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Plato’s Political Theory: A Guide to Authentic Democracy in Nigerian Political System (A Comparative Analysis)


  •         INTRODUCTION

Political Philosophy begins with the question: What ought to be a person’s relationship to society? The subject seeks the application of ethical concepts to the social sphere and thus deals with the variety of forms of government and social existence that people could live in and in so doing, it also provides a standard by which to analyze and judge existing institutions and relationships. It is also a philosophical reflection on how best to arrange our collective life-our political institution and our social practices, such as our economic system and our pattern of family life.1[1] In political philosophy ideas like freedom, justice, authority and democracy are analyzed and the outcome applied in a critical way to the social and political institutions that currently exist2. Again, political philosophy has its beginnings in ethics: in question such as what kind of life is for human beings. The philosophical discourses concerning politics thus develop, broaden and flow from their ethical under spinning. In pursuing a philosophical activity, philosophers also divide between these who are methodological holists and methodological individualists3[2] Methodological individualists seek to explain social actions and behaviour in terms of individual action and politically are known as individualist, whereas holists seek to explain behaviour by considering the nature of group.4  In contrast to methodological individuals who claim that a society (or cultural, people, nation) is no more than the sum of its living members. Holists argue that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, which in the political realm is translated into the state being greater than the citizenry. Hence, this is translated into the general theory known as ‘collectivism,’ Methodological individualism translates into ‘political individualism’. Political works fall into two classes they are prescriptive and descriptive.5 The former, seeks to make a pattern of an idea of an ideal state, while the latter examines the data of politics, looks at constitution as they exist now or have existed in the past and seeks to draw conclusions about the way they are likely to develop. According to Plato, only the trained group of intellectuals should hold the mantle of leadership. This opinion crystallized into what he called the ‘ideal state’. And the philosopher – king should be the ruler.

Thus he said: Until philosophers are kings, or the Kings and princes of the world have the spirit and power of philosophy and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and the commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils – no, nor the human race, as i believe – and then only will this our state have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.7[3]

It is on this background, that my work Plato’s political theory: A guide to Authentic Democracy in Nigerian political system (A comparative Analysis)” brings to the fore all aspects of Plato’s political theory with much emphasis on justice for this is simply the summary of his political theory. This theory serves as a paradigm comparing it with Nigeria political system, and shows some of the areas where justice is perverted in Nigeria. We will also proffer solutions based on Plato’s political theory. Finally, we will evaluate his political theory, showing its strength and weakness.

1.1                          Background of the Study

The political theory of Plato has been a serious tabled case in the political sphere of human endeavour̊. This has led to the institution of what is known today as ‘POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY’ in which the study of a society is organized or run. It is a normative science which treats of government. i.e., it treats of the organization, distribution of social goods in equal magnitude. Although, there are some controversies that are always found in every political dispensation of every government of a State. These abnormalities have constituted what is considered to be a ‘political set-back’ especially in a democratic state like Nigeria. From a practical point of view, “it seems that the one who wields political power holds sway over everyone and everything else in the society. Thus, it is the politicians that control policies on education, health, family, defence, research, entertainment, economy, peace and war, and even religion”.8[4] This total control of human resources have given a rise to sectional marginalization with Nigerian practice of pseudo-democracy. There exist in high profile inequality, injustice and quest for rulership without competence in areas of politics. The leadership problem has contributed immensely to the problem of the society where mediocrity takes the platform of politics in Nigerian political system. However, it is on this background that, the study of this work centres on Plato’s political theory in order to give an open door to politics, where he promoted the idea of the philosopher-king. This idea gives a clear evidence of what the true nature of politics should be. Justice in the state with law as the guiding principle that makes all equal. This means that, the ideals which are highest in spirit is also deepest in the nature of things. The citizens of the state should be at home with the policy-making of the government as it is in the constitution. Therefore, Plato’s political theory is examined in this work making its comparison with Nigerian system as a guide for authentic democratic dispensation.

1.2                        Statement of the Problem

The political dispensation of every society has been decided by some philosophers as a means of showing one’s political power and prowess. The Machiavellians continue to believe that politics is a personal property where ‘might is right’ especially in Nigeria situation. They use it to foster their personal selfish desires and interests to the detriment of their citizens.

It is on this assessment, that this work has been given a thorough check on the abuse of political power especially in Nigeria brand of democracy. This has spark a political scientific axiom seen in the background called ‘POLITICAL SET-BACK’. This is the major issue to be treated in this work, and proffer adequate solutions using Plato’s political view as a point of departure.

1.3                     Purpose of the Study

This work is mainly on Plato’s idea on politics. It aims at X-raying the notions of Plato on politics and its implication to Nigeria political system.

The work enumerates all the various forms of government policies formulated for the good of the state, and the controversial trends in politics in a democratic dispensation like Nigeria.

1.4                         Scope of the Study

Political theory is an open-ended discussion, as such, we do not in this research, claim to have exhausted Plato’s view on politics. We, however, systematically, are going to expose the various controversies in politics in a democratic system. The paper rather seeks humbly to point out certain progressive political techniques applicable to Nigeria, while drawing emphasis from the guidelines given by Plato and the critics of politics in a democratic system with Nigeria as a case study.

1.5                          Significance of the study

In a world where injustice, inequality, lack of freedom and political instability speak the language of “might is right”, only the “insignificant’ figures live to narrate the inhuman maltreatments received by these factors. It is on this note, that this work has taken a bold step to reverse some of these political inhuman treatments, posited by man out of selfish political desires, which are not in concordance with the political platform given as a paradigm by Plato in his political theory.

This work has its view towards making an impact in bringing those political rudiments, which have long been thrown away in our nascent Democratic dispensation. It will expose, for better understanding, the concepts of Plato’s political theory on “Justice”, “law” and “politics”. It will not only focus on the application of these terms at the state level, but also on the individual level.

This will enable a political state like Nigeria to feel the effects of political stability through total adherence to the view of Plato in his political theory as gateway to harmony in Politics.

1.6.0               Explication of Terms

1.6.1                Politics

Politics is the science or art of how society is organized or run. Aristotle considers politics as “the most sovereign and most comprehensive master science”.9[5] It is thus a normative science which treats of government i.e., it treats of the organization of the affairs of state and organization and distribution of social goods.

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[1]   E., Craig (Ed). et at. Routtledge Encyclopedia Of Philosophy. London: Routledge, 1998.

  1. http://www.iep. Utm./p/ # Ethical Foundation. Place: Publisher, Date?
  2. 3. http:// academics. Vmi..edu./psy – dr /notes – for-ph – 202- history-of-modes. htm
  3. Ibid. p. 16.
  4. T.A., Sinclair (introduction) in Aristotle The Politics Middlesses: Penguin Books Ltd., 1962, p.


7 Plato, The Republic  book v 473c.

  1. 8. M., Onyeocha, Idealism, Politics and Nation-Building: The Nigerian Experience, Owerri

   Assumpta pres., 1994 p. 9.

  1. Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Translated with introduction by Martin Ostwald. New York:

Macmillan Publishing Com. 1987, p.16.


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