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 The rational thinking and  Power choice

                                                                   BY GODSON AZU

“In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat”. L. Trosky 1937.

Politics as a game of rational choice, implies why choice is a key determinant factor in selecting or electing democratic leadership and government.

People’s choice and political leadership is the contestation of this writing this article, based on the changing pattern of electoral democracy.  We think of politics as those activities and behaviours associated with a group reaching ‘collective decisions’ and with individuals undertaking ‘collective actions.’

 The origin of politics may never be ascertained or established in view of its long debate and rational contestations. Some might believe it comes from having fallen from grace of angel lucifer and God, which according to the bible text in Genesis, explained the struggle for supremacy in the celestial or heavenly kingdom, between God and his most faithful arch-angel, leading to the first ever political power struggle, and ailment order, with God commanding a host of angels on his side, while lucifer gathered rebellious angels on his side, creating the first ever government in power and an opposition , which was cast out of heaven. The eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden,through the sapent, by Eve and Adam in the beginning of human creation sets in motion the earthly political order, of human, family and community construct .

 My perspective leads to more empirical responses,that politics arises because groups of people have to do things together to achieve shared goals such as building a family unit, a community, expanded society, and  under certain circumstances, even to survive. There are things that we cannot achieve when we remain “unorganized,”  this is especially so when groups of individuals share a desire for something costly that they would accomplish as a group, rather than as individuals.

Examples of such desired goals abound but include such things as; communie  infrastructures, environmental conditionality, law and order, in the social sciences these are known as ‘public goods,’ but in politics it is considered as, ‘social contract’. To accomplish the objectives of securing public goods, leaders are either selected or elected,  and rewarded, taxes are demanded, and political competition arises. Os often, however, these are the very activities that get in the way and actually prevent citizens from getting things done in their own interest. This article would try to explain why these sorts of contradictions occur;  why politics is necessary, thus, so often dysfunctional, the world of politics is often so nasty that some become anarchists and argue that politics can’t possibly be justified by the welfare needs of the group members.

For most of recorded history it was held that citizens were to support the welfare of the rulers.  In this discussion, such an ethical justification of politics and its hierarchies is reversed, as it has been by most political theorists since Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651). Democracies are predicated on the notion that the political is justified by the welfare of the citizens, most noticeably this is asserted and enshrined in the constitutional context of many nations, as in the Declaration of Independence of united states: First it claims that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, which among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,”  as is stated in the American Constitution, thus the Nigerian constitution has changed over-time but it still maintain a similar context which states that all Nigerians irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political affiliation are bound by the constitution order “That all men are equal, with the right  to life, respect of dignity, entitled to personal liberty and freedom”, thus this very constitutional rights and order has been undermined and put to disrepute by the present party in government since 2015, to date.

The elements of  politics, or more specifically government, is argued to be related to these rights, which include happiness and security: “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the contract of social order.

 To understand the patterns of politics in a group, we need to build on understanding the behavior of individuals in the group. Much of the modern explanations of the twists and turns that make- up the purposive behavior of individuals is premised on a relatively intuitive idea: When people choose, their choices reflect their values and their constraints, leveraging this behavior is often obtained through the logic of rational choice theory. It is perhaps counter- intuitive that such a simple starting point can shine a powerful light on our understanding of the behaviors of political governments, non-governmental political organizations, and individuals, as we will discover, of the rational choice of man has existed over generations, it is so in the beginning before  creation and after creation


The arguments and explanations that follow in this discussion are based on a core theory that many label the ‘theory of rational choice.’ The theory presumes decisions to be the result of conscious choice made by individuals to further the realization of their own preferences. Thus, the reasoning and level of approach would defer between the political concept obtainable from ancient Greek mythology,  to modern British politics and that of emerging democracy such as of Nigeria, with the relative differences in interest accumulation,  participatory  and accountability level in both countries. In the case of Nigeria, the context of rational choice has been thrown out of the domcratic window, as irrational thinking or choices has blanketed the citizens decision-making.

 We need a definition that allows us to distinguish between self-interested and others regarding behavior, the definition of self-interest is not caring for the welfare of others when their welfare doesn’t impact yours directly, but acting in the way that is most personally beneficial. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, famously explained that it is possible to achieve the best economic benefit for all even when, and in fact because, individuals tend to act in their own self-interest. Smith wrote, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.” Smith’s explanation of the invisible hand showed that through the self-interested actions of dozens, hundreds and even thousands of people, without any centralized planning, goods and services get created that benefit both producers and consumers.

Then self-interested behavior will be behavior motivated so that an individual would bear no costs to help (or hurt) someone else, unless doing so would lead to some expected benefit for him/herself.


collective-interest is a group of entities that share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest, and work together to achieve a common objective. Collectivity is sometimes characterised by attempts to share and exercise political and social power and to make decisions on a consensus -driven and egalitarian basis.

