FRIENDSHIP OF UNEQUALS IN ARISTOTLE’S
NICHOMACHEAN ETHICS VIS-A-VIS GODFATHERISM IN NIGERIAN POLITICS
Since inception of the current administration
in Nigeria in 1999, a major
political problem that has plagued the country and has become a socio-political
problem is “Godfatherism.” Politics
in Nigeria has become a
business venture where everyone struggles to participate. To this, S. U.
Politics in Nigeria
has become an investment where the investors are set to make profit at all
cost, as a result, political brutality is pervading the society.
This is so strong in
Nigerian politics to the extent that the godfather is so strong to the extent
of having a larger-than-life image in his area of influence. He determines
appointments into state executive councils and where necessary, local councils.
So this particular posture of the godfather is a new form of business which
must attract huge financial returns at the expense of the democratic citizens.
This is because the godfathers must be settled from the general coffer.
The relationship that
exists between the godfather and godson points to what Aristotle in his
Nichomachean ethics on ‘Friendship’ regarded as “unequal friendship.” This type
of friendship involves the superiority of one of the parties where each should
not expect to receive the same affection as he gives from the other.
So, this particular
relationship of the godfather and the godson requires that whenever the
godfather sneezes, the godson catches cold and fever. In fact, the presence of
the godfather literally dwarfs the godson. Moreover, to fear him is the
beginning of wisdom for the godson.
Therefore, there must be a
guide to check the excesses of the godfathers by instituting constitutional and
legal checks on electoral and electioneering procedures that involve money,
sponsorship and practices that undermine democracy and art of government. This
will help to maintain decency in politics and check against the crisis of
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF ARISTOTLE
Aristotle was born
probably in 384BC at Stageira in Thrace.
When he was about the age of 17, he went to Athens
to enroll in Plato’s academy and remained there for nearly 20 years, until the
death of Plato. It was known also that he had the reputation of being the “reader”
and the “mind of the school.”
He latter left the academy
and accepted the invitation of Hermeias to come to Assos, near Troy.
There, he was able for three years to write, teach and carryout research. While
at Hermeias’ court, he married his niece Pythias who bore him a daughter. They
later returned to Athens and his wife died.
Aristotle then entered into an illegal relationship with Herpyllis from which
he got a son, Nichomachus after whom the Nichomachean Ethics was named.
In 343BC, Aristotle was
invited by Philip of Macedonia to become the tutor of his son, Alexander who
was then 13 years old.
Aristotle lived in Athens from 335-323BC during which he founded his school,
Lyceum, and wrote most of his books. At the death of Alexander, the Athenians
rebelled against his friends including Aristotle. As Socrates, before he was
charged with ‘impiety’, but was reported to have said, “Lest the Athenians
should sin twice against philosophy,” left the Lyceum and fled to Chalcis, where he died in 322BC of digestive disease of
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The problem, which this
thesis seeks to address centers on the fact that politics in Nigeria has become an investment where the
investors are set to make profit at all cost. It is obvious that the more
efforts are being made towards positioning Nigeria
as a democratic environment, particularly in the areas of thinking and action,
the more the threat of relapse into the malaise of long habits of undemocratic
Politics of sponsorship or
godfatherism is now the order of the day in Nigerian society. There is now what
we call owners, managers and players of the state. Due to this fact,
individuals aspire to be economically and politically players directing the
affairs of the state. Politics is now the celebration of personality where the
elites create a godfather zone. In this, a few do not go through the proper
democratic procedure before becoming leaders in as much as they believe in the
godfathers and remain in their place.
The problem comes in here
when the godfatherism becomes a power struggle between the godfather and godson
because of their selfish interest. The godfather at this point comes out to be
the monopolist of the values of the outcome of governance and in full control of
the state. Thus, S.U Togbolo says,
However, the godson having successfully clinched the seat with the
support of the godfather quietly wants to sideline the political godfather.
This may be, because of over lordship by the godfather wanting to dominate the
government, giving directives and controlling the administration.
So at this, there exists a
war between the political godfather and his godson as they contend who should
control the state. As we can see, political godfatherism is one of the pandemic
that endangers our political environment. The power struggle between the
godfather and the godson affects both the development of the state and the
citizens. The godson either dances to the tune of the godfather or betrays
those who gave him mandate or finds the seat too hot and the state ungovernable
if the godfather does not succeed in removing him from office.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The aim of this research work is to unearth
the phenomenon of political godfatherism in Nigeria,
its activities, its moral implication and possible ways of curbing it to have a
better democratic environment.
Godfatherism is becoming
both a political and social problem. Politics of sponsorship is spreading like
a wild fire in Nigeria. We
see in the relationship that exists between the godfather and the godson. This
appears like true friendship until power struggle, which is caused by their
selfish interest, comes in. The relationship between the godfather and the
godson is a utility friendship. And as we know in Aristotle’s teaching on
friendship that in utility friendship, when that which is useful vanishes, the
friendship cease to exist. Thus, he writes,
Those whose friendship is based on the useful or on the pleasant
dissolve it as soon as it ceases to be advantage, since they were friends not
of one another but of what was profitable for them.
