23 December 2012

Nigeria: Authority, Power and Dialogue


Some social sciences take the human person and the human society as a serious focus of study because humanity is like a "complex machine". Political historians have proposed different theories of the origin and evolution of human societies and the formation of nations.

Our focus in this essay however is the question of harmony that should exist in each and individual community and organization. A community, or society or an organization has a vision of order to protect life and property. The mission sometimes is human and economic development while the objective is to create an environment where every individual will be happy and fulfilled.

To direct the human affairs therefore, it has become imperative that out of the many in a given community, some body or a group of persons are either elected or appointed to take charge of the leadership and governance of the people and their concerns.

This in normal situations is done in trust and hope that the person chosen is credible with a divine mandate since the voice of the people is the voice of God. This trust is often tested through dialogue ad intra. Consequently, we can ask: "to what extent do the concepts, command, respect and obedience affect a peaceful coexistence in a community? How relevant are these concepts in dialogue? Do "obedience" and "command" enhance respect or simply induce a fearful response? Very often, obedience is mistaken to mean command instead of the capacity to listen. The effect is that respect and freedom are rendered victims and casualty in governance.

It appears that the philosophy of Machiavelli has greatly influenced politics, leadership and administration in our world today. The thrust of Chapter 15 -17 of Niccolo Machiavelli: "The Prince" is how the prince should retain and sustain power in the Republic. He says that the "prince" should not concern himself with living virtuously, but rather with acting so as to achieve the most practical benefit".

Machiavelli's political philosophy that "a prince must not be influenced by condemnation from other men" when he employed vices in the administration of the state completely rules out dialogue. He compounded this by saying that "the harm one does to a man must be such as to obviate any fear of revenge".

When people no longer believe in you, "they can be forced to believe". He believes that it is better to be feared than to be loved because "if a prince is too compassionate, and does not adequately punish disloyal subjects, he creates an atmosphere of disorder, since his subjects take the liberty to do what they please". "Some measure of cruelty is necessary to maintain order but a prince should be careful in his exercise of cruelty; tempering it with humanity and prudence." Machiavelli in Chapter 15 of the prince attacks the classical philosophy of virtue and criticised the concept of "a good life" that demands virtuous actions in all types of behaviour in Aristotle's metaphysics. For Machiavelli, virtue can "never serve as an effective guide for political action".

He understands virtue only as that "which receives the praise of others thus, generosity is a virtue only because other people praise it". In place of virtue, Machiavelli proposed stubbornness, cowardice over courage (when it comes to "fleeing a palace under siege instead of remaining and rallying the people") and avoiding hatred from the subjects.

Is management more effective in the atmosphere of fear or in an environment that is permeated with love and mutual respect? Is it not human desire to freely and joyful work because of the love they have for a particular person in authority who demonstrate knowledge and self respect to lead and direct others as subjects rather than as slaves? We must remember that slavery is alien to human nature, hence people with courage will adopt the Negro Spiritual, "And before I be a slave, I will be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free." Some people in authority wear the face of a lion making those who work with them in the office so fearful that they do not freely approach them.

Fear can either provoke in people reverence or revolt for an authority can either become a leader or a tyrant. You can know them by their modus operandi. The sole use of memos, canonical warnings, petitions and commands are key indicators that dialogue has broken down in a particular community or organisation.

A leader who has knowledge and wisdom should be firm and demonstrate a human and true conscience, recognizing the companionship of his followers. Most leaders actually realize the intensity of their loneliness either when they leave power or when they are old for "no condition and position" is permanent. This is very obvious in communities where leadership is rotational or only within a certain period. Take for example a religious community where a novice of yesteryears becomes the superior of a congregation to take care of a superior emeritus who was a tyrant when he or she was living under his/her fearful authority.

Animal Farm is an allegorical novella by George Orwell published in England on 17 August 1945. The setting of the book reflects the events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917, and then on into the Stalin era of the Soviet Union. Orwell was a democratic socialist and a critic of Joseph Stalin's influence on Moscow after the Spanish Civil War. Orwell reflected this in his review of Franz Borkenau's: "The Spanish Cockpit in Time and Tide, 31 July 1937, and Spilling the Spanish Beans, New English weekly on 29 July 1937. He believed that the Soviet Union had become a brutal dictatorship, "built upon a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of terror". In Animal Farm, Orwell attempted "to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole".

Fr (Prof) Omonokhua is the Director of Mission and Dialogue of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja, and Consultor for the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims (CRRM), Vatican City, Rome

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