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Statement of Problem
It is in the nature of man to enjoy peace and he tries as much as possible
to have this peace . But since all men desire this peace, the only way to achie
ve it is by respecting each other, in all spheres of life. With this respect for
each other, peace and security are assured. The presence of security and the co
nsequent peace is a sign of a healthy habitable state.
But looking at our society today, security of life is no more and peace ha
s left its arena. Even where we all should search for peace (Religion) has becom
e a battle arena . The average Nigerian has known the ravages of either war or v
iolence. The civil war of 1967 – 1970, ethnic clashes, religious conflicts, poli
tical assassinations and menaces of robbery have characterized our nation as a s
cene of ‘political and religious mockery .’ The leaders are corrupt and sometime
s tyrannical. Even the led are no less corrupt than the leaders. In fact, lawles
sness is the right word to qualify this situation of Nigeria. The rule of law is
no longer respected. Man is now afraid of his fellow man. Trust has been betray
ed on many occasions and some are of the opinion that the best way to defend one
self in this warfront called Nigeria is to offend each others and be ready to de
fend oneself at the expense of others. As a result of this, our country has been
thickly coated with human blood .
In this climate of fear, man has not been able to actualize himself. Ther
e is underdevelopment as foreign investors are scared of the Nigerian situation.
“We are culturally dead, economically dry, socially corrupt, religiously fanati
cal and politically chaotic” . We, Nigerians are plagued with ignorance as our i
nstitutions are shut for long periods of time in the name of religious crises. A
ll this leads to fear in the Nigerian society. It is the concern of this essay
that this problem be solved.
Aim, Scope and Methodology
To this extent, this essay would consider the usefulness of Hobbes’ Social C
ontract Theory to Religious Crises in Nigeria. Since Hobbes proposes that man li
ved in a state of fear and lawlessness in the original state of nature and the o
nly way to deal with man’s problem is to elect a Leviathan with an absolute powe
r, to rule with the social contract terms and principles, therefore we could use
the same method to solve the problems of Nigerian state of fear and lawlessness
posed by crises.
One of the renowned English Philosophers, Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) is chosen
to be the lead philosopher here because he is well known for his political thoug
ht. His vision of the world is very striking because it hypothetically traced th
e origin of human society and political leadership in the States.
Our aim in this essay will not be to change the basic nature of Hobbes’ so
cial contract theory but to attempt an exposition of it. This is essay is not on
ly meant for academic purposes but also to the practicality of maintaining peace
by proffering solutions to religious crises which bury peace in our society, be
cause Nigeria is a multi-religious entity, once there is a religious crisis it i
nfluences other crises. It will be within the exposition of the religious crises
from the transition from military rule to civilian democracy in 1999 till 2010
in Nigeria.
This essay is divided into four chapters. Chapter one makes a survey of th
e social contract theory. Here we will first explore briefly the life of Thomas
Hobbes, starting from his early life, studies, works and his last days on earth.
We will explore the background of Hobbes’ political philosophy, the emergence o
f the social contract theory and its meaning. This will extend our discussion to
expound the views of the two contemporaries of Hobbes: John Locke and Rousseau
on the ideas of social contract. In chapter two, we shall be occupied with Hobbe
s’ social contract theory; to expose his discourse on the original state of natu
re and how it led to the proper contract theory. For a good examination of the n
otion of the social contract theory, we shall look at the Sovereign or Leviathan
and its management of power. The sovereign or Leviathan has an absolute power a
ccording to Hobbes and can punish any citizen that disobeys the contract.
In chapter three, we shall examine the concept of the law of the state. Ou
r primary task here is to expose what the law should be, achieve for the citizen
s and how the Leviathan should apply the law to rule individuals in the civil st
ate. We shall be discussing natural law concisely in the light of Hobbes and its
relevance in administering the rule of justice in the state. Natural law is imp
ortant to this work because Hobbes tells us that in the state of nature each per
son has a right (liberty) guided by reason to use all things and this reason mak
es man to do things he deemed fit for the preservation of his life .
According to Hobbes, the absence of jurisdiction is one of the causes of t
he predicaments in the state of nature. In our discourse on law, we will examine
the rule of justice, expounding the real act of justice and what it means to ac
t unjustly. Hobbes asserts that the idea of justice was not in the consciousness
of people in the state of nature. However, in this new artificial state, there
is law, consequently treatment will be surely meted out to those who may contrad
ict this law.
Chapter four examines religious violence in Nigeria. The basic aim of th
is chapter is to apply Hobbes’ social contract theory as a means to solving reli
gious conflicts in Nigeria. This chapter also makes a critical evaluation of Hob
bes’ social contract theory.

1.1 Brief Overview of Hobbes’ Life
Thomas Hobbes, the founding father of the modern political philosophy flourished
between 1588 - 1679, in the west of England. He always regarded himself as bein
g timid because he remarked, “my mother gave birth to twins: Fear and I are twin
s because she was frightened by the approach of the Spanish Armada” . Thomas Hob
bes was educated properly at Malmesbury where he became an extraordinary scholar
in Greek and Latin, and at Oxford where he upheld his deep interest in classica
l literature and became familiar with the ongoing theological controversies of t
he time. Hobbes also did elementary logic and Aristotelian physics.
In 1608, he became a tutor in the Devonshire family and later worked as a secret
ary to the son of William Cavendish. This family maintained a close relationship
with Hobbes throughout his stay in London. In these circumstances, he came to k
now some of the ‘prestigious politicians of the time and literary men of his day
s’ of whom were Francis Bacon and Ben Johnson. In 1610, Hobbes was in France and
Italy on visit, getting a first glimpse of the intellectual life of the contine
nt and returning with a decision to become a scholar. The next eighteen years wh
ich he spent mostly at Chatsworth were the germinating period of his future inte
llectual interests and activities .
At this period, Hobbes had turned to the classics to really gain an understandin
g of his life and of philosophy, which he presumed could not be attained in the
schools. He decided to translate Thucydides into English after a period of readi
ng and reflection. According to Hobart R.E., “like Thucydides, Hobbes believes t
hat history was written for instruction, and he wished to instruct his countryme
n on the dangers of democracy” . In 1628, when Hobbes published his translation,
Charles I had been on the throne for three years and already a loggerheads with
Sir John Eliot and John Pym. Hobbes’ translation was the first attempt to bring
his people to their senses and make them a way of the tragedy that they courted
: that of civil war, from which proceeded slaughter, solitude and the want of al
l things.
Hobbes accepted to teach the son of Sir Gervase Clinton, with whom he stayed for
three years. This period was marked by Hobbes’ discovery of the intellectual wo
rld of Mathematics and Geometry, a world so important to the continental philoso
phers of his time. Meanwhile he had been totally ignorant of this world . The di
scovery greatly renewed his mind, gave him new zeal and direction to his philoso
phical reflections. This marked the domination of Hobbes’ mind by philosophy.
Hobbes came in contact with Galileo near Florence on his last European tour (163
4 – 1637), and above all, with Mersenne in Paris. A catholic priest, Marin Merse
nne was the clearing house for both philosophical and scientific correspondence
among critical minds of that time. “Through his meditation, Descartes invited Ho
bbes to read a manuscript copy of the Meditations and to submit objections, whic
h Descartes printed together with his own replies” . Now Hobbes was ready to ren
der his own system, the outlines of which he set forth in The Elements of Law. A
lthough, he composed this work (Human Nature and on the Body Politic) in 1640, i
t was not published until 1650. He thought it wise to abandon England out of fea
r, then being governed by the long parliament. He fled to France in 1640 and tar
ried there for eleven years, as a Mathematics tutor to the future Charles II. Wh
ile in Paris, he began his work on a set of three related works, entitled Elemen
t of Philosophy, the three parts of which were to deal with ‘body in general, hu
man nature and the social polity’ (man, the citizen and the commonwealth). On th
e course of his stay in Paris, he also penned his work in political philosophy,
the Leviathan in 1651 .
Around 1652, Hobbes’ return to England as James Collins expressed it was solely
… hastened by the opposition raised among Catholics and Presbyterians abroad to
some violent sections on religion in Leviathan, which was circulated in manuscri
pt form. Early in 1652, Hobbes made his peace with the commonwealth and took up
residence again in England. After the restoration, Charles II bore him no resent
ment and even paid him a pension, referring to Hobbes indulgently as the bear wh
om everyone wants to bait.
The old man, Hobbes published the first two parts of his writings: On Body (1655
) and On Man (1658) of his trilogy. Thereafter, Hobbes spent his intellectual po
wer in numerous polemics. He contended against Bishop Brainhall over human freed
om and did his best to convince the learned world (in opposition to the Mathemat
ician, John Wallis) that he had discovered how to square the circle and duplicat
e the cube.
