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IMPLICATIONS OF KARL POPPER’S THEORY OF INCREMENTAL CHANGE ON THE QUEST FOR SOCIO-POLITICAL REVOLUTION IN NIGERIA.
CHAPTER ONE: GENERAL INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background to the Study
It is a statement of fact that Nigeria as a political entity is richly endowed with both human and natural resources. But ironically, the socio-political status and the living standards of Nigerians remain seemingly irreconcilable with the inherently embedded potentials of Nigeria as a nation. Nigeria remains largely a giant on its feet with numerous developmental challenges ranging from wide spread corruption, brazen looting of the national treasury, mass poverty, decayed infrastructures, mounting unemployment, worsening insecurity of lives and properties, moribund manufacturing sector, poor state of education and health system, pervasive inequality epitomized in an abysmal lacuna between the rich and the poor, frightening food insecurity, thoroughly compromised judiciary, rampant inflation, crisis of leadership and the utter disregard for due process and the rule of law among others. Corroborating, Chris Orngu notes that:
The post-colonial history of Nigeria presents decades of visionlessness and the intentional lack of commitment to the advancement of the country’s socio-political process translating to sustained developmental crisis and steady decline in social, educational, agricultural, economic and technological spheres. This unfortunate state of affairs as some analysts insist is unquestionably accentuated by the unenviable nature of the country’s leadership at all levels of governance1
According to Lewis et al, “Nigeria is simply a dysfunctional state”2. He further observed that “Nigeria’s travails, while hardly unique within the developing world are surely exceptional in their scope and persistence”.3 He acknowledged that the economic stagnation in the case of Nigeria arises from a generalized crisis of governance and poor economic performance.
In a related thought pattern, Mamman et al notes that “Nigeria, the biggest country on the African continent and one of the largest energy producers is still walloping in abject poverty as a result of bad governance” 4. This corroborates Chinua Achebe’s assertion that Nigeria’s problems remain simply and squarely the problem of leadership5. Concurring, Soyinka submits that:
we are living in a condition that shames and dehumanizes us, a condition of enslavement to a ruling class that “is bereft of solution, an incontinent, spendthrift, power besotted class, a class that lacks the will even the integrity to embark upon policies for the amelioration of the parlous existence of multitude that has cushion their existence, a class that has raised corruption to Olympian heights and made a sacred duty of deceit, imposes on us no other course but that of our own rescue mission6
Critical observations of happenings in Nigeria have revealed that the apron-string of the leadership crisis in Nigeria is the perpetuation of the imperialist ideology of the colonialists. The British socio-political and economic structures have remained the existing framework from which the successive Nigerian leaders from independence seek the transformation of Nigeria without any conscious efforts to dismantle the colonialist structures of exploitation which was never contemplated for the well being of Nigerians. In the words of Uzodinma Nwala.
Nigeria, as a political and economic entity, is a creation of British imperialism. The prime motive force for British imperialism was to seek new sources of raw material and new markets for her manufactures. Hence, all the social and political activities of the British in Nigeria were geared towards creating a convenient administrative structure for maximum exploitation of the human and material resources of the country7.
Unfortunately, our nationalist’s championed movements leading to independence were not aimed wholistically for a socio-political and economic emancipation from colonial imperialism. The nationalists were simply out for independence as an end in itself without any corresponding nationalistic ideology for Nigeria’s transformation. Echoing this thought pattern Nwala, noted:
The winning of political power was the ultimate objectives around which all nationalist strategies and tactics were organized. Western capitalism and bourgeoisies parliamentary democracy formed the framework for economic and political transformation8.
The target was simply the Nigerianisation and indigenization of the socio-political and economic structures of the British colonialists without any creative strategy for Nigeria’s transformation. As such, strategies for Nigeria’s development remains largely based on the imperatives of a dependent and peripheral capitalist economy. Corroborating, Bade Onimode noted that:
No real social transformation was intended by this nationalism and so no development ushered in flag independence apart from the British imposition of capitalist relations on the traditional pre-capitalist modes of production9.
So, from the time of the nationalists to this point Nigerian leaders have over time constituted themselves into neo-colonialists by nourishing and sustaining the imperialist ideologies that are ontologically and intrinsically inimical to Nigerian masses. Their refusal to change the colonialist structures they inherited is hinged on the fact that the material interests of the nationalists and the present crop of leaders appears to have coincided with the status quo. Having become the most important sector of the ruling class, their social being was and is still being enhanced by the existing social order. Hence, distinguishing them from the rest of Nigerians. Substantiating further, Nwala contends that,
with their preoccupation with power and its material benefits, political ideologies as to how a society can be organized and ruled to the best advantage of all hardly entered into the calculation 10.
Consequently, at this historical puncture, the task of reinventing a new socio-political order in Nigeria is placed in the hands of the masses to dismantle the anti-people structures of the colonial imperialist that the Nigerian elites nourished and sustained. This call is hinged on the fact that:
Since a social organisation, however inadequate never disappears by itself, since a ruling class, however parasitic never yields power unless compelled to do so by overwhelming pressures; development and progress can only be attained if all the energies and abilities of a people that was politically, socially and economically disfranchised under the old system are thrown into battle against the forces of the ancient regime11.
