Plato’s Notion Of Philosopher King, And Nigerian Leaders

Plato’s Notion Of Philosopher King, And Nigerian Leaders, A Comparative Analysis



Plato, one of the greatest philosophers of the world, was born in Athens in the year 427Bc, of a distinguished Athenian family. His father was named Ariston, and his Mother, Perictione.




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Plato came from a distinguished family with many political connections. Through his stepfather, he had a link with Pericles, who gave his name to the great age of Athenian history. Plato received the normal education of a Greek boy, learning to read and write and study the poets. More important, he grew up in a city of war. The Peloponnesian War, which began just before his birth lasted until he was twenty-three, and ended in defeat and humiliation of Athens. “During the later course of the Peloponnesian War, (it was highly probable that Plato fought at Arginusae in 406), it can hardly have failed to strike Plato that the democracy lacked a truly capable and responsible leader, and that these were easily spoiled by the necessity of pleasing the populace.” [1] Plato’s final abstention from home politics no doubt dates from trial, and condemnation of his Master and friend, Socrates; but the formulation of his conviction that the ship (State), needs a firm pilot to guide her, and that this pilot

must be one who knows the right course to follow, and who is prepared to act conscientiously in accordance to that knowledge, that can hardly fail to have been laid during the years when Athenian power was passing to its eclipse[2]. Plato applied himself to the study of painting and writing poems, dithyrambics at first and afterwards lyric poems and tragedies. He lived in the flourishing period of Athenian culture, and must have received a cultured education. His relatives in the Oligarchy of 403/4 urged Plato to enter the political life under their patronage, but when the Oligarchy started to pursue a policy of violence and attempted to implicate Socrates in their crimes, Plato became disgusted with them. Yet the democrats were no better, since it was they who put Socrates to death and Plato accordingly abandoned the idea of political career. Plato was present at the trial of Socrates, but was absent from the death-scene of his friend and master, due to an illness. Here is Plato’s account, in his seventh letter, written when he was an old man, of his experiences during these years when he was a young man of about twenty-eight. Here is the account;

“I had much the same experience as many young men. I expected, when I came of age, to go into politics. The political situation gave me an opportunity. The existing constitution, which was subject to widespread criticism, was overthrown and a committee of thirty given supreme power. I thought of they were given to reform the society and rule justly, and so I watched their proceedings with deep interest. They tried to incriminate my old friend Socrates, whom I should not hesitate to call the most upright men them living, by bringing him

forcibly to execution. When I saw all these and other things as bad, I was disgusted and drew back from the wickedness of the times”[3].

Plato founded the Academy in 285Bc, near the sanctuary of the hero, Academus. The Academy may rightly be called the first European university, for the studies were not confined to philosophy proper, but extended over a wide range of auxiliary sciences like Mathematics, astronomy and the physical sciences, the members of the school joining in the common worship of the muses. “Youths came to the Academy, not only from Athens itself, but also from abroad. Plato, through his Academy, aimed at producing statesmen and not demagogues”.[4] Besides directing the studies in the Academy, Plato himself also gave lectures and his students took notes. It is important to note that these lectures were not published, and that they stand in contrast to the dialogues, which were published works meant for “popular reading. We possess Plato’s popular works, his dialogues, but not his lectures Until his death in 348/7Bc, he (Plato) lived in Athens, where he continue his activities in the Academy. He died at the age of eighty.

1.2 What Is State; This is a question that is not easy to answer because, the state has been conceived of in different ways and from varying perspectives. It will therefore

be necessary to attempt an elucidation of the concept of the state in general. Thus, its characteristics, and its aims as buttressed by its functions with a view to disambiguating it. Some people have conceived of the state via its characteristics and nature, while others have conceived of it in terms of its functions and aims. To answer the question what is a state, we will try to describe what the state is in terms of its characteristics and in using the Aristolian principle of the “function category” (Aristotle, Nichomeclean Ethics) and how it function to achieve its aim.

