It was the great philosopher, Aristotle of ancient Greece who once said that human beings are by nature political animals. His argument was that since nature does nothing without a purpose, it is not a random occurrence that man has been equipped to speak. To quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy in its article, Political Naturalism, Aristotle submitted that the reason for this ability of speech is to enable man “communicate moral concepts such as justice, which are formative of the household and city-state”.
In Aristotle’s treatise Politics Book 1, where he expounds his political theory, he posits that the city-state and political rule are both natural phenomenons. He backs this position up by providing a quasi-historical narration of how simple communities evolved into a city-state. According to him, this began when individual human beings came together in pairs – a man and a woman – in order to reproduce. Apart and without the opportunity to procreate, they would soon cease to exist. Next, self-preservation, the most primordial human instinct came to play as master and slave also came together.
The one endowed by nature with superior intellect automatically took the position of master and he used this to rule over the slave. So, Aristotle argued that households naturally emerged from the need of all individuals to depend on the cooperation of others in order to meet everyday needs. In other words, all humanity serve each other in different ways for mutual benefit. Aristotle then claims that as a natural progression, when greater needs arose that households could not tackle, households came together to form what we know as a village. The next and final stage is the formation of a larger community which comprises of several villages brought together by mutual circumstance. This, according to Aristotle is when self-sufficiency is met and, “it comes to be for the sake of life, and exists for the sake of the good life”. The emergent city-state is the complete community.
The irony however is that politics is not meant to be a master and servant relationship in the way that we have come to know it, where those elected by the people now assume the position of master over the same people who elected them. No, if anything, it is meant to be the other way round. Those elected into government are supposed to be servants to the people who elected them. Their role is in fact to cater to the wishes of their compatriots, primarily by ensuring their safety and providing an enabling environment for them to prosper. In return, the people being served, cede some of their rights and freedoms to the government, providing it with the authority and necessary freedom to take decisions that will benefit the state. This is what is referred to as the social contract, famously propounded by the trio of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau at different intervals in history.
The terms “government” and “politics” are interrelated and both come from the social science sphere. Whereas a government is basically the group of people who govern a country, a state, a municipality or even a local area, politics is the process that is used by the government to govern. So, to further explain, while government refers to a select group of people who wield the authority or power to rule, politics refers to the process. It is also worthy to note that an individual can be a politician, which means he is actively involved in politics and yet not be in government. In a democracy for instance, if a politician either in the ruling party or in any of the opposition parties neither holds any elective office nor holds any appointed position in the executive arm of government, he or she cannot be said to be in government.
However, almost as much as those in government, he or she is supposed to see their involvement in politics as a call to serve the people and to make sure the focus of government is to meet the yearnings of the people. It should also be noted that in a democracy, where there is the separation of powers between the three arms of government – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – the duty of all is to serve the interest of the people. Where it is the responsibility of the legislature to enact laws that will contribute to the progress of society, the executive bears the responsibility to administer, protect lives and property and execute policies that will enhance socio-economic development; and the judiciary, which is not in the business of politics per se, is burdened with the responsibility of ensuring there is justice in the land. All three arms carry the burden of service, which means the interest of the people must supercede their individual interest. However, politics is only meaningful to the people when they have a high level of trust in those who govern them. There is a huge trust deficit in Nigerian politics which can be traced directly to the Nigerian politician’s demonstrated lack of sincerity over the decades. The Nigerian political class have repeatedly shown that their promises mean nothing and that the interest of the people they claim to serve means very little to them.
If I may say so, they have over many years of practice, perfected the art of self serving politics and appear to have reached a point where they really do not care two hoots if the people trust them or not. The most nauseating aspect of it all is not that they insult the intelligence of the people when they try to justify dubious actions with lame explanations but the fact that they no longer seem to care if the people believe them or not. As far as they are concerned and because of the prevailing oppressive environment they have helped to create, where government officials are seen to operate above the law and subsequently act with impunity – they have an attitude which says there is nothing anybody can do about it anyway, whether they believe them or not.
As I sat pondering and utterly bewildered by our political leader’s undisguised attitude to service, one word kept popping into my mind, “buffet”. I could think of no better term that encapsulates their self serving, self seeking nature. Serve thyself is the name of game.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time
Dapo Akande, a Businessday weekly columnist is a University of Surrey (UK) graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An alumnus of the Institute for National Transformation; with certification in Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve College, USA and author of two books, The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. Both books are used as course material in Babcock University’s Literature department. Dapo is a public speaker, a content creator and a highly sought after ghostwriter.