A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE HOBBESIAN STATE OF NATURE AND ITS EXISTENCE IN NIGERIA
CHAPTER ONE/GENERAL INTRODUCTION
BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The facts are clear, loud, distinct, lucid and vivid. They are visible even to the blind, audible even to the deaf and known to everyone and thing around us that the Nigerian state several years after independence still harbours a varied number of elements that existed prior to the setting up of a civil society as embodied in the Hobbesian state of nature.
Antecedent to setting up an organized state Hobbes avers that men lived in a society without laws, authority and morality, no sense of right or wrong, justice or injustice. In it self-interest was the order of the day; this resulted in struggles and conflict making war prevalent among men who lived in perpetual danger and fear of death. According to Hobbes “there was no permanent ownership of anything by anybody; whatever anybody could grab was his own for as long as he was able to retain it. A stronger man could come along and snatch it from him and it would become his until another stronger man also snatches it from him”.1 This society had no progress, no development, no agriculture and no industry. In it according to Hobbes, “the life of man was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.
Likened to the Nigerian situation, it calls to question the validity or strength of our laws where we have a case of “complete erosion of our value system(s) such that, corruption and other social vices have acquired the status of virtues and mediocrity has become a norm and legal tender”2, where looters of public treasury with impunity walk freely and are celebrated while a commoner with a far lesser degree of crime languishes in detention – justice or injustice? A lot of other criminal acts are being perpetrated daily and offenders with the backing of godfathers get off the hooks without punishments. These expose the corruption and weakness of our legal system and display a great degree of the immorality in our society. Election rigging, exam malpractices, economic and financial crimes, prostitution out of destitution and frustration, political thuggery, hired assassinations and other societal vices confirm and depict the absence of morality in our society.
Besides these, the Nigerian state continues to struggle with ethno- religious, politico-economic and socio-cultural realities of battles, pains and tears that are heart breaking. These are indications of Hobbes’ state of war and insecurity which existed among men in the state of nature and accounts for the collapsing social-economic structural and apparent relative stagnation we face as a nation. All these hinder societal progress, development and creation of more industries because potential foreign investors see the Nigerian state as unsafe. What is more? How else do we say that ours is an identical twin of the Hobbesian state of nature? In terms that lack any form of ambiguity, I hold that that exactly is what we have.
The issues mentioned above are very striking and pose a lot of questions, thus making the need to answer the questions raised and address issues therein an imperative. This is what this essay has set out to tackle.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It is an obvious fact that Nigeria state is one that embodies a litany of problems which cover the areas of economy, social, political, ethical, religious and otherwise. A critical look at each of these problems would reveal that threads of similarities run across all of them, namely selfishness or self-interest and corruption. The element of self interest as it was in the Hobbesian state of nature, led to strife and conflict which brought about a state of war of every one against everyone. Following an ambivalence of interest, there is bound to be conflict which leads to war and by extension insecurity.
Nigeria presently is not free from these facts and as such one can say that these issues and others to be exposed in this work are similar to what obtained in the Hobbesian state of nature. Is this where we are supposed to be now as a country? How do we have these issues eradicated to have a better Nigeria? Don’t we need a revolution to move ahead? Which way Nigeria? How do we move forward from where we are? The fact that these questions need answers and the need to redress the situation in the Nigerian state which is still seen to be in the state of nature is what has triggered off this essay.
PURPOSE OF STUDY
In the light of the problems enumerated above, this essay aims at taking a critical look at the practical situations in the Nigerian state and how they replicate discouraging elements of the Hobbesian state of nature with a view to advancing possible solutions to combat them.
SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
This work is not just only a comparative analysis of a philosophical postulation and a reality of life; it is a critical philosophical look at the Nigerian state and the status quo. It is going to expose the situation Nigeria has faced over the years and still faces.
The research will be significant because it is going to expose us to the need to eradicate of these issues which are overlooked in our every day living and have come to be accepted as ways of life. It is going to show the risks and dangers these issues hold for posterity and finally, it is going to proffer possible solutions on the way forward.