In the history of political philosophy, there have been two broad notions of the state. First, is the classical notion, which sees the state in minimal sense? The second is the modern notion, which sees the state in an ultra minimal sense. “In this case the state performs the limited functions of preventing theft, fraud and promotion of contract and agreements, and guards against the use of force”[5]. This conception can be interpreted in two ways. It could mean what the state was in classical sense. This conception in any case would be anachronistic and obsolete because such conception no longer tallies with modern state structure, with its complexities of functions and problems. This conception should be understood to mean what the state ought to be

in his ideal sense. If this were the case, such a conception would be unrealistic. “This is because to give only this function to the state is not at all that is needed to confront

most of the problem it is likely to face in modern sense especially within the context of international legal political and economic systems”[6].

The state now performs or is expected to perform from a moral perspective, redistributive function, which makes it transcend a mere minimal sense. Moreover, the ability to perform more than minimal function is one of the basis for moral evaluation of a state in the international scene. To some extent therefore, Nozick’s conception is either morally unrealistic or simply amoral in that sense. In this discourse we have decided to uphold the modern conception of the state, a view which sees   that state, as performing or being expected to perform more than mere prevention of fraud and theft, the enforcement of contracts and agreements, and guarding the use of force. When a community as a group of people, desires political independence, it becomes a nation. When it finally gains that political independence, it becomes a state. Any political independent group of people is a stat. Usually a nation state is made up of people occupying a definite territory, sharing a common language, common customs, traditions, religion, and race. In the modern world, such a nation state is very hard to come by. The reason being that, even in the apparently

homogenous nations, there are differences which might be such that the issue of a common language, the people of Ugboha may not have much in common with the people of Iruekpen senatorial zone even though all of them speak Esan. A state can be defined as politically independent, territorially defined, group of people, possessing a government that is subordinate to none other, and monopolizing the coercive instrument of compulsion in the enforcement of its decisions. It has been asserted that though there may be differences in the functions, aims and nature of the state, there are still certain basic characteristics that are common to all the states, which either jointly or singularly designates them as states. Liberal individualists want to insist   on defining a state as or something reminiscent of ‘a people living in a given territory under one law with a single governmental system extending to all of them, and to no one else, are then members of a state. “But the state as an institution does not embrace all the roles in which they are but only political or legal roles”[7].

  • Theories Of The Origin Of State

Many thinkers have been concerned with discovering how state originated. Perhaps, this quest stemmed from the perplexing questions; has anyone the right to govern?

Many answers have been given but for easy understanding, we shall discuss them under the following heading: the speculative and historical theories. The Speculative include; Divine Theory, and Force Theory. The Historical Theories include: Social Contract and Natural Theory.

1.3.1. The Divine Theories

The Divine theorist believer that the state is in a way divinely ordained and as such demands absolute obedience from all within its confines. He wrote lucidly: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers for there is no power but of God; the powers that be, are ordained by God.” One is understandably reluctant to accept this command in its entirety. What of the powers of field marshal Idi Amin Dada, when he was the undisputed ruler of Uganda? What do we say of the powers of Emperor Bokassa, the sole ruler of the short –lived Central African Empire? Did God also ordain these? After all, as they lasted, they were one of the powers that be. It follows from the above, that if we accept this view of state, we are asking for absolute and dictatorial government in which the rights of the citizens are completely ignored. In fact, to stretch this further, individuals have no right to assert their rights because they have none, and they cannot revolt against an unjust government because God ordains it. Perhaps, this type of doctrine is best suited to the colonized peoples, who must,

like sacrificial lambs, follow their colonial masters. Having said this however, it will not be out of place to stress the point, which, this theory tries to make, though in a most unwelcome way. No government in the world over can last long unless the governed regard it as a vital aspect of their lives and frown at its overflow. In a way, government should be regarded as a sacred cow to be challenged and overthrown only in very serious cases.

1.4 The Social Contract Theories

The social contract theorists were group of philosophers who believes that men, at a point in time, freely (out of their volition) agreed to bind themselves together under a government and each person is duty bound to keep to the terms of this agreement. One may make haste to ask; why is this theory called social contract theory? The theory is so called because it depicts the element of mutual agreement. We shall discuss three of the theorists in this chapter.