At eighty-four, he wrote his Autobiography in Latin verse. In 1675, he left Lond
on for Chatsworth and Hardwick. In 1679, when he learnt of his incurable ailment
, he exclaimed: “I shall be glad to find a hole to creep out of the world” . The
n at the age of Ninety-one, Hobbes died in 1679.
It is generally believed that every child is a product of his own society and ag
e; thus, the socio-cultural activities of every society informs his behaviour an
d thought. In other words, a child’s experiences generally shape his mentality.
Thomas Hobbes is certainly not different, for in his political thoughts, one can
easily capture the period he flourished and see in them the socio-cultural infl
uences that informed the way he saw things in nature. For a clear and systematic
understanding of Hobbes’s political philosophy, we shall objectively refresh ou
r thoughts again on the period of his existence and clearly evaluate without cer
tain erroneous biases especially concerning social contract, which he generally
considered as the basis for the establishment of the civil society.
Thomas Hobbes lived between the 16th and the 17th centuries, when the whole Eu
rope was under chaotic politics. His political background could be characterized
by tumult, insecurity and instability which eventually led to the British civil
war. The man, Hobbes, the son of a vicar of Westport was born two months premat
urely in the spring period, marked by the nearing of Spanish Armada to the Engli
sh coast. His mother’s shock at the approaching flight was said to be the major
cause of Hobbes’ early birth. This could be the stand of those who suggest that
“fear” is the second nature of Hobbes. This has greatly influenced his politica
l ambitions and doctrines as his views could be said to have been founded on fea
r .
Hobbes’ experienced a monarchical system of government where the power of legisl
ation solely belonged to the sovereign, the monarch. At this period, his society
was under political unrest, for it was the time when the parliament was becomin
g unprecedentedly bolder in its challenge and attack on the royal power. History
recorded that Cromwell’s parliamentary forces were victorious meanwhile the mon
archy failed because of the tension between it and the parliament which resulted
to the civil war. This deadly clash in the system of government in Britain duri
ng the time of Hobbes influenced his political ideology. No wonder he believed i
n the absolute power of the monarch, to whom everybody must obey.
Furthermore, as someone who was born into, monarchical system of government, Hob
bes had a deep love for this system of governance. Consequently, Hobbes praises
two important ways of attaining power by the sovereign – voluntarily or coercive
ly. In this, he acknowledges that sovereign power can be attained by natural for
ce, like a man constrains his children to submit to his own idea or by war, subd
ue his enemies at will. On the other hand, men could agree to peacefully submit
as an assembly. This will later be called a political commonwealth or commonweal
th by institution and the former, that is, a commonwealth by acquisition.
One may say that “monarch is the only form of government that is natural whereas
others are produced by man. Political monarchy is an offshoot of the family sys
tem of livelihood and an official relationship that is so entitled by people for
peace and unity. In order to guard and protect the subjects through the promul
gation and enforcement of laws, and so that the situations that culminated to th
e civil strife could be completely avoided, Hobbes had to propound absolutism. T
his implies that absolutism is the precondition to the kind of societal system p
roposed by Hobbes. This of course remains the bedrock of peace and harmony in th
e proposed Hobbesian civil society. The Hobbesian civil society as we shall see
later would be ruled or governed by the commonwealth – whose power is unchecked
and absolute, at least most of the time.
It is taken that Thomas Hobbes developed this theory in the 16th century; howeve
r, there are other philosophers who pointed or referred implicitly to this theor
y before him. These philosophers spoke about the contract as the basis for estab
lishment of the political system. Philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Hooker and
even Machiavelli hinted on social contract as the foundation for order, law, ju
stice and government. In a nutshell, the contract theory did not start with Thom
as Hobbes, though he developed it and popularized it through his writings. Thoug
h different philosophers wrote on the contract theory, it does not imply that th
ere are substantial changes in their ideas; the substance of the contract theory
still remains, that men freely gave out their rights to form an organized state
, as a result of agreement entered into by men who originally had no governmenta
l organization.
To sum it up, this means that “the state was created by men, a product of social
contract” . This assertion was made by Plato through Glaucon, that the city (Po
lis) arose due to the failure of man in providing all his basic needs. Thus, he
needed the contributions of others. In the Republic, Plato writes: “The men, bei
ng in want of many things gather into one settlement, many partners and helpers
to satisfy their diverse needs.” Plato’s idea here implies ‘contract and an agr
eement’, since the purpose of coming together is to help each other so that this
polis will be sustained, avoiding injustice and embarrassment, and encouraging
total and mutual respect for individual rights. This contract binding the two pa
rties together, whether the contract was formally entered into or was as a resul
t of habit or custom, as in a case where a citizen in another country is bound,
in so far as he stays there, to respect the laws of that nation. The non-citizen
must also be respected by the nation’s laws that protect human rights.
The social contract theories came into lime light during and after the Middle Ag
es which involved (the governmental contract’ and ‘social contract). The former
refers to the mutual agreement between a government and the people in the State,
whereas the latter refers to the built institution of a political society, a ci
vil society or the body politic by means of a solid agreement among the individu
als. The governmental contract theory’s idea was largely employed by the core de
fenders of popular liberties in the middle ages to resist vehemently the claims
of rulers to absolute dominion over their respective subjects. Thus, Manegold, a
round 11th century developed the great idea that a king could be deposed when he
had violated the agreement according to which he was chosen, that is, inability
to maintain peace and order in the state, or misuse of power on the subjects.
People are justified to depose any king that governs unjustly.
The two forms of social contract theory, governmental contract and social contra
ct (individuals) have distinctive features, which distinguishes them. In the gov
ernmental contract, there is already in existence with its citizens. This form c
annot account for the origin of the state, society and government. Besides, the
government initiated this contract for the sake of all – for the mutual coexiste
nce between the two parties, the government and the people. Above all, the basic
benefit of this contract is peace in the society.
The individual social contract unlike the governmental contract is the origin of
the government in society for Hobbes. Social contract theorists traced the orig
in of this contract to man in the original state of nature, a state of no societ
y, a state of lawlessness, characterized by Hobbes as a state “war of every man
against every man and life here being a poor, nasty, brutish and short” . Man be
came the greatest enemy to his own species. Full of insecurity and fear – these
formed every action taken by man. Amidst this struggle for survival in the natur
al state of nature, man possessed natural freedom and reason, man sought for a w
ay of peace, voluntarily entered into a contract with others to come together to
form a common will, a society, a civil state with a chosen one that would promu
lgate and implement laws, maintain peace and order for the parties involved. Th
is social contract theory will be discourse at length in the subsequent chapters
However, these two forms of contract theory have at least one thing in common; e
ach of them does not coerce people’s will to enter into the contract but volunta
rily entered by those involved. In other words, the contract connotes free givin
g up of basic individual rights which if I hold to myself will never promote pea
ceful coexistence and justice in the society. This is clearly seen in our differ
ent communities, for example, we see that when some men come together to form an
organized group, political organization, peer group or age grade, the constitut
ing members do not always hold on to individual worth or rights, but rather they
sacrifice them so as to ensure the achievement of their agreed common goal.
In the thoughts of some, Richard Hooker is the first to explicitly speak about t
he ‘social contract’ in his book, The Law of Ecclesiastical Polity. He held that
men in the original state of nature were subject to the laws of nature but reco
gnized the need to wave by all grievances, which came up in the interaction amon
g them. “This is done by growing into composition and agreement among themselves
, by ordaining some kind of public government and by yielding themselves subject
thereunto” . The constitution of a civil society therefore, rests on human cons
ent (agreement between them), on the assumption that there were no thoughts that
one man can be lord and judge over others.
Bertrand Russell, in his philosophical reflection sees some doctrines of the Epi
cureans as a kind of social contract theory. In the History of Western Philosoph
y, he writes: “justices, … consist in so acting as not to have occasion to fear
other men’s resentment – a view which leads to a doctrine of the origin of socia
l contract” . Russell’s point here is for there to be an organized peaceful soc
iety, whereby people live without fear – a free kind of life, where there is a m
utual understanding and proper undertaking so that people will not fear one anot
her. In a nutshell, the Epicureans assert that justice is a product of a collect
ive function or responsibility of the citizens of a city.
This statement calls to mind the words of Althusius written by Copleston: “all s
ocieties depend on contract, at least in the form of tacit agreement, and the st
ate is one of the types of society; … the government rests on agreement or cont
ract, and the sovereign has a trust to fulfil. Though he distinguishes different
kinds of societies – family, the collegium or cooperation, the local community,
the province or the state – the formation of any definite community rests upon
an agreement or contract whereby human beings agree to form an association or co
mmunity for their common good in respect of specified purposes.”
The point here is basically that each community corresponds to a definite human
need, so that each contract is entered into for the common good, even if it is b
y two people, as we see in the care of a husband and wife. One could posit from
the above that man is a social being, desires for a society where peace and orde
r prevail. In other words, man is born with natural inclination for mutual relat
ion with others.
