FRIENDSHIP OF UNEQUALS IN ARISTOTLE’S NICHOMACHEAN ETHICS VIS-A-VIS GODFATHERISM IN NIGERIAN POLITICS

FRIENDSHIP OF UNEQUALS IN ARISTOTLE’S NICHOMACHEAN ETHICS VIS-A-VIS GODFATHERISM IN NIGERIAN POLITICS

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GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 Since inception of the current administration in Nigeria in 1999, a major political problem that has plagued the country and has become a socio-political problem is “Godfatherism.” Politics in Nigeria has become a business venture where everyone struggles to participate. To this, S. U. Togbolo opines,

Politics in Nigeria has become an investment where the investors are set to make profit at all cost, as a result, political brutality is pervading the society.[1]

This is so strong in Nigerian politics to the extent that the godfather is so strong to the extent of having a larger-than-life image in his area of influence. He determines appointments into state executive councils and where necessary, local councils. So this particular posture of the godfather is a new form of business which must attract huge financial returns at the expense of the democratic citizens. This is because the godfathers must be settled from the general coffer.

The relationship that exists between the godfather and godson points to what Aristotle in his Nichomachean ethics on ‘Friendship’ regarded as “unequal friendship.” This type of friendship involves the superiority of one of the parties where each should not expect to receive the same affection as he gives from the other.[2]

So, this particular relationship of the godfather and the godson requires that whenever the godfather sneezes, the godson catches cold and fever. In fact, the presence of the godfather literally dwarfs the godson. Moreover, to fear him is the beginning of wisdom for the godson.

Therefore, there must be a guide to check the excesses of the godfathers by instituting constitutional and legal checks on electoral and electioneering procedures that involve money, sponsorship and practices that undermine democracy and art of government. This will help to maintain decency in politics and check against the crisis of Godfatherism.

A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF ARISTOTLE

Aristotle was born probably in 384BC at Stageira in Thrace. When he was about the age of 17, he went to Athens to enroll in Plato’s academy and remained there for nearly 20 years, until the death of Plato. It was known also that he had the reputation of being the “reader” and the “mind of the school.”[3]

He latter left the academy and accepted the invitation of Hermeias to come to Assos, near Troy. There, he was able for three years to write, teach and carryout research. While at Hermeias’ court, he married his niece Pythias who bore him a daughter. They later returned to Athens and his wife died. Aristotle then entered into an illegal relationship with Herpyllis from which he got a son, Nichomachus after whom the Nichomachean Ethics was named.[4]

In 343BC, Aristotle was invited by Philip of Macedonia to become the tutor of his son, Alexander who was then 13 years old.

Aristotle lived in Athens from 335-323BC during which he founded his school, Lyceum, and wrote most of his books. At the death of Alexander, the Athenians rebelled against his friends including Aristotle. As Socrates, before he was charged with ‘impiety’, but was reported to have said, “Lest the Athenians should sin twice against philosophy,” left the Lyceum and fled to Chalcis, where he died in 322BC of digestive disease of long standing.[5]

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The problem, which this thesis seeks to address centers on the fact that politics in Nigeria has become an investment where the investors are set to make profit at all cost. It is obvious that the more efforts are being made towards positioning Nigeria as a democratic environment, particularly in the areas of thinking and action, the more the threat of relapse into the malaise of long habits of undemocratic practices.[6]

Politics of sponsorship or godfatherism is now the order of the day in Nigerian society. There is now what we call owners, managers and players of the state. Due to this fact, individuals aspire to be economically and politically players directing the affairs of the state. Politics is now the celebration of personality where the elites create a godfather zone. In this, a few do not go through the proper democratic procedure before becoming leaders in as much as they believe in the godfathers and remain in their place.

The problem comes in here when the godfatherism becomes a power struggle between the godfather and godson because of their selfish interest. The godfather at this point comes out to be the monopolist of the values of the outcome of governance and in full control of the state. Thus, S.U Togbolo says,

However, the godson having successfully clinched the seat with the support of the godfather quietly wants to sideline the political godfather. This may be, because of over lordship by the godfather wanting to dominate the government, giving directives and controlling the administration.[7]

So at this, there exists a war between the political godfather and his godson as they contend who should control the state. As we can see, political godfatherism is one of the pandemic that endangers our political environment. The power struggle between the godfather and the godson affects both the development of the state and the citizens. The godson either dances to the tune of the godfather or betrays those who gave him mandate or finds the seat too hot and the state ungovernable if the godfather does not succeed in removing him from office.