1.4.1 Thomas Hobbes And Social Contract Theory: A Review

Hobbes (1588-1679), English philosopher preferred an absolute government to the political instability and near anarchy that characterized the England civil war period[8]. Hobbes lived in about 17th century in England, when civil war occasioned by political

and class differences, devastated the country and made life insecure for everybody. He therefore, imagined from insecurity and brutality accompanying the civil war,

what the world would be like without order government. In his words, man’s life was nasty, brutish and short. It was a state of insecurity and a state where might was right. As can be seen from Hobbes description of the state of nature it was in fact a description of the civil war period.

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In Hobbes opinion, man realized that the only way out of his problem was to surrender to his natural rights; his right to rule himself to a leviathan and every other man was to do the same. The leviathan then became absolute ruler. The rule of the leviathan could not take its character unless the surrender of natural rights was

absolute and irrevocable. What is important to note is the contact between them and the leviathan. This means that they had no rights and the leviathan had no obligations. The leviathan’s power was absolute and the subject has no right to revolt. This was precisely what Thomas Hobbes wanted to achieve. He felt that the British people had no right to revolt against their king. What strikes one first about Hobbes’s theory of the state is that he approaches the subject not from a historical point of view, but from the vantage point of logic and analysis.

1.4.2 John Locke And The Social Contract Theory

John Locke (1632-1704), lived through the “Glorious Revolution of 1688” and used the same social contract theory to prove that the English people had the right to

overthrow King James II and invite William of Orange to take over the throne. In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke begins his political theory as Hobbes did, with a treatment of ” the state of nature” But he described this condition in a very different way, even making Hobbes5  the target of his remarks. `

For Locke the state of nature is not the same as Hobbes ‘war of all against all”. On the contrary, Locke says, “men living together according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with the authority to judge between them is properly the state of nature”. Put differently, Locke drew a picture of a state of nature in which man had certain natural and inalienable right to freedom of life and property.[9] Man’s problem was not how to escape from the state of nature, but rather how to maximize the enjoyment of all the rights that nature had given him. He made an agreement, this time not with his fellow man but with the sovereign’s authority. The agreement made was in two folds. It was binding on both the sovereign and the subjects. Hence the sovereign‘s power was limited to the terms of the agreement, and as long as he protected the lives, property and freedom of the subjects, the subjects would continue to accept his authority. But once the sovereign failed to perform this crucial function, the subjects were free to seek alternative arrangement. Hence, the agreement is limited and revocable. Locke was, therefore, calling for a constitutional government not as absolute government as Hobbes. Yet both men used social contract to arrive at two different systems of government.

1.4.3. Jean Jacques Rousseau And The Social Contract Theory

In J.J Rousseau’s social contract, man surrendered himself and all his rights absolutely but not to an individual, not even to the government which is only an agent of the sovereign[10]. The sovereign is the ‘General Will” of the people or the community or the state as a collectivity. By making this absolute surrender, each man secured for himself, true liberty because, the interest of the community is the real interest of each of us, even though sometime we tended not to see it as such. Rousseau regarded social contract as an art of association or union by which men decide to leave their original state and establish together in a new form of life, with the purpose of preserving their person, freedom, and properties and realizing themselves to the fullest[11]. The social contract in Rousseau’s arrangement is obviously a solution of sort to a pressing problem of malaise that men encountered at a critical point in time.

Succinctly, Rousseau formulated the problem thus;

The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force, the person and good of each while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone and remain as free as before.[12]

The above is to say that the problem which social contract sets out to solve is clear. To this end, Rousseau was quick to observe that for the above to be possible,

Each of us puts his person and all his power in common, under the supreme direction of the General will and in our corporate

capacity, we receive each member as an individual part of the whole.[13]

The dynamics of Rousseau’s social contract implies that act of association creates or plays up moral and collective body when is called in his terminology, the state when passive; the sovereign when active and a power in relation to other bodies like itself.