Although Hobbes was a social contract theorist, there were other contract theori
sts after Hobbes, like John Locke and Rousseau. These were his fellow Englishmen
who flourished around 17th century Europe. These two philosophers like their pr
edecessor, believed that social contract is the origin of an organized state, so
ciety or government.
The starting point of John Locke’s political theory, just like his predecessor,
Hobbes is the state of nature, his magnus opus, Two Treatises of Government, sta
rted as that of Hobbes, on the state of nature. Unlike Hobbes, Locke presented t
he state of nature as a state of order, where all men were equal and lived in se
parate units. In this state, everyone was aware of certain limitations of the i
ndividual will, especially the two basic limitations of the right to property wh
ich everyone had and the right to punishment of offenders of natural laws, veste
d in each individual. This implied that some natural laws existed according to L
ocke, and there was a natural reason which operated in that environment. Everyon
e who consulted that natural reason would judge correctly. This natural law tel
ls everyone that “all men are equal and independent; no one ought to harm or den
y another of health and liberty of possessions . Locke held that man was capable
of abandoning the natural reason because, he becomes irrational sometimes. For
him, this abandonment would lead to a state of chaos like that of Hobbes’ state;
life would become very difficult to all.
The state of nature according to John Locke had its own institutions. “The state
of nature has its social and legalistic institutions and these institutions ope
rate and give men some form of natural rights. These natural rights are rights t
o freedom, life and property. But the most basic is right to property because ev
eryone has the right to acquire property. Locke argues that if anyone mixes his
labour with any form of natural object, then that final product becomes his, and
nobody can take it away from him.”
The major setback in this society is man’s unreasonableness; it is for this that
proper society, is formed, for the preservation of property. His social contrac
t could be described as a means of protecting property because the contract is e
ntered in order to guard individual right to own property.
Lockean social contract was not totally in line with Hobbes, in other words, Loc
ke did not advocate for an absolute power of the sovereign like Hobbes, rather t
he contract was to be between the sovereign and citizens. The people had the rig
ht of disobedience (civil disobedience) if their natural rights were not well pr
otected. Locke seemed to take this theory as a historical fact, and not just a m
ere fiction or myth. However, Locke did not realize that there is no historical
foundation to support his assertion.
In his book, Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau disagrees with Hobbes that t
he state of nature was a chaotic, anarchical, strife and war. Instead, he held t
hat the state of nature was a state of peace, innocence. He did not paint the s
tate of nature as dark as presented by Hobbes. He believed that man in the natur
al state was neither moral nor immoral but a happy being because these concepts
are part of civilization. Man was not alone, in isolation, but the type of relat
ionship that existed here was loose. There was a private ownership of property
in this state of nature. This peaceful and happy state of affairs in the state o
f nature was heavily disturbed when one man declared a piece of land as his own
private property. Dipo Irele, traced this problem from the egoistic tendency of
man. Egoism has a double origin – one relating to individual psychology and the
other to social relationships, and both lead to a state of inequality. The indiv
idual psychology of inequality arose out of the feeling of “pride” which emerged
in human communities when men successfully conquered other animals. They began
to compare themselves with other fellows and endeavored to excel above one anoth
er in all sorts of activities. The other side of inequality was as a result of t
he increase, in the productive capacity of human communities brought about by th
e inventions of fire, metallurgy and agriculture. These inventions led to indivi
dual wealth and private property ownership and, Rousseau claims that the real f
ounder of the civil society was the man who first enclosed a piece of land decla
ring it to be exclusively his own. This led as I earlier asserted to the setting
up of rules and government as those possessing wealth could not live in securit
y, and by force and cunning the rich prevailed upon the poor to establish these
rules to safeguard themselves.
This picture of Rousseau’s origin of civil society is different from Locke’s pro
position on the origin of civil society. Rousseau asserts: “Bound new fetters on
the poor and gave new powers to the rich, which irretrievably destroyed natural
inequality, converted, clever – usurpation into unalterable right, and, for the
advantage of a few ambitious individuals, subjected all mankind to perpetual la
bour, slavery and wretchedness.”
In the Discourse, Rousseau proposes that civilization brought about social ills.
In the state of nature man enjoyed freedom unlike in Hobbes’ where there was wa
r of all against all because power became a condition sine qua non, the greatest
sought desired by man. However the freedom got destroyed when civilization set
in by the formation of civil society as a result of property relations that acco
mpanied it.
This state of affair could be stopped according to Rousseau, by the notion of th
e general will; a social contract that allows for the state of affairs to become
properly a legitimate social order. This position of Rousseau is paradoxical, b
ecause he criticized this earlier in his writing, however, eventually recommends
it as a means of restoration of total freedom of man in the civil society. The
main problem is to found a form of association which the whole common strength o
f the community will be enlisted for the protection of persons and property. Tha
t is each member when united with the other, renders obedience to his own will,
and remains as free as he was. That is what the social contract wants to achiev
e. The basic aim of the contract is for all to renounce their individual will, t
o an all encompassing sovereign body which represents the general will. In this
sense, he agrees with Hobbes that there is need for a sovereign that represents
all in all – for the interest of both the young and old in the state.
In this chapter we have succeeded in looking at the development of the social co
ntract both pro and post Hobbesian social contract theory. In the next chapter,
we shall dwell on the meaning of the social contract theory.
In the field of politics, there are basically two major theories which explain t
he origin of government. These are Divine Authority or Authority given from God
and Social Contract. The proponents of divine authority theory hold that every
society is created by God and the kings, leaders have been bestowed with the hon
our of taking care of it and every other person is subject to him. It is this ve
ry idea that had influenced the early civilization which saw the king as a uniqu
e and sacred person. Even Plato for instance is said to have presented kings as
godlike persons. Plato, during his presentation on social change, remarked that
the best kind of society is the one governed by the “godlike” kings. This notio
n is rooted on the conception that the society is a product of God’s creation an
d not as a result of any human gatherings or sharings.
The second theory that explains the origin of the state is the contract theory.
The idea of government is a resultant of man’s thinking ability to remedy all ki
nds of problems in his life. It is this theory of government’s origin that Hobbe
s adheres to; the idea of social contract. This theory is always historically tr
aced to Thomas Hobbes; however, this view is contentious since some people hold
that he merely popularized it and is not the founder of the contract theory. In
other words, in as much as some people hold Hobbes as the founder of contract t
heory, some others contend seriously against it people in all aspects of live ha
ve been known to involve in one kind of interaction or another. One to one, fami
ly to family, to the level of the society. Philosophers like Aristotle hold and
strongly believe that man is by nature social and must interact with people in o
rder to survive in the society.
More so, men, throughout the ages, have loved and interacted with each other, ei
ther as friends and relations or as a means of survival. But the question is, wh
at really brought mankind together; to live in the society and relates to one an
other? For Aristotle, man is a socio-political animal who is capable of meeting
his basic needs because of his cooperation with his fellow human beings. Howeve
r, some philosophers as well as Psychologists argue that man is by nature solita
ry, that society is what has situated man to live together. This group believes
that God created the society and gave it out to man – for it was God that brough
t them together as one human family.
Among the two explanations given as the origin of government / state, the social
contract theory as an agreement entered into by individuals under a healthy sur
render to be ruled by a leader, whom out of trust, they entrust the society has
more credibility as the main origin of the state. This immediately places obliga
tions on every citizen to obey the laws of the state. The consent of the citizen
s to obey the laws shows the kind of relationship that exists between the state
and her citizens. This interaction by way of agreement between two people, husba
nd and wife, families, communities and members, schools and so on, is regarded a
s contract. Hobbes in the Leviathan refers to this as the “mutual transferring o
f rights” . People in their right senses decide to give up totally their natur
al rights of self-preservation to a Leviathan, who will be their representative
and takes the responsibility of promoting the welfare of every citizen, since th
ey cannot really manage it well on their own.

2.1 The State of Nature
In Hobbes, the state of nature is a natural human state before the emergence of
the organized structural society. The discussion on the state of nature is an at
tempt to make a historical evaluation of man in the original state and his relat
ionship with others prior to the civil society. In the words of a renowned femin
ist theologian, Elizabeth Johnson: “all persons are constituted by a number of e
ssential relations, which may be called anthropological constants. These include
relation of bodylines as medium of human spirit, relation to significant other
person as the matrix in which individuality arises as the context for identity;
relation to social, political and economic structures; conducting by historical
time and place; the place of theory in the praxis of one’s culture as opposed to
instinct alone; and orientation to hope and the pull of the future. These const
ants mutually condition one another, and are constitutive of the humanity of per
sons” . This societal idea of man contradicts the ancient belief that God fashio
ned society and thus, man was naturally social and political animal. Hobbes does
not consider the state of nature as an organized human society; rather it was a
state of individualism. Man finds himself in all kinds of troubles, and makes h
is own justice.
