The Nigeria Police And Mockery Of Common Good

The Nigeria Police And Mockery Of Common Good



Mind cast on some capitalist societies shows that sometimes, pursuit of personal interest overrides and militates against the realization of common good. Ipso police facto, Nigerian society has not been an exception to this. Yet, the fact still remains that it is in working together for the common good or welfare that one




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After payment, text the name of the project, email address and your names to 08064502337 achieves one’s private good, and not the reverse.  This is because the adoption of a capitalist system does not presuppose a society where the sense of justice and mutual co-existence is totally lost.  Hence, some social philosophers have become exponents and defenders of common good of the human society.   No wonder Aristotle holds that man is a social being.  That is to say that the goals which man sets for himself, are those he pursues in common with other men.  This, as a matter of fact, defines the existence of human society.  Taking a cursory look on one of the reasons why man seeks to live in a society:

…is to attain the fullness or end of his life, which is achieved only when it is integrated in a body of social communication.1

Thus, the society more or less, exists for the realization of the common good of the whole.

But it seems that even people, who suppose to make others adhere to the promotion of common good, are sometimes found to be those who directly or indirectly oppress the common good. The Nigeria police for example, sometimes go against the common good of the members of the society, which results in loss of lives and property here and there, and they swim in the ocean of indiscipline and corruption in the force. This is because there is a gruesome pursuit of private interest and so, the end for which man comes together in a society is seriously defeated.

Thus, in this social ill, human right and dignity is compromised. It is on this that Pope John Paul II holds that “respect for the dignity of the person which implies the defense and promotion of human rights, demands the recognition of the religious dimension of the individual”.2  This is in consonance with social, economic and political order respectful of the dignity, freedom and fundamental rights of each person. There exist both fundamental and other human rights, which every citizen should enjoy. This underscores the urgency of promotions of such common good.

There are several definitions of common good. In general parlance, common good highlights a specific good that is shared by and beneficial to all, or most members of a given community, and also this is how this common good is broadly understood in philosophy, ethics and political science. The idea of common good could also be seen in certain degree, as the general welfare of the people.

Nevertheless, sometimes people propound certain theories in criticism of the idea of common good. There is, for instance, a theory called psychological egoism, which argues that man is selfish and self-seeking by nature, and so, every person always seeks his interest in whatever he does. According to this theory, whenever a person does anything, he does it only because he has seen that somehow (either directly or indirectly, either immediately or in the future) he will derive some benefits for himself from it.3 The theory claims that behind any human action, there is always a selfish motive which prompts it and which acts as its driving force. Thus, any human action could aim at a selfish desire for fame, a desire for wealth, a desire for praise, a desire for money, a desire for power etc.

But, one may not have to say for sure that this theory completely holds water. If it were true, then, it would be impossible to be altruistic, since altruism is the very opposite of egoism. Altruism has been found to be a moral ideal; the more morally mature a person is, the more altruistic he becomes, and the more morally immature he is, the more egoistic he is. According to J. Omeregbe, the truth is that man has, by nature, the potentialities for both selfishness and altruism because he is by nature, both individual and social.4

But why does a human society exist? One can say that society exists in order to ensure the free movement of the individual members in the pursuit of their interest as a community.  This underscores the notion of common good, which is part of what we set out to consider in this work. Man realizes his private good more genuinely when it is pursued in the general or common good of the society in which he belongs.


Every civil society exists for the realization of common good of the social whole.5 This underscores the establishment of some institutions or bodies that would be charged with the responsibility of helping to achieve, promote or realize this common good. The police force, then, is one of such institutions. As a matter of fact, the basis for establishment of police force is mostly geared towards the welfare of the society.6

However, it has been found out that in Nigeria, there are instances where insecurity of life and property are rather found in the hands of security agents, who leave the common good in pursuit of private interests. When this becomes the case, there is no promotion but the mockery of common good. This is when law enforcement agents become lawless themselves. They are even seen to use their police authority to pursue their selfish interest, to the extent of using bullying and killing to the detriment of the general welfare of the people, of which they are called to protect. Lives and properties are lost in the hands of those meant to protect them.