Who is this sovereign one may ask? The idea of the sovereign according to JJ Rousseau is more or less a metaphysical entity hence; it is not visibly identifiable in an individual in the state. The sovereign, in Rousseau’s scheme should not be interpreted to mean Monarch or legislative capacity. In this vein, the sovereign is not the government, which, if it is admitted, may be tyrannical; it is more[14] or less metaphysical not fully embodied in any form of visible organs of the state. It follows in the light of the above, that individuals in so far as they are parties to the social contract are indeed members of the sovereign. How can this be?

1.4.5 The Force Theory

The fullest expression of this theory is found in the saying that “Might is right”. It traces the origin of the state to conquest and coercion. The powerful ones impose their rule over the weaker ones. Hence, the state is essentially evil because it is borne out of injustice. One of the characters in platonic Dialogue endorses this view.

Government exists principally to protect the interest of the dominant group in the society. Consequent upon this, they enact laws in their own interest and punish and coerce those who do not obey and conform simply because, they possess the power to do so. Karl Marx also sees the state in this light. To him, the state is nothing but the executive committee of the bourgeoisie. This state is therefore, nothing more than a machine for the oppression of one class, by another. One fundamental fact of all governments is being preached by force theory. Government, no matter their characterizations, governs according to their own conceptions of what public interests are. These public interests as they see them invariably turn out to be the interest of the governors themselves. It is an indubitable fact that by our human nature, it is often very difficult for us to clearly draw clear- cut line between our private or class interest and the interests of our community.

As part of the contribution of this theory is the timely warning it gives that government tends to govern according to their own interest and that more often than not, they do not pretend to justify their rule. Therefore, every effort should be made to keep governments within limit. On the other hand, the force theory exaggerates the selfish propensities of human nature. Certainly, men are selfish, but under certain conditions or circumstances, human selfishness can be controlled. However, not all men can allow their selfish interest to override their concern for public interest. By characterizing all human beings as utterly selfish, the force theory sows the seed of mutual distrust between the governors and the governed. As a follow up, it should be noted that where honesty is not rewarded and appreciated, definitely, corruption would be promoted.

1.5 The Natural Or Organic Theory

The Natural theory of the origin of state is associated with Aristotle. This is so because, he sees the family as the association established by nature for the supply of  man’s everyday wants. In the process of time, the wants and needs of the family transcend the subsistence and immediate reach of the family. Several families then unite to advance their common interests. An association of families unites to form villages as their wants multiply. In like manner and for the same purposes, several villages came together to form a state. Hence, the state has its origin and justification in the expanded needs of the families that make it up[15]. The state is then the creation of nature, and is by nature a political animal, born to live in the state. Man, family, villages are all parts of the state.   A thorough understanding of this theory brings out clearly the point, that man’s nature has not at any time, given him any choice between

government and no government this question has been settled by man’s nature once and for all. Man lives and exists only in a state. Outside the state, he has no life. In addition, the theory highlights the importance and sacredness of the state as the preserver of man. Man should, therefore regard the state with due respect and should do everything required of him to ensure the survival and prosperity of the state. On the negative side, the theory presents a too simplistic view of the state and so leaves out of the account, the rights and obligations of the governors and the governed. It therefore follows that if state is natural, then man becomes incapable of shaping it[16].

1.6 The State; The need of having the State

Plato’s political theory is developed in close connection with his ethics. Greek life was essentially communal like, lived out in the city-state, so that it would not occur to any genuine Greek that a man could be a perfectly good man if he stood entirely apart from the state, since it is only in and through society that the good life becomes

possible for man and society meant the City State. “According to Plato, state grows out of the nature of the individual, so that the individual comes logically prior to the State”[17]. The State is a natural institution, natural because it reflects the structure of human nature. For a philosopher like Plato, then who concerned himself with man’s happiness, with the true good life for man, it was imperative to determine the true nature and function of the State. If the citizens were morally bad men, it would indeed be impossible to secure a good state, but conversely, if the state were a bad

State, the individual citizens will find themselves unable to lead the good life, as it should be lived. Aristotle believes that the State exists for an end, and this is the supreme good of man, his moral and intellectual life. The origin of the State is a reflection of people’s economic needs, for says Plato, “a state comes into existence because no individual is self sufficing, we all have many needs”[18].