However, there are two opposing views as to the cause of man’s predicament from
which an organized civil society emerges as a remedy: ‘the equality of man, and
the defect in the nature of man’. Plato and Espinoza champion the first, whereas
Augustine is a strong exponent of the second. For Hobbes, the problem of man is
rooted in his egoistical and selfish nature. For him, men in the history were e
qual in the state of nature, but it was the egoistic interest of individuals, th
at brought envy, ill-feelings about other. The equality here according to Hobbe
s, will be altered by Locke, who stressed the freedom and altruistic preservatio
n of all men’s life, against Hobbes who emphasized self-preservation at the expe
nse of others.
The state of nature could be regarded as a condition in which all men are practi
cally equal to the other in both physical and physiological features of man. On
the other hand, these faculties do not remove the equality of men – they are mor
e of accidental to the real nature of man. Hobbes endorses physical inequality,
which for him exists only in the application of the basic faculties endowed to m
an by nature. It means that the inequality is based simply in nurture rather tha
n nature. In other words, by nature men are equal and by nurture unequal.
It is obvious that Hobbes acknowledges that some of us are much stronger than ot
hers, consequently affirming inequality. That Hobbes detects this difference in
physical ability does not mean that the strong and weak cannot achieve the same
goal. For instance, “as to the strength of the body, the weakest has strength en
ough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or conniving with other
s that are in the same danger with him”. We see here that what matters is not w
ho executes the plan or which plan, but the end. If the weak succeeds in elimina
ting his opponents and the strong succeeds also in elimination his enemies, it i
mplies that both are equal. The major concern here is that both eliminated their
2.2 Man in the Original State of Nature
In the state of nature, man is solitary since there is no society and no recogni
zed or constructive association with others. Man exists and lives as though he i
s the only one in the world, trying to preserve his life alone. However, the sol
itary man does not exist alone since there are thousands in the same condition a
s he is. It is the presence of another of his kind, with the same ambition and
inclination, posed a very serious fear for survival, competing for limited resou
rces endowed by nature.
Moreover, man in the state of nature, was susceptible to attack from enemies as
there are no laws governing (no civil society) the actions of men. Though Hobbes
recognizes a kind of law in the nature, it is the law of self-preservation, of
which everybody is a judge in his case. This is the only inviolable law of natur
e, the only inalienable right of men. There are virtually no enterprises, no rea
l handiworks because of the fear of being invaded by others and destroy all the
laboured property. The fear in the state of nature crippled people’s action and
their disposition to use their natural gifts to work for their own satisfaction
. He who is successful brings enemies to himself, and he who is more successful
accumulates more enemies as well.
The natural or original condition of man in the state of nature could be summed
up as a state of “anything goes”. A state that John Abbo describes in these word
s: “a state of vulnerability of man: first, the competition, which springs up fr
om the desire of one object by many. The cause of this competition is love for g
ain. The second cause of man’s condition in the state of nature is the “diffiden
ce”, which prompts people to look everywhere for safety. The third which is “glo
ry”, leads people to seek reputation. The first uses violence to make one the ma
ster of other men’s persons, wives, children and cattle; the second, to defend t
hem; and the third for trifles as a word, a smile, e.t.c . What this implies is
that man goes everywhere, applies any means because of gain so as to achieve his
goal. The end justifies the means becomes man’s famous aphorism. In other words
, since power is all-sought desire, and self-preservation, therefore any of thes
e could be achieved by any means even through violence. The worry of this acquis
ition is the duty to maintain and keep them from the enemies. Man faces the chal
lenge of retaining what he has procured in the state of nature.
Hobbes describes this state of competition, conflict and war as ‘solitary, nasty
, brutish and short, as a state of war of every man against every man, a place o
f the survival of the fittest. Life is solitary because each individual lives an
d thinks for himself, it is nasty, brutish and short, in that each individual is
a potential killer and violence is the order of the day, and life can be easily
terminated any day, any moment. In contrast to this Lonergan acknowledges “that
humanity is not yet finished. Thus, there is still a further dimension to being
human, and there we emerge as person, meet one another in common concern for va
lues, seek to abolish the organization of human living on the basis of competing
egoisms and to replace it by an organization on the basis of man’s perseverance
and intelligence, his reasonableness and his responsible exercise of freedom.
In a nutshell, Lonergan emphasizes that egoism leads man nowhere but rationality
stands a better chance of “all living for all” (altruistic life).
2.3 Hobbes Contract Theory
In the state of nature, men possess natural rights which enable them to do many
things even to one another. But again, the laws of nature connote those precepts
or rules which are basically rooted on reason, “by which a man is forbidden to
do that, which is destructive to his life, or taken away the means of preserving
the same, and to omit that, by which he thinks it may, be best preserved”. For
Hobbes, these are called precepts or “the maxims of prudence” and sometimes, he
says they are constitutive and regulative principles which form the basis of so
cial contract after the state of nature. Hobbes argues that they are products of
good reason or discovered by it, and this is possible through a deep reflection
about the horrible condition existing in the state of nature. One may not deny
the effect of these percepts on man’s actions in the state of nature before the
emergence of social contract in the form of agreement.
According to Hobbes, the precepts have no positive effects because they are not
generally agreed upon and enforced by sovereign authority, and to observe them w
ould be foolish and very risky for men in the state of nature. There was no stro
ng desire to make them work in that the state of nature is highly anarchical.
In this way Hobbes, lays down these laws which are fundamental to the state of n
ature, and he believes that they are eternal and immutable. “The first is that p
eople in the state of nature should seek peace, although, the condition in the s
tate of nature does not allow for this. He believes that people should seek peac
e because it is in everybody’s interest. The second is complicated, that every m
an should be willing, when others are so, too, to seek peace and self-defence, n
ot claiming his rights, and be contended with liberty which others enjoy. Lastly
, that every man should obey the covenant made”. These laws will necessarily fo
rm men to an agreement or social contract in which each man would authorize and
give up his right of governing himself, to a man or assembly of men.
The social contract that would happen is of two-fold: firstly, the people must a
gree among themselves, and later authorize a person or group of persons to lead
them. This leader or leaders is given the absolute power to rule, and he is abov
e the social contract. This assertion of Hobbes is very misleading. If people co
uld be under the contract, what makes the sovereign authority or Leviathan to be
above the contract? Who can curb the human excesses of the Leviathan?
In the social contract one gives up his rights to hold onto the cooperation of p
eople, against this, we will return to the state of fear, insecurity and ‘war of
everybody against everybody’ (bellum omnium contra omnes).
Hobbes social contract theory looses its importance or value without an absolute
sovereign power. His political theory drives from his views about human nature
and this made Hobbes to postulate an absolute monarch who can curb human excesse
s. But the question, one can ask is whether his views about human nature, his po
litical theory of absolute sovereign ruler is correct. Since men sometimes do al
truistic things, that are clearly not selfish it means that man is not always mo
tivated by selfish desire as Hobbes posits. However one cannot deny the fact th
at men are selfish as Hobbes clearly stated.
Hobbes strongly encourages monarchy, which he sees as natural and best leader fo
r the continuity of government. Whether a monarchy or not, the rights and powers
of the sovereign are still absolute. The sovereign needs to be powerful and ver
y strict in order to enforce any promises made by the citizens. The basic aim of
instituting the sovereign is for peace and unity in the society. For Hobbes, a
tyrannical ruler who can maintain peace is better than a benevolent leader who c
annot maintain peace in the state.
The primary duty of the sovereign then, is to guide and protect people. To carry
this on, he has unlimited and absolute power to laws. The people are bound by t
hese laws. The sovereign becomes the arbiter of what is good and evil. The peopl
e owe nothing to any other head rather than the sovereign in the society. In oth
er words, no one else is empowered to enforce laws or punish on behalf of the so
vereign without direct permission from him. Hobbes captured this in pictorial fo
rm. “They that are subjects to a monarch cannot without his leave cast off monar
chy, and return to the confusion of disunited multitude; nor transfer their pers
on from that bears it to another man, or assembly of men, for they are bound, ev
ery man to every man, to own and reputed author of all, and that he that is alre
ady shall do and judge fit to be done, so that any one dissenting, all the rest
should break their covenant made to the man, which is injustice. They have also,
every man given the sovereign to him that bears their person. Therefore, if the
y depose him, they take from him that which is his own, and again it is injustic
e.” The sovereign is real at liberty to carry out his functions, irrespective o
f the social contract.
