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  • Name: THE HOBBESIAN STATE OF NATURE AND THE NIGERIAN SITUATION: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
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ABSTRACT

Looking at the Nigerian state one would see that it harbours a variety
of elements present the Hobbesian state of nature where there is perpetual
fear and strife, no laws, no authority, no sense of justice or injustice and no
sense of right or wrong. In the Hobbesian state of nature force and fraud
flourished with a general disposition to war of every man against every man.
In this state of nature self-interest was the rule of action and people held on
to whatever they could grab until a stronger man came and snatched it from
them. Life here was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Similar to the
Hobbesian state of nature, the Nigeria state is one where self interest and the
spirit of corruption is the dominant rule – an evident fact in the everyday
living of Nigerians among political and public office holders and even the
commoner on the street. Lawlessness, fraud, armed robbery, hired
assassinations, political, religious and ethnic violence, kidnaps, general
insecurity of lives and properties causing perpetual fear and strife and other
stated issues in the Hobbesian state of nature are replicated in the Nigerian
state. They hold both individual and society to ransom owing to their
devastating effects and make progress and development a mirage. We are
still in a state of nature. Our task in this essay is a comparative analysis of
the Hobbesian state of nature vis-à-vis the Nigerian society. Our
philosophical lens will capture how these problems are replicated in the
Nigerian society. We shall attempt a critique and a panacea of issues here
stated followed by the conclusion.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TITLE PAGE…………………………………………………… i
CERTIFICATION……………………………………………… ii
APPROVAL……………………………………………………. iii
DEDICATION…………………………………………………. iv
ACKNOWLEDGMENT………………………………………. v
ABSTRACT……………………………………………………. viii
TABLE OF CONTENT………………………………………… ix
CHAPTER ONE
1.0 GENERAL INTRODUCTION………………………. 1
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY……………………….. 1
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM………………………. 3
1.3 PURPOSE OF STUDY……………………………… 4
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY……………………….. 4
1.5 SCOPE OF STUDY…………………………………. 5
1.6 METHODOLOGY…………………………………… 5
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS…………………………… 9
1.8 LIFE OF THOMAS HOBBES……………………….. 13
END NOTES…………………………………………. 17
x
CHAPTER TWO
2.1 LITERATURE REVIEW…………………………… 19
END NOTES………………………………………… 29
CHAPTER THREE
3.1 POLITICAL PRELUDE TO THE HOBBESIAN SOCIO
POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY………………………….. 31
3.2 HUMAN NATURE ………………………………….. 33
3.3 THE HOBBESIAN STATE OF NATURE…………… 34
3.4 SOCIAL CONTRACT AS A PANACEA……………. 36
3.5 LAWS OF NATURE…………………………………. 38
END NOTES………………………………………….. 41
CHAPTER FOUR
4.1 ORIGIN OF THE NIGERIAN STATE……………… 43
4.2 ORIGIN OF THE NIGERIAN STATE OF NATURE… 44
4.3 NIGERIAN SITUATION: A REPLICA OF THE HOBBESIAN
STATE OF NATURE………………………………… 47
4.4 NIGERIAN STATE OF NATURE: INDEPENDENCE TO THE

CIVIL WAR…………………………………………. 48
4.5 VICES IN THE NIGERIAN STATE OF NATURE… 50
4.5.1 CORRUPTION……………………………………… 52
xi
4.5.2 MURDER/ASSASINATIONS………………………. 52
4.5.3 THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF VIOLENCE……… 53
4.5.4 POLITICAL VIOLENCE……………………………. 54
4.5.5 STREET AND CULTIC VIOLENCE……………….. 55
4.5.6 ARMED ROBBERY………………………………… 55
4.5.7 RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE…………………………… 56
4.5.8 NIGER DELTA SITUATION……………………….. 58
4.5.9 ETHNIC VIOLENCE………………………………… 58
4.5.10 LACK OF DEVELOPMENT……………………….. 59

4.6 THE RULE OF LAW: HEAD DOWN IN SLUMBER… 61
4.7 HOBBESIAN STATE OF NATURE AND THE NIGERIAN
SITUATION: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS……… 66

4.7.1 SELF INTEREST……………………………………. 66
4.7.2 FRAUD/CORRUPTION……………………………… 68
4.7.3 ABSENCE OF LAW AND JUSTICE………………… 71
4.7.4 VIOLENCE AND FEAR OF DEATH………………… 73

