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Throughout the history man has always sought different methods of organizing himself into political states. He needed these methods for the systematic organization of himself according to what is befitting to his nature, since he is both a political and a rational animal that is capable of realizing himself fully in a well-organized political state. And so, the problem and question remains, how well organized and secured is his political society? Which method of such organization could be adopted? Thus, he has to seek ways to organize his political society and ensure his security. Such questions are the problems, which concerned political philosophies and philosophers. It can also be viewed as the major problem of an ideal state as we can see in Plato’s political philosophy. But as much as man’s nature yearns for this perfect and ideal state, where there would be equal right and justice, the idea of the ideal society has almost always eluded him, owing to the complexity of man’s nature. That this yearning has led him to evolve several methods and systems aimed at the ideal political state is very evident in man’s effort to develop numerous political groups and elites. This is also very clear as regards different political parties that are formed by the political elites in Nigerian situation, today.

In Nigeria today, there are many political parties. And each group’s intentions are to ensure a reliable and trustworthy party that is capable of presenting a strong and sincere representative who will eventually run for them during elections. However due to people’s wrong notion about politics, they could go to any length provided their dreams are profitably actualized even if it warrants stepping on others’ toes. Whichever means they employ to actualize their dreams, it is important not to overlook the fact that they have good and noble intentions of moving Nigeria forward as it pertains to development and doing away with all forms of corruption.

For over forty-five years of the nation’s independence, since October 1, 1960, Nigeria has struggled to entrench democracy and democratic values in the land. The structural imbalance in the polity, which has an over-bloated bureaucratic center, has created a desperate scramble amongst the power blocs to have access to the center, which flows abundantly with milk and honey. This deadly scramble has no doubt resulted in avoidable deaths and death games. The deaths of Harry Marshal, the River state’s political strong man and the ANPP National Vice chairman, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, a sage, a politician, former Senate President in the National Assembly and the running-mate to the presidential candidate of ANPP, General Muhammadu Buhari in 2003 general elections are eloquent testimony to these facts.

Therefore, the political terrain is as murky and muddied as ever. The absence of a normative order has occasioned the rise of individuals and new political parties whose personal interests appear to be more important than the interest of the state itself. This absence of a normative order could be seen as a modern political absurdity, if ever there is any and a negation of a political state. These individuals and parties annul national elections with impunity, abduct or murder state officials with alacrity, rig elections with audacity and raid the national treasury with tenacity. Before them the state is prostrate and the nation is powerless. The abuses of political powers and the corruption of our political elites is becoming the order of the day. And unless concrete efforts are made to demystify governance and leadership, by redressing the rate of injustices, abuses and corruption, the craze for power among our political leaders and elites will not stop; it will continue to increase. Thus, Nigerians must be made to imbibe the culture of a decent life and genuine, meaningful access to wealth through hard work, which could equally exist outside political offices and political power. Truly, the art of governance and leadership must be demystified, in order to bring our elected political leaders to serve the people who elected them to the office with sincerity instead of presenting themselves as Kings and Princes.

It is against this thought-provoking background that we are going to view Locke’s Political Philosophy, in relation to his notion of Political Power and as it concerns Nigerian leadership. John Locke views political state or society as an association of persons with common consent and agreement. The civil state or political society is instituted as a remedy for the inconveniences found in the state of nature. Thus political power is established when the community gives up their natural power and right of enforcing law, order and preservation of property to the Legislative power. The nature of Government for Locke is that of trust and embraces only such powers as were transferred at the time of the change from a state of Nature into civil or political society. Hence it is part of human civilization to aim at the perfect state.


As a prelude to the problem, we should understand the reason behind John Locke’s quest for civil society and subsequent political power. It is due to the fact that Shaftesbury’s plan, [Locke’s master], of revolution against the British commercial imperialism, failed to yield its desired fruit. As the planned revolution failed, Shaftesbury and his men [Organized Private Army] fled to Holland with John Locke. While Locke was in exile, the then king James II of England ruled the Nation with such an iron hand that the people rose in arms to expel him and set King William and Queen Mary to the throne. The people’s resolution to expel him was successful because of their unanimous agreement, as well as for the fact that the Catholics dominated their government for a long time. Thus, the latter successful revolution could be called the Glorious Revolution of 1688. With this revolution, Locke returned from exile and wrote his work: Two Treatises of Government. In this work he expressed the view that Reason was God’s voice in every man; hence, there could be no real conflict between faith and reason.

In his treatises on Government, therefore, Locke proposed a Social contract, which gave every citizen a right of a say in the government. This is the right to leadership of the civil society. But this right is exercised maximally by the legislature. The legislature has the supreme power of maintaining law and order; to regulate the institution of property by judging between conflicting claims. It exercises, equally, the right and power of ensuring the preservation of lives, properties and estates. As such, the right of a ruler is not only to govern but also, to provide security of lives and property. However, this power is established on trust to the legislature through the consent of the community.

