“Armed Prophets Win; Disarmed Lose” says “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli

Born in 1469, Niccolo Machiavelli witnessed the gradual decline of the once-mighty Medici ruling family, particularly after the collapse of their banking empire in 1494. Machiavelli served as the secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, affording him a front-row seat to the political deceptions, treacheries, and crimes that unfolded before him. Amidst the churning currents of Renaissance Italy, he witnessed the power dynamic that defines the centre stage of political players.

It was within this cauldron of political turmoil that Machiavelli was inspired to write his magnum opus, “The Prince,” in 1513. This seminal work, published posthumously in 1532, shortly after his death in 1527, stands as Machiavelli’s astute observations and pragmatic insights into effective governance. Written in Italian rather than the traditional Latin, “The Prince” marked a departure from conventional political treatises of the time, delving directly into the realm of realpolitik without the trappings of religious or allegorical allegiances.

To date, “The Prince” garnered both acclaim and controversy among its readers. On one hand, it was hailed as a groundbreaking exploration of practical politics, offering a no-holds-barred guide to navigating the treacherous waters of power. On the other hand, critics decried it as a ruthless manifesto that sanctioned the abandonment of morality in pursuit of political power. In truth, both perspectives hold merit, reflecting the nuanced complexity of Machiavellian politics.

“The Prince”: A Blueprint for Power Politics

In the realm of political theory, Niccolò Machiavelli stands as a towering figure, and his magnum opus, “The Prince,” continues to exert its influence centuries after its publication. As I delve into Machiavelli’s insights, I find striking parallels between his principles and the landscape of contemporary politics. In this review, I will explore how Machiavelli’s teachings resonate with the actions of political leaders, focusing on selected states and their power grabbers.

Machiavelli’s central thesis revolves around the pragmatic exercise of power, unencumbered by moral considerations and dogmatism. He famously asserts, “It is better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.” This assertion finds echoes in the actions of numerous leaders who prioritise maintaining control over fostering goodwill among their populace.

Machiavelli asserts that individuals such as Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, and Theseus were not simply products of chance but were able to seize upon opportunities presented to them and demonstrate exceptional virtue in their leadership.

According to Machiavelli, it is not merely luck or circumstance that determines the success of these leaders, but rather their virtuous qualities and decisive actions. They were able to capitalise on favourable circumstances and wield power effectively to elevate their homelands to greatness.

Moreover, Machiavelli emphasises the importance of being armed, both metaphorically and literally, in securing and maintaining power. He suggests that leaders who are prepared to use force when necessary are more likely to succeed and achieve their objectives. In contrast, those who are unarmed or unwilling to resort to force are at a disadvantage and risk losing power and influence.

Machiavellian Principles: A Case Studies of African Power Politics

Machiavelli’s principles of leadership have long reverberated through the corridors of power, transcending time and geography. In the complex landscape of contemporary African politics, his teachings find vivid expression, shaping the actions and strategies of leaders across the continent.

One such example is Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s regime was characterized by authoritarianism and suppression of dissent. He wielded power ruthlessly, instilling fear among his citizens rather than earning their affection. His grip on power, though despotic, exemplifies Machiavelli’s principle of prioritizing fear over love.

Similarly, in Equatorial Guinea, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has maintained an iron grip on power since 1979. His regime has been marred by allegations of human rights abuses and political repression. Machiavelli’s dictum, “The end justifies the means,” seems apt when analysing Obiang’s ruthless pursuit of power and wealth, often at the expense of his people’s welfare.

However, Machiavelli’s teachings extend beyond mere authoritarianism to encompass strategic statecraft and military prowess. He emphasises the importance of a well-organized military and astute political maneuvering to secure and expand one’s dominion.

In Egypt under the rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, provides a pertinent example. El-Sisi rose to power through a military coup in 2013 and has since consolidated his authority through a combination of military strength and political cunning. His regime’s suppression of dissent and strategic alliances with powerful actors both domestically and internationally mirror Machiavelli’s prescriptions for maintaining power.

Furthermore, Machiavelli’s discourse on the proper organisation of a ruler’s court finds resonance in the political dynamics of Nigeria. Nigerian politics is rife with patronage networks and alliances, reminiscent of Machiavelli’s emphasis on the internal makeup of a prince’s court. In Nigeria, political leaders often surround themselves with loyalists, family, and allies, rewarding them with positions of power and influence to ensure their continued support in their quest to consolidate political power.


However, Machiavelli’s pragmatic approach to governance is not without controversy. Critics argue that his amoral stance undermines principles of justice and morality in politics. Nonetheless, Machiavelli’s enduring influence on political thought cannot be denied, particularly in contexts where the pursuit and consolidation of power take precedence over ethical considerations.

In conclusion, Machiavelli’s “The Prince” remains a seminal work that offers valuable insights into the nature of power and governance. Its relevance extends beyond the Renaissance Italy in which it was penned to resonate with the political realities of contemporary world.

Nasiru Abdulrasheed
Nasiru Abdulrasheed

A Political Scientist and Tech-Journalism entrepreneur.

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