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

 The aim of this research work is to unearth the phenomenon of political godfatherism in Nigeria, its activities, its moral implication and possible ways of curbing it to have a better democratic environment.

Godfatherism is becoming both a political and social problem. Politics of sponsorship is spreading like a wild fire in Nigeria. We see in the relationship that exists between the godfather and the godson. This appears like true friendship until power struggle, which is caused by their selfish interest, comes in. The relationship between the godfather and the godson is a utility friendship. And as we know in Aristotle’s teaching on friendship that in utility friendship, when that which is useful vanishes, the friendship cease to exist. Thus, he writes,

Those whose friendship is based on the useful or on the pleasant dissolve it as soon as it ceases to be advantage, since they were friends not of one another but of what was profitable for them.[8]

At this, the godfather carries war against the godson. Then, the godson will be distracted in his work and that leaves the state undeveloped. It is indeed a big deal that a single individual who claims to be a godfather should hold the whole state to ransom. The treasury of the state through the godson becomes a client to the godfather.

In a political environment where an aspirant for government power or a job must accept terms from a would-be-godfather in order to receive support from him for a sure access to power is corruption. Furthermore, we know that there must be a bargain so that the godfather will be fully out to support the godson. We now live with the philosophy of “nothing goes for nothing.” Then, this bargain of the godfather and the godson mortgages the interest of the governed whose mandate the godfather bought over for the godson.

In this thesis, we have to show how this utility friendship or unequal friendship between the godfather and godson has been a thorn in the flesh of the citizens. It aims at the fact that our so-called leaders and their godfather know that the citizens are entitled to their dividends of democracy since they have invested a lot in it. Our cry is for our leaders to know that the mandate of the citizens is the most important. The godfathers will come and go but the citizens will remain. The leaders as such should invest on the citizens rather than on the godfathers. [9]

METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY

This phenomenon godfatherism has eaten deep into the Nigerian democracy. Our polity is now an investment where the investors multiply as days go by. It is now a matter of necessity that this research work employs the method of explanatory, expository, evaluation and practical.

On explanatory aspect, I shall explain lucidly the concepts of friendship more especially that of unequal and the concept of godfatherism in Nigerian politics. While on the side of expository, I shall go  a long way to expose the activities of the godfathers, what seem to be the causes of godfatherism and the love that exist between the godfather and the godson which also seemed like true friendship.

It will be evaluative, since I am going to evaluate the moral implications of godfatherism and its effect on the people. Finally, it will be practical also since the research work is experiential and deals with observable facts in Nigeria democracy or politics.

On the other hand, this thesis comprises of four chapters which for the sake of clarity will be divided into two parts. The first part will contain the general introduction featuring the biological sketch of Aristotle, statement of problem, purpose of study, methodology and literature review.

The second part will be further divided into two dimensions. Chapters one and two will deal with friendship and godfatherism respectively. Here, I will discuss the concept of friendship, its definitions, types, and unequal friendship. Again, I shall also look at the concept of godfatherism, its origin, definition, activities of godfathers and the causes of godfatherism.

The chapter three treats unequal friendship of Aristotle and godfatherism in Nigerian politics. Here, we shall see the relationship that exists between the godfather and the godson. Finally, the fourth chapter evaluates the moral implication of godfatherism; guides against it and then conclusion.


[1] S.U. Togbolo, Politicians and Political Godfatherism, http://www.nigeriavillagesquare1.com/Articles/M…/html.

[2] Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics on ‘Friendship’ Bk VIII, 1158b, 20. p.227

[3] S.E. Stumpf,, Philosophy, history and problem (U.S.A:McGraw Hill,Inc.,1994) p. 80

[4] Ibid. p. 81

[5]Ibid. p. 83

[6] C. Nnamani, The Godfather Phenomenon…in democratic Nigeria…Silicon or Real?(Sunday Vanguard, September 28,2003) p. 44

[7] S.U. Togbolo, Op. Cit.

[8] Aristotle, Op. Cit. Bk VIII, 1157a, 10, 22…

[9] C. Nnamani, ‘We Don’t Invest In Political Godfathers’ (Nigerian Insider No 50,December 16,2002)p.28


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