Our needs require many skills, and no one possesses all the skills needed to produce food, shelter, and clothing, to say nothing of the various arts. There must, therefore, be a division of labour, says Plato,

“for more things will be produced and the work more easily and better done, when every man is set free from all other occupations

to do, at the right time, the one thing for which he is naturally fitted,”[19]

People’s needs are not limited to their physical requirements, for their goal is not simply survival, but a life higher than animals’. Plato was not a man to accept the notion that there is one morality for the individual and another for the State. The State is composed of individual men and exists for the leading of the good life. There is absolute moral code that rules all men and all State. Plato did not look upon the State as personality or organism that can or should develop itself without restraint, without

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paying any attention to the moral code or law, nor is it the source of its own moral code. “The State, says John Locke exists as a safeguard to the natural rights of individuals which they cannot guard through their own power.”[20]

1.7 The Ideal State. The True State according to Plato

Plato, while talking about the State, meant it to be the ideal state. According to Plato, this ideal Sate will not be democratic, rather authoritarian. He believes that this ideal

State will be an example on how other States will be built. In this ideal State, Plato divided the citizens into three classes, namely, the guardians, the auxiliaries or the soldiers and the common people. These correspond to the three parts of the Soul in Plato’s psychology. These three parts are Reason, Spirit and Appetite. The guardians

are the rulers of the State, the auxiliaries are to defend the State, and the common people are to provide the material need of the State. The guardians-the-rulers are to be philosophers. They are to undergo a long and rigorous educational programme before taking up any official assignment. The guardians embody the spirited element of the soul and the highest class, the rulers, represents the rational element. These guardians, according to Plato must be the best men in their class, intelligent, powerful and careful of the State, loving the State and pursuing the true interests of the State without thought of their own personal advantage or disadvantage. They must be trained to know who the real enemies of the Sate are. The common people of the State are the farmers, hunters, and fishermen. They are seen as the lowest class of the State. It is when there is harmony among the three classes, will the Ideal State be achieved, and for harmony to exist there must be justice. Each class should fulfill its role efficiently and not interfering in the roles of other classes. Plato believes that for the guardians-the-ruler-the philosopher kings-to rule very well, they should not have private families, so as not to be attached to the different families. Everything should be in common, wives, children houses etc. Plato does not believe in democracy. To him, talking about democracy is like everybody coming to direct the ship. It is only those who have undergone special training and education in philosophy can rule a State i.e. the ruler must be a philosopher king. Democracy (understood by Plato as the rule by mob) is, “The worst of all lawful governments, and the best of all lawless ones”[21]. According to him, the best form of government is aristocratic state. He believes that after their rigorous training, they must have been prepared to rule, and discern good from bad. The ruler must be the philosopher king.

1.8 Laws: The Ideal way of ruling the people, according to Plato

In the composition of the “Laws”, Plato seems to have been influenced by the personal experiences. The says that the best condition for founding the desired Constitution will be had if the enlightened Statesman meets with an enlightened and benevolent tyrant, since the despot will be in a position to put the suggested reforms into practice. Plato was clearly influenced by the history of Athens, its rise to the position of a commercial a maritime empire, its fall in the Peloponnesian War. His experience at Syracuse would have shown him at least that there was a better hope of realizing the desired constitutional reforms in a city ruled over by one man than in democracy, such as in Athens. “He says that a state in which the law is above the rulers, and the rulers are inferior to the law, has salvation and every blessing which the gods can confer”[22]. The laws, says Plato, is meant to govern everybody; the rulers, soldiers and common people. Laws are seen as the guardian that guides and directs the state. Laws are formed for the good of the entire state.