4.7.5 THE PRESENCE OF INSECURITY…………………. 75
4.7.6 THE ABSENCE OF DEVELOPMENT……………….. 76
4.7.7 THE AVAILABILITY POVERTY…………………… 79
4.7.8 NO AGRICULTURE………………………………….. 82
4.7.9 HOLD TIGHT-SNATCH IT SYNDROME…………… 82
xii
END NOTES…………………………………………… 87
CHAPTER FIVE
5.0 EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION………………… 90
5.1 HOBBESIAN STATE OF NATURE: A CRITICAL APPRAISAL
5.1.1 HISTORICAL ERROR…………………………………. 90
5.1.2 LEGAL UNTENABILITY……………………………… 92
5.1.3 PHILOSOSPHICAL UNSOUNDNESS ………………… 92
5. 2 A PANACEA TO THE NIGERIAN STATE OF NATURE… 95
5.2.1 NIGERIASM IN PRACTICE…………………………….. 97
5.2.2 MENTAL REVOLUTION……………………………….. 102
5.2.3 TRIBAL REVOLUTION…………………………………. 103
5.2.4 ECONOMIC REVOLUTION……………………………. 104
5.2.5 EDUCATIONAL REVOLUTION……………………….. 106
5.2.6 SOCIO-PLOITICAL REVOLUTION…………………… 107
5.3 ETHICS FOR NIGERIAN LEADERS…………………. 107
5.4 CONCLUSION…………………………………………. 109
END NOTES…………………………………………….. 113
BIBLIOGRAPHY……………………………………. 116

