The two strands of philosophical conversations below were extracted from Prof. Tamunoemi Sokari David-West’s book, titled: “Philosophical Essays,” published in 1980. I am a proud possessor of Philosophical Essays first edition. It is one of the oldest books in my bookshelf. I bought my copy at Leventis Store in Lagos on August 8, 1980 for N4.50k!!! Prof. Tam David-West died on November 11, 2019 at the age of 83. I was vacationing in Ibadan when I heard of his death. Goodnight, the people’s philosopher. The timeless gem in your thought will remain the only “connectitude” to the labyrinthine philosophical anxieties of our cosmos. Sleep well and rest in peace.
Dad, do you believe in the ethic that “The end justifies the means?”
Son, this is a dangerous ethic. Essentially, what this means is that no matter the method is the result arising therefrom that matters. Those who exalts ends or outcome or results above means or method or approach are obviously believers in the socio-political morality of expediency or the Machiavellian ethics. Two, a student instead of applying himself to his studies and thereby building confidence in himself through constant practice of his lessons, decides to buy examination papers and so comes out on top of his class. To a believer that ends and not means, all these dishonest maneuvers are of no significance as long as the student obtains his pass certificate, with even distinction.
Three, a person oils his way into the confidence of political leaders and so obtains a top political appointment through the presentation of costly gifts to the leader, his wife, children, his domestic servants, etc or even try to assassinate the character of a suspected rival. All these dubious methods to power do not matter to a believer in Machiavellian ethic.
Four, a business man who becomes wealthy through cheating the public or even through armed robbery. All these are not significant as long as he is declared a “successful business tycoon”.
Five, an academically shaky university don who either bribes his way to Professorship or invokes base tribal sentiments to that polestar of the academia. What matters to this don of the morality of expediency is that he is decorated with the prized title of “Prof” and not how he came by it.
Son, I can go on multiplying examples to illustrate the point that it is unhealthy as well as dangerous to subscribe to the ethic of “ends justifying means”.
And finally son, I must not fail to take this golden opportunity to caution you seriously that you must never pull down a fellow human being in your bid for a social or political climb. If you do, you can be sure that you are bound to pay for it someday – the Law of Karma or Retributive Justice, you remember! You see, son, the earth is vast enough for every human being to have his own place to stand on, so you do not have to push off or pull down a neighbour in order that you can stand.
Dad, what do you think about the “Politics of Antagonism?”
First and foremost, son, I believe that in Nigeria, at least as of now (and it may be for a long time) the terminal or ultimate loyalty of the vast majority of the people is not to their social class but to their ETHNIC or TRIBAL group interest. Each ethnic or tribal group, vying for a position of supremacy, using any means available under the sun. In such a state of “ethnic conflict”, the trend is obviously not towards an “ethnic free” society. And such a state of affairs usually ends up in major national cataclysms. Our bitter civil war is a case in point.
Son, “Politics of Antagonism” or in another words the politics of mutual exclusion or annihilation was what was largely practiced during our First Republic. This is another glaring manifestation of primitive animal instinct where the survival of one tribe or group was seen to depend so much on the annihilation of any other tribe or group that also shared the cosmos.
Son, I was talking about the First Republic. You will be wondering naturally if I have any exhilarating evidence to show that there has been a significant change in attitudes since the fall of the First Republic. Quite frankly, son, I have none. I wish I did. I very much wish so. My heart always beats faster or loses a few beats whenever I hear people say, “As a people we have learnt nothing from our bitter experiences of the past”- and this at the eve of another experiment of a “New Republic.”
The problem, son, is not that as a people we are inherently impervious to changes. No. The truth is that most of us are more excited over the prospects of our having yet another shot at Republic experiment and in the process of this great expectation most of us have played down in our priority rating the more important need to re-examine our methods and political styles. We are more preoccupied with we are likely or unlikely to occupy. But, son, I tell you this, that how we play the game is going to be very decisive.
A few still believe that they could make it through preaching the “gospel” of group hatred and antagonism; in fact some do not have any other props or crutches to hold on to once you take away their manifesto based on group antagonism. This is so, son, because such people have not got much to offer. But, son, never be disillusioned or be frustrated; time is very much against the disciples of “Politics of Antagonism”.
The trend of global inter-national diplomacy is also against them. Son, always believe in the politics of inter-group friendship, cordiality and harmony. Do this, son, and you will discover that time would be always on your side. God bless!