2.1     The notion of leadership

Political and ethical activity in principle aspires for realization of the best way to organize men so that the highest excellence of character can be evidenced, both in the individual and the state. Leadership is seen as the ability to lead, and co-ordinate people, state, organization, and country, effectively for the realization of the common good. Most of the time, leaders struggle and present themselves as worthy for such a responsibility, but it is not all the time that contestants realize that leadership is a huge and tasking service. Much as leadership could be controverted, but when truly understood, it is inextricably bound up with service, positive service.[23]It is because leaders are seen as the flag-bearers that people pray to have good and efficient leaders, who will pilot and lead them well. According to Oxford Advance learners Dictionary, it said this about leadership, “The act of being a leader, a person that leads, the ability to be a leader” A leader is seen as a person, who respects other people. He is never autocratic or domineering. There is no denial that a leader can easily be carried away by his/her own sentiments. However, the sentiments of  leadership should go beyond party affiliations, campaign, and rhetoric and individual wishes of self-aggrandizement. Leaders should avoid making policy statement in a biased state of mind, thoughtlessness and controversy. A legitimate leader has authority, and if he /she claim to posses’ absolute power, it is because he/she has not understood his/her role. Leadership is not a personal property. A leader acts according to the principle of equity. If he/she sets a good pace expressed in words and deeds, others will follow suit, following the dictates of their good conscience. It is against this background that Pope Paul IV, remarks that the modern person (leaders) listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he/she listens to teachers; it is because they are witnesses. A leader who seeks to direct the lot of mankind on behalf of others should know at once the truth of his /her existence, the nature of things he/she marches to pursue. A good leader brings joys love and progress to the organization, state and country. He is seen as an inspiration to his people.

2.2 Mahatma Gandhi, An Example Of A True Leader.

According to Judith M. Brown, she says

it was the First World War that transformed Gandhi into a political leader to be reckoned with in his fatherland. If India had not felt the repercussions of the European conflict, it is possible that Gandhi would have remained a public worker in the small world of the district and the market town, only occasionally participating in the activities of their political nation.[24]

The people hailed Gandhi as a liberator because; he made them understand that their English Landlords had no divine right to exploit them forever. He removed the fear, which made them suffer in silence for too many years, and made them stand up for their right. He was ready to suffer to any length to ensure that the exploitation stopped. In the course of this, he took the people’s identity and gave them hope.

Mohamdas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as “Gandhi, was born on October 2, 1869 in the town of Porbandar in the state of Gujarat in Western India. “His people gave “Mahatma” which means “the great soul” to him, but his rejection of it, due to humility, did not stop his people from calling him the name. He had no formal education, but the wealth of practical experience he acquired through community leadership put him in good stead. He died in 1885.  During a dazzling reception organized for him in Bombay on his return, Gandhi, cautiously told his countrymen the type of person he was. His first target was the English language. He made it a point of duty to make his speech in his native language. He called it, “my humble protest against the use of English language in a Gujarati gathering”. He was glad to observe that his humble protest did not evoke negative reactions from the crowd. Gandhi, in one of his speeches said these about the British, “The British were masters in somebody’s house. Their very presence was a humiliation. Imperialism is government of other people, by other people, for other people. It is a perpetual insult, for it assumes that the outsider has the right to rule the insiders, who cannot rule themselves. Even if the British had converted India into a land flowing with honey, they breed a desire for liberation. Hence, imperialism digs its own grave and there can be no good colonizers”[25].

Gandhi is a nonviolent leader. He never urged insolent leader. He was the lone voice for his people. Louis Fischer, an American journalist, wrote that when Gandhi fell by the assassin’s bullets, the conscience of mankind was left without a spokesman. [26] Roman Rolland, described Gandhi as the man who became one with the universal Being. Charles Andrews, an English missionary, who became one of Gandhi’s closet disciples, wrote that the only illuminating parallel he could think of in comparison with Gandhi was St.Francis of Assis. Mahatma Gandhi was really a good leader to his people, and an example to future and upcoming leaders.

2.3 Great Leaders Of History

Looking back in history, one can say that the world is not short of great and reputable leaders. Men, who laid their lives for the good to their people. Some of these great leaders were Martin Luther King Jr. of America, Mahatma Gandhi of India, Sir Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu of Nigeria, and Nelson Mandela of South Africa. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Socrates, Ken Saro Wiwa of Nigeria, etc. These men of great repute fought with the last drop of their blood to make sure that their people were saved from the clutches of death and slavery.