Individual interests and collective interest in Bentham’s works

The problem of the distinction between the’ is’ and the’ ought’ is therefore shifting towards the reconciliation of individual interest with the community interest, whenever one coincides this gap is bridged. According to Halévy’s context of utilitarianism, there are three ways of identifying individual and collective interests;  The first is the sympathetic fusion of interests; it supposes that individual interest is not selfish interest;  The second concerns the natural identification of interests; if everyone were to spontaneously act in an ethical manner, not necessarily consciously, there would in fact be no conflict between individual and collective interests, this apparently trivial statement comes from Bentham‘s economic philosophy.

The resulting spontaneous order finds echoes in libertarian theory, where government intervention is neither necessary, nor expected. These two approaches are however insufficient. Bentham devotes the principal part of his work to developing the third approach embedded in his philosophy of law: the artificial identification of interests; Outside intervention is necessary if collective and individual interests are to achieve compatibility.

 Such intervention takes the form either of external intervention on the Civil or Penal code, the legal-administrative supervision of the town or city, or suitable legislation; or internal intervention, resorting to a deontologist (Bentham, 1831).

There are two ways of tackling the problem of identification of interests in Bentham‘s work. The first consists in considering the diversity of the modalities of identification. Some writers have noted an opposition between his economic and political stances, defending a natural identification in the former case and an artificial identification of interest in the latter. But it is difficult to uphold this schizophrenic relationship between the economic and the legislative domain; while other writers have recently shown that Bentham also supports state intervention in the economic domain.

The second approach to consideration of the gap between individual and collective interests is to focus on the case of artificial identification of interests, therefore focusing upon those states in which artificial identification is the only reliable modality of a junction of interests, the same conclusion can be obtained in accordance  to the principle of utility, domain, political or economic, which is most likely to need, or is not likely to need a degree of state intervention.


Preferences are the term used for values people place on outcomes, and alternatives from which they are able to make choices. As such, preferences are a relationship that one imposes upon one’s alternatives, for example; if one prefer a full luckdown to patiala lockdown in the case of Covid-19 pandemic, which  means that for one,  a full lockdown is superior to a patiala lockdown, and when faced with the forces of  choice, one will choose full lockdown for an effective result, to curtail the epidemic widespread in the community.  But preferences don’t get us very far unless we make assumptions regarding their properties,  for example, if one argues that our preferences vary from moment to moment, that  are unstable, and contradictory one would have a less useful theory of behavior built on the foundation of preferences. A set of assumptions must underline the concept of preferences, as assume that people’s preferences are well ordered and stable in any choice context or situation.

Relating this now to the challenging issues and debate ongoing with regards to the emerging political and governance challenges in both Nigeria and Britain, it’s very obvious that the level of preference differs from either side of the political and economic spectrum. The behavioural mode and reactionary mode of the electorate on both sides shows that the concept of preference is much more prevalent  in British politics than it is with the Nigerian political culture, the reason why there is an inconsistent change of government and governance based on elites preferences. Nigerian politics and it’s striving electoral values are still a delusive  element, in which there are varying levels of complex  distortion  on citizens rights and democratic mandate, therefore disconnection between the people’s representational government on social contract values.

A very clear example could be seen on the levels of preference reactions of government to it citizens, in the case of the global pandemic, Covid-19 with regards to the government meaningful and constructive socio-economic interventions, under-taking by the British, France, South Africa, US, Ghana, and Italy government, as against  the dysfunctional, unmeasurable, and certainly unaccountable socio-economic intervention approach by the Nigerian government driving mostly by the prevailing political divide.


 Choice by the individual is presumed to follow her preferences but there are other variables that must be considered, so for example, in the face of the current Covid-19 pandemic, one may prefer to have  money for food, rather than food handouts, but since money-in-hand for food at this time is a greater gain for value,  one may find that the gamble is worth it in the context of prevention economic poverty, and sustaining the market chain of supply and demand

The valuation is modified by the probabilities that are involved in a manner reflecting on the expected values as defined above. Similarly, one  may wish to have  both the money household foods, essential items and also receive palliative foods  , but discover that one does not have enough of both as provided to his household needs, Then, ones choice is constrained by the resources available to him/her this  constraint is referred to as a budget constraint in economics, but in politics here its constraint.

Because when it comes to the effective use of one’s electoral rights (One Vote, Many Choice), the determinant of one’s vote is the thought-mind as influenced by the visual/vocal expression within one’s environment.

In other words, persons make choices over actions, to obtain valued outcomes, this is a presumption that except when the actions themselves have positive or negative value the ends must justify the means. The choices are made in some sort of constrained environment, usually constrained by three things: a defined set of outcomes, a budget or resource constraint, and some set of costs or prices.

Thus, the differentiation in politicking between Nigeria and Britain is very wide, in terms of ideological expressions and understanding which leads to a preponderant political party choice based on attributes and expectations. The political suppression in Nigeria is as a result of the people’s political delusion  and the partrimonal elements democratic choices made in the preference of a particular government in power, that could be individual or collective driven, as is the case of presumed political class,(Cabals) and the subjected electoral elements..


