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Hobbesian Social Contract And A Divided Ruling Party

Posted: Jul 2, 2015 at 3:41 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Despite his fallacious argument that the only establishment not subject to destruction from within is the one in which the members submit to an absolute – undivided, unlimited – sovereign power, Thomas Hobbes’ huge contribution to the social contract theory cannot be denied: the unwritten but binding agreement among members of a society that regulates their activities, dictating acceptable conduct, such as submission of individuals to the rule of law. Hobbes’ Leviathan canvasses far more beneficial propositions than the need for the citizenry to submit absolutely to some absolute sovereign. Hobbes’ demonstration of the relationship between political obedience and peace, or the need for government or central coercive authority in any society is still useful today.

To underscore the importance of a strong central authority in the management of our communal life, Hobbes prescribes as baseline a “state of nature” – a rudderless state where everyone acts in the way they like; where there is no independent authority to arbitrate or intervene in disputes, as everyone is a judge, jury and executioner in their own cause; where social institutions, like family or marriage, business and other relationships, including love affairs and contracts, are not protected and, thus, do not exist. In that jungle, everyone lives in “continual fear, and danger of violent death. And the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” With no common good, personal appetite is supreme.

To concretize this abstract state of continuous conflict, think of your life at a busy intersection with no one to direct traffic. The boundless right of the individual naturally invites preemptive strikes to repel anticipated aggression. The absence of a common authority to allocate scare opportunities or determine what is right or wrong or resolve conflict often creates a state of war of all against all, bringing out the worst in mankind. Rationality is thrown overboard, and people tend to sacrifice long term benefits for present gains.

The Hobbesian state of nature can also be a mental state. Some analysts have observed that every society has” persons (just a few, or perhaps all, to some degree) whose passions overrule their calmer judgments; who are prideful, spiteful, partial, envious, jealous, and in other ways prone to behave in ways that lead to war”. There are people, whose unbridled quest for power and domination always sets them at war with others, making peace in communal settings impossible.

To check whether Hobbes’s state of nature is a reality that extends to our public institutions, one only needs to examine the chaos in the National Assembly, a bedlam that questions the veracity of Hobbes’ supposed benefits of communal life over and above individual life, even if it demonstrates the evils of interacting based on individual judgments and interests.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the National Assembly, hiding behind the dry provisions of the constitution – without the spirit behind them, argue that it is within their purview to elect from among themselves persons to man the leadership positions in the Assembly; which is correct, on the face of it. But a scrutiny of the pre-election days and thereafter will establish the reality of the situation. The foundation of the relationship of APC and its members in the National Assembly is built on Section 40 of the Constitution which protects the individual’s right to join a political party for the protection of his/her political rights. The APC, under Section 221 of the Constitution, had the exclusive right to canvass for votes or finance the election expenses of its members. Accordingly, the APC sponsored its members and participated in the election to take control of the government – that is, the Presidency and the National Assembly. Without the power to control the government, the party would have acted in vain. Appointment of Ministers is one important-but-often-overlooked instrument with which political parties control or influence the Presidency. The difference in the provisions of Section 147(5) and Section 151 of the Constitution is deliberate. So also is the difference in the wordings of Section 147(5) and Section 156. Now, if the APC has the power to influence the Presidency, how can its members in the National Assembly be absolutely independent of the APC when they are equally bound by the Constitution of the party?

Controlling the government has its consequences. The APC is vicariously liable for the actions and inaction of its members; its fortunes in the next election will not be dependent on its performance or otherwise, but on the scorecard of its members at the National Assembly and Muhammadu Buhari. Section 224 of the Constitution also implicitly enjoins the APC to actualize the fundamental objectives and derivative principles of state policy enshrined in Chapter Two of the Constitution.

The refusal of some bloody-mindedness APC members to subject themselves to the supremacy of the party will surely breed a Hobbesian state of nature in which the political lives of such members will be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Many of them who destroyed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and are now masterminding the chaos in the APC think they have nine lives; but Nigerians are wiser. With President Buhari ready to shut the corruption taps and leakages for which the cut-throat competition for the leadership positions is all about, it is crystal clear that every APC member will soon realize that their political future lies in their party’s unity and strength.