This fact agrees with Karl Marx position that “separate individuals form a class only in so far as they have to carry on a common battle against another class”12. This battle in Nigerian context is said to be the battle between the petty bourgeoisies elites masquerading as leaders and the Nigerian proletariats.
Those who share this thought pattern opined that this battle can only be won through a socio-political revolution. By socio-political revolution, we mean a sudden or radical change in socio-political system at the instance of the masses through mass uprising, mass mobilisation and popular pressure. It denotes the overthrow or renunciation of one government and the substitution of another by the governed. Revolutions have occurred through human history and vary widely in terms of methods, duration and motivating reasons and ideology but the underlining element is that it is a change effected by the popular will of the governed. The result is usually, major changes in culture, economy and socio-political institutions. So, for many people, this is the only option left for Nigerians to effect the desired change in socio-political institutions.
However, contrary to this idea of revolution which is the theory based on the Marxist idea of revolutionary change, which many consider an imperative option for Nigeria, a Vienna-born philosopher Karl Popper (1902 – 1994) advanced a liberal theory of incremental change which prefers reforms to revolution in alterable socio-political situations. According to Karl Popper, in view of the fallibility of human rationality, the safest course in human actions should be to make sure that all programmes of change are advanced in small steps so that unexpected ill effects of any action are corrected as soon as they arise, and before they do too much damage. This policy is described as piecemeal social engineering or incremental change. For him, socio-political revolution is quite ingenious, but also perilously inclined to irrationalism, that is;
they ultimately rely only upon inspiration without taking into account that we can only learn by trial and error, by making mistakes and improvements13.
This is what he refers to as incremental change or piecemeal social engineering as distinguished from utopian social engineering in order to appreciate the merits of reforms over revolution respectively. In a common parlance, a scheme is called “utopian” if it is fascinating but incapable of realising in practice or at any rate, the cost of its realisation would outweigh its possible and intended benefits. Popper, therefore sees any attempt at a revolutionary change as an utopian social engineering. That a programme of utopian social engineering takes a long time to carry through. The generation that makes great sacrifices and suffers untold miseries in making radical reform hardly survives to enjoy its benefits. And the generation which reaps its benefits may not be able to appreciate the sacrifices made by its founders. For Popper, piecemeal social engineering or incremental change obviates the possibility of such injustice.
Accordingly, it is not reasonable to assume that complete reconstruction of our social world will lead at once to a workable system. Rather we should expect that owing to lack of experience, many mistakes would be made which could be eliminated only by a long and laborious process of small adjustments in other words by that rather method of piecemeal engineering whose application we advocate14
Popper simply does not favour revolution in society as it is being canvassed for the alteration of the socio-political structures in Nigeria. According to him, revolution is a comprehensive utopian project that seeks to mould the whole society according to mentally constructed plan that lack practical reliability and also fails to recognise the unpredictability of the human factor. In a lecture that he gave in Zurich in 1958, Popper recalled that even the suppression of freedom and the violence which have stained the history of communism have stemmed from faith in a theory that promised freedom to all human beings. For him “the worst evil of our time was born out of the desire to help others and to make sacrifices for others”15
But the fact remains at this historical juncture that the imperative of a socio-political change in Nigeria is indisputable. But the question is, should Popperian reservation on socio-political revolution be seen as one of the manipulative populisms that is popularized in order to rationalise the exploitative capitalist system and by implication avoid the revolutionary transformation of the Nigerian society? This appears to be a struggle between the reformative and revolutionary forces which can be seen as a conflict between the forces of socio- political transformation and the reactionary forces of the old order. It is from this background that this research work seeks to juxtapose the quest for a socio-political revolution in Nigeria with Karl Popper’s preference for reforms in view of articulating an option for Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Today, there is almost a general consensus among the followers of events in Nigeria that the socio-political realities in the country need change. In view of the above, a reasonable population of Nigerians has reasoned that the task of reinventing a new socio-political order in Nigeria is only realisable through a revolution by the masses. The exponents of revolutionary change as an inexorable and imperative option left for Nigeria to alter the present socio-political order based their argument on the empirically verifiable disposition of the Nigerian ruling class which is unmitigatedly devoid of passion for common interest. However, contrary to this theory of revolutionary change which many are recently canvassing for in Nigeria, a Vienna-born philosopher, Karl Popper (1902 – 1994) argues for incremental reformism as the safest way to achieve real and sustainable change in society. According to him revolution is usually inspired by holism, utopianism, aestheticism and far removed from practicality.
In the face of these alternative approaches to change, Nigeria is to make an option in her quest for a socio-political transformation. The problematic questions therefore are: What are the philosophical foundations that underpin Karl Popper’s thoughts on incremental change?, What are the revolutionary indices in Nigeria’s socio-political system?, Is the current geopolitical, socio- economic and religious canvass of Nigeria conducive to the complex socio-political chemistry of massive and revolutionary change?, What shape would such a revolution take or model would it adopt?. Can Nigerian ruling class willingly reform the system that coincides with their material wants for the interest of the masses? Is a socio-political revolution a solution to the Nigeria’s quest for transformation? What is the feasibility and implication of Popper’s theory of incremental change in the context of Nigeria?, What is Nigeria’s option for transformation in this age of globalization? These and other relevant considerations constitute the problematics which this research work attempts to address.
