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Governance and weakness of the will

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It is always disturbing to see that those who hold the machinery of governance in Nigeria, most of the time, appear to be doing what is wrong, even when they are aware that it is wrong and they are opened to other options, which ordinarily, are clearly right or represent the best course of action within a given circumstance, in the interest of the state and the citizens. They do this often with a high show of impunity.

In Greek, Akrasia may be defined as lacking command over oneself or as the state of acting against one’s better judgment. Akrasia became an important concept from the time of Plato in his work Protagoras where Socrates asks how is it possible for one to judge an action to be the best course of action and still do something less worthy. Socrates on the one hand assumes that Akrasia is illogical because no one does evil willingly. He assumes that a person never chooses to act poorly or against his or her better judgment.

For him it is only ignorance that can lead someone to do that which goes against what is best. Aristotle on the other hand disagrees with Plato, as represented in Socrates, by claiming that one may know what is right or the best course of action and still not be able to do it but chooses the one that is wrong or worst course of action because of one’s emotional desires. Here, Akrasia raises the question of the weakness of the will. This is a situation in which reason decides one way and emotion decides the other way. Being weak-willed consists in failing to do what one knows to be best.

The various happenings in the governing of men in Nigeria show that it would be absolving and exonerating to argue that our rulers do not always have the knowledge of the possible negative consequences that their actions portend for the lives of the citizens and the peaceful corporate existence of the nation. How, for instance, does one understand the incessant corruption and lack of sense of accountability in relation to the handling of the resources of the nation by the few who, through various insidious means, have access to the treasury of the nation?Come to think of it, it is not just the fact that they are being reckless with the resources that is painful; the worst aspect is that they do this with an obnoxious level of impunity. Their mode of governance does notindicate any care for the lives, security, and welfare of the people they govern. News about corruption and daily losses of human life now become the monotonous screaming on our radio and television sets. Going through the pages of newspapers offers no succor. There is crime everywhere.

Thoughts about these evils prompt one to enquire whether our rulers engage in these negative routes to governance as a matter of ignorance about the best way to handle the ship of the nation. Definitely, the answer cannot be in the positive. There is nothing about them to suggest such a callous level of ignorance. There is not0hing to suggest poverty of intellect on the part of these rulers. After all, they parade a whole array of qualifications, some of which are questionable, though qualifications all the same. These rulers, have in different ways, had causes to travel to different parts of the world at the expense of the masses that they misgovern.

With various legislative and executive retreats in different parts of the world, they have good knowledge of the workings of successful democracies but they find it difficult or impossible to put it in place in Nigeria. They know that democracy requires governing according to the interests of the citizens. Democracy requires that those who are in the position of authority should put themselves in the position of servants to the people to qualify them for leaders and not rulers. This is contrary to the case in Nigeria.

Rulers and their stooges in Nigeria can afford to spend billions and trillions on frivolities while the citizens cannot afford three modest meals per day.While they consider thirty thousand Naira to be too much as minimum monthly salary for the workers, they can flaunt exorbitant automobiles as well as other mouth-gaping material properties. The people of Nigeria are now so mathematical in their feedings that they only eat in codes such as 101,001,011 and so on.

The same citizens that are ill-fed, if fed at all, are also deprived access to medical care or habitable shelter. The rulers are swimming in opulence while the citizens are in perpetual agony under insecurity of lives and properties. The rulers who have access to the best available medical care in Nigeria are still the same ones who can get the best medical attention in any part of the globe with mere pressing of necessary buttons at the expense of the dedicated and hardworking Nigerian masses.The children of the rulers can afford the cost of education in any University outside of the country, but the impoverished citizens cannot afford to send their own children to good schools within the country. This is without considering the appalling low level of funding of the institutions.

These same rulers, from their reading of books or watching of the proceedings of other nations, which are on the path of good governance, are aware that democratic ethos requires that there is respect for the rule of law, as contained in our constitution, as well as a regular peaceful exchange of baton through elections. Coming back to the reality of the Nigerian state, the rulers constantly flagrantly violate the rule of law, while peaceful regular election of persons to direct the affairs of the nation is almost an impossibility. Elections inNigeria have never been easy.

In the word of an erstwhile ruler of the nation, election is a matter of life and death. Election in Nigeria is so life-demanding that anyone with a little sense of decency would not wish to have anything to do with it. It involves a lot of verbal mudslinging and physical gruesome attacks on the persons and personalities of those that are involved that by the time electioneering is over, one may not have any integrity or life left. It is during election in Nigeria that people bring out the worst animal nature in them.

The same rulers who had watched peaceful elections and handing over of power in other lands could not imagine the occurrence of it here on their motherland. Nigerians have witnessed various instances of electoralscenario that had taken two to three years of legal battles for the true winner to emerge. Thuggery and hooliganism have always been made close associates to our electoral processes in Nigeria. Highly educated and highly placed political office aspirants and members of the political class are often found on the eves of elections putting in motion some clandestine machinations to wreak havocs on political opponents or family members and political associates of such opponents.

Looking at all these, can it be rightly argued that the rulers in Nigeria are oblivious of the negative moral, social, political, and legal status of their political actions and inactions? Definitely, the answer cannot be in the affirmative. The rulers are aware of all the moral injunctions in the scriptures. The most morally bankrupt of them can cite many of these scriptural adages to support their ineffectiveness as custodians of the corporate powers of the people. Most of the people in power today are educated in the sense of having access to facts and figures on how to properly govern the country. They know what is good as opposed to what is bad. Nevertheless, their unbridled ambitions and avarice would not allow them to choose the best course of action. They know what to do to make the country better than it is but their wills are too weak to do what is right.
Salami is Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Obafemi Awolowo University.


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