Social Contract, Politics and Oddities in the Nigeria Situation by Henry Onyema Madubuike.


Anarchy becomes the norm, with the Grund Norm or ‘fons et origo’ as it is said in Law, non existent and coexistence becomes impracticable when humans cannot live together cooperatively without an agreement which culminate in the giving up of some personal rights or sacrificing some level of freedom, which metamorphoses to having a kind of general protection, State wise.

This implicit or tacit agreement among members of a society to cooperate for social benefits by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection is Social Contract.

This social contract is what allows any Government to work but it is also important to note that government and social contract are different things.

Major Philosophers like Socrates, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau all made contributions as concerns the giving up of some of the freedom of individuals for a larger State protection, though with variegated opinions but the end thereto was almost same.

For example, in the early Platonic dialogue, Crito, Socrates in his very compelling argument preferred to stay in prison and accept the penalty of death, rather than resorting to escaping and going into exile in another Greek city, thus buttressing that after acquiring an overwhelming obligation to obey the laws, because those laws did contribute to his way of life, and his very existence, possible. According to Socrates, the laws made it possible for his father and mother to marry and thus, have legitimate children, himself inclusive.

Thomas Hobbes in his own variety, following the clash between the King and his supporters, the Monarchists and the Parliamentarians as led by Oliver Cromwell, who demanded more powers for the quasi democratic institution of Parliament, postulated a compromise, which saw him reject the theory of Divine Rights of Kings as expressed by Robert Filmer in ‘Patriacha’ or Natural Power of Kings, which is buttressed in the view that a king’s authority was invested in him (or her as the case may be) by God, that such authority was absolute and therefore, that the basis of political obligation lay in our obligation to obey God absolutely!

The view above postulates that political obligation is subsumed under religious obligation.

Same Hobbes also rejected the early democratic views taken up by the Parliamentarians, that power ought to be shared between Parliament and the king.

In rejecting those two views, Hobbes occupied the ground of one who is both radical and conservative. His argument was predicated on the view that political authority and obligation are based on the individual self interest of members of society who are understood to be equal to one another, with no single individual invested with any essential authority to rule over the rest while at the same time, maintaining the conservative position that the monarch, which he called the Sovereign, must be ceded absolute authority if the society is to survive!

For Hobbes to be fully understood, two critical areas are to be properly dissected: his theory of human motivation, Psychological Egoism and the theory of Social Contract, founded on the hypothetical State of Nature.

John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau held views in the Social Contract theory related to the duo highlighted.

From the point where this discourse is hinged, often conceptualized via the metaphor of a “State of Nature”, social contract develops an account vof political legitimacy, grounded in the idea that naturally free and equal human beings have no right to exercise power over another, except in accordance with the principle of mutual agreement.

That said, Social Contract Theory holds that people live together in society in accordance with an agreement that establishes moral and political rules of behavior. Here ‘moral’ and ‘political’ are used conjunctively, not otherwise.

Some people believe that if humans choose to live in accordance to social contract, what is right would naturally be done, not because a divine being mandates it.

Now, a brief attempt shall be made to explain the other half of the discourse: politics.

The activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between persons having power or activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization is called politics.

Some thinkers holds various views of Politics which shall be listed here for the purpose of clarity.

A. “Who gets what, when and how.” – Harold Lasswell.

B. “The authoritative allocation of values for a society.” – David Easton.

C. “The most concentrated expression of economics.” – Vladimir Lenin.

D. “The capacity of always choosing at each instant, in constantly changing situations, the least harmful, the most useful.” – Otto von Bismarck.

Political power, as an integral part of these submissions, is when a group of people or an individual has control and influence over a nation’s beliefs, action and behavior. This power can be legitimate power granted by the people of a nation or it can equally be illegitimate, where power is seized via forceful action.

Also, legitimacy of power as it relates to social contract is the ‘res’ of this discourse though it will also be apt to state that the subject elucidates the imprints of coercive power as deployed in the guise of social contract, which is the type of power that employs the use of force, threats and other forms of coercion to stimulate an outcome.

However, the Social Contract variety in Nigeria’s political landscape is obviously fantastic, negatively speaking because of the glaring disconnect between the government and the governed, thus making the ‘agreement’ no longer mutual but forced, that is, coerced.

Incredibly, the relationship, deducible from the afore, is more or less a master/slave affair, with the slave left with no option but toe the line, else emasculated or obliterated.

The rights, said to be given up for a higher level of State protection can be forcefully taken after all, whether it be given willingly or not.

Agencies and institutions not government for example, that ideally ought to obey the letter and spirit of the social contract now tilt to the whims of the coercive drivers of the political vehicle, so much so that the outcome of say, elections, are predictable, with some stating directly or through semiotics viz a vz body language, that the country is a business enterprise or coporation, where succession is already predetermined and elections, merely a religious or put mildly, an academic exercise.

Sadly, one of the biggest enablers of the disconnect viz a viz distortions of and in the social contract in Nigeria is the Judiciary, who are seen to stand justice on it’s head and encouraging broad-day thievery which has knackered or even mortally wounded the drive and zeal of the common man, thus the lack of confidence in the hitherto revered Institution.

For example, two issue of same colouration, in every technical sense and tilt, are brazenly balkanized because A is percieved to be a bigger threat than B, and must be thrown into the ocean of judicial manipulative complacency, political abracadabra and premeditated annihilation of whatever there is of the democratic process.

Whatever there is in the ‘agreement’ between the contractor and the contractee is shredded before the the latter, who helplessly accepts whatever is offered, forlorn.

Over 60 years after Nigeria gained political independence, the country is yet to translate her enormous human and material resources to expected economic development measured in GDP per capita as a result of the reality of the social contract theory and the failed State concept in Nigeria’s governance.

Another major challenge to the Social Contract include the giving of too much power to government to make laws under the guise of protecting the public, when in the real sense, the clique or cabal with vested interest in the purse of the nation is in actuality being protected.

For over 30 years, without sounding immodest, no single drop of crude has been refined in Nigeria’s three refineries but stagering amount of monies are budgeted, released and expended after ‘legislation’ for purposes of turn around maintenance of same refineries which have remained grounded overtime, with staff, real and phantom being paid, crude exported and re-imported at deafening amounts while the people groan in perpetual misery, yet “Emi lo Kan” is celebrated as the way to go.

One will clearly see that specifically, government uses the cloak of social contract to invoke the fear of a “State of Nature” to warrant laws that are intrusive.

Also, the level of insecurity in Nigeria is a major evidence of a failed social contract. Do we go further?

The Nigeria situation of a failed social contract contrasts the postulation of Thomas Hobbes, who posits that the subject is the only way to avoid a “State of Nature” in which life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” because everyone would be struggling for their own self preservation.

Simplicita, it cannot be doubted that the government in Nigeria has failed in their primary purpose of upholding the welfare of the people.

Ben Udechukwu, a Lawyer and Journalist holds that “in Nigeria, the Social Contract seems alive and functional in pre-election period. It goes comatose and any life in it extinguished as soon as politicians grab power. The reason is simple: the contract is often predicated on either fraud or mistake. When people ask for gratification to vote, when the electoral body becomes complicit, the result is set of politicians who are beneficiaries of ruthlessness. The few who remember there was an an agreement have tiny and still voices. No hope”.

The only solution is renegotiation, which can only be achieved via organizing a Sovereign National Conference. It is either Nigerians sit and talk, speak truth to itself or continue revelling in pitiful deceit and self hypnotism and reach the crescendo of massive implosion where nothing will be left but stinking carcasses. The choice is ours.

(Public Affairs Analyst)


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