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The end justifies the means: examining the Nigerian society in the light of Machiavellianism.

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From the sentiments espoused by Machiavelli in The Prince, it is is clear that he believed that politics and conventional morality cannot go together. For him, acquiring power and retaining power is the objective of politics, and should as such be the uppermost or ultimate concern of anyone engaging in politics. Being that since Nigeria gained its political independence in 1960, Nigerian politicians have consciously and overtly pursued the business of politics as if the primary goal of politics is the acquisition and sustenance of power by any necessary means, many scholars and observers of the Nigerian society have described the Nigerian political scene as a classic case of Machiavelli’s political philosophy as articulated in The Prince. This thesis then focuses on the proposition that the Nigerian political scene presents a classic case of Machiavelli’s political philosophy as articulated in The Prince. The choice of this area of research is informed by the need to provide a co-ordinated response to the myriad of challenges confronting Nigeria as a nation, as many believe that the seeming playing of politics in the Machiavellian way by Nigerian political elites is partly responsible for the socio-political and economic problems in the country. Consequently, the underlying argument of this thesis is that Nigerian politics can be seen to be characterized by the guiding principle “the end justifies the means” articulated by Machiavelli in The Prince. Key to the argument is the examination of the Nigerian political scene, Machiavelli’s ideas in The Prince, the Italian society of his time, the circumstances surrounding his writing of The Prince, as well as the various interpretations of the book. Notwithstanding that Machiavelli and the ideas he expressed in The Prince are interpreted in various ways by various scholars, it is generally believed that the ideas cannot be isolated from the political situation of his city-state, Florence, and Italy back then. Though Florence or Italy of Machiavelli’s era is quite different in culture and civilization from contemporary Nigeria, findings from the thesis indicate that the two political situations are similar in terms of human nature, lack of national cohesion, and application of violence and cruelty in socio-political activities. Also, many Nigerian politicians and even citizens at large consciously or unconsciously practicalize Machiavelli’s views in The Prince and there exists some form of connection between practising such In response to the findings, the thesis concludes with some practical suggestions on how Nigeria may get over its political problems, which among others include the need for change of structure of the Nigerian federation and mentality on the part of all Nigerian citizens.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.