AN ANALYSIS OF JOHN STUART MILL’S UTILITARIANISM AND IT’S RELEVANCE TO THE NIGERIAN STATE

187

AN ANALYSIS OF JOHN STUART MILL’S UTILITARIANISM AND IT’S APPLICATION TO THE NIGERIAN STATE

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

Utilitarianism is an ethical and philosophical theory that states that the best action is the one that maximises utility, which is usually defined as that which produces the greatest well-being of the greatest number of people, and in some cases, sentient animals.  The most potent way of determining the usefulness of any good theory is to apply it to reality in order to know the extent to which it can accommodate the existing realities in society. Ogunkoya (2011). It is a version of consequentialism which states that the consequences of any action are the only standard of right and wrong Scheffler(1988). Unlike other forms of consequentialism, such as egoism and altruism, utilitarianism considers the interests of all beings equally.

 

Utilitarianism is one of the most powerful and persuasive approaches to normative ethics in the history of philosophy. Utilitarianism when applied to law is a functional approach to the understanding of law by observing its basic tenets and purpose in the society. It is an ethical and philosophical theory that states that the best action is the one that maximises utility, which is usually defined as that which produces the greatest well-being of the greatest number of people and in some cases, sentient animals. To the utilitarian philosopher, if an act will produce more happiness than will alternatives, it is the right to do and if it will produce less happiness, it would be wrong to do it in the place of an alternative that would produce more happiness. In short, act so as to produce the most happiness .R.W.M Dias (2007). Utilitarian weigh the consequences of alternatives, pro and con and then choose the alternatives that maximise happiness. The philosophers view that the morally good action is the action that produces the most good1. It holds that the most ethical choice is the one that will produce the greatest good for the greatest numbers. The utilitarian school of jurisprudence considers that utility is the standard for measuring the propriety of our conduct and approach.

 

Utilitarianism has made immense contributions to the understanding of the place of law in society and in decision-making process by the government. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) are the most important classical utilitarian and social reformers. The theories of these philosophers had a major impact in moral theory and approaches to economic, political and social policy. Bentham posited that the function of law in society should be the provision of the greatest happiness of the greatest numbers. Utilitarian can be classified as either act utilitarian or rule utilitarian. Both act utilitarian and rule utilitarian agree that our overall aim in evaluating actions should be to create the best results possible, but they differ about how to do that. Act utilitarian believe that whenever we are deciding on what to do, we should perform the action that will create the greatest net utility. The principle of utility is to do whatever the overall best results. The right action in any situation is the one that yields more utility than other available actions. Rule utilitarian adopts a two part view that stresses the importance of moral rules. According to rule utilitarian, a specific action is morally justified if it conforms to a just moral rule; and a moral rule is justified if its inclusion into our moral code would create more utility than other possible rules. According to this perspective, we should judge the morality of individual actions by reference to general moral rules, and we should judge particular moral rules by seeing whether their acceptance into our moral code would produce more well-being than other possible rules.

 

This thesis established that the Nigerian state is significantly utilitarian and has been ineffective in promoting the human rights and ensuring security of lives and property of its citizen . Many years after Nigeria Political Sovereignty, the prevailing ideas in the democratic literature maintain that democracy has failed and its consolidation  has remained elusive. By this, there have been consistent political instabilities which have characterized persistent attempts to enthrone and also consolidate democracy in Nigeria. Because of this, scholars of diverse socio-economic cum political inclinations have differently proffered several reasons for the failure of democracy and equally the difficulty of its consolidation. In relation to this,  these scholars have prescribed various solutions towards ending the problem of democratic failure and enhancing its survival. Apart from this, some fascinating theoretical explanations were differently raised in the course of the analysis of democracy and its failure in Nigeria.

 

The challenges of insecurity in Nigeria are not external but internal and are caused by Nigerians. Insecurity was the major slogan that the government sworn–in on the 29th May, 2015 employed to win elections in 2015 to displace the government of the Peoples Democratic Party that had been in power since 1999. The masses particularly, the people from the North Eastern zone in Nigeria and Nigerian generally were optimistic that the long-awaited messiah with the magic wand to curb the challenges of insecurity had emerged. Threats to lives and properties have always existed in Nigeria but Nigeria before 1999 had not been a pariah state to the other nations as it is today. Foreign embassies from 2009 to date have been in the habit of issuing caution to tourists from their home country not to travel to some parts of the country because of insecurity. The caution is not abnormal in view of the deaths of many foreigners arising from insecurity in Nigeria. Crimes attracting capital punishment in Nigeria before 1999 were limited to crimes like armed robbery and intentional killing of other persons. These crimes were not as frequent as we have them in Nigeria today. Boko Haram insurgency was the greatest threat to security before 2015 and it was the only terrorist act that accounted for the decimation of the greatest number of people that died between 2009 and 2015. Armed robbery which was the major crime in Nigeria before 2009 was not carried out with the intention to kill but for pecuniary reason. Hired assassination was also another form of threat to life in the period before 2015  and it was directed against perceived political opponents. However, from 2015 to date, insecurity has cast a shadow on the happiness of the greatest number of the people. The increase in the intensity of operation of Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in the aggravated loss of human lives, displacement of people and destruction of properties.

 

The Fulani herdsmen and farmers clashes were relatively unknown before 2015 and where it existed, it was not with the magnitude of loss of lives and properties as it is today. Ritual killing and cultist activities reminiscence of the state of nature and prevalent and have become headlines in the daily newspapers and electronic media in Nigeria. Kidnapping for ransom which started in the Niger-Delta areas, the oil producing region in Nigeria, has spread to every part of Nigeria. Vandalisation of oil pipelines; communal clashes; spouse bashing, and armed robbery now occur frequently in Nigeria. Terrorist act of Boko Haram in the North-Eastern. part of Nigeria; the Fulani herdsmen and farmers clashes in the middle-belt region of Nigeria and armed banditry operation in Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna and Katsina States in the North-West region have resulted in the destruction of villages and properties leading to displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their ancestral villages and painful deaths. The displaced people from this theatre of conflicts are now accommodated in the Internally Displaced Peoples Camps where they depend on humanitarian assistance for survival.

______________________________________