The Notion of Mark Vernon’s Friendship and its Applicability in Nigeria Context
Background of the study
In contrast to other forms of intimate relationships in our society, friendship is uniquely voluntary. Whereas relatives are designated by blood or legal ties and neighbors by proximity, friends are selected. Furthermore, friendship is a relatively uninstitutionalized relationship without standard rituals, norms or nomenclature to guide the partners. Yet, friendship choices are not wholly fortuitous, nor is amicable behavior unscripted (Allan, 1989). Scholars who view friendship as voluntary pay special attention to dispositional factors in friendship formation and maintenance. In contrast, those who have a sociological perspective emphasize the effects of social structure and influence largely beyond individual control. These two traditions are distinct in another way as well. Dispositional theorists tend to focus on the interactive processes that take place in friendship dyads, whereas structuralists tend to study the form of individuals’ entire friendship networks (Blieszner & Adams, 1992). With two decades of research on record, it is now possible to construct frameworks for the integration of these two perspectives.
A heavy burden is placed on friendship. We turn to friends for our happiness. Some say they trust friends more than family. And there are those who want to marry their best friend – a very novel idea. Then, in the networked age, we believe, or hope, that friendship is elastic enough to connect us across the web of complex lives, and strong enough not to snap. But is it? For whilst friendship offers much, few ask about its perils and limitations, as well as its promise.
Mark Vernon examines the love shared by friends, linking the rich insights of the great philosophers of friendship with numerous illustrations from modern life to ask about friendship and sex, friends at work, the politics of friendship, and its spirituality. In this new version of his book, previously published as The Philosophy of Friendship, he explores how notions of friendship may be changing because of the internet. He also has a new chapter on self-help and friendship, challenging notions of friendship that arise from evolution and psychology.
Nigeria as a nation is being buffeted brutally by ethnic, political, social and religious conflicts. And those who happen to find themselves at the public service through any of these conflicts tend to consolidate their positions by means of the same. To achieve this they devote much time, energy and scarce resources needed to direct the ship of the state just to hatch out plans to emasculate the opposition. They siphon public treasury available to them not only to be used to enfeeble the opposition but also to maintain the interests of the whole army of their cronies and cohorts while leaving the rest of the masses moored on the shackles of poverty. They execute all these with overweening arrogance and unbridled confidence as if they have sacred and inviolable right to behave in this manner.
Many Nigerian leaders of thought have voiced out their discontentment on the Nigerian predicament (C. Achebe, 1983; B. Okolo, 1994). They excoriate the political class as being grossly responsible for this predicament. They believe that things would be better if the leaders are honest, dedicated and have the will and ability to spend themselves to make Nigeria great.
Some of the Nigerian leaders of thought underscore the importance of justice. Chukwuemeka Odumekwu Ojukwu, for instance, maintains that justice should pervade Nigeria in order for her to move forward. And for this reason he calls on any Nigerian leader to always stand for and be a symbol of justice for it is the hallmark of good governance (C.O. Ojukwu, 1989).
And yet other Nigerian thinkers blame the constitution of Nigeria for her string of woes. For this crop of people, Nigerian constitution is unsuitable to address her topsy-turvy social life. Balewa strikes on this cord as he says: “There is need to constantly bear in mind that no nation can always have good or competent leadership. Our concern should not be with the question: who should rule Nigeria? But with the more vital one: How can Nigerians so organise their political institutions that bad or incompetent leaders can be prevented from doing damage to the society”(B.A.T. Balewa, 1994).
In her search for a way that would ensure greater unity for Nigerians and promote peace, development and good standard of living, Nigeria had adopted, at the dawn of Independence, the French parliamentary system of government. It was her faith in the principles of justice that led to this option. However, the system was like a square peg in a round hole. It did not work. It was a complete failure. And so it was rejected. In 1979, it was replaced with the American presidential system of government. The latter was reviewed between 1994/95. One of the highlights emanating from the constitution review committee was the creation of six geopolitical zones (T. U. Nwala, 1997). In 1999 there was another new constitution. Alterations have made in this 1999 constitution; two alterations in 2010 and one in 2011. But all these efforts have not solved the perennial problem of conflicts – ethnic, political, social, religious. There are still great cries of marginalisation, ethnic clashes and political insurrections.
The aforementioned constitutions and their alterations have not yielded the expected results because those who framed them did not take into serious account the peculiarities of Nigeria. If they had adapted them to address the local needs and problems, perhaps, they could have brought about better political, social, economic and religious advancements. The fact that the Parliamentary system works in France and the Presidential system works in America does not mean they must be suitable for Nigeria. For Aristotle, constitutions should be adopted according to circumstances of the people (Aristotle, 1990). The history of Nigeria is different from that of France and America and should therefore have a constitution that takes this into consideration.
To address the issue of constitution, some believe that the concept of the family should be used metaphorically to restructure it. This is a laudable idea. It is far from being a cosmetic proposal. The proposition of the family metaphor is a significant step in the search for a veritable means for ameliorating the lives of the ordinary Nigerian citizens.
Be that as it may, family metaphor may not produce the desired end2. Nigeria is a mishmash of more than 250 ethnic groups. The virtues of a family may be overstretched if they are applied metaphorically to reconstruct a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria. The family metaphor is much more relevant in a homogeneous than in a heterogeneous society. This is part of the reasons why a person like Balewa is mistaken in his attempt “to investigate the underlying propensities of the Japanese political system of primarily Meiji era (1868-1912) and their applicability to the Nigerian situation” (B. A. T. Balewa, 1994). Japan is a homogeneous group (P. W. Goetz (ed), 1985). It does not have the suffocating effects of ethnic conflicts akin to those of Nigeria. Nigeria must therefore look for a concept that can take account of her multi-ethnic nature. And I believe that the best concept is friendship.