Machiavelli’s Political Theory and Leadership in Nigeria (2)


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Sylvester Odion Akhaine

In its transcendence, political power is control over the thoughts and actions of men in a political community and its constitutive elements are authority and legitimacy, the former denoting the quality of being able to command compliance without force due to belief in the right of the wielder to do so and the latter being the belief in a regime’s rightness to make binding decisions. For the author and other realist thinkers like Hans Morgenthau, the essence of politics inheres in the acquisition of power which is why David Easton defines it as the “authoritative allocation of values”. The Italian Virtue is the conceptual category the author is concerned with in this work, not the virtue of the moral hue. It covers ability, skill, energy, forcefulness, strength, ingenuity, civil spirit and courage. For Machiavelli, it is the distinguishing motif among princes. In the words of Quentin Skinner, cited by the author, “it is the quality which enables a prince to withstand the blows of fortune” (p. 20). He typologises Machiavelli’s points on the nature of Virtue and compares them with Babangida political exertions demonstrable in his flexible disposition, generosity, concentration of power, ruthless execution of friends and foes and passion in the study of historical figures like Hannibal and Alexander the Great. The author’s thesis is underpinned by a Marxian political economic framework that is dialectical-materialist in outlook. As Friedrich Engels notes “it is the science of the laws governing production, exchange of material means of subsistence in the society”. Chapter three provides the context of the emergence of the seminal text, The Prince. The hallmark of the renaissance epoch was the intellectual movement, namely, scholasticism and humanism. The former placed emphasis on dialectics, rhetoric and religious supremacy while the latter on the uniqueness of man with a view to freeing men from the obscurantism and shackles of religious dogma. In the words of the author: “preconceived ideas about things, religion and man were challenged and new theories emerged. The idea of liberty, freedom, good governance, and individualism became main points of political discourses” (p. 45). The renaissance movement led to the emergence of nation-states consolidated in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Before the consolidation of nation-states, Italy was disunited and broken into principalities, more or less territorial pawns of other Europeans states such as France, Germany and Spain on account of its resources. In the reading of Machiavelli, the unfortunate lie of the Italian state was engendered by the transcendence of the religious order, possessive individualism and political decay. No wonder, his appeal to the Medici family for a demiurge who would lead Italy out of degradation and exploits of the Barbarians. The Prince emphasises the importance of the economy of violence or surgical actions for the benefit of the state and warned the prince against the acquisitive rapacity in property and the comfort of women of the subjects in order to preserve his domain. In Machiavelli’s words: “We can say cruelty is used well (if it is permissible to talk in this way of what is evil) when it is employed once for all, and one’s safety depends on it, and then it is not persisted in but as far as possible turned to the good of one’s subjects.

Cruelty badly used is that which, although infrequent to start with, as time goes on, rather than disappearing, grows in intensity. Those who use first method can, with God and with men, somewhat enhance their position, as did Agathocles; the others cannot possibly stay in power”. Babangida whose regime this work engages with perhaps misread The Prince and similarly his biographers, one of whom titled his work, The Prince of the Niger.

The author goes further to lay bare the nature of colonialism in Nigeria. His analysis shows that the colonial superstructure was nothing other than an exploitative for the benefit of the colonising power.


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