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1.1 Background of the Study

The way men should organize themselves into an ordered collectivity has always been a puzzle and it has therefore occupied a central place in political philosophy since antiquity like the way it features in the writings of modem social and political theorists. We however see this puzzle as the main kernel of politics. And this is because to develop a form of governance among a collectivity of individuals in a given community, there will be some intense pressure especially when different social groups come into conflict in the process of social production and over the distribution of scarce resources. History is replete with ideas about the state and like the way history had been interpreted in different ways so the ideas about the state had developed in diverse versions. Nigeria state is a creation of British colonialism and the British institutionalized colonial rule in order to protect her capital and to use the colonial state as the servant of imperialism. It was also to protect all those metropolitan interests which owed their existence to the continuance of imperialism (Ekundare, 1973; Toyo, 2002).

The Nigeria state was therefore, not a product of antagonistic interests among social classes, i.e., the Nigerian state did not emerge because of lack of unity of interests among social classes in the society nor because the society was divided by irreconcilable contradictions. Indeed, the Nigerian state was not an instrument of any indigenous social class that developed to mediate between social classes whose interests were irreconcilable. The Nigeria state was basically an agent of imperialism, an instrument of economic exploitation (Ekwekwe, 1986).

Immediately after independence in 1960, the class character of the nationalist leaders began to show in their activities particularly when they began to assume political positions of authority. The masses were confronted with an indigenous ruling class which was content to inherit the colonial economy with no aim of transforming it (Ekwekwe, 1986). Nigeria began to evolve a political class, a class that was made up of those who took over from the colonial state hierarchy. Members of the class were mere agents of western capital who came to power to execute policies that were necessarily geared towards promoting the interest of metropolitan bourgeoisie like the way the colonial state did ( Drake, 2010).

Historically, the struggle among social classes for the control of state power has been the propelling force in the development of many societies. Development here is taken to mean qualitative change in the productive forces and production relations that give rise to the production of more goods, creation of needs and ways of meeting such needs. In the process of production, consumption and distribution of material values in the society, such as food, shelter, clothes etc, and people get polarized into major two contending classes over the ownership and control of the means of production. On the one hand are those who own and control the means of production are member of the bourgeois class, while on the other are those that have no means of production and are member of the oppressed/proletarian class, before colonial era, Nigeria has witnessed this emergence of class struggle, some families are more famous than others and thereby determines the running and directional operation of the state (Adilieje et al, 2012).

The basis of the struggle between the two classes is the control of the state so as to determine social policies especially, the authoritative allocation of values and scarce resources. This type of political class emerged in 1960 after Nigeria independence. While the oppressed class agitates for a new social order that ensure fairly equitable distribution of resources, the bourgeois class preoccupies itself with maintaining their class advantage. Since the ruling class does not willingly surrender power, in other words not prepared to commit class suicide, it has to be compelled to do so through intense struggle and violence. Such agitations and struggles results in class conflicts, this class struggle may lead to the overthrow of the ruling class or compel it to embark on reforms such as increase in wages, welfare, bonuses, political liberties, democratic participation in industrial affairs etc. (Bangura 1985; cited in Adilieje, et al, 2012). It was this class conflict that transformed Nigeria from pre-colonial to colonial and the present neocolonial capitalist modes of production.

Hence, the resistance against the imposition of capitalist relations of production. the independence struggles, the Anglo- Nigeria defence pact imbroglio, the Anti-Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) riot, the struggle for the democratization of the state in Nigeria, the face-off between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) cum the people of Nigeria and the Nigeria ruling class over the pump price of petroleum and other aspects of bad governance are some of the conflicts occasioned by the exploitation and subordination of one class by another. The conflicts and struggles generated by the various contradictory class relations over the control of state power have led to structural transformation or changes in Nigeria social system thus propel one form of development to another (Adilieje et al, 2012).

After independence, Nigerians were enthusiastic about greatest happiness of great number believing that the indigenous class will perform more patriotic than the colonial class. It is in the light of providing for the greatest happiness for the greatest number that Bentham argues that the moral quality of action should be judged by its consequences on human happiness and in that line he claims that we should aim at the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number’. Bentham defined happiness in terms of psychological experience, as ‘the sum of pleasures and pains’. His philosophy is known as ‘utilitarianism’, because of its emphasis on the utility of behavioral consequences. What this implies is that a utilitarian will be committed to sustainable development if shifting to it increases the total of the world’s population and the future generation. Utilitarianism entails that the right course of action is the one that will produce of the .greatest number of happiness for the greatest number of people (Nakpodia, 2011). It’s this assumption of government providing the needs of the people that would lead to the greatest happiness of greatest number that propelled the oppressed class in Nigeria to agitate for democratic rule after several years of military interregnum.

