Nigeria and neo-feudalism
November 11, 2009
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In it’s classic sense,feudalism refers to the hierarchical relationships between lords and vassals,and between the vassals and the peasants, that held sway in much of medieval European societies.Under this arrangement,the lords who ‘owned’ the lands(fiefs),granted possession of the lands to the nobles(vassals) in return for which the nobles pledged to provide military service to the lords,and the peasants provided the nobles with physical labour in return for protection.This set of reciprocal agreements between lords and nobles was used to maintain ‘order’ during this period.
Neo-feudalism is used to describe a society or policies that are reminiscent of feudalism.A neo-feudal society would also boast a very wide gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.For me,every society remains feudal,until it has fully enthroned the rule of law(equality before the law for all) and attained real, not formal,democracy.It is only when the dispossessed can be succoured by the justice delivery system,and the people can vote out miscreants in power,that a society is on the path to ending feudalism.
In Nigeria today,although elections are held,the results are predetermined and the people’s votes do not count.What really count here are the reciprocal agreements between those in power and the electoral officials appointed by them(in return for their appointment,these electoral officials are required to influence ‘elections’ in favour of their masters).The people’s participation is necessary only to validate the process.Given that the people’s votes do not count,those ‘elected’ are not likely going to feel any need to be accountable to the people, as they have no need to fear a backlash from the electorate.In such a formal democracy,’elections’ do not serve to rotate power but to entrench it and promote unbridled corruption in government thereby increasing further the gap between the rich and powerful on the one hand, and the masses on the other.
The rule of law cannot take place in a vacuum.I believe it can only take root through the mediation of certain public institutions.A constitution is a mere document,unless it’s provisions are religiously enforced.To achieve this happy state of affairs, the judiciary and police forces have to be more than mere levers of power ,the control of which is feuded over by the rich and powerful.By definition,public institutions are mechanisms designed to perform specific functions in the interest of the public.When such an institution is suborned to protect the interests of the powerful to the detriment of the masses,it becomes a mere lever of power.In this regard,it is used to maintain and widen the gap between the powerful and the rich.Such a lever is the Nigerian police.
Measured by the above yardsticks,it should be no surprise that Nigeria is labelled as neo-feudal.