1.3 The Purpose of the Study
This research work is premised on the thesis that the socio-political realities in Nigeria need change. But how this change can be realised is the problematic question that this research thematically attempts to answer. For many Nigerians, revolution remains an inexorable and imperative option left to effect the desired change. But for Karl Popper, reforms through piecemeal social engineering can serve in any alterable situations owing to the fact that revolutionary change involves utopian social engineering which is fascinating but lacks the guarantee of realising its intended goals and sustaining its original motivations. This work, seeks therefore to achieve the following objectives:
- To carry out a conceptual elucidation of the concept of socio-political revolution and its dimensional forms.
- To critically examine and articulate Karl Popper’s theory of incremental change.
- To expose and present the socio-political contradictions in Nigeria.
- To determine the efficacy of revolution in altering the status-quo and enthroning a better socio-political system in Nigeria.
- To examine the various perspectives of socio-political revolution that has metamorphosed into diverse theories of socio-political revolutions.
- To examine the specificity of Karl Popper’s socio-political experience that underpins his theory of change.
- To discuss the tenability of reforms in a capitalist economic and revolution in a multi-ethnic and heterogeneous Nigerian state.
- To juxtapose Popperian reformative theory and the transactional style of Nigerian leadership in the face of the people crave for change.
- To comparatively examine the Popperian theory vis-à-vis the quest for socio-political revolution in view of articulating an option for Nigeria.
- To determine the feasibility and implications of Karl Popper’s theory in the context of Nigeria especially in her quest for socio-political transformation.
1.4 Significance of the Study
Today, there is a global wind of change blowing across the world. This change in some parts of the world is being initiated and actualized by the determined will of the masses as it is currently happening in the Arab world. However, in some parts of the world this change is being brought about by revolutionary leadership through reforms and people-oriented policies. Therefore, this research which seeks the transformation of the socio-political realities in Nigeria makes itself significant and relevant to our time. This research attempt to examine the Popperian theory of Incremental Change which prefer reforms to revolution vis-à-vis the Nigerian clamour for a socio-political revolution in view of articulating an option for Nigeria’s transformation. This work will bring out the power of the ordinary people in bringing change and defining direction in the socio-political context where the status quo yearns for it.
The value of the work will also be appreciated in its painstaking juxtaposition of reforms and revolution in the face of the people’s desire for change. The work will also demonstrate the specificity of Popper’s socio-political experience that underpins his liberal theory of change and the uniqueness of the Nigerian socio-political template with its array of petty bourgeoisies class and impoverished masses. At the end, the work will also show the ontological and intrinsic crave for change in alterable socio-political context inherent in all people in all ages. The work will finally serve as a gadfly in stinging the consciousness of Nigerians in altering the alterable and mastering their own destiny and that of posterity.
1.5 The Scope of the Study
This research work limits itself to Karl Popper’s theory of incremental change also known as piecemeal social engineering as a theory of socio-political change. This Popperian theory will be discussed in the socio-political context of Nigerians’ increasing quest to alter the status-quo to rejuvenate the moribund dreams of the nation’s founding fathers and enlivened the dying hope of the ordinary Nigerians. However, a review of socio-political change occasioned by revolution and reforms shall be made in view of finding an option for Nigeria in her long quest for a better socio-political order. And all generated data shall be discussed and examined within the purview of the theory of change as it relates to Karl Popper’s liberal theory of incremental change in juxtaposition to the imperative of revolutionalising the socio-political status-quo in Nigeria.
This research work is certainly not a pioneering effort in the general quest for socio-political change down through the ages. As such, it relies chiefly on the already existing literature and documented works in this regard such as books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, journals, periodicals, newspapers, unpublished works and Internet works for data collection. In addendum, participant observation shall also be utilized for data mobilisation since the researcher is of Nigerian extraction with immediate and daily experiences of socio-political realities in the country. All collected data shall be subjected to four methods of philosophical research namely; historical, expository, comparative and evaluative methods of data analysis.
First, the historical method shall be used to review the historical evolution of socio-political revolution down through the ages so as to demonstrate the historical role the masses of different epochal divide and nations have played in altering their socio-political situation and defining the direction for their governance. Secondly, the expository method will be engaged to lay bare the operational concepts that constitute the subject matter of our consideration in this research. It will also be used for the exposition and articulation of Karl Poppers thoughts on socio-political change as summarised in his liberal theory of incremental change or gradualism. Thirdly, the comparative method shall be employed to juxtapose between reforms as conversed by Karl Popper and revolution in view of providing an option for Nigerians in their quest for a socio-political change. Fourthly and finally, the evaluative method of a philosophical research shall be used to critically examine and thoroughly scrutinize the findings discoverable in this research so as to articulate our humble contribution to knowledge.