, what is wrong with Nigeria ever since her independence in 1960? Chinua Achebe states that: The trouble with Nigeria is simple and squarely a failure of leadership …The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which is the hallmarks of true leadership.4 This problem of Nigeria leadership cannot be overemphasized without mentioning Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s democratic presidency from 1999-2007. Nevertheless, earlier, before Obasanjo each regime recorded set backs in Nigerian political administration. Each regime that came in made a promise of sanitizing the body polity, but on the contrary litany of disappointments, broken promises and fragile peace have been recorded. In the military regimes series of coup d’etat, dictatorship and politics of deceit were recorded.
There was a total separation of morality from politics, which under normal circumstances are two sides of a coin, one cannot perfectly function without the other. Omoregbe summed it up in these words, “…it is impossible to separate morality from politics as it is to separate it from law.”5 Civilian regimes which claimed to propagate democracy were total dictatorship, especially Obasanjo’s regime which is a case study. He made a caricature of democracy. Nevertheless, one of the theories of politics founded by Machiavelli generated more controversy than any of the political theories. So much notoriety has gathered around the Machiavellian principle. Machiavelli crafts a perspective that aligns politics with warfare, and justifies the deployment of force, the exercise of cruelties; the practice of deceit that consider the end of actions and not the means. This poses a state of survival of the fittest. This situation to a great extent negates the principle of democracy and scuttles its growth.
Democracy is praised for its space of freedom, equality, justice and fairness. For any democratic institution to flourish all traces of Machiavellianism should be eschewed. This is a major concern in this research work. This work will go a long way to verify how the Machiavellian principle is in play in the Nigeria politics, precisely during the period of 1999-2007 democratic period of Olusegun Obasanjo. And then a remedial option would be suggested so as to help to move forward.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Politics in Nigeria over the years has been characterized by thuggery, murder, arson, kidnapping and torturing of opponents, falsehood, rigging of elections, intimidation of voters, buying of votes with money, to mention but a few. Politicians and seekers of political offices in the country adopt these methods to get and retain power. They do not blink an eye-lid as they adopt these measures whether fair or foul since according to them, it is politics. Could Obasanjo’s democratic era be given kudos for moulding man’s moral, social and religious life? Morality has been a thing of concern for many political thinkers and philosophers. The problem of morality constitutes a major part in Machiavelli’s political philosophy from the ancient times, philosophers had always associated politics with morality. The case of Machiavelli was that of a radical contrast. He is of the view that “…straight forward efforts to master and apply the tenets of traditional rules will not produce an effective rule.”6 For Socrates, human actions are associated with morality. Thus he opines, “…to know the good is to do the good, knowledge is virtue.”7 He equated knowledge with virtue and maintained that to have the knowledge of virtue is to have virtue. Plato in his moral philosophy states, “…virtue means knowledge, a true knowledge of the true consequences of all acts.”8 Plato follows Socrates in maintaining that the goal of human life is happiness and that the only road that leads to it is through a virtuous life. The basic problem in Machiavellian principle is the rejection of morality. There is no place for justice, peace and fairness, Machiavelli’s popular maxim that the end justifies the means is an attack on moral principles. Where would morality be if rejoicing in the end that we make possible through unfair and foul means? If this is accepted, then on which ground shall immoral acts perpetrated by people be condemned? What about some political leaders who ascend leadership through questionable ways and yet succeed in improving the standard of living of people. For example, like Jerry Rawlings of Ghana who assassinated the past leaders in order to bring sanity into the political arena of Ghana. Looking at Obasanjo’s democratic rule, where would morality be placed to ascertain ideal political state?
1.3 Purpose of Study
This work will critically analyze the principles of Machiavellianism. This will take the form of stating and describing the whole content of his principles as well as pointing out its implications. Also, the principle of democracy will be x-rayed and the conditions for its practice. This study will be done within the Nigerian situation specifically during Obasanjo’s democratic rule. In addition to respect the existence of this Machiavellian principle is being unrealistic and insincere to the whole assignment. This principle due to its tyrannical and immoral nature has attracted the criticism of many political thinkers and philosophers. Some reacted against the immoral nature of this system and eschewed it from their political enterprise. The Machiavellian principle has influenced Nigeria and her leaders and restructured the leadership system.
1.4 Scope of Study
This work will critically explore democratic situation of Obasanjo’s regimes from 1999-2007 in Nigeria. This will go as far as bringing out the principles of Machiavelli to dialogue with Obasanjo’s political dispensations of 1999 – 2007. The aim is to show the extent this regime employed Machiavellian principles in piloting the affairs of the Nigerian state.
1.5 Significance of Study
During the course of this research work, the implication of immorality in politics, especially among Nigerian political leaders will be exposed. This work will go a long way in orienting our leaders and to awaken the mind of Nigerians for the thoughtful reflection and a morally informed active participation in politics.
The method of this research is critical and comparative analysis of Machiavelli and Obasanjo’s democratic presidency. The thesis breaks into five chapters, chapter one deals with the general introduction. In chapter two we shall examine some relevant literature. Chapter three is the exposition of Machiavelli’s political theory while chapter four x-rays Machiavellianism in Obasanjo’s political dispensations of 1999 – 2007 and finally chapter five is evaluation and conclusion.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Politics Etymologically: The term is derived from two Greek words:‘Polis’ meaning ‘city’ and ‘techne’ meaning ‘skill’, ‘art’ or method. Hence, politics would mean the art of governing a city. Therefore, “…politics deals with the state; that is in its rational and legal nature as an association of men as moral beings.”9 Politics deals with the fundamentals of the state and the principles of government.
State: This includes definite territory, population and a government, sovereignty. Taking these characteristics into consideration, HJ Laski defines the state as “A territorial society divided into government and subjects claiming, within its allotted physical areas. A supremacy over all other institutions.”10 The term government is the concrete system through which the objective of the state; the common good is attained. Also, according to Appadorai.
Governments: This may be defined as the agency through which the will of the state is formulated, expressed and realized. Properly speaking, therefore, the term includes the sum total of the legislative, executive and judicial bodies in the state; whether of central or local government, of all those who are engaged in making, administering and interpreting law. Therefore, it can be said that government is only one part of the state. Principality According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, it defines principality is “…a country that is ruled by a prince.” In the principality the prince administers tyrannically and must subjugate the people because they lack virtue and cannot govern themselves. Machiavelli formed two major types of principalities; hereditary and new principalities.
Republic: Is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected. A system of government where the head of state is not a monarch.”
Machiavellianism: Is political principles characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty. Being or acting in accordance with the principles of government analyzed in Machiavelli’s The Prince in which political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain the authority.
Power: This is the ability of one person to cause another to do what he wishes, by whatever means. However, because it is so difficult to measure precisely how and when power is exercised; there are disputes within political science about how much power various groups have. The concept of power is much emphasized in its usage. Power may be exercised as coercion, persuasion, and conviction of another to comply with a wish. The style and usage of power is corrupt when it is used excessively and in bad faith. Therefore, the significance of power is so relevant to this study since power cannot be differentiated from politics.
Godfatherism: This could be defined as a male god parent a co-sponsor, head of a criminal organization especially the mafia, any influential leader or powerful figure.
Paternalism: The word is derived from a Latin word ‘pater’ and it means father it originally connotes “…a type of behaviour by a superior towards an inferior resembling that of a male parent to his child in most cases a son.