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION
1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
The facts are clear, loud, distinct, lucid and vivid. They are visible
even to the blind, audible even to the deaf and known to everyone and thing
around us that the Nigerian state several years after independence still
harbours a varied number of elements that existed prior to the setting up of a
civil society as embodied in the Hobbesian state of nature.
Antecedent to setting up an organized state Hobbes avers that men
lived in a society without laws, authority and morality, no sense of right or
wrong, justice or injustice. In it self-interest was the order of the day; this
resulted in struggles and conflict making war prevalent among men who
lived in perpetual danger and fear of death. According to Hobbes “there was
no permanent ownership of anything by anybody; whatever anybody could
grab was his own for as long as he was able to retain it. A stronger man
could come along and snatch it from him and it would become his until
another stronger man also snatches it from him”.1 This society had no
progress, no development, no agriculture and no industry. In it according to
Hobbes, “the life of man was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.
2
Likened to the Nigerian situation, it calls to question the validity or
strength of our laws where we have a case of “complete erosion of our value
system(s) such that, corruption and other social vices have acquired the
status of virtues and mediocrity has become a norm and legal tender”2,
where looters of public treasury with impunity walk freely and are
celebrated while a commoner with a far lesser degree of crime languishes in
detention – justice or injustice? A lot of other criminal acts are being
perpetrated daily and offenders with the backing of godfathers get off the
hooks without punishments. These expose the corruption and weakness of
our legal system and display a great degree of the immorality in our society.
Election rigging, exam malpractices, economic and financial crimes,
prostitution out of destitution and frustration, political thuggery, hired
assassinations and other societal vices confirm and depict the absence of
morality in our society.
Besides these, the Nigerian state continues to struggle with ethno
religious, politico-economic and socio-cultural realities of battles, pains and
tears that are heart breaking. These are indications of Hobbes’ state of war
and insecurity which existed among men in the state of nature and accounts
for the collapsing social-economic structural and apparent relative stagnation
we face as a nation. All these hinder societal progress, development and
3
creation of more industries because potential foreign investors see the
Nigerian state as unsafe. What is more? How else do we say that ours is an
identical twin of the Hobbesian state of nature? In terms that lack any form
of ambiguity, I hold that that exactly is what we have.
The issues mentioned above are very striking and pose a lot of
questions, thus making the need to answer the questions raised and address
issues therein an imperative. This is what this essay has set out to tackle.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It is an obvious fact that Nigeria state is one that embodies a litany of
problems which cover the areas of economy, social, political, ethical,
religious and otherwise. A critical look at each of these problems would
reveal that threads of similarities run across all of them, namely selfishness
or self-interest and corruption. The element of self interest as it was in the
Hobbesian state of nature, led to strife and conflict which brought about a
state of war of every one against everyone. Following an ambivalence of
interest, there is bound to be conflict which leads to war and by extension
insecurity.
Nigeria presently is not free from these facts and as such one can say
that these issues and others to be exposed in this work are similar to what
4
obtained in the Hobbesian state of nature. Is this where we are supposed to
be now as a country? How do we have these issues eradicated to have a
better Nigeria? Don’t we need a revolution to move ahead? Which way
Nigeria? How do we move forward from where we are? The fact that these
questions need answers and the need to redress the situation in the Nigerian
state which is still seen to be in the state of nature is what has triggered off
this essay.
1.3 PURPOSE OF STUDY
In the light of the problems enumerated above, this essay aims at
taking a critical look at the practical situations in the Nigerian state and how
they replicate discouraging elements of the Hobbesian state of nature with a
view to advancing possible solutions to combat them.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
This work is not just only a comparative analysis of a philosophical
postulation and a reality of life; it is a critical philosophical look at the
Nigerian state and the status quo. It is going to expose the situation Nigeria
has faced over the years and still faces.
The research will be significant because it is going to expose us to the
need to eradicate of these issues which are overlooked in our every day
living and have come to be accepted as ways of life. It is going to show the
5
risks and dangers these issues hold for posterity and finally, it is going to
proffer possible solutions on the way forward.
1.5 SCOPE OF STUDY
The scope of this work lies in its limitedness to the Hobbesian socio
political philosophy and how it relates to the Nigerian situation.
This work is epistemological, historical, anthropological and ethical.
It is epistemological as it would expose the notion of the Hobbesian state of
nature and lay bare the situation of the Nigerian state following a
comprehensive and logical approach. On the historical lane, it will survey
the evolution of a civil society and also touch areas in the Nigerian society
that lie in the past. Anthropologically, it studies man in society and from an
ethical perspective looks at the morality, immorality or even the amoral
aspects of issues here discussed.
1.6 METHODOLOGY
To fully attain the goal of this essay, our method shall be expository,
comparative, analytic and critical. It will be expository in that it will lay bare
the issues treated here, comparative because areas of convergence and
divergence of the issues treated here will be touched. It will be analytic
because we shall give a comprehensive and systematic analysis of concepts
6
raised here; and for the fact that we shall subject issues raised herein to a
serious and assiduous scrutiny the method of this work becomes critical.
The methodology of this research is both primary and secondary. In
the primary aspects, our major sources shall be the works of Thomas Hobbes
to have first hand the notions of his thoughts. On the other hand, our
secondary materials would constitute materials from libraries, daily
experiences in the Nigerian state, newspapers, magazines, journals, and
internet sources.
Hermeneutics is simply an interpretation of history. This is an
approach that would be employed in our methodology. Man’s understanding
of himself is clearer when taken from a historical perspective as human
knowledge is situated in time and varies with the historical features in which
the knower finds himself or is living. Man through the hermeneutical
process relates with the past to the present, checks and balances the two
periods to see whether they compare favorably or whether there is need to
make amends. Living without knowledge of history would make us relive
past mistakes over and over again.
There are two types of approaches to the hermeneutical interpretation
of history.
7
(a) the Phenomenological approach represented by the likes of
Martin Heidegger; H.G Gadammer and Paul Recoeur
(b) Archeological or Psychological approach proposed and led
by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud; and the structuralists
led by Levi Strauss.
More apt to our study’s choice of methodology is the
phenomenological approach. Heidegger was the first to suggest this
approach; he avers that man is part and parcel of history and to understand
him, we must refer to history. This involves the acceptance of the past as it
really is and its human component. Since human existential situation
determines the course of history, it is therefore important for the past to be
made available to the present to save man from falling into the same awful
situations of ‘yesterday’. The degree of this understanding depends on the
extent of openness and acceptance of facts. There must be a readiness to
accept them as they are.
To help achieve our task successfully, this study has been divided into
five chapters.
Chapter one has to do with the introductory and preliminary aspects of
this work. Here, the perceived problem which gave vent to this research is
exposed as well as the purpose of the study, scope, significance and the
8
research methodology. The definition of terms and a brief history of the life
of Thomas Hobbes draw the curtain on this chapter.
Chapter two which is the literature review x-rays the views of past
authors and scholars on the topic at stake in a chronological pattern showing
how they have agreed or differed on this issue at stake.
Chapter three which opens with the prelude to the Hobbesian socio
political philosophy has its major themes as the state of nature, the social
contract theory as well as an exposition of the sovereignty concept in
Hobbes. Other issues in Hobbes pertinent to his views on this topic are also
laid bare in this chapter.
Chapter four deals with the origin of the Nigerian state of nature
beginning from the colonial days through the amalgamation, pre
independence days, origin of the Nigerian state of nature and how the state
of nature has ruled affairs and life in Nigeria since then. A detailed expose’
of the Nigerian state of nature is also given in this chapter to show how life
in the Hobbesian pre-civilized society is replicated in the Nigerian state; the
rule of law in Nigeria being head down in slumber also forms a part of this
chapter. Another high point of this chapter is a comparative analysis of the
thoughts of Hobbes and the Nigerian situation. This concludes our work in
chapter four.
9
Chapter five the last of this work houses a critique of this work, a
panacea for the Nigerian state of nature where possible steps of moving
Nigeria forward will be highlighted and the conclusion which closes the
whole work.
1.7 DEFINITIONS OF TERMS
Some terms have been used in the course of this work and to eliminate
any form of ambiguity or misconceptions the need to undertake here a clear
definition of concepts arises.
STATE
There is no clear all inclusive definition of state; some writers
however, define it in a varied number of ways. “Some conceive it as a
power-system; others as a welfare-system while others view it as a legal
construction, that is, a community organized for action under legal rules.
Some identify the state with a nation (and) others regard it as no more than a
mutual insurance society”.3 But in a more simple form, one may say it is a
country considered as an organized political community controlled by one
government.4
In its other context state can be seen as a condition, a situation, a
position, a status, circumstance or shape. It is in this context that we shall be
10
talking about affairs in the Nigerian and the Hobbesian society when we talk
about the “state of nature”.
NATURE
This is another concept with a variety of contextual contents.
(1) First it can be seen as “all the plants, animals and things that exist
in the universe that are not made by people” 5
(2) It has also been described as the natural state, natural and
original condition of humankind as distinguished from the state of grace6
(3) It is a primitive or basic state of existence, untouched and
uninfluenced by civilization7. Our main use of the word nature in this work
is in this third context.