But a person is not meant to be subject to whomever that can control him by force without regard for reason of law (common good of the whole) and order of a society. When this prevails in a society, Thrasymanchus’ ‘might is right’ reigns, where the stronger (armed policemen) takes along what belongs to the society. Injustice becomes the order of the day, where the rights of the weak and poor, are trampled on.7 The problem then becomes: who, after all, guards the guardians, if the entire common good is to be realized. This is a question that has bedeviled man for a long time. The recent excesses and illegalities of our respected police force, give special urgency to the question of control over and accountability of our police establishment. Certainly, the sight of such ill activities of some of our police officers intimidating its citizens, or interrupting the flow of life of justice, is sufficiently unnerving to force us to seek answers to the challenge.

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In this research work, my realm of concentration and concern will be limited to the consideration of notion of common good by some thinkers and then use it to investigate into only some ill activities of Nigeria police that militates against the general welfare of the people. As a matter of fact, Nigeria police has cases where they promote common good, but I shall only limit myself to some cases of their negation of common good.

The purpose or objective of this research is streamlined towards exposing certain indiscipline and corruptive activities of Nigerian police force that ridicule the realization of common good of the people, which defines the role of police institution, and which underscores the fundamental end of a civil society.  It seems that this work sets to answer, to some extent, the question: who will guard the guardians for the realization of common good. Hence, the aim is to consider perhaps, some possible solutions to the problem.


The method used in this work is strictly expository in the sense that it portrays some police misconducts with a view to proffer possible solutions; investigative because it is a search for instances of police misconducts; critical because of its reasonableness and that it is given to expressing severe judgments of what the police ought to be; and evaluative in the sense that it assesses the value of common good in relation to the end for which a civil society exists.

Thus, for proper handling of this task, the work is divided into five chapters with sub-headings under each one.  Chapter one will be a general introduction. Chapter two has to do with literature review, ontology of common good, obstacles that hinder common good and then, the common good and institutions.

In chapter three, we shall consider an understanding of an act of policing, roles of police in a society, the structure of police force in Nigeria, and philosophy of police service.  Chapter four, will furnish us with some instances or cases of police mockery of common good in Nigeria. Then, the final chapter is all about a critical evaluation, an attempt to proffer some solutions and then conclusion of the whole work.



A consideration of the idea of common good stirs-up the question: why are civil societies formed? It is of this question that J. Omoregbe holds that the society does not just exist only to cater for the egoistic interest of a few unscrupulous and greedy individuals; rather it exists to ensure that every member of society gets a fair share of the goods which belong to all.1

There is, in the society, co-operation by all members for the realization of societal existential ends or mutual completion. The common good could be seen as a good that is of general welfare, collective and distributive. It is in line with this that A. Gonsalves avers:

the common good is the end of the co-operation of all members or the end for which society exists; it is an end that is the temporal welfare for the community taken both collectively and distributively.2  

The phrase “common good” is a normative standard in Thomistic and Neo-thomistic ethics for evaluating the justice of social, legal and political arrangements, which according to him “are the arrangements that promote the flourishing of everyone in the community.”3

The word ‘common’ is seen as an analogical term referring to kinds and degrees of sharing, ranging from mere similarity to a deep ontological communion. Thus Thomas Aquinas holds that “goods are common in a deeper sense when the degree of sharing is more than merely coincidental.”4 The common good is the good of complete and politically organized human community – good that is the common goal of all who foster the justice of that community, as well as the common source of fulfillment of all who share in just arrangements.


The idea of common good is a notion that originated over two thousand years ago in the writings of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero. Thus, the notion of common good is an ancient notion, historically taken, variously understood and subsequently formulated. Plato sees society as natural, and identifies the common good with the total virtue of the citizenry and bases it on the primacy of the polis. The common good is the virtuous life of the entire community.5

Plato’s consideration of the end of the political society has it that the state arises out of the needs of mankind. He maintains that no one is self sufficient, but all of us have wants, which can only be solved in association with others. Thus, Plato elaborates:

…as we have many wants and many persons are needed to supply them, one takes a helper when these partners and helpers are gathered in a place called the state.6

Therefore, when such inhabitants gather to form a state, individual needs are met in the promotion of common good of the whole.

Aristotle on his own part has it that man is a social being. According to him, not only is humanity by nature destined to live in a state, the state as every other community is established with a view to some good, exists for same end.7  Thus, the function of the state is to ensure the supreme good of humanity, namely its moral and intellectual life.

