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Violence can be seen as the intentional use of physical force, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which results in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation.1 “No one concerned with history and politics can remain unaware of the enormous role violence has always played in human affairs”.2 In Nigeria, it is a fact known by experience and authenticated by history that the quest for political power through violence is prevalent. People no longer know the difference between violence and power, and they tend to resolve issues with violence, and violence is repressive.
Philosophers and social theorists over the decades have tackled the problem of political violence; Charles Wright Mills, states that “All politics is a struggle for power, the ultimate kind of power is violence”3, Frantz Fanon, who advocates justified violence by colonized people against the foreign colonizers,4 Festus Iyayi, conveys violence in society as a result of frustration and division between the down-trodden masses and the government,5 Jean Paul Satre, in the preface to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the earth, glorified violence, saying that only violence pays a necessary response to the violence of colonialism, and so on.
Hannah Arendt, a German born Jewish, American political theorist, tackles the problem of political violence through her redefinition and distinction of the related concepts power and violence, as well as terror. According to her, it is insufficient to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence has overridden politics in Nigeria and people tend to use violence to secure power, like the Boko haram, Niger-Delta militants, the Arewa youths, and so on through violent actions like bombing, assassinations, political riots, denial of electioneering rights, ethnic and religious crises, and so on.
Political violence is a major issue that has devastated the lives of millions of Nigerians. In Nigeria politics, violence now seems to be legitimate in getting to power. For Nigerians now, power and violence are the same; hence they say “might is right”. This study is an attempt to draw from the works of Hannah Arendt to examine the Nigerian situation and propose a solution.
Violence can be used in both negative and positive ways. It can be used to achieve power. However, many people confuse power with violence. In Nigeria, many people see the one who can inflict violence as the most powerful. This problem is from the mind set and orientation of people of the proper usage of power which tends to draw our state into totalitarianism.
Understanding the distinctions between violence and power will go a long way in the development and strengthening of Nigerian politics and democracy. However, Hannah Arendt is of the view that we have to make clear distinction between violence and power, therefore in understanding what she means can go a long way in re-orienting the youths who are ready made and veritable tools for violence and the general public.
Violence and power are political concepts and any work on political philosophy must come in from the concept of power and violence. Politics aims at promoting man’s interest, thus, maintaining the good involves power. Violence generates confusion in practical life and can equally generate totalitarianism (domination or tyranny). Hannah Arendt made extensive discourse of this concept. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to answer some fundamental problems facing modern society in general and the Nigerian society in particular as it relates to the acquisition and use of political power. This is in an attempt to create a fair and non-violent society for all and to have a deeper understanding of what Arendt means by violence and power. When this understanding is achieved, it would help to discover the dangers of totalitarianism, tyranny and abuse of power which politicians and political actors are prone to.
The scope of this work is solely on Hannah Arendt’s philosophy On violence. Although, the concept of violence and the Nigeria political violence will be analyzed but it will be limited to Hannah Arendt’s philosophy of violence.
A clear cord understanding between power and violence will go a long way in re-orienting the today youths which thinks that violence is the only way to achieve power and resolve conflict. This work is significant as it draws from Arendt, that politics is not synonymous with violence. It will also help us to know when violence is justified or when it should be condemned, therefore; this work helps us to gain more understanding on the nature of violence and it would help anybody interested in politics.
The methodology of this research will be both expository and analytical with particular reference to Arendt’s work on violence. For the sake of emphasis, it is necessary to review related literatures in line with political and philosophical schools of thought. This thesis is a library based research and as a library based research, the materials are gotten from the library which includes; textbooks, journals, articles and online sources.
This research is divided into four chapters for easy clarity and reading. Chapter one contains the general introduction as well as the general structure of the work. Chapter two takes care of the literature review while chapter three focuses on Hannah Arendt’s philosophy and political violence in Nigeria. Chapter four is then an evaluation and conclusion.