Plato, Machiavelli and the qualities of good political leadership



In my other article, titled “Achebe versus Obasanjo, Danjuma and Agbese”, I argued that bad political leadership is primarily responsible for the failed state of Nigeria, not corruption as many would like us believe. The duty of this article is to present some of the generally approved qualities of good political leadership and apply them on Nigeria’s past and present presidents and heads of state to see if the findings corroborate this position. It may also assist us to understand why Nigeria has remained underdeveloped since 1960 despite the huge resources available for its development.

We can easily recall that Plato, one of the great political philosophers, who lived in Athens between 429-347 BC, was deeply concerned with the issue of the quality of political leadership and this led him to insist that to be a political leader, one should be a “Philosopher King”. This king must be sound and strong in intellectualism and integrity. With such a leader on the throne, justice can be achieved for the common good of society. As such, morality or ethics is important to Plato in the achievement of the common good.

But to Machiavelli, such quality as integrity and intellectualism may weigh down the political leader from achieving the common good and therefore, the leader should use any means possible to achieve the common good; what is important is the achievement of the common good (the Consequentialists). But the Deontologists argue that the leader is guilty as long as the means to the common good is amoral. This writer believes that the application of morality and ethics must of urgent necessity take prominent consideration in all political processes and ends and it is the absence of these that has created a world dominated by violence and crisis.

Integrity demands political leaders to be charismatic, disciplined, accountable and transparent in leading the society. A leader with integrity may suffer far less degree of corruption than one without integrity. To a charismatic leader it is given to be happy, smiling, not frowning, ever- ready to meet the led and know their problems and make genuine efforts to solve them. Whenever the leader speaks, the people find it palatable to listen and easily understand; so the leader carries them along. The charismatic leader is a popular leader who is admired and supported by the led.

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