STATE OF NATURE
The state of nature is the society of human beings outside a civil
society or before its formation as invoked by the British philosophers,
Hobbes and Locke and the French philosopher Rousseau. It is a term used in
theories to describe the hypothetical condition of humanity before the
foundation of a civil society. In a broader sense, the state of nature is the
condition before the rule of law came into being, thus being a synonym of
lawlessness, anarchy and insecurity.
11

NIGERIAN
Nigerian here refers to somebody or something from Nigeria; in
another sense, it has to do with something about Nigeria or what has to do
with Nigeria.

SITUATION
The Microsoft Encarta Dictionary defines situation as “state of
affairs; a particular set of circumstances existing in a particular place or at a
particular time”. It further defines it as “current circumstances; the current
conditions that characterize somebody’s life or events in a particular place,
country or society”8. For the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, it is
“all the circumstances and things that are happening at a particular time in a
particular place”.9

COMPARATIVE
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines comparative as:
(a) “connected with studying things to find out how similar or different
they are”.
(b) “measured or judged by how similar or different it is to something
else”10
12
Our use of this term is closest to the second definition exposed.
ANALYSIS
This is defined as “the detailed study or examination of something in
order to understand more about it; it is the result or the study of something”;
it is also defined by same source as “a careful examination of something in
order to find out what it consists of”11.

