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Nigeria: A Political State of Nature

By Amaka Obi
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Thomas Hobbes regards natural state of man as brutal, nasty and miserable in which everyone is free to act as they wish and may pose a risk to others’ existence and survival.

Man is also always in the fear of being killed in a painful way because everyone is an enemy to each other.

That is why, he says that “the passions that incline men to peace are: fear of death; desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to obtain them”.

Everyone can go after his own instincts and claim rights on others’ property for self-protection, reputation or glory. In such a state, one cannot expect peace and order; therefore, there must be a political institution that would guarantee these aspects.

Prior to the amalgamation of the Northern, Southern and Western protectorates by the British in 1914, to form the entity presently known as Nigeria today, each region could be said to have been working in accordance with its own beliefs and ideologies.

Not technically a state of nature as Hobbes defines it but rather a state of being, one which was completely unique to each region.

The amalgamation of 1914 would see this different factions thrown together in a situation that was as foreign to them as the name Nigeria which they had come to be branded as it were. Fast forward to 102 years later the concept is yet to be fully grasped.

The notion that at different points in the nation’s political history several ethnic groups have come to feel themselves entitled to the leadership of the nation not because they have provided competent and credible leaders to champion the cause of nation building as should be the target of every leader but rather because “it’s our turn” has left this writer wondering.

The notion that the fear of a potential civil war should certain faction have felt “cheated” in the last concluded election, which led to people fleeing their homes in “foreign” parts of the nation to their “home land” has formed a perplexing part of the reality which the entity Nigeria faces.

Isn’t it mind boggling how one can be in his country and yet the person is seen as if he/she is in a foreign land?

The notion that an individual is hailed a political hero because he did not contest the outcome of an election that saw him ousted and constantly had to reiterate his belief that his ambition is not worth the blood of Nigerians has made this writer wonder if this shouldn't have been the norm all along.

A case in reference is the open letter erstwhile president of the federal republic of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan wrote in a face book post last year at the height of his political campaign for reelection and the political tension during the entire political year were he stated: “I have said it before and I will continue to say and live by the fact that my ambition, and indeed the ambition of anybody, is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. Therefore, I urge all Nigerians to look forward in hope as we fulfill the dreams of our founding fathers to ‘build a nation where peace and Justice reign’.

In that regard, we must make the election of February 14th, 2015, a contest amongst brothers rather than a struggle between foes.

In my political life, I have never been driven by the love of power. Rather, I have gotten to where I am today by the power of love which is the power that fueled the unity that saw Nigeria become the largest economy in Africa and defeat the Ebola Virus Disease, Dr Jonathan had affirmed.

He continued thus:"Today, as I open up my campaign in the cosmopolitan city of Lagos, which is a melting pot for all Nigerians, I invite both the young and the old, men and women, students, market women, transporters, activists and indeed all Nigerians, to come and join me today at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos".

"I will not dictate to you. I will listen to you. It will not be a monologue. I will dialogue with you. My brothers and sisters come and join me so we can chart our forward movement together. #‎ForwardNigeria. GEJ”.

Though the right to appeal the outcome of the election was in fact available but erstwhile President Jonathan’s choice and though he had exercised his right not to do so, one wonders if in the process of trying to keep the peace of the nation which was the underlying message in the aforementioned text and basically the reason why he did not do so, “at what cost have we attained this fragile peace?”

The sheer reality that a group of individuals can allegedly slaughter a group of farmers for reasons as the loss of some 10,000 cows is heartrending.

In an interview published by a credible Nigerian paper it was reported that a clearer picture of why Fulani herdsmen invaded Agatu local government area of Benue state emerged at a stakeholders meeting organized by the Inspector General Of Police, IGP, Solomon Arase, when leader of the herdsmen in the besieged community, Ardo Boderi, claimed that over 10,000 of their cattle were allegedly killed by the people of the area.

Ado Boderi, who spoke on behalf of the Fulani community, insisted that the act sparked off the crisis but decried the role being played by criminal elements from both sides which he claimed escalated the crisis. On his part, Akpa Iduh who spoke on behalf of the Agatu people said the Fulani’s were bent on taking over Agatu land hence their resort to recruiting mercenaries to wipe out his people. He lamented that the crisis had escalated to a war situation where women, children and the elderly were killed indiscriminately by the invaders and urged the authorities to stop the carnage in Agatu land.

The argument that the human life is the most sacred of all possessions does not and cannot even begin to comprehend upon what basis these alleged individuals saw it fit to equate the lives of humans (the most sacred gift) to the lives of some mere cows.

The fact that Nigeria is a state which consists of constitutional offices established to handle cases as the likes of theft and vandalism seems to have held no sort of importance. More importantly, the fact that these individuals can openly come forth to claim responsibility for these outrageous acts and are yet to be arrested or better still were allowed to depart the scene even with the presence of the Inspector General makes the situation even more perplexing and somewhat laughable.

Though Nigeria may be a state in the traditional sense of the word it would appear that the problems which bug this country are one that would indicate a state of nature within the state. It would further appear that the various ethnic groups that make up Nigeria are in constant clashes with one another, a constant war of all against all. It would be a rather different case should two individuals of different ethnic groups turn out to have a quarrel amongst themselves as could be expected from every situation where different people resides.

It however, different when it turns into an ethnic clash at the slightest provocation. An incident erupted sometime early this year between the supposed Hausa commercial riders and the supposed Igbo residents of Apo mechanic village area of Abuja, FCT where it was supposed that an ethnic clash erupted because an Igbo young man boarded a commercial vehicle known as keke and upon arriving at his destination which had a fare price of 50 naira, it was said that the commercial rider did not have change wherein the Igbo man had proceeded to hand him 30 naira as opposed to the normal 50 naira agreed fare.

This 20 naira difference would prove to be the reasons why the young Igbo man would be branded a thief and mob lynched. It would also prove to be the reasons why the Igbo’s in the area would deem it fit to retaliate which in turn would lead to an all out ethnic clash which would further include the loss of lives and property. But police has so far not prosecuted those who killed the young man.

On further reflection this writer found herself wondering that at different locations of the clash such as the villages neighboring the actual scene of the mob lynching if someone were to have asked these individuals why they were fighting, or to say what was the need to turn on each other, what would be their answer?

As gruesome and chilling as the aforementioned examples of the state of our unified Nigeria are, those are but a handful of the actual situation facing the country and its various ethnic groups.

If one was to go by the definition of Hobbes of a state of nature it would appear that the amalgamation of Nigeria's erstwhile dicergent component parts in of 1914 only served as a means to evolve Hobbes’s idea of a state of nature to a seemingly organized situation of war of all against all.

In better terms A Political State of Nature where one only needs hear that a member of his ethnic group has engaged in a heated argument with someone from a different tribe as a call to arm.

A situation where the selfish gains of individuals trumps the collective gain of the nation. A situation where people are forced to hold their peace or walk a fine line in other to maintain the fragile peace that yet holds this nation together as a single entity. Yes this is our Nigeria, a Political State of Nature where the strong wins, a sort of Darwinism if you like, an evolution but yet a stagnation. This is our Nigeria, in all her giant of Africa glory.

It is my earnest hope and prayer that we rise above our constant ethnic loyalty and march on together as a truly unified Nigeria. I would however rather that we not take another 102 years to maybe grasp the idea of the true identity of the nation which we are meant to be.

*Miss AMAKA Obi a staff of Human rights Writers association of Nigeria is a young graduate of Philosophy from the prestigious Nnamdi Azikiwe Federal University, Awka Anambra State.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Amaka Obi and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."