Socrates, one of the ancient philosophers was executed because, he was teaching the youth. He died by drinking a hemlock. Socrates was not the only person among the great leaders murdered. James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King Jr.  on April 4th, 1968. He was a black man.[27] Martin Luther King Jr. was great because, he did not allow personal interests and safety to supercede the common good; he surrendered his life and all as a price in order to make other people great. He gave his life hat others might live and live like human beings. He was seen as a true and worthy leader because, he was bold enough to defy American racist laws in favour of the dictates of his conscience, which persistently informed him that “to cooperate passively with an unjust system, makes the oppressed as evil as the oppressor”[28].Nelson Mandela, another great leader, was seen by his people, as  another Christ. He is a fearless man who inspires courage in others. Being a lawyer, he was courageous enough to confront the white people, demanding their own rights, and often-organized strikes to enable him achieve his aim. He, like Martin Luther King Jr. adopted nonviolence policy.

Mahatma Gandhi was another leader of great repute. He was seen as the hope of his people. He was imitator of the non-violence. He liberated India with the healing power of truth, love, redemptive suffering and non-violence. His weakness is the strength of India and all the oppressed people everywhere in the world. His life was violently taken by an assassin’s bullet on January 30, 1948. He was a light to his people. Ken Saro Wiwa rose up to defend his people [Ogonis], who were being oppressed by the Nigerian government, only to be executed with eight other Ogonis by the then head of state, Late Gen Sani Abacha. His people looked upon him as their arrowhead. These types of leaders are what the modern world needs. Leaders, who can stand and speak the truth without fear, Leaders are born, not made.

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2.4 Qualities of a good Leader

A legitimate leader is one who has the proper mandate to exercise authority over the people. More than a ruler, i.e. one who simply dishes orders and expects others to follow his or her dictates, a leader leads the people in words and actions toward the achievement of the goals of the group, e.g. the democratic ideal. Thus, a good leader is good. Nevertheless, more than moral goodness, a good leader must also possess that administrative and social charisma that makes fellowship effective. He must not just be there, either as sit tight to power or busy defending his sit to the throne. He cannot be corporally there expecting things to work out well on their own. He must set down to work, organize, go out to get and effectively relate with others to make things happen. A good leader goes for goals, political goals.

In our context in this essay, a good leader is one who will make effective the just scheme of democracy based on the principles of Communalism. He understands what the theory is all about and with the people behind and co-operating with him, he works hard and selflessly to achieve the goals of enwisdomized democratic governance. For this, he is to be inbuilt with certain indispensable qualities. The bottom line is the capability to realize the objectives of the group given their circumstances. His reward is in his performance. We shall summarize the qualities of a good leader under the following headings.

Good and Deep Knowledge; the leader must have a profound knowledge of the people he or she is leading. This entails both theoretical and practical knowledge. Theoretically, he must have vision, which means a foresight that perceives certain issues and problems ahead of time. Practically he must have the technical know-how of quick answers to quick problems that will crop up. In both theoretical and practical knowledge, the leader must have faith in the task before him, confident that they are valid worthwhile and therefore worth committal. It entails knowledge of what the people want to achieve as a political community, and the best possible means of achieving this. Further, the circumstances of the people must be grasped and appreciated, include historical, cultural and developmental factors surrounding the people.

Membership-; The leader must be a full member of the community in terms of participating in the life and objectives and destiny of those he is leading. This entails extended experience of the life and events of the people. This experience will make him correspond to being an ideal character that can deliver the goods of effective leadership. Thus he will feel neither superior nor interior to other members, but as being one of them. That means having the same identify with the people, who in turn make him or her develop a good character, a good image among the people, and good records of earlier performance. He is one well integrated into the values and life style of the people, thereby able to lead them ahead for better goals.

Tolerant: The principle of toleration is fundamental. For divergences of opinions and conflicts of interests will be there. A good leader will have to be considerate,mallable and understanding. Above all, he must be forgiving to those who offend and who are ready to go ahead with the system.

Patience: The leader cannot do without patience, i.e. endurance that can withstand hurdles. It includes perseverance that continues without failure till the task is done. Only these two qualities will sustain him to reach the goal. Not only should he be patient with members who may be in a hurry to get quick results, but also with the system that may not go as fast as on, including the leader himself, would want it.