Thomas Aquinas of medieval era, is of the view that in every case in which the good of the individual and the common good are in the same genus, the common good is prior, and the search for the common good is indispensable for achieving man’s own good, the virtuous life.8  Hence, in his definition of law, he maintains that the law is made for the common good and not for personal interest.  Hear him:

Law is an ordinance of reason promulgated by one who has the cadre of the society, for the common good. 9

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This definition of law brings to light, the notion of common good. Similarly, Isidore holds that law should be framed in a way that it embraces no any private good but the common good. 10

Some modern thinkers like John Locke holds that man authorizes society or legislature to make such laws as are required for the common good and he relinquishes to the society the power to enforce these laws and exact punishment for their infringement.11 This he brought out clearly in his theory of social contract, where man leaves the state of nature to enter into social contract, all in a bid to ensure and promote a common welfare of the members of a community that enter such a contract. Thus, he elaborated this saying:

Whosoever, therefore, out of a state of nature unite into a community, must be understood to give up all power necessary to the ends for which they unite into a society…12

Thomas Hobbes himself, having lived during the era of social disturbances and crisis in England agreed that man must eradicate all egoistic inclinations in self-mastery that is inflammable to the welfare of mankind living in a community or common wealth. This is the backbone of his own social contract against man in the state of nature where, as it were, he was a wolf to his neighbour. Man here, lived among others in a state of lawlessness, and nothing was collectively considered as good or bad, and so the individuals sought their aspirations at the detriment of others. Hence, Hobbes displays that “there was no industry, no arts, no society, and which is worst of all continual fear and danger of violence, death and life of man was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”13. Therefore, Hobbes against state of nature advocated for social contract where people enter into civil society on agreement and for general will or good of the people.

On his part, Jean Jacques Rousseau who took from his predecessors, is of the opinion that only common good would provide the setting for the greatest possible freedom for each citizen14.  For him, a person who opts not to obey the law made for the common good is in error, an error that could threaten the welfare of the larger society for the selfish welfare, a person who is only but a unit of the larger society.

  1. Bentham is most explicit in deriving the meaning of the common good from that of the community. Bentham holds that “it is the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it…”15 In his greatest happiness principle, J. Bentham holds that “the greatest happiness of all those whose interest is in question being right and proper, and only right and proper and universally desirable, end of human action.”16. Thus, Bentham is chiefly concerned with greatest happiness of the human community, with the common good or welfare in the sense of common good of any human political society.

Cicero speaks of the common wealth in terms of people’s affair. In his words, he notes:

… the people is not every group of men, associated in any manner, but is the coming together of a considerable number of men who are united by a common agreement about laws and rights and by the desire to participate in mutual advantages.17

Implicit in Kantian definition of ‘good’ as good will, Kant sees ‘good’ as that in the will and postulates goodwill as the only good18.   In line with Kant, we can say that goodwill itself cannot oppose the common good, because, it is a willing for a good that does not harm the good of others. This goodwill, Kant sees as one that acts out of sense of duty. Thus, it squares with police exercise of their proper duty for the common good.

A philosopher like Martin Heidegger is not without the idea of man as a being with others, and who should pursue common good, being with others in human society. According to him, “human being, by being naturally born for society, is inherently a being with others”.19 This underscores a sense of the man as a being in a community, and common good that should be pursued to sustain such a community.

  1. Maritain himself is a celebrated thinker on common good. He holds that when a human person enters into society as an individual, he enters society as a part whose good is inferior to the good of the whole common good.20

By and large, we have traced the historical idea of common good as an end of a human society. However, there are others who said something on this idea of common good. However, we shall have occasions of citing those we did not include here. Common good is a good human life of the multitude of persons; it is their communion of good living; an honest good of a political society.


