Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Prerogative in John Locke's Two Treatises of Government and the Tyranny of the Obasanjo Presidency in Nigeria's Nascent Democracy: 1999-2007

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Prerogative in John Locke's Two Treatises of Government and the Tyranny of the Obasanjo Presidency in Nigeria's Nascent Democracy: 1999-2007

Article excerpt

Introduction

John Locke was a 17th and 18th Century England philosopher, he lived between 1632 and 1704 in England at the time when the political situation in England was chaotic. It was the era when the monarch had great conflict with the parliament. It was the time when the monarch combined political and religious functions. At that time, the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope wielded a lot of political and religious powers. The fusion of political and religious powers in the hands of the monarch and the Pope gave rise to several state administrative problems. The problems intensified because even within the Christian circle, not all the influential political leaders in parliament and followers were Catholics. Some were Anglican, Presbyterian etc. as a result they would not want to be subjected to the hegemony of the Roman Catholic, Anglican or the Presbyterian leadership.

Apart from the religious problem of the 17th and 18th Century in England, the monarchs were amok and power drunk. This was so partly because the monarch was regarded to have the Divine Right to act on behalf of God. Another reason for the arbitrariness of the monarch was attributed to the power of prerogative the monarch had: to take decisions without recourse to the law or parliament in other to meet emergencies; to cover the gap, in the absence of Parliament being in session and to bridge the gap in the law where it was silent on any issue. Eventually, the monarch turned to abuse the power of prerogative given to its office by the people. For instance, Charles II reached the height of impunity to the extent that he could on his own volition determine, levy and collect various types of taxes without the approval of parliament. Besides, Charles II attempted to impose his brother James II on the people against their wish which was vehemently rejected by the people. Due to the incessant administrative impunities of Charles II, his reign was eventually overturned in 1688 English Revolution.

The 1688 English Revolution took place before John Locke published the Two Treatises of Government in 1690; the book justified the 1688 Revolution in England (Laslett, 2003). In the Two Treatises of Government, John Locke was concerned with how the social contract system between the people and the ruler would be enhanced to promote an ideal state which will fulfill the purpose of creating the state. The power of prerogative was one of the instruments in the hands of the monarch to rule the people effectively, but it was abused in the 16th and 17th Centuries which generated political instability. One of the concerns of John Locke in the Two Treatises of Government was to come up with the attributes of the power of prerogative and how to practice it in a way which will enhance justice and meet the aspirations for introducing the principle of the power of prerogative in governance. Apart from the power of prerogative, John Locke enumerates other principles which could guarantee the effective administration of the social contract system in the society. Some of the principles include the consent of the majority of people in the choice of their leaders, separation of powers, constitutionalism and rule of law and impeachment. Eventually, these principles are invariably related to the practice of democracy.

The principle of the power of prerogative is essentially concerned with the power given to the Executive to use his discretion to take decisions without recourse to the law or the Parliament. Since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria gives the Executive President the power of prerogative in carrying out the affairs of the country. Whereupon the return to democracy in Nigeria in 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected as the Executive President of the country from 1999 to 2007.

The major objective of this study is to examine the Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in the light of John Locke principle of the power of prerogative in conjunction with the provision of the 1999 Constitution on the issue of the power of prerogative. …

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