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Albert Einstein, in a letter to a Rumanian friend Maurice Solvine from Princeton U.S.A. on April 10, 1938, says: “A fashion rule each age, without most people being able to see the tyrants that rule them” Although man as Aristotle opines is a political animal who desires and longs to live in a community with his species, he is the best of all the animals that rule and guided by laws. In the same vein, man could be the worst of all animals when there is anarchy. It is in the light of this that Aristotle opts for a government that would be beneficial to the people. The researcher would make an attempt to explain what a good government is, according to Aristotle, and also analyze them in the light of the Nigerian situation.
The question: Who should rule? For what purpose? And what is the best form of government are fundamental questions in Aristotle’s concept of good government that this thesis intends to answer.
1. GENERAL INTRODUCTION
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Government is ubiquitous, its rules and laws affect important aspects of our lives, just as its actions and inactions determine, in very significant ways, the quality of our existence. But although the activities a governments have, for a long time, been fundamental to human existence, not many people have a clear understanding of the foundations of government, particularly, it’s nature, powers and the conditions for the appropriate
performance of its function.1 Aristotle believes that for any society to operate well, it must have a governing body. This has a practical importance to our day-to-day life. If man was left without a stable government, he would still be in a state of nature. It is to this effect that Aristotle sought for the best form of government in his era. In our present day, most people are advocating for democracy because they think it is the best system of government. But in the time of Aristotle, he agitated for Aristocracy. He also recommended a mixture or a combination of Aristocracy and democracy for a balanced government.
Aristotle’s political thought on government is very much relevant to the present day political situation. In considering his thought on what constitutes a government, one sees that everybody wants the type of government that would respect the people’s view. It is the government that unifies the people and makes them know their limitations in life and how to exercise their freedom. This research therefore is aimed at looking critically on the concept of good government as propounded by Aristotle and also to point out what is generally meant by the term ‘government’ from its etymological point of description. It is also an attempt to discover whether Nigeria has had a good government.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The government with all its complexity is a mirror reflecting human nature with its multiple needs. Human nature is the foundation of government or the act of government. Aristotle sees government through the same nominal sense and agitates for the very best. He distinguishes a bad government from a good one. The bad government according to him is that which does not serve its aim of meeting the demands of the people and their common good while a good government he says is that which serves the common good of the people or the society. This compliments the Augustinian dictum that he who fights for the
common good, fight for his own good’2 . Following this line of arguments, Echekwube maintained that the urge for power and quick money has plunged Nigeria as a Country into untold hardship. Arguing further, he remarked in strong terms that since independence in 1960, Nigerians have had civilian governments, which were toppled by the military who believed they had the magic wand to solve all our problems. Despite their seemingly good intentions, the Army is composed of true Nigerians who have connections with their immediate families, tribes and friends. While they have opportunity to stay in office, they are advised to accumulate as much wealth as possible for they may never pass through that way again. This attitude leads to corruption at the expense of the governed3’.
The State, as seen by J. Maritain, is a moral entity with rights as well as obligations to the citizens. He conceives the state as having flesh and blood, instincts, he regards the state as an extension of the human family good – the common good it is a work of reason, born out of the obscure efforts of reason disengaged from instinct and implying essentially a rational order4. In this regards, irresponsible demagogues ought not to be entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the survival of the state. In order that morality and good governance be entrenched
in the nation’s body polity, a conscious coordination of activities of all concerned becomes a necessity; stealing, corrupt acts and betrayal of each other will mar it.
Man is the best of all the animals when he is ruled or guided by laws. In the same way, man could be the worst of all animals, when there is anarchy. It is precisely this complex and organic nature of the society that influenced Aristotle’s decision to opt for a government that would be beneficial to the people. This poses a problem for Aristotle as regards the type of government to be implemented. Among monarchy, Aristocracy and Democracy Systems of government, his preference is for Aristocracy. Aristotle favoured Aristocracy, because he want the few responsible people to govern and rule the society to enthrone justice and equity for all. Now, the question that needs to be asked is that, why are there still injustice in Aristocracy? Aristotle answer; it is because man is naturally selfish, he always seek his own interest first. Therefore we should not allow a man who is ruled by passion to govern. Whoever governs is to be guided by rational principles.
Aristotle when confronted with the problem of who should rule? He uncompromisingly state that the rulers should come from the
middle class. But will the upper class not influence them? Will the lower class not initiate revolutionary campaign against them? These are problems that Aristotle did not tackle within his politics which this research intends to look into.
1.3 PURPOSE OF STUDY
As a result of the problem raised, this research is to examine the nature of government. It is an attempt to explain what a good government is according to Aristotle and also analyze them in the light of Nigeria situation. Furthermore, this work will help to a great extent in establishing the responsibilities of a government in any political society.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
This work is a critical look into the essence, relevance and nature of government in the philosophy of Aristotle. It is going to expose us to the concept of good government in other philosophers too. This research will be significant because it is going to expose us to the relevance and application of good government in Aristotle. The significance of an essay of this nature in this crucial time of Nigeria’s political history cannot be over-emphasized. It will serve as the basis of ideas and reference point for aspirants to political offices in Nigeria. This research is significant because it is going to show us the risk and dangers in Aristotle’s concept of good government. It is hoped that this
essay would promote a better understanding of the foundations of social order and stimulate debate on the nature and purpose of government.
1.5 SCOPE OF STUDY
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