3.1       Leadership; Nigerian Style

The problem with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. “The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmarks of true leadership”. On the morning after Murtala Muhammad seized power in July 1975, Public servants in Lagos were found “on seat” at seven-thirty in the morning. Even the “go-slow” traffic that had defeated every solution and defiled every regime vanished overnight from the streets; why? The new ruler’s reputation for ruthlessness was sufficient to transform in the course of only one night, the style and habit of Nigeria’s unruly capital. One can say that the basic element of this misfortune (bad leadership) is the seminal absence of intellectual rigour in the political thought of our founding fathers – a tendency to pious materialistic woolliness and self-centered pedestrianism. The most commonly enunciated Nigeria ideal is “unity”. So important is it to us that it stands inscribed on our coat-of-arms and so sacred that the blood of millions of our countrymen, women and children was shed between 1967 and 1970 to uphold it

against secessionist forces. It was Mr. Ukpabi Asika who defined Nigerian unity as “absolute good”, but the question is, how valid is this notion of unity as an absolute good?  “Unity can only be as good as the purpose for which it is desired



Obviously, it is good for a group of people to unite to build a School, or a hospital or a nation. But supposing a group of other people got together in order to rob a bank. Their unity is deemed undesirable. Indeed, lawyers would call their kind of unity by the unflattering name of conspiracy. Unity as a virtue is not absolute but conditional, on heir satisfaction of other purposes. Their social validity depends on the willingness or the ability of citizens to ask the searching question. This calls for a habit of mental rigour for which unfortunately our leaders are not famous.

Our leaders ought to aspire to what will promote the dignity of the human person, meaningful existence and a united community of person. Bringing in Hubert Humphrey’s famous words as gadfly. He affirms

The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life – the sick, the needy and handicapped[30].

The Philosophies of our government and leaders will be evident in the kinds and qualities of bills, laws and programmes that they bring out. If they do not advance the human and environmental values sound life/education of our children, the status of the aged who gave their lives for the nation in their prime, the sick and the socially disadvantaged, who rely on the community in time of their need, then the talk of leadership will be a mere propaganda. There is need for quality leadership from the leaders that challenges and enkindles the fire of self-trust and creativity in the citizenry. What young person, listening to President John F Kennedy of the United States deliver his inaugural speech, will not be inspired by these words?

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed on to a new generation of Americans-born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, let every nation know, whether it whishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, and oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.[31]

In like manner, would not one ask whether the Nigerian government can pay any price to assure the good health, education, peace and integrity of her citizens? Kennedy reminded Americans that the trumpet had called them to gather for a new course and purpose in history for the betterment of humankind, to a struggle against the common enemies of man; tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself. We need leaders of the stuff of Kennedy. Nigeria needs leaders that will prove themselves as persons who have charisma, glamour and talent – that radiance which will make us glow when we are in the company of our leaders. Nigerians need leaders who will bring the feeling to every Nigerian, that we are

Plato’s Notion Of Philosopher King, And Nigerian Leaders, A Comparative Analysis

wanted, and that there is a place for all of us regardless of creed or ethnic origin. We need politicians, legislators, and judges whom we can trust and be proud of. Cicero does not mix words when he eulogizes his expectation from his leader;

“A pilot’s aim is a successful voyage; a doctor’s, health; a general’s, victory. Similarly, the goal set before the ideal ruler of a nation, commonwealth is the happiness of his citizens, and he strives to make them secure in their resources, rich in wealth, great in renown, distinguished in virtue. This is the task – the greatest and noblest in human life – which I would have the leader carry through to complete”[32].

Only a dynamic and purposeful leadership can enable a country like Nigeria, realize its aspirations as a strong, vibrant and United Nations. Nigeria will change to betterment if she discovers leaders who have the will, the ability and the vision.

3.2       Executive Lawlessness

In his article, A Pre-Revolution situation, George Mba wrote, Nigeria is in the pre-revolutionary stage Cuba was before Castro struck. A vast majority of our people has continued to wallow in want and poverty. The present crop of leaders in the system have cut short the expectations of the people through their flagrant abuse


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