At this, the godfather
carries war against the godson. Then, the godson will be distracted in his work
and that leaves the state undeveloped. It is indeed a big deal that a single individual
who claims to be a godfather should hold the whole state to ransom. The
treasury of the state through the godson becomes a client to the godfather.
In a political environment
where an aspirant for government power or a job must accept terms from a
would-be-godfather in order to receive support from him for a sure access to
power is corruption. Furthermore, we know that there must be a bargain so that
the godfather will be fully out to support the godson. We now live with the
philosophy of “nothing goes for nothing.” Then, this bargain of the godfather
and the godson mortgages the interest of the governed whose mandate the
godfather bought over for the godson.
In this thesis, we have to
show how this utility friendship or unequal friendship between the godfather
and godson has been a thorn in the flesh of the citizens. It aims at the fact
that our so-called leaders and their godfather know that the citizens are
entitled to their dividends of democracy since they have invested a lot in it.
Our cry is for our leaders to know that the mandate of the citizens is the most
important. The godfathers will come and go but the citizens will remain. The
leaders as such should invest on the citizens rather than on the godfathers. 
METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY
This phenomenon godfatherism
has eaten deep into the Nigerian democracy. Our polity is now an investment
where the investors multiply as days go by. It is now a matter of necessity
that this research work employs the method of explanatory, expository, evaluation
On explanatory aspect, I
shall explain lucidly the concepts of friendship more especially that of
unequal and the concept of godfatherism in Nigerian politics. While on the side
of expository, I shall go a long way to
expose the activities of the godfathers, what seem to be the causes of
godfatherism and the love that exist between the godfather and the godson which
also seemed like true friendship.
It will be evaluative,
since I am going to evaluate the moral implications of godfatherism and its
effect on the people. Finally, it will be practical also since the research
work is experiential and deals with observable facts in Nigeria democracy or politics.
On the other hand, this
thesis comprises of four chapters which for the sake of clarity will be divided
into two parts. The first part will contain the general introduction featuring the
biological sketch of Aristotle, statement of problem, purpose of study,
methodology and literature review.
The second part will be
further divided into two dimensions. Chapters one and two will deal with
friendship and godfatherism respectively. Here, I will discuss the concept of
friendship, its definitions, types, and unequal friendship. Again, I shall also
look at the concept of godfatherism, its origin, definition, activities of
godfathers and the causes of godfatherism.
The chapter three treats unequal
friendship of Aristotle and godfatherism in Nigerian politics. Here, we shall
see the relationship that exists between the godfather and the godson. Finally,
the fourth chapter evaluates the moral implication of godfatherism; guides
against it and then conclusion.
The topic of my research
is ‘Unequal Friendship in Aristotle’s Nichomachean ethics Vis-à-vis-
Godfatherism in Nigerian Politics’. I have conducted researches from diverse
areas. I first conducted my researches through the websites like
http:www.yahoosearch.com, http:www.googles.com, http:www.msn.com,
and http:www.vanguardngr.com. I also laid my hands on several articles
that deal on the topic of my research. I searched references cited on them for
more studies. Furthermore, through the computer, I got some relevant books for
my research. So let me now present my literature review. It will feature two
ways: the review of relationship between friendship and godfatherism and the
review of godfatherism: an offshoot of political party in Nigeria.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FRIENDSHIP AND GODFATHERISM
Nigerian politics in
recent times has been experiencing what we call godfather phenomenon. From the
inception of the present administration in 1999, this phenomenon has been a
different ball game. I will begin by trying to show how friendship of unequal
can become a root to godfatherism because of self-interest relationship existing
between the godfather and the godson. In this, many philosophers and thinkers
have shown their views right from the ancient period to this contemporary age.
While some view friendship from its negative perspective, others upheld the
positive aspect of it.
Moving down the epochs, in
the pre-modern era, we have the work of Homer, the Iliad, where he portrayed the friendship of Achilles and the
Patrochus as being very exclusive. Here, Achilles did not consider the plight
of the people outside his friendship.This exclusive character of friendship as portrayed by Achilles makes
Likewise, the school of Hegesias
holds the same notion that friendship is nothing except for selfish motives of
those who engage in it. This motive may as a matter of fact involve selfishness
of purpose. Thus, Theodorus opined that there is non-existence of friendship
because of its inanity to both the wise and the unwise.This particular view is because of the utility and pleasure types of
friendship where the bond of the love is dissolved as soon as their needs
However, in the
Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle on friendship gave a necessary and profound
response to the above views of these philosophers by outlining the difference
between the inferior and superior or perfect friendship.
The friendship of utility and pleasure for him are for self-interest of those
who engage in it but that of good or perfect is for those who do not consider
their self-interest. While that of the utility and pleasure which dissolve with
the disappearance of what is profitable is selfish, that of the good or perfect
subsists and is not selfish.