SOCIAL CONTRACT
This is the theory of popular sovereignty based on the notion that men
had originally created the state by a means of communal covenant to which
all individuals involved consented. “According to the social contract theory,
the state was created by a number of individuals voluntarily entering into a
contract, the terms of which provided a political authority”12. “There are
many versions of this theory but the best known and most influential among
them are those associated with Thomas Hobbes and John Locke during the
seventeenth century in England and Jean Jacques Rousseau during the
eighteenth century in France”.13

SOVEREIGNTY
The same dictionary quoted above defines sovereignty as a “state of
being a country with freedom to govern itself”.14 Appadorai on his part sees
13
sovereignty “as the power of the state to make laws and enforce the laws,
with all the coercive power it cares to employ”.15 For Remi Anifowose, “the
term denotes supreme and final legal authority, above and beyond which no
further legal power exists. …sovereignty has two dimensions: internal
supremacy within the territory of the state and internal independence from
direct political control by any other states”.16

SELF INTEREST
The WorldNet Dictionary defines self interest as “attempting to get
personal recognition for yourself especially by unacceptable means”, it also
defines it as “taking advantage of opportunities without regards for the
consequences for others”17. The synonyms of self interest are; egocentrism,
egoism, self-centeredness, self-concern, opportunism and self-seeking while
the antonyms as provided are; altruism and selflessness.

1.8 LIFE HISTORY OF THOMAS HOBBES
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), English philosopher and political
theorist is one of the first modern Western thinkers to provide a secular
justification for the political state. The philosophy of Hobbes marked a
departure in English philosophy from the religious emphasis of
14
Scholasticism. His ideas represented a reaction against the decentralizing
ideas of the Reformation (1517-1648), which, Hobbes contended, brought
anarchy. Regarded as an important early influence on the philosophical
doctrine of utilitarianism, Hobbes also contributed to modern psychology
and laid the foundations of modern sociology by applying mechanistic
principles in an attempt to explain human motivation and social
organization.
Born in Malmesbury, Hobbes was educated at Magdalen Hall,
University of Oxford. He is now widely regarded as one of a handful of truly
great philosophers, whose masterwork Leviathan rivals in significance the
political writings of Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Rousseau, Kant and Rawls. In
1608 he became the tutor of William Cavendish, later earl of Devonshire. In
the following years Hobbes made several tours through France and Italy
with his pupil and later, with Cavendish’s son. During his travels Hobbes
met and discussed the physical sciences with several leading thinkers of the
time, including Italian astronomer Galileo and French philosophers René
Descartes and Pierre Gassendi. In 1637 Hobbes returned to England and
published his Little Treatise, which outlined his new theory of motion.
Interrupted by the constitutional struggle between King Charles I and
Parliament, Hobbes set to work on defense of the royal prerogative. This
15
work was privately circulated in 1640 under the title The Elements of Law,
Natural and Politic and was published in 1650. Hobbes, fearing that
Parliament might have him arrested because of his book, fled to Paris, where
he remained in voluntary exile for 11 years.
In 1642 Hobbes finished De Cive, (On Citizenship; translated in
1651), a statement of his theory of government. From 1646 to 1648 he was
mathematics tutor to the Prince of Wales, later King Charles II, who was
living in exile in Paris. Hobbes’s best-known work, Leviathan; or, The
Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil
(1651), is a forceful exposition of his doctrine of sovereignty. The work was
interpreted by the followers of the exiled prince as a justification of the
Commonwealth and aroused the suspicions of the French authorities by its
attack on the papacy. Again fearful of arrest, Hobbes returned to England.
In 1660, when the Commonwealth ended and his former pupil
acceded to the throne, Hobbes again came into favor. In 1666, however, the
House of Commons passed a bill including Leviathan among the books to
be investigated on charges of atheistic tendencies (Hobbes argued for a
distinction between knowledge and faith and suggested that one could not
gain knowledge of God). The measure caused Hobbes to burn many of his
16
papers and to delay publication of three of his works: Behemoth: The
History of the Causes of Civil Wars of England; Dialogues Between a
Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England; and a
metrical Historia Ecclesiastica. At the age of 84, Hobbes wrote an
autobiography in Latin verse. Within the next three years he translated into
English verse the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer. He died at the age of 91.
In 1995 three previously unattributed essays of Hobbes were published.
These writings suggest the influence of Italian political theorist Niccolò
Machiavelli on Hobbes’s ethics and politics.
Developing his politics and ethics from a naturalistic basis of self
interest, Hobbes held that since people are fearful and predatory they must
submit to the absolute supremacy of the state, in both secular and religious
matters, in order to live by reason and gain lasting preservation. Within
psychology, he proposed that all human actions are caused by material
phenomena, with people motivated by what he termed appetite (movement
toward an object; similar to pleasure) or aversion (movement away from an
object; similar to pain).18

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