In short, John Locke holds the view that political power exists and that it is exercised only for the public good. The basis of government as we know is consent, and the powers which are wielded by Princes and Rulers inhere in such consent; it is not based on any absolute right found on grant, covenant or otherwise, but on conditions of a trust, and under liability to forfeiture if the conditions are not fulfilled. Following this idea, one could ask: how can this notion of government, which is proposed by John Locke, be applied to Nigerian democracy taking into account the incessant craze for power among our political elites? Can Nigerian leaders perform well if Locke’s principles are well utilized and practiced? Today’s political situation in the country makes the questions more glaring when most of our political leaders are seriously making questionable moves towards 2007 leadership race. There is no doubt that Locke has given us a clear and reasonable view on how government should be run. We are not going to take everything Locke proposed but make little critical analyses of his propositions and, apply them suitably to Nigerian Democracy.


The purpose of this thesis is specifically to study John Locke’s political philosophy with particular reference to his notion of “political power”. In order to do justice to this study, it is necessary to establish a kind of background that will make the concept of political power in Locke, understandingly, appreciable. As such, the work will examine the nature of political society before examining political power because it is only when we understand Locke’s notion about political society that we will be able to comprehend his notion of political power. The above comprehension will assist in relating it to Nigerian democracy as it pertains to Leadership problems and the nature of political power. Ability to understand these will enable us to see loopholes in Nigerian Leadership and also enable us to give reasonable thought to how best the society should be governed


Of course, the study of John Locke’s political power has much relevance to the Nigerian politics. The study will address many issues stemming from political, social and the likes. Equally, the study is necessary because it presents a well-established political society whereby important dimensions of political life are discussed and normalized. The nature of political terrain in the country today will inspire us to appreciate Locke’s theory well. There is no doubt about it.


Following the above-stated nagging issues, we should be limiting our study, specifically, to the notion of political power. A look at the concept of political society will enable us to understand it properly. As much as possible, the work will concentrate, to a large extent, on the study of the analysis of political power and its dimensions, not excluding its merits and demerits.


The method is simply expository with critical analysis of the concepts, as we earlier on pointed out. We shall equally view critically the nature of Nigerian Leadership and as much as possible, justify some justifiable positions. The thesis is divided into four chapters with bibliography. The first chapter deals with the literature review starting from the ancient to the contemporary philosophers. The second chapter deals with the political philosophy of John Locke, more especially, as it concerns our study. In chapter three, we shall establish its relevance to Nigerian democracy and leadership. Effort will be made to see the nature of leadership in Nigeria and how politicians or leaders come to power. And lastly, we shall conclude with chapter four, taking into account the critical analysis of the whole project.



Perhaps what has become so dominant in the affairs and the nature of man, almost exclusively, is the need to be treated well. What seemed as latent but constantly boiling in every individual of all ages is a quest to get a fair share of one’s natural entitlement. In other words, man searches for justice. Philosophers through the ages are not left out as they have contributed tremendously to the development and reorganization of human society. Hence their clarion calls for a better society. Thus it is on this note that we are going to review the opinions of philosophers, both past and present, concerning the political situation of any given society; paying more attention to the nature of political power and its structural systems regarding the affairs of the state in general.

1.1 Ancient Period

This period witnessed the concern of man to have a well ordered and organized state whereby its citizens will uphold the issue of moral values, especially as it pertains to the issue of justice and equity. As such, there are many philosophers in this period that were involved in the reformation of the state, but we are going to look at the contributions made by few of them. One of the philosophers of this period we are going to see is Aristophanes. He opined in his political philosophy that the system of governing the state should not be democracy but communism. Therefore he criticized democracy saying that many unqualified and lazy persons joined the legislative for the sake of financial rewards. And this is very obvious with regard to Nigerian political situation which we are going to see shortly. Thus many politicians are in politics simply because of money. He goes further to say that “in democracy, people are given political posts even if they were not equipped for it.”[1] In other words, many politicians are given certain positions they do not merit, that is, those we can call political office seekers. Hence he argues for communism as the best option for proper governance of the state. Communism for him will incorporate every member of the state and proper justice will be maintained.

Plato in his view outlined five forms of government, namely, aristocracy, timocracy, plutocracy, democracy and despotism, but he favours aristocracy. According to him, aristocracy stands as the best form of government where only Philosopher-kings should be rulers. He intended to establish an ideal society where the state of affairs and the people’s moral conscience will rule. However, he was deeply disenchanted with the type of politics practiced in Athens, particularly with the way the Athenian government executed Socrates, and had consistently failed to produce good leaders. Hence his clarion calls for upholding morality and the agitation for Philosopher-kings to be rulers. Moreover, his intention was to establish an ideal society where its leaders would be guided by reason and justice maintained. He saw them (Philosopher-kings) as the best option in the search for good leaders and the need to promote morality especially among the youths who are future leaders. Thus, Plato envisioned leaders with the aptitude for wisdom to govern the society and legislate for it.