In the Roman antiquity, it
shows how the friends of Tarquinus notably Titus, Tiberius, Marcus, Manius and
Lucius worked secretly and anxiously to restore him to power when the people rejected
and banished him.They considered their interest not that of the public. This is synonymous
with the activities of the godfather and godson who choose the option to betray
In the modern era, Francis
Bacon, following the opposite view of the thinkers in the Roman antiquity,
maintained that friendship is worthwhile and that there are certain dividends
that those who engage in friendship relation should get from being friends.
In the same view, Kant was
with the opinion that friends should confide in each other and that friendship
is what everyone seeks to deserve.
R.W. Emerson followed Kant by hitting the nail at the head when he said that
man finds whom he can relate with benevolently.In this, there is no measure in reciprocating love or affections as the
case may be.
Our discourse on
friendship points to the fact that the love between the godfather and the
godson is detrimental to the people because when there is no proportionate return
of their contract then there will be war. As in the friendship of Tarquinus and
his other friends who did not consider the good of the state but theirs first, so
is it in the case of the godfathers and
godsons as we are experiencing in the present dispensation in Nigerian
politics. Thus, the state must suffer under-development. Thus S.M Togbolo
Governor Mbadinuju made the people of AnambraState to experience demonstration of
craze instead of democracy. The education system was a mess, social life and
basic amenities were not met for the people of the state.
To this, Elizabeth Telfer,
argues that friendship though being particular to the friends should be for the
general welfare.So, this shows that godfatherism is harmful both to the citizens and to
the development of the particular state.
As a matter of fact, one
can say that benevolence which is an important quality in friendship is also
the root of godfatherism when understood and applied wrongly. Benevolence being
the root of godfatherism in politics cannot be done ex gratia but always with
the intention of getting something greater in return. In the effort of Dr
Nwachukwu Anakwenze to trace the origin of godfatherism, he says,
The concept of “Godfatherism” has its origin in Christainity.
Godparents are chosen as surrogates to help biological [or adopted] parents
raise a Christian child to become a God-fearing, law-abiding adult.
In this line, Eddy Odivwri
adopted the same idea of godfatherism originating from Christianity. In his effort
to trace its origin said that it is as old as humanity itself. Then, it was a
sort of being applied selflessly which was seen as a positive practice that
benefits the godson and advances the society.
Today, godfatherism is another ballgame. The godfather of today becomes the
beneficiary and gives favour only if it will advance his selfish interest and
The godfather sees the
benevolence he renders to the upstart as a business venture where the upstart
cannot walk outside the rules laid down by him.
Let us now see how party
politics gave birth to political godfatherism in Nigeria.
GODFATHERISM: AN OFFSHOOT OF PARTY POLITICS IN NIGERIA
Before the emergence of
the British colonizers in Nigeria,
there have been communities, kingdoms, and village republics existing in its
primitive state. According to Otite, the variety of links existed between the
various states and people because they were related and exposed to each other.
It was divided into rulers and the ruled.
Oyediran has it that these rulers or recruited elites that can be hereditary or
honorary make authority and decision according to the people’s tradition.
These kingdoms and
communities were democratic according to African standard, because each society
participates in politics until the Eurocentric devaluation of African culture and
the glorification of European way of life set.
Then, the African democracy sunk into the limbo of oblivion at the arrival of
the British colonizers.
After the partitioning of
Africa in the Berlin conference of 1884-1885
by European powers, the British introduced a western model of democracy that is
completely alien to Nigerian culture. In 1900, what is known as Nigeria today was made up of three units (Lagos colony and protectorate and the protectorates of
southern and northern Nigeria).
The British rule started involving the traditional rulers in preference to the
then few educated elites. Therefore, when these elites felt displeased, they
started forming political parties as a form of protest against the British rule
as to achieve independence.
Thus, Awosika says, “Political parties came into existence in Nigeria during the transition from colonialism
These elites were united
in this fight against colonialism but division came after the attainment of
independence. The British government in Nigeria
led to a complete disruption of traditional system of government, which Lord
Lugard proving it in 1903 saw it as dead old treaties. Therefore, they applied
an indirect rule where traditional rulers became their delegates.
It was at this that the appointment and imposing of people on the majority
became institutionalized. Hence, godfatherism set in.
Nigeria, after the colonial era
and independence started fighting themselves especially those in power in their
attempt to impose candidates of their choice on the people. Therefore, the
three largest tribes in Nigeria
started forming their own political parties. Their leaders now became their
godfathers in terms of political recruitment. The Hausa and Fulani formed
N.P.C.; Northern Peoples Congress, Aminu Kano was their godfather. The Igbo
formed N.C.N.C.; National Council of Nigerian Citizens, Nnamdi Azikiwe became
their godfather. The Yoruba formed A.G.; Action Group, Obafemi Awolowo was their
godfather. Therefore, godfatherism set into Nigerian politics with a better
face before it was twisted.
 S.U. Togbolo, Politicians and
 Aristotle, Nichomachean
Ethics on ‘Friendship’ Bk VIII, 1158b, 20. p.227
 S.E. Stumpf,, Philosophy,
history and problem (U.S.A:McGraw Hill,Inc.,1994) p. 80