This whole idea of monarch not being deposed of his authority is in accordance w
ith the early civilization, which sees king as instituted by God, as his represe
ntative. The king is seen as divine authority and can only be deposed by God. Be
sides, if the king is highly corrupt, it is commonly believed that God allows hi
m there for a special purpose. It is expected that the king should be generous,
charitable and administer justice especially to the less privileged. Whoever dis
obeys or resists authority goes against God’s order and deserves severe condemna
However, some philosophers argue that the sovereign is human and therefore shoul
d not be the maker of laws and executioner at the same time. He could breach the
general contract which deserves punishment as given to other contractors, but w
ho gives him punishment? This could lead to protest against the sovereign, whom
Hobbes gives absolute power of leadership. Vested with all power, absolute and a
las to his subjects – if he were a wicked person. In such a condition, the citiz
ens have to watch and see what becomes of them. Since one is bound to obey and r
espect the power of sovereign for being in the society or nation, therefore the
sovereign has the final order or fiat in the civil society.
Given by modern experiences regarding the state of power, Hobbes understanding o
f power gives opposite, in fact his examples are just extreme and unconvincing “
we might recall the American (U.S) constitution, where powers of legislation, ex
ecution and case-by-case judgment are separated (to Congress, President and the
Judiciary respectively) and counter balance one another. Each of these bodies is
responsible for judging different questions and cases. There are often, of cour
se, boundary disputes, as to whether legislative, executive or judicial powers,
should apply to a given issue, and no one body is empowered to settle this cruci
al questions of judgment. Division of powers is very important to any governmen
t because it balances different groups and bodies into decision making. They hel
p to prevent disputes from escalating into violent conflict or civil war.
In our discussion on the nature and condition of man in the state of nature, bef
ore the emergence of civil society, we discovered that absence of law is one of
the causes of violence and chaos. Man is vulnerable to many dangers and fear ari
sing from his natural conditions. The worst of all problems is the fear of sudde
n death. Life here is ‘do whatever you like’, decide and carry it out. It did no
t work well with man in this condition. Thus, man needed a sovereign who can dis
charge the function of the arms of the government: promulgation of law, enforcem
ent of law and administering the law. In other words, powers and authority confe
rred on the sovereign make him the right leader of all. He works to direct and g
uide actions of everybody lest individual rights may be subjugated.
It is based on this that the present chapter is attributed to the law and its na
ture. To investigate the effectiveness of the sovereign in carrying out his offi
cial responsibility via establishment of law to guide his affairs in the civil s
3.1 What is Law?
Different people have attempted to define law holistically, approaching it from
diverse perspectives. What is actually meant by “law”? People have made their co
ntributions toward the exploration of the concept law. Yet there is no generally
accepted definition of law. In ordinary language, laws are regarded as any kind
of rules and regulations whereby actions are judged. Simply law is meant to gui
de our actions, spur us into action and discourage us from doing certain things.
For Wilson Woodrow, every law should be authorized by an authority; law implies
that portion of the established thought and habit which has gained distinct and
formal recognition in the shape of uniform rules backed by the authority and po
wer of government. In this definition the state is the power and authority behin
d the law. For T.H Green, law is the system of rights and obligation which the s
tate enforces. It is in this line Erikson J, sees the law as the command of a s
overeign who is seen as above the law, but made by him as an instrument for gove
rning his state. It is only obliging to the subjects who owe him allegiance and
obedience. For Aquinas, a law is nothing else than a dictate of reason in the r
uler by which his subjects are governed. Aquinas’ conception of law does not co
ntradict Hobbes notion of law, which the commonwealth had commanded by word, wri
ting, or by sufficient sign of the will, to make use of, for the distinction of
right and wrong; what is contrary and what is not contrary to the rule. The sov
ereign is the legislator of the law which must be for the good of the entire cit
izens in the state.
Here, Hobbes proposes that laws are made for convenient administration of justic
e, the preservation of people’s basic rights. J.W Salmond defines law based on t
his, as the body of principles recognized and applied by the state in the admini
stration of justice. It means that those principles are recognized by the state
, aiming at making the people happy. In the words of Aquinas, law aimed at being
obeyed and observed by its subject to make them good. For if the proper effect
of the law is fixed on true good, which is the common good given according to Di
vine justice, it follows that law simply makes men good. On the other hand, if t
he intention of the law giver is fixed on that which is simply good, but useful
or pleasurable to himself, which is in opposite to Divine justice, then the law
does not make men good. This could happen in a state whereby a government is pri
vatized, a government by the selfish men.
In this moment, the law is corrupt; it has lost its essence and effect, absolute
ly perverse law. According to good reason it is not a law, for a law should be g
overned by a good reason. Any leader that holds onto corrupt laws does not fulfi
ll his obligations as the head. For Hobbes, such leader or ruler is tyrannical.
3.2 Overview of Natural Law
The concept of natural law may not be meaningful if some fundamental ideas are r
ejected. Such truths are to be accepted so as to make the theory of natural law
plausible. It entails that the human mind knows the essence or nature of things
from which the order of the universe presented in the eternal law. That man reco
gnizes in the order of the created things also the order of creation as a whole.
However, the natural state of man, amidst natural law is not encouraging, since
men are in constant opposition and war against each other.
In order to solve this conflictual life, Hobbes proposes a sovereign who will ap
ply natural law in making peace in the state of nature. Hobbes tells us that eac
h person possesses reason. Each man is endowed with reason at least for self pre
servation. There was no leader to coordinate this human reason for good. The sta
te of nature is seen as a lawless state, a state of anarchy; there are no legisl
ative, executive and judicial powers. Each man possesses his own individual admi
nistrative power in whatever means he chooses. However, this ill situation, whic
h Hobbes believes to be ruled by the selfishness of men, is not devoid of every
law and order. There is in the state of nature what Hobbes calls “the natural la
w of reason”. The natural law of reason, makes man to do that which preserves hi
s own life. In a nutshell, natural law is the instinct in all creatures for self
-preservation. The idea of Hobbes here is in agreement with Aristotle, who conce
ives the law of all human beings as their instinctive tendency to realize their
ends. This law of instinct is what some people regard as law of nature.
The problem with Aristotle’s associating the natural law with all created things
both rational and irrational is in his idea of teleology whereby everything ten
ds towards its perfection. Thus, he considers this natural inclination towards o
ne’s perfection as the conformity with the natural law. There is need for a clea
r distinction between law of nature and ‘natural law’. In Aristotle’s view, the
law of nature could be described as that in which every creature in the universe
conforms to, for being part of the natural law is an ordinance of reason, which
is only for man, as the rational creature. This means that the law of nature si
mply applies to all things since it governs the activities of the whole universe
, whereas ‘natural law’ is solely a participation in the law of nature by ration
al being. In the works of Hobbes, these two concepts; law of nature and natural
law are used interchangeably.
Moreover, Hobbes gives us a notion of the law of nature as “a precept or general
rule found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destr
uctive of his life, or takes away the means of preserving the same; or to omit t
hat by which he thinks it may be best preserved”. In spite of this, Hobbes also
posits the fundamental law of nature, the precepts of general reason that every
man ought to endeavour for peace as far as he can obtain it, or apply the advan
tages of war. The second law of nature following from the first is that a man be
willing, when others are, for the sake of peace lay down his right to all thing
s, and be contended with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow fa
ther men against himself. The law of nature for Hobbes could be seen as a law o
f self-preservation, and this is argued to be the foundation of the selfish natu
re of man. The above definition agrees with Aquinas’ conception of law as “an or
dinance of reason applied for the common good”. However the end products of the
two definitions differ, as Hobbes; is for self interest whereas Aquinas’ for th
e interest of the whole community.
The problem of natural law is not new in philosophy for it is at least one of th
e most ancient concepts in human thought that requires deep reflection. In the p
agan Greece, saw natural law suggests something peculiar only to human nature un
like in the modern era when it has a Christian undertone. Thus, the Greeks saw n
atural law as pertaining solely to human reason. Natural law, however is natural
to man. Though it is unwritten, it is known to all and obeyed by all men, becau
se the precepts are immanent in human nature. They are implanted in us and expre
ssed through us. It is so deep rooted in the men’s hearts that it can never be
wholly wiped our at anytime in all the people. This portion gives natural law a
universal quality.
The natural law is universal in the sense that it is known by every individual a
nd everywhere. It is endowed to all men in the universe. One can argue that natu
ral law should be applied the same to all human beings since all have the same i
nclinations and natural conditions in the Hobbesian state of nature. However, ma
d men are exempted in that their acts are not informed in freedom and conscious
thought pattern. Children too who have not yet developed their faculty of human
reasoning are not held responsible of their acts are not in conformity to the na
tural law.
We should note that though the natural law precepts are not written, it is not a
n excuse for breaching it, since it is universally, known and deals with practic
al knowledge. According to Aristotle, the man of practical reason (wisdom) becom
es the arbiter of what is right and wrong. In the words of Aristotle, the man of
practical wisdom is one who has constantly and consistently allowed his actions
to be directed and influenced by the faculty of reason rather than the emotions
, feelings and desires.
