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Philosophy Project Topic: John Locke’s Political Theory: A Paradigm for Nigeria Political System



1.1.                   BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

The most arduous problem of the modern world (Nigeria inclusive) is how to improve the system of governance.  The art of governance has been of a primordial importance to the human society.  It is said that when the affair of human society is well governed that the society can develop both humanly and structurally.  Concerning this art of government many have written, are still writing and will still write so as to contribute their quota on issues burdening our country Nigeria in civil development.

Obviously, the quality of polity, economy and morality in Nigeria, is going down consistently.  Also the quality of the leadership is drastically going down too.  Thus, Chinua Achebe observed that “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.”[1]  It is equally observed that the chief among the forces affecting political system in Nigeria is the lust for power.  A misconstrued grasp of the concept of power in leadership, a wide spread abuse of power (e.g. God-father syndrome).  This results in intolerance and state of war.

Furthermore, the political system of Nigeria has grown obviously into a big child even as she celebrates her 96 years of amalgamation, 50 years of independence, 4 phase of republic, and the recent 11 years of Democratic civilian rule.  More so, in all these the history of political system in Nigeria has become synonymous with states of anarchy, misrule, wars and regular social disorder.  There are numerous cases of corruption, injustice, poverty, dwindling of development.  Political transition has recorded many cases of massive political killing, unrest in the society, constant violence, militant actions and the recent evil of “kidnapping”.  The Education system has been turned into a mess.  The recent three months of university strike which has caused disparage between the government and ASUU (Academic Staff Union of the Universities) is a simple index of the disorder.  What this cause is a rampart cases of cultism, robbery, examination malpractice, rape, thuggery, dropouts and many other evils being perpetuated by the youths, and this surly shows that the education standard has falling.  This is cause by a shift in the paradigm of world view and value system.  Pope Paul VI writes in his encyclical ‘Populorum progressio’ “Basic education is the primary objective of any plan of development.  Indeed hunger for education is no less debasing than hunger for food; an illiterate is a person with an undernourished mind”.[2]  In Nigeria what we see is increasing number of certificate holders but few numbers of educated people.

To apply J. O. Oguejiofor’s expression that, “there is hardly any Island of hope in the sea of seeming despair”[3] in our health system.  More so, many in hospitals are dying for lack of healthy care facilities.  Many others are been driven by force into the same hospitals as a result of environmental hazards.  Many others are not even opportune at least to be registered as a patient in any hospital and they die off.

“Violence and social disorder, religious crises are becoming an average everyday event.  The society is disintegrating gradually and falling into bleak.  The growth of the Economy is seriously being militated against by violence arts, e.g. Niger-Delta crisis.  Prof. Pat Utomi  goes further to identify the Nigeria problem as “systemic”.

To move away from the immediate looming failure in the political system, it is a responsibility of the leader and the follower. We need a paradigm shift to proactive citizenry. The “Gaudium et spes”, writes. “There is no better way to establish political life on a truly human basis than by encouraging an inward sense of justice, of good will and service to the common good, and by consolidating the aim, proper exercise and limits of public authority.”[4] It is on this note that this work has seen John Locke’s political theory as a paradigm to Nigeria.

1.2                    STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

In Locke’s political carrier, his major primordial preoccupation was to demolish the divine authority of the sovereign who takes power even without the consent of the people. Again, he set out to justify the right of resistance and revolution against the sovereign and arbitrary use of power. He also wanted to set a classical liberal society. His theory no doubt brought a turn to modern world politics. Although, “the lack” of his thought, is the ambiguity of his expression. Locke recognized that man desires freedom from compulsion, and seeks a good government to fulfill his potentials, maintain his dignity. But since this has been tuned down by bad governance of society, there is a need for a revolution, to restore dignity of man.

Since there is an established bad political situation in Nigeria which has brought tension, poverty, conflict and war, do we not need to make effort to search the causes of this bad political system? Do we not need to look inward into effects of this bad governance of the people in order to find solution to the problem of governance? I think that until we are able to manage the crisis of governance in our country, we will still remain poor unless there will be an “economic miracle”.

Secondly, I will again look at extent justification for the political theory of John Locke, if really it worth a paradigm for a remedy for the aberration of governance in Nigerian. Can the theory of Locke offer any gain to the system if practices?

Thirdly, it is true that in a society where ‘anything goes’, where leaders who rest on mediocrity.  How can we find out the root causes of these evils and then go further to foster ideal political system?

Fourthly, like every other theory that has been formulated rested on a particular human situation to function, I will look into what is required for the application of this theory? Is there any precondition for its practicability or does it work in every society? Can it really be practiced in Nigeria?

Finally, Locke propounded the theory of law guided by the liberty of the individual, the limited nature of government, and the good of the citizens and the overall development of the society, are these tenable? Can it help solve the bad effect of the force amalgamation of the Nigeria country, through its notion of contract society or tolerance?


The main purpose of this work is to re-examine, like many others have been doing, the political theory of John Locke and to see what benefits it holds out to our country. To join our voice to that of Locke in calling for the individual liberty, the limited government, the respect for the right and resistance against arbitrary government, right for property, the right to elect the sovereign, right to depose the sovereign when he usurps  power or abuses power, as many modern world countries are doing.

I have the conviction that theory of Locke on politics is for the good of the civil society. If the idea of his rule of law and checks and balances as he outlined, is put into practice, this surely will help pilot the welfare of the society and create good governance.


This work focuses on a system that is accommodating, respect for the right and freedom and good of its members, its task therefore is the establishment of a better human society. Thus, it is very significant to our country Nigeria, where dictatorship, despotism, god-fathers, elongated tenures: unjust immunity clause, ethnic sub-national coalition etc are practiced under the cover of democracy.

Therefore, if the theory is applied it will go a long way to foster justice and a better human society.

1.5        SCOPE OF STUDY

Considering the fact that Locke’s political theory is vast, I will limit the scope of this work to his theory of: state of nature, social contract, property, ends of political society and government, dissolution of government, the relationship between individuals and state, as contains in is work “Second Treatise of Government”.

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Topic: John Locke’s Political Theory: A Paradigm for Nigeria Political System

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[1] Achebe Chinua,  The Trouble with Nigeria,  Enugu Fourth Dimension Publishing Co. Ltd, 1983,  p. 1.

[2] Paul Pope VI, Populorum Pregresio, p. 3.

[3] J.O. oguejiofor, Philosophy and African predicament, Ibadan; Home Dell publishing Group Inc.,1993.

[4] Document of the Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution “Gaudium et Spes” (“On the Church in the Modern World”), December 7, 1965.


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