The being or existence of common good is in the first place, a ‘good’. This means that it is not only a term but also an ‘end’. No wonder it is perceived as an end of a human society. ‘Good’ in the ontology of common good depicts this teleology we are talking about. ‘Good’ for D. Composta, is not casual, but must be wished or chosen either for justice or for friendship. According to him, good has, therefore, an ethical value, since it is an ‘end’, a value, such that it must possess the capacity of being ‘co-natural’. Being a value, good is not in itself instrumental. D. Composta elaborates that “common good would be useful when it is an honest good, but that if it were only a utility; it then becomes extraneous to the political community”21

Again, common good is seen as the totality of certain conditions favouring social development. This common good for Maritain is common because it is received in persons, each one of whom is a mirror of the whole.22  Thus, the ‘common good’ depicts a sense of sharing, ‘general’ wholeness and community. So, even though the good be the same objective for one man and for the whole state, it seems better and more perfect to procure and preserve the good of the whole state than the good of any one man.


Granted though that it might seem that all citizens benefit from the common good, we would all willingly respond to urgings that we each co-operate to establish and maintain the common good. But this is not always the case because some observers have identified a number of obstacles that hinder a society from achieving the common good.

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In the first place, some philosophers believe that every idea of a common good is inconsistent with a pluralistic society like ours.23.  This is because different people have different ideas about what is worthwhile or what constitutes ‘the good life for human beings’. Given these differences, some people view that it will be impossible for us to agree on what particular kind of social systems, institutions and environment we will accept. Thus, first problem is that people have different views of what the common good is for them.

A second problem encountered by those who share the view of common good is what is sometimes called “free- rider problem”. In as much as the benefits that a common good provides are available to everyone, including those who choose not to do their part to maintain the common good, then, this boils down to the possibility that some individuals can become “free-riders.”  This means that such individuals take the benefits the common good provides yet refusing to perform their part to support the common good. If many people become free-riders in this manner, the common good which depends on their support may not be fully ensured. This, then, constitutes another obstacle to the idea of common good.

The third problem encountered in the attempt to promote common good is that of individualism. The western traditions place a high value on individual freedom, on personal rights, and on allowing each person to “do his own thing”. It is a culture that understands society as comprised of separate independent individual goals and interests without reference to others. In Africa, even though individualism is not as much elaborate as in western tradition, it is family, clan or village or ethnic interests mostly and, hence, it is difficult, to convince a group that they should sacrifice some of their freedom, some of their personal goals, self- interest, for the sake of others or the larger community.  This becomes another hindrance to realization of common good because individual thinks that he should be left free to pursue his own personal ends.

Again, appeals to common good are confronted by the problem of unequal sharing of burdens. This is because maintaining a common good often requires that particular individuals or particular groups bear costs that are much greater than those borne by others.24 Forcing particular groups or individuals to carry such unequal burdens for the sake of the common good is, at least arguably, unjust. Moreover, this may lead such groups and individuals to resist any attempt to secure common goods.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all these problems, the fact still remains that promotion of common good in a society, to a greater extent ought to be opted for.  As social and rational beings, we should view ourselves as members of the same community and, while respecting and valuing the freedom of individuals to pursue their own goals, to recognize and further those goals we share in common. Thus, the point to take is that it is in promotion of common good that all these individualistic elements could be properly addressed. Hence, J. Maritain buttresses this saying that “there is a co-relation between this notion of the person as social unit and the notion of the common good as the end of the social whole25


Common good is seen as the end and function of society. Consequently, there is, in the society, co-operation by all for the realization of societal existential ends and mutual completion. It is against this backdrop that the help shown by members of the society whether individually or collectively is refereed to as common good.

In order to see to the realization of the common good, certain institutions are established to ensure that this common good is attained.  Police institution, is a typical example of such institutions. As a matter of fact, the very foundation for establishment of police institution is geared towards the good of members of larger society; hence, the police are primarily there to maintain public law and order26. If one considers the role of the police, one would find out that common good underlies the very establishment of police institution. These institutions are social goods, but in their existence, they possess only the nature of means in the services of peace and general well-being of society and its members.27  Messner himself sees these institutions as that in the service of the common good, which ultimately consists in goods and values: in law and order in society, the guarantee of freedom of its members, the opportunity for all to pursue the essential tasks in life on their own responsibility and by their own efforts, a sound state of health in society as a whole, the insuring of the foundations of economic life for the immediate future and for the coming generations. This common good consists in the establishment and maintenance of order, which is achieved by proper carrying out of rights and duties and services by members and social groups (police) without interference. Hence, the common good creates an environment of peace, harmony, security, freedom and social enhancements:  opportunities for the realization and promotion of common good.


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