In the discussion of Hobbes’ state of nature, we learnt that his political theor
y is built on the notion of the existence of natural right. The natural law beco
mes an ordinance for the preservation of these basic rights endowed to man by na
ture. According to Hobbes and John Locke, the basic rights of every man are righ
t to life and right to property. This simply means that Hobbes built his natura
l law theory around the natural rights, since laws are meant to preserve rights
of the people in the society, then it is self-evidence that natural law preserve
s these rights. In the civil society formed through the free agreements of the i
ndividuals, the civil law becomes an acknowledgement of the natural law – becaus
e one is formed from the idea of another.

3.3 Effects of the Civil Laws on the Contract Theory

Since Thomas Hobbes, portrays man in the state of nature as being motivated by h
is love for self, which resulted to a state of war and anarchy, it follows that
the civil laws are needed as means of controlling emotions and appetite. If this
is not done, then the new civil society may be the same with the former society
, the state of nature.
Hobbes therefore, defines civil laws “as the laws that men are bound to observe
because they are members of a commonwealth”. The civil laws are for everybody, t
hose rules which the Leviathan has commanded, to make us of for the distinction
of right, and wrong. The essence of law for Hobbes is to maintain peace and ord
er in a civil society. He sees the law of nature and civil laws as containing ea
ch other and aiming at the same goal. Law in the first place is a command and sh
ould be obeyed by the subjects. It means that civil laws should be observed and
obeyed in the civil society by the citizens. But for the civil laws to be effect
ive enough to protect people’s rights, maintain peace and order in the civil soc
iety, there is need for a judicial arm of the government to administer justice –
rewarding good and punishing evil, that is to distribute equal justice and fair
ness. It is based on this that we can consider the well being of a civil state t
o solely rely on the enablement of the judiciary to act according to the civil l
The law of a state is a means and an organ through which the sovereign uses to p
rotect his subjects from attacks and infringements from fellow citizens who migh
t want to manipulate them. Thus, civil laws give meaning and scope to particular
way of acting in the civil state. Human right and freedom are being protected t
hrough the civil laws of the state. In other words, by promulgating civil laws,
the sovereign guides and preserve the people who have voluntary ceded their legi
slative, executive and judicial rights to him, with hope that he would surely pr
otect them. The end of this gesture is the maintenance of peace and order, which
was absent in the natural state. According Hobbes, individuals can find a means
of protecting themselves, if the sovereign fails to maintain peace and order in
the state. This would definitely take us back to the state of nature a state of
war of everybody against everybody. So, to make sure that the aim of the coven
ant is achieved, the civil laws must be properly enacted and used for the benefi
t of all the people. The government must be at alert, and effective in exercisin
g or discharging her duties. Since the effect of civil law is the administering
of justice and equity among the people, to ensure peace and order in the state,
there is need to explore the rule of justice in the civil state.
3.4 The Rule of Justice
We understood from Hobbes, that there was no notion of justice in the state of n
ature, there was no law to forbid people from acting in a particular way especia
lly in view of self-preservation. People consider their actions just even when i
t is actually unjust in the state of nature. In the artificial state, this has t
o be changed, people appointed a leader who makes laws for the preservation of i
ndividuals and people collectively. It means that each person is expected to beh
ave in accordance to the will of the sovereign. Any deviation from this becomes
disobedience, unjust and deserves punishment. Ut differently, the civil state ob
serves a distributive justice, whereby each person is rewarded or duly punished
based on merit. Thus, Hobbies defines justice as the performance of the covenant
and giving every man his own merit. In other words, we agreed to live together
in an organized state we discharge our duties and responsibilities – by obeying
rules and precepts of the sovereign. However, when we go against the agreed law
s of the state, then we should be punished. In the Leviathan, Hobbes defines cri
me, “as committing by deeds or words of that which the law forbids, or the omiss
ion of what it has commanded”. As a result of this, we can say that without civ
il laws, these is no crime or offence, and by implication, the notion of justice
is gone. In such a state there is not just or unjust act since there is nobody
to promulgate of crimes, for there is no law and justice and equity function wit
h the law.
Moreover, this calls to mind the dictate of Golden rule which states “do not to
others which you think unreasonable to be done by another to you”. In practical
life, this is not always the case, since people sometimes act according to the
inclination of self-preservation (which is the main reason for the social contra
ct). This is why the sovereign is generally empowered to administer punishment t
o offenders or falters. Punishment helps to deter people from further crime and
also a lesson to them that have ‘the same possibility to act in the same way’. I
think the punishment should outcross the gain the individual would get from goi
ng against the civil laws, or else people may choose to be punished, in so far a
s the gain is greater.
The third law of nature is rooted in justice; it is that men should perform thei
r covenant, otherwise the covenant is in vain, just an empty words. To break thi
s covenant is unjust – injustice from this means the non performance of covenant
that is acting contrary to the agreement made in the state. The rule if justice
simply implies equal distribution of justice-by punishment or providing individ
ual needs. Any act that compels one to disobey the civil authority is unjust. I
n other words, having voluntarily agreed to give up one’s rights for the mainten
ance of peace, it will be an injustice for a person to breach the law. The sover
eign is empowered to mete out punishment for all the unjust in the society.
In a nutshell, what Hobbes is asserting here is that the notion of justice and i
njustice emerged with the establishment of a new state of nature, rules by the s
overeign. But the question; what goes on with the natural rights of man? In the
state of nature, men have the natural rights to everything, and justice is the
giving to this right to whom it is due, however, there was no notion of justice,
it does not exist. Hobbes explains that absence of justice in the original stat
e of man, is as result of no covenant on which the notion of justice is based. T
he idea of justice and injustice are products of later life of man.
On the other hand, Locke and Rousseau might not agree with the above assertion s
ince they believe that man is naturally altruistic, would assert that in the sta
te of nature there is the idea of justice but not as bad as postulated by Hobbes
. Locke as we saw in the previous writing, asserts that men are free and each li
ves according to his own liking. This freedom is not a license to act as desires
, since there is a natural law of reason, which directs and guides actions of th
e people. The main purpose of this natural law is to ensure that nobody shall im
pair the life, health, freedom or the possession of others. So for Locke, there
is justice in the state of nature.

Nigeria, a country in West Africa is endowed with many religions and religious-m
inded citizens. Apart from the original traditional religion of the people, othe
r religions have found their ways into the country. Some of these are Christiani
ty, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and so on. The positive impact of these religions h
as been widely embraced by its proponents. We intend to explore the two major on
es in Nigeria: Christianity and Islam, and the corresponding application of irra
tionality in their practices that leads to bloody religious violence. This viole
nce did not start today, but for this essay we are going to cover from 1991 to 2
Islam is one of the prominent religions found in this part of the world known as
Nigeria. As a religion, it involves the belief in God known as Allah. It was fo
unded by prophet Muhammad with the aim to guide the believers into a new way of
life revealed to him by Allah. Some violent extremists have turned this religion
into “a blind faith followed religion”. A religion meant for peace in principl
e, however a pandemonium in practice.
Also in Nigeria is Christianity which came through the activities of early missi
onaries. Christians are ardent followers of Christ with different groups: Cathol
icism, Anglicanism and other denominations. These two religions, Christianity an
d Islam always clash in their religious practices especially in Nigeria. Every g
roup blames the other for the religious crises, but the question is which group
is behind this crises? In the words of David Cole,
These two Nigeria’s major religions, Islam and Christianity, are sometimes depic
ted as monolithic entities that confront each other in pitched battles, with for
mal implementation of the criminal aspects of the Muslim Sharia legal code (or t
he likelihood of implementation) providing the spark that touches off violence.
Riots based (at least ostensibly) on religious affiliation and religious policie
s have indeed occurred, the worst such being the two confrontations that took pl
ace in Kaduna between February and May 1999.
Even after these terrible experiences of February and May 1999, religious violen
ce has continued to occur in Nigeria between these two religious groups, Christi
ans and Muslims.
Such descriptions, however, can be misleading. Within the Christian community on
e finds a broad range of churches from the mainstream Roman Catholic and Anglica
n to many smaller Protestant organizations. These latter include many Pentecosta
l denominations that tend to be quite aggressive in their proselytizing.
In the history, Usman Dan Fodio’s jihad, or religious war, 1804–1810, ended with
the establishment of the Sokoto sultanate (the Sultan of Sokoto). This Islamic
theocratic empire extended from what is now extreme northwest Nigeria in a broad
swath southeast into contemporary northwest Cameroon. Armed forces of the Emira
te of Zazzau, based in present-day Zaria in north-central Kaduna State, continue
d intermittent warfare and slave raiding in the southern half of contemporary Ka
duna State, an area populated by some 15 Middle Belt minority ethnic groups. The
Emir claimed suzerainty over this area.
After colonization, a number of the minorities, including the Gbagyi, who are th
e indigenes (first occupants) of the area where Kaduna city developed, converted
to Catholicism and various Protestant sects. The Emir of Zazzau, however, conti
nued to assert his jurisdiction over Middle Belt minorities.