The character of the ruling class has not demonstrated the will to provide for the citizens welfare. Government institutions that were created to provide the basic needs of the masses were compromised in terms of service delivery. It is against this backdrop that Nigeria decided to return— to civilian form of government in 1999. This was seen as a new dawn in Nigeria’s match to development. Therefore, the thrust of this study is to ascertain whether the character of the ruling class undermined the utilitarian principle of the greatest good of the greatest number. And to further examine if the institutional weaknesses in Nigeria impede the delivery of democratic dividends.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The inability of government to fulfill its promise of better live for its citizens has brought to the fore issues of governance On its own, good governance depicts the degree to which institutions of a particular country (such as Executive, Legislature or Judiciary) and processes (such as the role of political parties in election) are transparent, accountable to the people and allow them to freely participate in decisions that affect their lives. Good governance is perceived by personal understanding of writers and features that buttress their claims. For Bentham, the principle of utility is “that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question. Bentham is not only concerned with individual happiness, but also the happiness and interest of the community. Therefore, “an action then may be said to be conformable to the principle of utility … when the tendency it has to augment the happiness of the community is greater than any it has to diminish it.”

The beauty of good governance stems from its tendencies to empower citizens with the opportunities to use their discretion and provides them with opportunities of self-fufilrnent and self-actualization by deliberately enhancing the capacity of individual citizen, who will in turn transform other factors of production into productive purposes for national development. Ten years after Nigeria transit from military to civilian rule which claims to be a democracy, we are yet to see a situation where by citizens are empowered to use their discretion to actualize their dreams or ambition towards national development (Diamond, 2005). Any society that is devoid of good governance lacks totally in every sphere of development, the implication of this unfortunate scenario was aptly captured by Abbass (20 10:110) in the following words:

As the State (in Nigeria) continues to deny its citizens the right to education and good health care delivery services, most Nigerians are automatically denied accessibility to health care. Childhood malnutrition is common in Nigeria because households cannot provide adequate nutrition. This has resulted in an increasing incidence of wasted, taunted, stunted and underweight children. Majority of women (in Nigeria) received no delivery care whatsoever and give births under unbearable and dangerous situations. This has heightened high maternal, high infant and child mortality rates coupled with no access to safe drinking water, leading to bad hygienic and sanitary conditions.

However, these problems did not just start today. Bad leadership in the first and second republic and many years of military interregnum laid the foundation and incubated the failure of the Nigerian polity. Consequently, Zakka, (2013) argues that in the thought of Nigerian political class, the social responsibility of government, which includes the provision of water, electricity, good roads, medical services and security, is what constitute dividends of democracy. These are infrastructures that a society either military or any other form of government benefits from governance. Infrastructure is the basic physical and organizational structure needed for the operation of a society or enterprise , or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function, the above are all an embodiment of physical infrastructure but the most beneficial aspect which is social infrastructures like the health care system, including hospitals, the financing of health care, including health insurance, the systems for regulation and testing of medications and medical procedures, the system for training, inspection and professional discipline of doctors and other medical professionals, public health monitoring and regulations, as well as coordination of measures taken during public health emergencies such as epidemics are all in the doldrums in Nigeria (Zakka, 2013).

Hence, the educational and research system, including elementary and secondary schools, universities, specialized colleges, research institutions, the systems for financing and accrediting educational institutions are all relegated to the background by the ruling elite. In accordance, social welfare systems, including both government support and private charity for the poor, for people in distress or victims of abuse are all not in the priority list of the ruling class in Nigeria (Zakka, 2013).

The rich political class in Nigeria targets the already feeble and disenchanted mind of the poor to secure their election victory. Politics has been so monetized to the extent that an average, credible Nigerian cannot afford its exorbitance. Politics, therefore, becomes avenue to create and sustain poverty through looting of funds meant for developmental purposes. The masses that have been made poor by the ineptitude of the government and the political actor are then denied the opportunity to actively participate in the electoral process. Therefore accountability, transparency, welfare and security of life and property are not given much attention, this idea of ineptitude emanates because these political class rarely depends on the votes of the electorates to win election. All these have characterized the nature of Nigerian ruling class (Diamond, 2005). And it is on this basis, that this study seeks to address the following research questions

  1. Does the character of the Nigerian ruling class undermine the utilitarian principle of the greatest good of the greatest number?
  2. Does the governmental institutional weakness in Nigeria impede the delivery of democratic dividends?

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The study has both broad and specific objectives. The broad objective of this study is to examine contextually whether the greatest happiness to the greatest number has been achieved by the Nigerian state. However, the specific objectives of this study are to:

  1. Analyse how the character of the Nigerian ruling class undermined the utilitarian principle of the greatest good of the greatest number.
  2. Explain how the governmental institutional weaknesses in Nigeria impede the delivery of democratic dividends.

1.4 Significance of the Study

This study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the study will contribute to the theoretical discourse on the theory of utilitarianism which seeks to bring about the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people most times by the state. It will help us to
understand the character of the Nigerian ruling class if it has undermined the utilitarian principle of the greatest good of the greatest number. This study will advance the knowledge of both scholars and students in the area of the state living up to its responsibility of meeting the aspiration of the greater number of her citizenry through the proper provision of infrastructures and social amenities and through masses oriented policies. The findings of this study will also serve as data base for further researches to be carried out in the area of bringing the greater happiness to a greater number of the people.

Practically, the study will provide stakeholders who are in government with available knowledge and policy options and ideas on how to meet the aspirations of the greater number of her citizenry through the provision of a conducive environment to harness their potentials and contribute to national development. This will in turn strengthen the weak institutions of the state.


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