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The Philosopher-King and the Modern State in Africa

Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi


The central argument of this paper is that by conceiving the idea of philosopher-king within the demands of the modern state in Africa, it is possible to apply the idea to Africa because the concept of philosopher-king reflects freedom and rational autonomy which are basic philosophical principles, and without which an idea cannot be considered philosophical, i.e. arising from a reflective mind. In line with this position, the paper interrogates the extent to which the postcolonial African state was in a position to produce philosopher-kings by doing four things. First, it articulates the idea of philosopher-king as held by Plato, the original formulator of the concept. Second, it locates the rational framework under which the modern Africa emerged and what it means to be a philosopher-king in an African context. Third, the paper examines the careers of two African leaders to see whether their ideas reflect what it takes to be a philosopher-king. Finally, the paper discusses other demands of what it means to be a philosopher-king and by so doing provides insight on the demands of African leadership.


Philosopher-King; Plato; State; Africa; Nkrumah; Azikiwe

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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