In the Northwest, core of the old North, some Emirates for example, Sokoto, Kats
ina, and Kano, maintain much of their old authority. Others, such as Zazzau, hav
e recently lost control over areas they formerly claimed, and their authority ma
y be waning. By contrast, minority groups in southern Kaduna State such as the B
yagyi, have, as part of the same recent events, gained recognition as new “indig
enous” governments. Still others—for example, the newly appointed Emirate of Dut
se (1990)—may lack, at least at the Emirate level, the authority associated with
governance structures in the original seven Hausa states (Daura, Kano, Rano, Go
bir, Biram [Sokoto], Zamfara, and Zazzau (Zaria).
The newer and more fundamentalist sects include the Izala and the Shiites. The I
zala in particular tend to attract educated young people, both men and women. Th
e Shiites and sometimes the Izala are said to oppose applying sharia in Nigeria
until such time as religious leaders have taken over political leadership of the
country. Whereas the Hisba includes representatives of all sects, in Kano, it t
ends to be dominated by Izalas and Da’awa. Just as NGOs have sprung up to take a
dvantage of opportunities created by Western donors’ calls for civil society par
tners, so Muslim sects have arisen in response to the calls for faith-based part
ners issued by Islamic governments and religious groups from Libya, Sudan, Iran,
Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries.
In Kano new ethnic categories (“southerner,” “northerner”) arose when southerner
s, particularly Igbo, began to threaten economic interests of the far-flung Haus
a commercial empire based in Kano. The policy of northernization, adopted by nor
thern elites during the late 1950s, sought to open jobs for Hausa in commercial
firms in Kano; gain greater access to government contracts, civil service posts,
and financial services; and reassert control over produce export. The fear of
losing out economically heightened the sense among northern indigenes of margina
lization. Northernization established the predominance of politics over economic
s, which made political competition at the national level a matter of primary co
ncern. Nothing in these five decades since independence has lessened this conce
Some 11 northern states, beginning with Zamfara on October 27, 1999, and includi
ng Sokoto, Kano, and Niger, have passed into law the criminal law sections of th
e Islamic Sharia code of conduct. The states concerned have advanced with varyin
g speed toward application. Zamfara and Katsina, for example, are now applying t
he code, while other states have not. Many northern politicians have supported t
he so-called Sharia movement through personal conviction, political opportunism,
political realism, or a sense that they should represent the wishes of those wh
o elected them. These laws are sometimes misused to perpetuate religious crises
in Nigeria.
Establishment of Sharia laws and courts really poses a constitutional problem be
cause the Nigerian constitution guarantees a secular state, guarantees freedom o
f religion, and vests in states concurrent power to establish their own court sy
stems. At both constitutional and practical levels, these guarantees are incompa
tible in light of the fact that Islam rejects separation of political from relig
ious authority and proposes a unified theocratic system of governance. However,
Nigeria as a multi – religious entity may find it extremely difficult to use Sha
ria laws to govern the whole people and religions.
Ethno – religious crises have become a ‘sore thumb’ in the country since indepen
dence with continuous killings. In 1991 religious tensions erupted in April, whe
n Shiite Muslim clashed with police in the north. This led to culmination of gro
wing strain between the Shiite leader, the military Governor of Kastina. After t
wo days of the clash in Kastina, another fight ensued in Bauchi State. These cri
ses claimed at least 84 lives and extensive damages, while about 29 peoples were
injured. In October of the same year, angry Muslim planned a successful attack
to a Christian Evangelist in Kano, and killed hundreds of people. Since the com
ing of democracy in 1999, there are more exacerbating religious violence.
In May 1999 violence erupted in Kaduna State over the succession of an Emir resu
lting in more than 100 deaths. In Kaduna in February-May 2000 over 1,000 people
died in rioting over the introduction of criminal Sharia code in the State. Hund
reds of ethnic Hausas were killed in reprisal attacks in southeastern Nigeria. I
n September 2001, over 2,000 people were killed in inter-religious riot in Jos.
In October 2001, hundred were killed and thousands displaced in communal violenc
e that spread across the Middle-Belt states of Benue, Taraba, and Nasarawa. Thi
s was not the end of the violence.
In May 2003, it is recorded that about 20,000 people were lynched and properties
worth millions of naira destroyed in a clash between Muslim community and Chris
tians in Kano. From 2006 – 2008 over 500 people were killed and about 10,620 pe
rsons were displaced in major – religious crises in Jos, Plateau State. In 2009
, there were two major different religious crises which involved a bloody sect,
“Boko Haram”
(sometimes referred to as the "Nigerian Taliban", the group s members are follow
ers of a self-proclaimed Islamic scholar, Mohammed Yusuf, who is radically oppos
ed to Western education and wants Sharia, Islamic law to be adopted across Niger
it was a moment of bloodshed in northern Nigeria. Many churches burnt, pregnant
women slaughtered, catholic priests and protestant pastors have been strangled
to death, many innocent children lost their lives and goods worth of millions of
naira have been damaged, especially in Kaduna and Jos. These crises nearly esca
lated to general Massacre between Igbos in the northern part of Nigeria and nort
herners themselves.

The most recent religions crises, in Jos claimed more than 300 lives, which was
motivated by previous crises. According to Victor Ulasi,
This year the numbers of casualty and death toll have increased in the religiou
s crisis between the Muslim and Christians in Jos, Plateau state, Nigeria which
had led to the death of dozens of people while others injured in fresh sectarian
violence leading to the imposition of a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
The crisis blowup at the Dutse Uku area of Jos after an argument on the rebuildi
ng of homes destroyed in the November 2008 clashes. The violence later spread to
Nasarawa Gwom, Rikkos and Yanshanu areas of the city. In fact, even as I write
this essay, nobody knows actually the time for the next bloody religious mayhem
in a multi - religious entity, Nigeria.
This crisis for some people is a confirmation of adulterated nation. Some people
have questioned the competence of Nigeria security agencies. It is regrettable
that Nigeria appears to be helpless as some criminal sects continue to cripple t
he nation’s assumed unity, drive away potential foreign investors and destroy al
ready existing investments.
However, some believe, that the recurrence outbreak of religious violence in Nig
eria is motivated by the corrupt politics. It is indeed a vehicle to destabilize
the people so that they will channel their interest to self preservation. It is
not sufficient for the federal Government to set up a commission of enquiry – w
hich serves as an “artificial balloon” that yields no good fruit. Instead of fin
ding lasting solutions to the crises which divided the country, and reduces our
population, the commission chooses to verbally condemn the crises.
For me, the government should descend mercilessly, on religious extremists among
us, and equally punish any murderous sect and their leaders. It is not enough t
o condemn the act, there is an urgent need for thorough investigations of all de
ep-seated politicians, religious leaders and bring all crime perpetrators to imm
ediate justice.
4.2 Relevance of Social Contract to Religious Violence in Nigeria
We have discussed the original state of man, his condition in this state, and th
e emergence of the contract theory as postulated by Thomas Hobbes. We are going
to contextualize Hobbes’ social contract to religious crisis in Nigeria. We shal
l do this bearing in mind the notion of voluntary agreement by the people to con
stitute one civil organized state for peace and unity. The fundamental essence o
f the social contract is for peace in the human society.
Many scholars attribute the present religious crises of the two main religions i
n Nigeria, Christianity and Islam, to the amalgamation of the modern and souther
n protectorates. In the words of Adewale, “the Nigerian political and religious
problems sprang from the carefree manner in which the British took over, adminis
tered and abandoned the government and people of Nigeria. The British did not ma
ke an effort to weld the country together and unite the heterogeneous groups of
people. This led to civil war of about 30 months, ethnic tensions and continuous
religious violence. These things become Nigeria’s biggest challenges” Why cont
inuous religious intolerance? Since people are still living as though in their e
thnic and tribal nature, unmindful of the common good of all Nigerians, therefor
e we must experience uproars in some aspects of life. This religion itself becom
es ethnocentric.
In the picture of Hobbesian contract, people voluntarily entered into contract w
ith each other, joined together whereas Nigerians have not been voluntarily join
ed together. One could argue that the British were interested in Nigeria’s econo
mic value and not to unite them. Amalgamation was to increase their economic ear
nings and not basically for peace and unity. It was by force and under threat th
at some Kings and Obas placed their kingdoms under British power. When the Europ
eans left, every tribe struggles for her own cultural heritage in the interest o
f other culture. The Hausas take Islam as their own religion whereas other tribe
s have Christianity and others. Interestingly, the Hausa Muslim regards Yoruba M
uslims as fake (nominal Muslims), which could be motivated by violent extremists
who believe that a true Muslim must be a murderer.
Furthermore, the contract theory in Hobbes was made to curtail and check inordin
ate desires and irrational appetites of man in the state of nature. But these th
ings (inordinate desires and irrational appetites) are found among the citizens.