We turn our attention to politics under two circumstances;  Politics is vital when people share interests that are worth pursuing as a group but are too costly for any one individual or family to undertake alone;  Politics also grabs our attention when politicians achieve things that are not in the people’s interests.  We therefore examine politics by analysing the positive basis for politics that grabs  one’s moral attention; Why are political institutions needed when the interests of a group surpass the means of any single individual?  and considering  how the political institutions can be driven toward other ends.

Politics here enables us to achieve together what we can’t achieve separately,  this view enables us to connect the premises of rational choice with the political life we all observe. According to Mancur  Olson, he brilliantly used this connection to create the first models of collective action. He did put the point clearly enough to catch political scientists’ attention, as he put it in the opening of his 1965 blockbuster, “The Logic of Collective Action”:

“The idea that groups tend to act in support of their group interests is supposed to follow logically from this widely held premise of rational, self-interested behavior; But it is not in fact true that the idea that groups will act in their self-interest follows logically from the premise of rational and self-interested behavior; The notion that groups of individuals will act to achieve their common or group interests, far from being a logical implication of their individual interests, is in fact inconsistency.


 We can see that groups can overcome inherent difficulties involved in providing themselves with public goods through collective action, in solving the dilemmas to achieve shared goals usually require collective choice, by a centralized decision. Just because unanimous support for some collective solution should always be possible, as all observers of politics have witnessed, rarely is collective choice of any sort,  much less by unanimity, easy to come by. Frequently more is needed than making sure the group is organized to collect and apply resources needed to carry out collective projects.  Collective, binding decisions are required regarding what is to be done, and how this process is anything but simple, though some of the roadblocks that make for some of these difficulties are analysed in this context.

We humans have a long and difficult history trying to engineer ‘good’ political systems to reach collective choices, which is well reflective of the political struggle from the beginning of creation. We have ruled ourselves with various sorts of regimes, which we might divide into two overly broad classes: autocratic and democratic. And here, in spite of the contemporary Western bias to democracy, looking at the landscape of political history, one notices that humans have prospered under a variety of regimes irrespective of the justification of liberty and freedom. Thus, civilization did not require true democracy as may have been instituted by the Greek democratic order; But it did require an element of  a people’s consent and decent government of the people. Since a degree of general prosperity is needed for the leaders, even the rare Stalins and Caligulas of the world have to consider constraints to their behavior in order to bolster the welfare of their citizens, in an autocratic regime.

People behaviour and making choice

One of the central roles of citizens in democracies and other political systems is to make decisions about political matters. In democracies, this involves decisions about which parties or candidates to support in an election, as well as decisions about which issue positions to hold, how to participate in politics, and so forth. In other political systems, the choices are different, but the task of making a choice remains. In an autocratic system, the choice might be between making an openly affirmative statement to a government declaration, remaining silent about it, or subtly even criticizing it. In any case, citizens make choices when political issues are brought to their attention, whether in an autocratic or a democratic system.

In democratic systems electoral choices are at the center of the political process and engagement. Thus, the study of electoral choice is understood to be naturally  a core theme in political behavior research, which has produced dramatic advances in the body of  knowledge about how voters reach their decisions on how to vote. It is presumed that many voters were ill prepared to deal with the complexities of politics; taking into consideration that voters relied on shortcuts, such as group cues or affective partisan loyalties, to simplify political decision-making and guide their individual behavior, such as is the practise in developed democracies, in the America or British party politics. This approach also stressed the underlying stability of party competition because people supposedly based their political decisions on enduring social or traditional cleavages, and stable party–voter alignments where  focus is based on ideological lining.

The emerging democratic systems in developing countries such as, in Nigeria face the task of developing a relatively stable and institutionalized basis of party competition, in order to erode the challenges of the nature of elite top-down politics, that lacks a strong social basis for political parties. Without an open honest structure, it is difficult for citizens to learn about the policy choices available to them, and translate this into meaningful electoral choices; it is difficult to ensure accountability in the democratic process, as people actions during electoral engagement is centred on information knowledge and as been guided by the behaviour of key political activists. This situation presents the unique opportunity  to examine how political  party attachments take root, the relationships between social groups and parties are formed,  how party images develop, and citizens learn the process of representative democracy. However, the creation of political party systems in the view of globalization of media, has shifted the  greater knowledge about electoral politics (from the elite and public levels),  to a fundamentally different electorates that are willing to redefine the pattern of earlier democratization periods, as is been experienced in few countries around the world, such as; in Europe, UK, and America.

These new dynamic shifts of electoral choice development have taken decades in most of the Western democracies to attain, notwithstanding the much prevalent political language manipulation, thus highly  magnified by many mainstream media, sowellving voters’ reactions during key election periods, as choices are well mis-guided and reflects on the final vote outcomes. This is shown in understanding the positive and negative aspects of electoral outcomes in many democracies, from varying perspectives, therefore either producing the people’s choice , or on the other hand the political elites choice, this are the case in many emerging democracies, in Africa, such as; Nigeria, whose democratic process and outcomes has been controlled and preceded by its political elites for twenty years  with the prospects for future changes very slim and unrealistic, except the people make rational choice for a decisive people’s driven ‘Social Revolution’ under a reconstructed civil society institutionalization and reformed governance system.

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