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While trying to echo Max Weber’s definition of state, C.W Mills categorically defined politics as a struggle for power and the ultimate form of power is violence.[1]  This equation of power and violence seems to corroborate the earlier postulations of the Chinese dictator Mao Tse-tung that power grows out of barrel of gun.[2] The attentive consideration given to the relationship, if any between power and violence was heightened when the existentialist philosopher J. P Sartre while writing the preface to Franz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth glorified violence, saying that it is only violence that pays.[3] These and many other numerous views of thinkers and analysts on the notion of violence and its attendant relation to political power provoke some nagging questions: Is violence necessary for the existence and maintenance of political power? Put differently, can’t there be political power without violence?

The above questions are timely, given the contemporary inclination of the world to wars and revolutions in which violence is ultimately believed to be a common denominator.[4]  Technological advancement which hitherto was a blessing seem to be a curse by its productions of weapons of mass destruction which according to J.B Akam, has rendered man powerless[5] by serving as instruments of violence directly or indirectly. This experience of violence cuts across all spheres of the human life. However, it has the greatest momentum in politics. Hence, the quest for political power in the present dispensation is no longer through any other means but through violent acts. Humanity has waved good bye to morality and enthroned to the fullest the Machiavellian principle of the end justifies the means. This is a real problem to tackle.

In Nigeria, it is a fact known by experience and authenticated by history that quest for political power through violence is prevalent.  Violence has reared its head in Nigerian politics in the garb of thuggery, riots, ethnic crisis, assassination, kidnapping, denial of electioneering rights etc which the consequences are usually wanton lost of lives especially that of those who are innocent. A trip down the memory lane of Nigerian political activities reveals that politics which is supposed to be the natural activities of man borrowing from Aristotelian definition of man as a naturally political is no more a fair game, instead a game of do or die what can also be known as the survival of the fittest. It is so because in the words of Rev. Fr. J. Odey:

Leadership in Nigeria has become a huge investment and a life insurance scheme where one has to engage in many abnormal things to be secure in perpetuity. And no Nigerian who has tasted the trappings of office has ever left them without fierce and often violent pressure while those who aspire to be there spare nobody and nothing on their way[6]

 The tragic experiences of Nigerians in2003 elections are eloquent testimonies or attestation that the Nigerian political positions are reserved for the violent and where all actors in the political theatre are equally violent, it is safely reserved for the most violent. Those who are in office already do everything possible to perpetuate themselves in power, unleashing violence on the people. They are tyrannical such that anybody who tries to challenge them with regard to the way they are ruling is in soup. The death of such politicians like Dele Giwa, Ken Saro Wiwa, Bola Ige, Dikibo, Barnabas Igwe and wife of Anambra state etc. will buttress this fact. With this, one would ask, where are we heading to? What is the purpose of political power?   

I should think that the aim of political power in every government as Arendt asserts is to enable men to live together, to promote happiness or to realize a classless society[7]. This meaning is no longer obtainable nowadays instead people have understood political power as the best avenue to make money hence resorting to all forms of violence in order to acquire it.

In this write-up, I am going to philosophically expose this quest for political power through violence especially in our country Nigeria toeing the foot step of Hannah Arendt to prove that power and violence are incompatible and that violence can destroy power but not create it[8].


As hitherto mentioned above, man is by nature a political animal. Hence politics is not restricted to special type of people neither is it a dirty game. Instead, it is those who indulge in it that are could be seen as dirty. Therefore, the purpose of studying this topic titled the quest for political power through violence is to redress the above mentioned status quo in which politics is seen as a game of do or die.  To achieve this, the youths who are veritable tools of violence have to be re-orientated for they are gradually imbibing this method as the best option for survival.

Again, I want to use this write-up to appeal to the consciences of those whose hands are not yet soiled in politics to keep it up. The fact that violence is seen as the order of the day in Nigerian politics should not make them to join them when they cannot beat them.


In this write-up I want to narrow the ideas of Hannah Arendt to Nigerian situation even though they were not propounded for that. Of all the political works of Hannah Arendt, I am going to concentrate mainly of her major work on violence. Even though I am going to highlight her other works especially the human condition, they are going to be in passing.


The method of study is that of juxtaposition and evaluation. Juxtaposition, in the sense that Arendt’s ideas on violence are compared with the Nigerian situation, to sieve out what can serve as a better political worldview for Nigeria.

The work is divided into five chapters. Chapter one is the general introduction: statement of problem, purpose of study, methodology and scope of studies. In chapter two we are going to examine the nature of violence in Nigeria as well as literature review. In chapter three, we are going to examine Hannah Arendt and the quest for political power through violence. Then in chapter four, we shall examine the evolution of political violence in Nigeria. The above work is brought to an end in chapter five with critical evaluation and conclusion.

[1] Mills, C.W., L’elite du pouvoir, Paris, Maspero 1969, p. 171

[2] See H. Arendt, On Violence, A Harvest Book, Harcourt & Brace Com. London, p. 11.

[3] Fanon, F, The Wretched Of The Earth,

[4] H. Arendt, ibid., p. 3.

[5] Akam,J.B, Man: Unique but in Plural, Snaap Press Ltd., 1991, p. 105.

[6] J. Odeh, This Madness called Election 2003, ( Enugu, Snaap Publ. Ltd), 2003, p.12

[7] Arendt, H, ibid.,  p.52

[8] Ibid.,  p. 56

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