Why must Muslims always fight to wipe away Christianity, if we are one Nigeria?
This brings to mind the relevance of the social contract to restore peace to di
verse religions in Nigeria. When people freely lay down their individual rights
(religion) and wish other men what he would want them to wish him, then peace wi
ll reign. If these two religious groups, Christianity and Islam should understan
d and apply the rules of social contract, to endavour to seek for peace. People
who argue for combining the two religious groups do not get it, because each gr
oup has a distinct doctrine and founder. However both groups co – exist under th
e same umbrella Nigeria, so the social contract can still be well applied. Niger
ian constitution serves as the law and the three tiers of government, handling t
he contract in the state. If these people effectively apply rightful judgment to
anyone who fails to keep the contract, by killing or harming the other, then Ni
geria may experience a lasting peace and unity, people act out of rational appet
ites and not by tribal and religious sentiments. There will be equal respect for
one another in the Nigerian society.
Critique of Hobbes’ Social Contract Theory
Hobbes succeeded in positing a hypothetical theory of nature, where man’s condit
ion is portable. He gives a narration of the things in nature as they were befor
e the emergence of an organized society. Hobbes’ account virtually covers every
society in the world, its cradle and development. In other words, he shows that
every society undergoes transformation before having a systematic government. Th
is transformation is basically from the worst situation to a best society where
peace and unity exist.
However, there has been an argument against Hobbes’ historic account of the stat
e of nature (natural condition of man), which he sees as selfish and egoistic. F
or Hopkin, there is no historical or anthropological evidence to support Hobbes
analysis of the state of nature. On the other hand, it should be noted that Hob
bes is not interested in giving historical and anthropological account of the so
cietal developments. He rather gives a philosophical justification for the exist
ence of a certain type of government – absolute authority of the sovereign, and
why it must be obeyed and obligations of both the government and citizens. It is
obvious that no matter how corrupt a system of government is, it is better than
the previous condition of man in the state of nature.
According to Hobbes, man is naturally endowed with reason, and this gives him th
e sense of self – preservation that led to chaos in the natural state. With the
aid of the same reason, men resorted to the social contract as a remedy necessar
y to restore peace in the society. Social contract as we read from Hobbes, invol
ves voluntary renouncing of one’s right for the common good of all. This will no
t be welcomed by some political thinkers and libertarian like Patrick Henry and
Thomas Jefferson. As an ardent proponent of Libertarianism, Patrick Henry prefer
s liberty to everything on earth. ‘No liberty for him, no life’. In fact, death
is preferable to the transfer of liberty and human rights just for the protectio
n of the sovereign and others. For him, the sovereign is a slave master dealing
with the citizens. In the thought of Jefferson, the theory of Hobbes that “peace
is needed at all cost” is baseless because death paves ways for lasting peace a
nd liberty. For Jefferson, the “tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to t
ime with the blood of patriots and tyrants”. It is unfortunate that Hobbes subm
its to the evils of tyranny to obtain peace for the people.
By ceding individual rights and liberties to the sovereign for his protection, H
obbes limits individuals under the control of a group or a person. Whether this
person or group is selfish or wicked, Hobbes approves it. However, the temperame
ntal make-up matters a lot in this sense. For me Hobbes is myopic to this in pro
posing that the office of a sovereign must be absolute. In this way Hobbes creat
es mortal God, whom everyone owes homage.
Hobbes grants an unnecessary and arbitrary authority to one man, the sovereign.
To hold that the sovereign is above the law breaks the rule of equality, which s
tates that everybody is subject and equal to the law. We understand that Hobbes
arrives at this assumption because of his belief that the sovereign is not part
of the contract; the contract does not restrict his actions.
Though the basic responsibility of a sovereign is to protect his subjects, he is
not punished if he does not perform this very well for he remains the highest p
ower and cannot make laws against himself in the state. However, this raises som
e questions: how can one be above the contract that made him a ruler? What happe
ns to children that were not born before the contract? Are they still loyal to a
n agreement which happened before their birth. In reaction this, Hobbes argues t
hat every parents is expected to be responsible for their children, therefore pa
rents can seal the contract on behalf of their children.
Jean Hampton defends Hobbes’ – social contract and the absolutism of the soverei
gn. She says that a contractual relationship between sovereign and subject will
establish a set of higher laws directing the ruler’s actions that the subjects h
ave a right to interpret. But this would lead to fighting among the subjects abo
ut how the sovereign should act. This would lead to warfare and a return to the
state of nature. Hence, Hobbes holds that if the union of the many into one is t
o survive, the sovereign must be the arbiter of good and evil, whatever necessar
y for peace and to defend his subjects.
Hobbes believes that the cause of “war of all against all” is due to man’s irrat
ional and inordinate personal desires or self-interest. It means that every huma
n action is motivated by the self-interest of the agent. For Hobbes man is natur
ally egoistic. This was exactly the cause of conflict in the state of nature. Ho
wever, this view has been heavily contested by some philosophers who hold that m
an by nature is altruistic. We might accept that sometimes man acts to gain but
still acts to relieve another from pains and misery. Sympathy and pity could mot
ivate one to help others. On the other hand, one could argue that even when man
helps others, it relieves some feelings from him, either to be happy that others
are free or to expect reward from others too.
In the context of Nigeria, we claim to be under a civil state, where laws and au
thority are respected. Whereas, people still kill and destroy one another. Peopl
e under the Nigerian laws still breach them to set their neighbours ablaze under
the roof of religion. Shall we say that the aim of the contract is defeated? In
one sense, it is, because Nigeria is a combination of different ethnic groups u
nder one Nigeria, but still experiencing killings as in the state of nature. How
ever, Hobbes’ social contract works because sometimes individuals are afraid of
punishment for going contrary to the laws. I think that we need to apply social
contract very well for the betterment of Nigeria by willingly submission of our
individual rights to one government. This government must aim at restoring peace
to the sleeping giant of Africa, Nigeria.

In the introduction of this essay, we noted that the aim of this writing is to e
xpose the analysis of Hobbesian contract theory. Hobbes ensures that the contrac
t, which institutes the sovereign, is the only way to the attainment of peace an
d security in the human society. The state of nature without any leader was chal
lenged by war, anarchy and death resulting from inordinate desires of men.
We began this essay with a survey of the social contract theory. We underwent th
is survey by looking at the life profile of Thomas Hobbes, examining his birth,
studies, works and his last days on earth. In doing this we saw the need to expo
und Hobbes’ political background, tracing those factors that motivated his polit
ical thought. In other words, exploring what forms his writing from the profile
of his age. Then, we discussed the meaning of social contract theory and its ori
gin. For some philosophers, contract theory began with Aristotle, Plato, Hooker,
and Machiavelli; on the other hand, some thinkers believe that Hobbes developed
this theory in the 16th century. This extended our discussion to examine the th
oughts of Hobbes’ two contemporaries: John Locke and Rousseau, on their concepti
on of the social contract theory. In chapter two, we simply confronted Thomas Ho
bbes’ social contract theory. This chapter deeply explored the original conditio
n of man in the state of nature, life in this condition was’ nasty, solitary, br
utish, poor and short. The only remedy for him is the social contract, where eve
ryone gives his or her rights to the sovereign, for maintenance of peace in the
society. We examined the sovereign and its legislation of power in the civil sta
Chapter three presented the law of the state which was prompted by Hobbes’ asser
tion that absence of law was one of the causes of man’s predicament in the state
of nature. We attempted several definitions of law and made an overview of natu
ral law. Also in this chapter, we examined the effects of the civil laws on the
contract theory. In the thought of Hobbes, civil laws are meant to guide the civ
il society. These laws are very crucial to the contract, since the Leviathan exe
rcises its power base on the civil laws in the state. In the state of nature the
re was no notion of justice, however, the emergence of the new civil society bro
ught the notion of justice to all men. This made it necessary for us to discuss
the rule of justice, how the Leviathan rewards or punishes offenders in the stat
In order to contextualize Hobbes’ social contract theory, in forth chapter, we e
xamined the relevance of Hobbes’ contract theory to religious violence in Nigeri
a. We tried to explore religious crises in Nigeria starting from the amalgamatio
n period, 1914 to date. In fact, the central cause of the conflict, as we posite
d above is involuntary combination of different ethnic groups and tribes under t
he umbrella of amalgamation southern and northern protectorates in 1914. Unlike
in the Hobbesian state of nature, where every individual willingly submitted his
rights or liberties for the sake of peace. Thus, the social contract theory has
not been well applied in Nigeria.
Lastly, having toured the basic foundation of Hobbes’ social contract, we moved
to engage it to a strict critical analysis; we carefully explored different cont
ributions of political thinkers for and against Hobbes’ social contract theory.
Amidst all critiques, one may not deny completely that Hobbes’ social contract i
s necessary for sustenance of lasting peace and unity in the present Nigerian so