Aristotle in his contribution viewed the state as the association of human beings where all man’s needs are provided. The existence of the state is for the provision of the natural needs of man; thus, the state is viewed as the natural association of man. And man being a rational and political animal should best secure good life in the society. ‘The good life’ here according to Aristotle includes political good, economic independence and virtuous life. As regards power, he said that, “the citizens at large administer the state for the common interest, so that the government is called by the generic name, a constitution.”[2] The power of those in office should be controlled by the law since good laws are supreme in the state. Aristotle as we could see in his politics elevated the citizens to the level of the administration of the government and as it pertains to the political power in the society. Equally, he opined that the common interest matters as much as it gives everybody equal opportunity to participate in the affairs of the government. Therefore he saw the government as involving, virtually, every citizen, as it is called by a generic name. So the constitution forms part and parcel of the government and it must be properly established and executed.

1.2     Medieval Period

Having seen the contributions made by some political philosophers in the preceding period, let’s now talk of the medieval period. Here we have many philosophers to consider, as it were, but we shall concentrate on a few of them. Among them was St. Augustine. He was not a political philosopher as such, but contributed immensely as far as commonwealth and social order of any organized society are concerned. According to him, true commonwealth can never exist if there is no real justice in the community. “But”, he said, “true justice is found only in that whose founder and ruler is Christ . . . we cannot deny that it is the ‘weal’ of the community.”[3] As we can see, he is more of a theologian since he makes Christ the terminus ad quem of man’s existence. Nevertheless his defense of commonwealth and justice are very much indispensable in any political society. Hence for any meaningful political society to exist there must be real justice and commonwealth. Lack of these two principles of government characterizes the Nigerian democracy. And these, no doubt, must have their foundation in Christ just as St. Augustine upholds. However this justice must be equitably distributed and maintained. This, by implication, means that the power holders must pay attention to the citizens’ well-being; and the citizens must not be found wanting in obedience to the leaders. Secondly, Thomas Aquinas in his part also presented us with his doctrine of justice which begets common good. These principles are never found in a vacuum for they are within the reach of men with common good. For Aquinas, the object of justice is “right.”[4] What this means is that every individual’s right ought to be respected. Therefore, every member must respect his or her individual right and the right of others. On this point Isidore opined that, “a man is said to be just because he respects the rights of others.”[5] Finally Aquinas concluded that justice means rendering to an individual his right, all for the common good of the political state.

1.3    Modern Period

From the medieval to the modern period we have seen the contributions of some political thinkers and their ideologies. We can see in those periods the indispensable role of ethical values and how they contribute to the establishment of an ideal state. It is their view that true justice contributes to the shaping of the society, if well appreciated. However their thought appears to be more of utopia than real, especially, when we consider the political philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.

The modern period could thus be seen as the high point of political theory and ideologies. The philosophers of this period were so much concerned with the nature of political states and their governance. They were so much interested in how best a state could be governed through reasonable and courageous leaders, and at the same time ensuring good relationship among its citizens. Let’s see the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, in this modern period, which was summarized in the concept, SOCIAL CONTRACT. The “Social contract”, according to him, “is a contract by which men avoid the state of nature and enter into civil society…”[6] But prior to this civil society man was in a natural state that was characterized by warfare; a situation, where because of man’s freedom, there was struggle for glory, diffidence and urge for competition. A state of war, as opined by Hobbes, where ‘men live without a common power to keep them all in awe; they are in that condition which is called “war”. This happens when one sheepishly follows his inclinations and dispositions. However it is in this contract (social contract) that men surrender their powers and strength to sovereignty to be governed and legislated for. Thus he says, “…by conferring all their powers and strength upon one man, or upon an assembly of men, to bear their person, to reduce all their will into one.”[7] This contract so enacted is called a commonwealth. The contract establishes an absolute government. Commonwealth becomes the sovereign to whom the people entrust their power to provide for their peace and security. The sovereign exercises his authority by prescribing rules where every man may know what goods he may enjoy and what actions he may perform without being molested by any body. Summarily the sovereign exercises the political power, hearing and deciding disputes.

