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REFORMING POLITICS THROUGH ETHICS; THE NIGERIAN

EXPERIENCE

Toba Akomolafe,
Postgraduate Student,
University of Ibadan,
Oyo-State.
March, 2015.

When the act of politicking is devoid of selfishness, stealing, impunity, favoritism,


bloodshed and corruption in totality, the average citizen in the society will enjoy
its dividends. However, countries around the world have one time or the other
experience what can be called ugly political firmament while some are till
wallowing in it. We have seen and read about politicians who share the political
ideology of Niccolo Machiavelli that politics and ethics are asymmetrical and that
the two phenomenon have no correlation. Politicians like these are comfortable
with shedding blood, stealing from the government's purse and inflicting pains on
the citizenry directly and indirectly. It must therefore be said that the picture
painted here perfectly describe the condition of Nigerian politics.
Politics in Nigeria has become an investment where the investors are set to make
profit at all cost, as a result, political brutality is pervading the society. The species
of people playing politics in Nigeria are those who are of the intentions of
protecting their business and enriching themselves at the expense of the
electorates. Our leaders lack moral compass to carry out a good act of politicking

and this is why Nigerian politics is nothing to write home about. It is therefore
necessary and expedient for Nigerian politics to be reformed as to make life
meaningful for all and sundry.
When our political leaders in Nigeria are morally conscious of their action, the tag
''dirty'' will be removed from Nigeria politics. And in addition, the country will be
a better place to be. To make this happen therefore, our political leaders need to
undergo and internalize ethical orientation which is philosophical with which to
scale and regulate their actions when necessary. Certain ethical theories need to
be well propagated and maintained. These theories have the propensity of
reforming Nigerian politics for the better, as long as it is run by moral sentient
beings. These theories are as follows:
UTILITARIANISM
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that began with the philosophy of Jeremy
Bethan and John Stauart Mill. The theory gets its name from Benthams test
question 'what is the use of it? He conceived of the idea when he ran across the
words "the greatest happiness for the greatest number in Joseph Priestleys
Treatise of Government. The theory was developed around the ideas of pleasure.
It was built on ancient hedonism which pursued physical pleasure and avoids
physical pain. And according to Bethan, the most moral acts are those which
maximize pleasure and minimize pain (Broad, 1930:6)
Utilitarianism is a normative ethical theory that places the locus of right and
wrong solely on the outcomes (consequence) of choosing one action over the
other. As such, it moves beyond the scope of one's own interest and take into
account the interests of others. Bentham believes that human beings by nature
avoid pain and seek pleasure. He argues that individual happiness is the supreme
good. Thus, according to Bentham, the most moral acts are those which maximize
pleasure and minimize pain for a good number of people. A person should act in a
manner that provide happiness for the greatest number and it is then such act is
morally good (Sheng, 1998:7)

Consequently, without munching words, the theory of utilitarianism is a good


recipe in reforming bad politics if it is taken to be an ethical standard. It is a
theory that needs to be advocated for among the ranks and files of any society for
them to know that the moral worth of an action is based upon the number of
people it gives happiness or pleasure to. The theory needs to be adopted
appropriately when making decisions for the betterment of the society. If this
theory is made as a standard of moral and the political leaders strictly adhere to
it, ill practices like nepotism, favoritism and tribalism will be at their lowest ebb.
For example, when a Minister in the execute council understands and internalize
the dictate of the theory of utilitarianism, he or she will not only give preference
to his family and friend in favorable action and decision.
DEONTOLOGISM
The theory 'deontology' derived from the Greek word Deon (duty) and logos
(Science). It is the science of duty. What this means in ethics is that philosophers
of this school of thought take duty to be the basis of morality the view that some
acts are morally obligatory irrespective or regardless of their
consequence(Fasoro,2005:18). A deontological ethics is a duty-based which
teaches that some acts are right or wrong because of the sorts of things they are,
and people have a duty to act accordingly, regardless of the good or bad
consequence that may be produced (Culled from Wikipedia) This theory was
more propagated by Kant who argues that to act in the moral way, people must
act from duty. This, to Kant, to act in the morally right way, one must act purely
from duty and such act must be good in itself and good without qualification
(Asger, 2008:3)
If this ethical theory is subscribed to, it will reduce the level of discrepancy in high
and low place in political structuring. If the theory is adequately advocated and
embraced, it will urge our leader to act purely from what he or she is obligatory to
do and not what he so which to do. With this theory therefore, those in power
will be charged to act purely from their suppose duty and not from emotions and
self-interest which could lead to ugly society.

CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE
The philosophical concept of a categorical imperative is central to the moral
philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Kant formulates the Categorical Imperative in two
different ways: The first (Universal Law formulation): "Act only on that maxim
through which you can at the same time wills that it should become a universal
law." The second (Humanity or End in itself formulation): "Act in such a way that
you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any
other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end."
(Shandon, 2005:15)
The central message in this moral teaching is that man should act in such a way
that it will enjoy universal morality. Human action either private or public must be
such that has universal standard of moral and also man must do to others what
he or she can endure. The therefore is what makes the theory of categorical
imperative to be tagged 'the golden rule'; do to others what you want them to do
unto you".
Consequently, the Kantian theory of Categorical Imperative is a strong ethical
standard that needs to be embraced in our contemporary political society. If
everybody does what he or she wants people to do unto him or her, the society
will be a better place to live. If this moral theory is adequately internalized by the
political leaders, none of them will want to subject anyone to existential hardship
of any kind, none of them will take what does not belongs to him, and no one will
want to deprive of someone what rightfully belongs to him all in the name of
power widening.
Furthermore, mediocre leadership can also be seen as a major reason for poor
politics. When a leader lacks administrative skills and proper management, the
political settings will be ugly. Most of our leaders at the helm of affairs in Nigeria
lack leadership quality. Most of them are been intoxicated by power and money
and can do anything to hold on to their (money and power) apron string even at
the expense of the masses who elected them to the office. As a discipline that cut
across all human endeavors, philosophy through its renowned scholar has
proffered theoretical solution to the problem in question. Plato through his major

work Republic opined on who is qualified to hold a leadership position and how
a state is meant to be run.
Plato, one of the greatest ancient Greek philosophers foresaw the danger
inherent in poor quality leadership and suggested, as a way out which is
embedded in his most celebrated book ''Republic. Plato in this celebrated book
painted the picture of an Ideal State. To him, an Ideal society consists of three
main classes of people-Producer (craftsmen, farmers, artisans, etc.), auxiliaries
(warriors), and guardians (ruler).A society is just when relations between these
three classes are right. Each group must perform its appropriate function, and
only that function, and each must be in the right position of power in relation to
the others(Jowett,1998:36).Rulers must rule, auxiliaries must uphold
rulers'convictions,and producers must limit themselves to exercising whatever
skills nature granted them(farming,blacksmithing,painting,e.t.c). According to
Plato, those in the category of the rulers are the philosophers and they are the
only people who can and should rule. The reason for this is that among other
people in the society, only the philosopher understands truly the nature of reality.
Besides, having come to maturity in his study of the arts and gymnastic, the
philosopher will possess the cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, temperance
(discipline), and justice. Because he knows what justice and goodness are, the
philosopher would be best qualified to administer justice for the good of the
citizen he rules. And because he loves truth, the philosopher will not steal public
money and wont allow such to happen, he will not lie (he would hate a lie); he
will not countenance a lie for his benefit or give tacit agreement to lies. Because
his bodily wants and physical necessities are provided for him, the philosopher
will not be covetous of material things; he will possess temperance and will
conduct himself temperately in the interest of his subjects. The philosopher's
whole life's training having been spent in gymnastic and in the pursuit of
temperance, the philosopher will possess courage. He will not fear death in the
field of battle, nor will he fear death from his political adversaries. For all these
reasons, the philosopher will make the best ruler (Jowett, 1998:37)

In conclusion, judging from the above written, we can see that ethics viz-a-viz
philosophy has a high propensity in reforming unfavorable politics especially the
one in Nigeria.

REFERENCES
Shandon L. Guthrie (2005) Immanuel Kant and the Categorical Imperative, New
York: Runny Publishers.
Asger Sorengen (2008) Deontology-Born and Kept in Servitude by Utilitarianism,
Danish Yearbook of Philosophy, Vol. 43.
Carmichael, P.A (1949) The Logical Ground of Deontology, The Journal of
Philosophy, 46, 29-41.
Broad C.D (1930) Five Types of Ethical Theory, London; Kegan Publication.
C.L Sheng (1998) A Utilitarian General Theory of Value, Atlanta: VIB Publishers.
Foot, P, (1967) Utilitarianism and the Virtue. Oxford: Claredoon Press.
Shandon L.Guthrine (2009) Immanuel Kant and the Categorical Imperative,
Published in The Examined Life Online Philosophy Journal, Vol 2.
Kant, Immanuel, Good Will, Duty and the Categorical Imperative, ed. Anthony
Serafini, Ethics and Social Concern (New York: Paragon House Publishers, 1989).
Robert Olson, ''Deontological Ethics'' in Paul Edwards, ed, The Encyclopedia of
Philosophy, London: Macmillan, 1967.
J.O Fasoro, (2005) Theories of Ethics, An Introductory Reading in Moral
Philosophy, Lagos, Majab Publishers.
The Republic, By Plato. Circa 360 BCE.Translated and Introduced by Benjamin
Jowett.