SCOPE OF STUDY
The scope of this work lies in its limitedness to the Hobbesian socio- political philosophy and how it relates to the Nigerian situation.
This work is epistemological, historical, anthropological and ethical. It is epistemological as it would expose the notion of the Hobbesian state of nature and lay bare the situation of the Nigerian state following a comprehensive and logical approach. On the historical lane, it will survey the evolution of a civil society and also touch areas in the Nigerian society that lie in the past. Anthropologically, it studies man in society and from an ethical perspective looks at the morality, immorality or even the amoral aspects of issues here discussed.
To fully attain the goal of this essay, our method shall be expository, comparative, analytic and critical. It will be expository in that it will lay bare the issues treated here, comparative because areas of convergence and divergence of the issues treated here will be touched. It will be analytic because we shall give a comprehensive and systematic analysis of concepts raised here; and for the fact that we shall subject issues raised herein to a serious and assiduous scrutiny the method of this work becomes critical.
The methodology of this research is both primary and secondary. In the primary aspects, our major sources shall be the works of Thomas Hobbes to have first hand the notions of his thoughts. On the other hand, our secondary materials would constitute materials from libraries, daily experiences in the Nigerian state, newspapers, magazines, journals, and internet sources.
Hermeneutics is simply an interpretation of history. This is an approach that would be employed in our methodology. Man’s understanding of himself is clearer when taken from a historical perspective as human knowledge is situated in time and varies with the historical features in which the knower finds himself or is living. Man through the hermeneutical process relates with the past to the present, checks and balances the two periods to see whether they compare favorably or whether there is need to make amends. Living without knowledge of history would make us relive past mistakes over and over again.
There are two types of approaches to the hermeneutical interpretation of history
- the Phenomenological approach represented by the likes of Martin Heidegger; H.G Gadammer and Paul Recoeur
- Archeological or Psychological approach proposed and led by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud; and the structuralists led by Levi
More apt to our study’s choice of methodology is the phenomenological approach. Heidegger was the first to suggest this approach; he avers that man is part and parcel of history and to understand him, we must refer to history. This involves the acceptance of the past as it really is and its human component. Since human existential situation determines the course of history, it is therefore important for the past to be made available to the present to save man from falling into the same awful situations of ‘yesterday’. The degree of this understanding depends on the extent of openness and acceptance of facts. There must be a readiness to accept them as they are.
To help achieve our task successfully, this study has been divided into five chapters.
Chapter one has to do with the introductory and preliminary aspects of this work. Here, the perceived problem which gave vent to this research is exposed as well as the purpose of the study, scope, significance and the research methodology. The definition of terms and a brief history of the life of Thomas Hobbes draw the curtain on this chapter.
Chapter two which is the literature review x-rays the views of past authors and scholars on the topic at stake in a chronological pattern showing how they have agreed or differed on this issue at stake.
Chapter three which opens with the prelude to the Hobbesian socio- political philosophy has its major themes as the state of nature, the social contract theory as well as an exposition of the sovereignty concept in Hobbes. Other issues in Hobbes pertinent to his views on this topic are also laid bare in this chapter.
Chapter four deals with the origin of the Nigerian state of nature beginning from the colonial days through the amalgamation, pre- independence days, origin of the Nigerian state of nature and how the state of nature has ruled affairs and life in Nigeria since then. A detailed expose’ of the Nigerian state of nature is also given in this chapter to show how life in the Hobbesian pre-civilized society is replicated in the Nigerian state; the rule of law in Nigeria being head down in slumber also forms a part of this chapter. Another high point of this chapter is a comparative analysis of the thoughts of Hobbes and the Nigerian situation. This concludes our work in chapter four.
Chapter five the last of this work houses a critique of this work, a panacea for the Nigerian state of nature where possible steps of moving Nigeria forward will be highlighted and the conclusion which closes the whole work.
DEFINITIONS OF TERMS
Some terms have been used in the course of this work and to eliminate any form of ambiguity or misconceptions the need to undertake here a clear definition of concepts arises.