John Locke was also of the view that social contract should remain the best option for the civil society. In fact he was one of the flag-bearers of social contract, just as Hobbes. He did not see it as a situation of servitude on the part of the citizens to their rulers. Rather the citizens submitted their legislative and executive powers in order to be governed. Hence the pact makes them a “single body politic”[8], making them equal and free men, both the rulers and the ruled. It is important to note that this power is a fiduciary power, which means that it is given on trust. Therefore, the legislature must ensure good, justified governance, otherwise dissolved. Consequently, “there remains in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them.”[9] Since it is only a power on trust, it means that the people are still in charge, unlike the absolute monarchy of Hobbes. Rousseau was also in this line of thought when he was talking about the ‘General Will’, which he said, belongs to the people. And so the people’s sovereignty cannot be alienated from them for it belongs to them. Having seen this, let’s see the situation of politics as it pertains to contemporary period.

1.4               Contemporary Period

Political thought and theories continued up till the contemporary period. However, the period witnessed a serious political crisis. There is less interest in politics as long as this period is concerned; and Alfred Cobban viewed political philosophy of this period as a discipline that has less attention. This view does not mean that the philosophers of this period were not concerned with political society and the system of governance during their time, but they lacked the interest and the zeal in redirecting their thought towards political situation of the society. In fact, there is a kind of decline as it pertains to political philosophy. The philosophers rather, paid much of their attention to the reality of the universe and the place of man’s existence in the world. They questioned how best one can live an authentic life in the world, not excluding the society, in which one lives. However these not withstanding, we shall see how they directed their thought towards the shaping of the individual’s reason in the society. Here we see John Stuart mill who began his essay “On Liberty” by writing: “The subject of this essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will… but civil or social liberty: the nature and the limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by the society over the individual.”[10] This civil liberty offers every citizen an opportunity of participation in the government. A liberty that involves: liberty of conscience, which is, of expressing and publishing of opinions, liberty of association, and so on. As regards democracy, he voted Representative Democracy as the best form of government. The reason for this option is that it makes people more active and gives the individual better opportunity for intellectual growth, virtue and socially responsible life. Also the community, according to him, possesses the power of governance. Therefore, everybody has legitimate freedom to take active part in the government. Thus he says,

 “the best form of government is that in which the sovereignty or the supreme controlling power in the last resort is vested in the entire aggregate of the community, every citizen not only having a voice in the exercise of the ultimate sovereignty, but being, at least occasionally, called on to take on actual part in the government, by the personal discharge of some public function, local or general.”[11]

This in no doubt presents a true government that is devoid of tyranny and despotism. Power is reasonably and considerably utilized.

The next person is Karl Marx who brought about his theory of dialectical materialism. According to him, the state is divided into two unequal parts, namely the bourgeoisie and the proletariat classes. It is a state of class struggle and conflict between the bourgeois class and the proletariat class. Such a state could be referred to as “a state of the survival of the fittest”; each of the classes struggling to survive. In fact, it is a situation, which involves a serious struggle of opponents. Thus, the state, according to him, is the society under the control of the bourgeois class. They, as the rulers, dictate their will and interests in the state in the form of law and institutions. This situation was viewed as characterized by struggle, antagonism, domination and all sorts of inhuman treatment. Therefore, it is his dream that there will be a time when everything will be normalized. This will eventually give birth to a classless society of citizens with equal rights. This will come about when the proletariat revolts against the ruling class and overthrow them in order to set up communism. Then this state of equal right will give everybody equal opportunity of participation in a true democracy. Communism according to Marx is:

“The positive transcendence of private property or human estrangement, the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man…genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature, and between man and man…”[12]

By communism Marx meant a time when capitalism (the oppressive system), with its concomitant evils, will be destroyed through revolution by the oppressed (masses). This will bring to an end the exploitation of man by man, the end of alienation, the end of conflicts and antagonism among men. Also, private property and private ownership of the means of production will be abolished and the goods of the society will be owned by all. The same revolution will introduce a classless society where everybody will be equal and man determines for himself in his natural state. With the disappearance of class distinction in this new society which communism will usher in, the state will equally disappear since the state is simply an instrument of class rule. Thus, the final goal of Marxism is to set up “a classless and stateless communist society in which there will be no more conflicts, antagonism among men, exploitation, poverty, everybody will be free, happy and live in peace with his fellow man.”13 And so, the positive transcendence of human estrangement which Marx is talking about is realized when man has been able to subdue his tendency to keep acquiring, which is done through revolution against capitalism. This will then give man the opportunity to use and make real appropriation of the human resources to reach everybody in the communist society.   

[1]M. I. Nwoko, Basic World Political Theories ( Ancient- Contemporary ), p. 15

[2]M. I. Nwoko,  Ibid. p. 28

[3] City of God, bk. ii. chap. 20, p.75

[4]Summa Theologica, IIa Hae, Quest. 57, Art. 1 ff.

[5]M. I. Nwoko, op. cit., p. 53

[6] M. I.  Nwoko, op. cit., p. 72

[7]T. Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 100

[8] M. I. Nwoko, op. cit., p. 82

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