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MAN, A WOLF TO MAN

Project Topic: MAN, A WOLF TO MAN: A SURVEY OF THOMAS HOBBES’ POLITICAL PRINCIPLES IN RELATION TO NIGERIAN SITUATION


CHAPTER ONE

 Introduction

The nature of man is such that rationality forms his essence and distinguishes him from other animals. Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature, however, paints a picture of the denial of man’s rationality. There is a devaluation of the state of man and this awakened the interest of certain thinkers, Hobbes inclusive, and they set out to restructure and establish this lost dignity of human person.

However, philosophers have proposed and adopted numerous political and philosophical theories for the respect of human dignity and for the well being of man in his natural state. Philosophers like Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume, and Jean Jacque Rousseau concentrated on man in his state of nature. Thomas Hobbes’ political theory of “Homo homini lupus” (man, a wolf to man) is what this essay concentrates and explores in relation to Nigeria political situation.

In Nigeria, so many events and attitudes of our leaders have pictured neglects and insults on the intelligence of the human person in the society. At a close observation of our country Nigeria, a person notices traces of moral decadence on the varied sectors of the government. That a land blessed with both natural and human resources with rich cultural heritage has lost this dignity and has been stripped naked by our so called leaders. The most unfortunate situation is the collapse of academics in Nigeria where it is noticed that schools are shut for months, and no one cares about the lasting consequences of this on the developing young people and the future society. The condition has attracted remarks both from within and outside the country. Nigeria has been referred to as a “failed state” or “an abysmally corrupt entity”. The story about Nigeria has always been that of woes.

All these problems are what made Chinua Achebe to cry out:

The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership[1]

Therefore, Nigerians are what they are today simply because our leaders are not what they should be. Looking at the principles of Thomas Hobbes about the imaginative pristine condition of man, with all its hazards, struggle for all things, greed, and other traits, Nigeria could be equated with Hobbes’ state of nature.

1.1     Statement of the Problem

Man, a wolf to man, in Thomas Hobbes’ conception, is an attack of man on his fellow man in pursuit of his selfish desires. He makes it explicitly clear that it is in this state of nature that man tends to achieve his aim at the expense of others. Hence, this is a situation of mere nature, a state of perfectly private judgment, in which there is no agency with recognized authority to arbitrate disputes and effective power to enforce its decision. Hobbes writes:

If there be no power erected, or not great enough for our society, every man will and may lawfully rely on his own strength and art for caution against all other men.[2]

Meanwhile, state of nature is the condition of humanity prior to the foundation of a state and rule of law. The state of nature is synonymous to anarchy. Hobbes describes it as a “chaotic society.”[3]

In some versions of social contract theory, there is no right in the state of nature, only freedom. Thus, rights and obligations are brought into existence by contract. This contract imposes restrictions upon individuals so much so that their rights of nature are curtailed. Moreover, if there are no laws, no government, and no power to restrain human conflict, then, that would be the state of nature. Hobbes in Leviathan, points out that the idea of “mine and thine” or rather all men having right to all things will inevitably land man into the state of war. The natural state of mankind which Hobbes postulates is devoid of common wealth, therefore, each man aims at the satisfaction of his own personal interest. Akin to this condition, three things are not found in state of nature: Rule of law, Justice and Morality. Hobbes recognizes the reality and existence of laws of nature, in the first and fundamental law of nature is, “that peace is to be sought after it may be found; and where not, there to provide ourselves for helps of war”.[4] There are other laws of nature but the rest are derived from this, and they direct the ways either to peace or self-defense.

The natural law deduced from this first fundamental law of nature is this, that the right of all men, to all things, ought not to be retained, but that certain rights ought to be transferred: for if everyone should retain his natural right to all things, war would follow. Hobbes from this develops the way out of the state of nature. Nevertheless, there are other laws of nature.

The 17th century English Philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, preferred the evil in the absolute power to the experience in the state of nature. Hobbes opines that in the state of nature men live without common power to keep them in awe; they are in that condition which is called war of every man against all (man, a wolf to man). Every person has a natural right to do anything to preserve his life. Thus, the life of man in the state of nature is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”[5]

In Nigeria, one who gains power is like one who survives in Hobbes’ state of nature. Parties or candidates deny the transparency and validity of election, and seek refuge in the election tribunal.  The “terminus a quo” and the “terminus ad quem” of everything (manifestoes, campaign, petition to tribunal etc.) are always to satisfy their selfish interest at the expense of their nation. Hence, they involve themselves in all forms of electoral malpractices like thuggery, snatching of the ballot boxes, thumb printing of the ballot papers etc. If not, after their manifestoes they would have allowed the people’s vote to count. All boils down to Hobbes’ state of nature.

1.2     Background of the Study

The situation of the state in the time of Thomas Hobbes effectively influenced his work and writing of his political theory. There was societal unrest, wherein the political thought of Hobbes was conceived. He made a lot of travels and also, had a close contact with many philosophers and scientists like Descartes and Galileo. He traveled through France and Italy and acquainted himself with their customs and languages.

The situation was due to insecurity in the state of his time. His family was not a different case from the experience he got from the English who were at the corridors of power. His family went through some unrest during his father’s absence. He even witnessed the rebellion against King Charles, which resulted to England Civil war in 1642.

However, in 1662, he was threatened with imprisonment and ordered to stop every publication on social and political matters. Due to all these anomalies, he feared a chaotic society, for thereof, man is not safe and also a wolf to his fellow man.

Therefore, it is against this background that he began to imagine the condition of man in a state that is devoid of a government.  Hobbes then postulates that man is the source of the problem and societal upheavals,

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