Shettima: Nigeria’s Modern-Day Philosopher King
Shettima: Nigeria’s Modern-Day Philosopher King
By Lawan Bukar Maigana
“There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of mankind itself, until the philosophers become kings in this world, or until those whom we now call kings and rulers become really and truly philosophers, and that political power and philosophy thus fall into the same hands.
Until the philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the mind and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one place…the cities do not will never rest from their ills.
There are probably millions of Nigerians and billions of people around the world, across generations, who have been inspired by the above immortal lines from Plato’s book titled “The Republic”, which was written around 375 av. But for the purposes of this article let us limit the scope to two eminent Nigerians who lived in two different generations but whose imprints on the sands of time are massive and whose impact on governance, politics, history, literature and body of knowledge can never be forgotten.
One of them is Africa’s greatest storyteller, the late Chinua Achebe, who in his 1983 bestseller “The Trouble with Nigeria” blamed Nigeria’s failure to evolve into a true state- nation, to develop its economy in line with its world-class potential and to rise above mediocrity, on leadership. As far as Achebe is concerned, the failure of the Nigerian wing to fly was due to the unwillingness or failure of management to rise to the occasion and take responsibility for good governance. Achebe said there was nothing wrong with the Nigerian weather, climate, soil, land or water; that leadership is all the country had to fix before it could be taken seriously in the courtesy of serious nations.
Before unveiling the second example of a contemporary Nigerian whose life trajectory and vision resembles what Plato was looking for in leadership, we must fully examine the fundamental ideas behind Plato’s definition of a great leader.
The ancient Greek thinker got the idea for a philosopher-king from his teacher and father of Greek philosophy, Socrates, who defined a philosopher-king as someone who loves and cherishes wisdom, has an unrelenting passion for knowledge of any kind, and is always curious and eager to learn, relearn and unlearn. Above all, Socrates deduced that all true philosophers love truth and curse the consequences of speaking, no matter which ox is gored.
Considered one of the founders of Western philosophy and among the first moral philosophers in the ethical tradition of thought, Socrates went on to explain why philosophers should rule the city. They should do so since they are better able to know the truth and have the relevant practical knowledge to govern.
In the evolution of Western philosophy, Socrates is believed not to have written much, although some of the ideas that were later developed and written down by later philosophers were originally his own. That’s why some of his students like Plato were more famous than him because they wrote a lot about their discoveries and high knowledge about society, humanity, governance, science, etc. Regarding the philosopher-king as well, some of the notable attributes that Plato spoke of came from conversations he had with Socrates, which the former developed with deeper and more practical thoughts.
In “The Republic” of Plato, he writes that the philosopher-king is a leader in whom political skill is combined with philosophical knowledge.
Plato believed that philosophers would be the best leaders of society because they are able to understand true goodness and justice in a way that others cannot. Because they would understand that the greatest personal benefit is to live virtuously, they would act morally and not out of self-interest.
Plato’s ideal state was a republic with three classes of citizens: craftsmen, helpers, and philosopher-kings, each possessing distinct natures and abilities. Moreover, these inclinations reflected a particular combination of elements within his tripartite soul, consisting of appetite, wit, and reason.
Plato’s ideal and just state is an aristocracy, the rule of the best. He believed that rulers should be wise and trained in the management of a state, just as captains of ships are trained in the management of a ship.
To be a native and resident (for many years) of Borno State, watching Shettima speak, inside and outside government, and displaying his depth of knowledge and erudition; to see him embrace brilliant ideas about corporate governance at the state and national levels; to see him put his life on the line and boldly lead the people in the face of adversity and challenge the fearsome terrorists of Boko Haram; seeing him show empathy and prioritize the well-being, safety and security of people; study his sense of fairness and justice, and his understanding of right and wrong; and after reading and digesting Plato’s tried and true idea of the kind of people who should lead people, I was trying to conclude that this man must be a very good example of the great leader that Plato enthusiastically wrote about ages ago centuries. But before I made my thoughts public, Shettima himself said it as if he stole it from my mouth.
Speaking about the secret of his strong relationship with his assiduous successor, Governor Babagana Zulum, in a recent interview with Daily Trust, Shettima called himself a philosopher king who understands the intricacies and pitfalls of power and knows how and when to let go and to let down. others shine when it is their turn instead of trying to eclipse them, and above all, by putting the good of the State above personal interests.
Shettima said, “I am a philosopher-king, and none of the whims of power appeal to me much. In life, as in politics, there are winter years; you go into hibernation and bloom during the summer period. I dominated for eight years, but when a new sheriff came to town, I had to step up to the next level and get off the radar and let him flourish and make the decisions.
There is no doubt that Shettima is indeed a philosopher-king in the mold of the great leader that Plato endorsed. His remarkable eight years in office as Governor of Borno State, the humility and selflessness he brings to his dealings with his successor, the genius he brings to discuss matters of politics and governance , his selfless and fearless pursuit of truth and fairness, and justice and the just direction he wants his party and country to go in the 2023 election, all combine to testify to the above fact that he is indeed a contemporary philosopher-king.
With a philosopher-king like Shettima hovering around politics, the future is bright for Nigeria and Nigerians.
Lawan Bukar Maigana writes from Wuye District Abuja and can be contacted at [email protected]