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Moral burden of artist and oracle of wisdom in Nigeria’s democracy – Part 2


There are Oracles of wisdom in Nigeria by virtue of their literary and poetic or philosophical sagacity. Therefore, writers, poets and creative artists are under the moral burden to speak truth to governance and society and unless and if and only if they have the knowledge of the truth they cannot be the Messiahs or Oracles of wisdom to save Nigerian from the conditions of failed state, hyper inflation, employment, kidnapping, Niger Delta insurgency, communal clashes, farmers and herdsmen tinderbox, Boko Haram insurgency, Corruption, unaccountability, depletion of foreign reserve, fall in the value of naira, ethnic politics and religious bigotry.

To eradicate these malignant social disorder from the polity is the moral burden of men and women of wisdom who ought to ex-ray and cognize society’s problems with the objective of finding solutions to them and charting the path to emancipation and progress. In the pre-colonial societies and histories of societies there were therefore, sages, writers, poets, folklorists, sculptors and leaders who stood gazing the star and sun on behalf of the members of the society. Socrates would describe them as the guardians who have the knowledge to see beyond the physical to the intelligible truth upon which an ideal governable society is predicated. To cognize and speak to truth is therefore the moral burden of the artist, the philosopher, the scientist and the leaders in a democratic society.


Our present leaders are lacking in the knowledge of the truth that will put the society on the path of sustainable economic and political stability. The echoes of writers, creative artists, poets and philosophers are however not absolute voices of reason. Writers in Nigeria for instance, are more often motivated by ethnic justifications and their epistemology of social and political issues sometimes are from ethnic lens than from universal truths. That is why while there are activists and writers, only few are genuine men and women of wisdom or representative of the Oracle of wisdom. Lacking in truth and wisdom and ability to cognize beyond the cave to see the sun is the moral and epistemological burden which limits leadership and the artistry in putting the society on the path of sustainable democracy, wherein the moral volatility is exacerbated by the ills of corruption, ethnicity, religious bigotry and crass-materialism. At certain closets, space and time the poetic, creative or artistic canvas of Nigerian literary scenario are only episodes of ethnic and religious undulations in consonance with already existing challenges and political divides without connectivity or appropriation to the summit of reason, the epitome and canvas of the Oracle of wisdom represented very well by Socrates.

The question of morality in Nigeria’s democracy is therefore, a societal problem in a moral society inhabited by moral agents and unless these agents conform with the dictates of reasons excavated and enumerated by the touch bearers who are men and women of reason, who are out of the cave, who are the guardians and who are Oracles or representatives of the Oracles of reason or wisdom the society, the Nigerian nation state would remain morally upside down and the resulting catharsis or anomie would continue to subsist as the moral burden of the leaders, poets, creative writers and philosophers.
Plato, the disciple of Socrates said that “the human race will never see the end of troubles until political power is entrusted to the lover of wisdom” (Dukor, 2004:V) and Francis MacDonald Cornford collaborated Plato’s saying, “so long as power is valued as the means to wealth, the helm of the ship will be grasped by man of business whose Bible is his profit and loss account” (Dukor, 2004:V).

Who are the Plato’s lovers of wisdom? They are the select few who embody and exemplify the Oracle of wisdom and truth through leadership, poetry, creative and philosophical writings and who impact societies and nations positively. The moral burden of the men and women of wisdom in their true or naive roles as representatives or subjects, of Oracles of wisdom or truth is there in ability to change the Nigeria’s democracy and put it on the path of sustainable progress and virility through evocative literary and poetic equipoise.


The irony of Nigeria’s nascent democracy is that it is a harvest of corruption of all moral spheres of human existence in the mist of abundance of literary flavor from dramatic arts, movies, poetry to philosophical narratives. Machiavelli, an Italian political theorist and the author of The Prince and The Discourse was a writer whose conception of power and principality in The Prince is in Nigeria absurdly reduced to maximization of power without any ethical of teleological goal which is a fallacy of Reductio ad absurdum. The fallacy is entailed in the application of Machiavelli’s The Prince meant for power and principalities to Republican democracies like Nigeria’s.

The paradox is that Machiavelli is not only used in explaining and cognizing political trends but is also practiced as a political tool in Nigeria’s democracy. Hence, one of the political headaches of democracy in Nigeria today is the crisis of Godfather. “Socrates knowledge and virtue as means to power, Christian baptism and its ideals of Godfather and Godson, Kantian categorical imperatives, Singers generalization principle, Rawlsian principles of justices as fairness are only a few of those thoughts that have anticipated the problems as well as preempting Machiavelli’s Prince as the Bible of polities” (Dukor, 2004;V). These are oracular voices in the fight against explicit and implicit moral corruption of the society in any form, like godfatherism. On the other hand Wilfredo Pareto’s circulation of elites around the podium of power and Richard Joseph’s Patron-clients syndrome or Prebendal politics leave much to be desired in godfatherism and politics” (Dukor,2004;V).

In Nigeria today by attributing immorality to politics one means the association of godfatherism, circulation of elites inordinately and Patron-clients syndrome with the polity in their crudest forms which in turn dissipates their cancerous symptomatic phenomenon of corruption of the system, profligacy, unaccountability, crises materialism, inflation, dishonesty, economic hardship in form of high prices of consumer goods, poverty, wide gap between the rich and the poor, ethnicism, religious bigotry and insurgencies. These not only constitute a moral burden to Oracle(s) of wisdom but also an internal moral perversion different from external ones like colonialism, post-colonialism and imperialism to which Chinua Achebe, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Walter Rodney, Wole Soyinka and others in Oracular manner reacted poignantly.

Moral issues perverted from within or from outside corrupt absolutely the tenets of democracy and Nigeria have had abundance of literatures; poetry, narratives and dramas illustrating and ex-raying them but the moral burden of authors and writers is to live up to the aesthetics, sublime epistemological and ontological status of Oracles of truth or wisdom. One outcome of critical thinking of oracular nature that have the capacity to visualize and positively influence the society is the manifesto of the international documentary festival which demands “a cinema culture that deepens democracy, advocates responsibility, elevates accountability, defends human rights and freedoms and exposes the vestiges of disease, poverty and illiteracy” (Bukola Oyebodo, 2016:25).

How many of our Nigerian writers and dramatists have the virtue and the knowledge outside the cave and ethnic cocoon or biases to discern the truth, say it and ready to die for it as Socrates did? One is either an Oracle of wisdom or the oracle of truth like Socrates or not; there is no halfway to it, it is an absolute confession otherwise it is not oracular. All the social, economic, political and cultural problems of Nigeria are moral problems which are defaceable by morally oracular agents who are called oracles of wisdom. Younger Nigerian writers since the year 2000 have also written works which enunciate the visionary and existential temper of the oracular. In the novel genre Ngozi Adichie, Helon Habila, Sefi Atta have produced narratives which negotiate Nigeria in oracular terms. Ebi Yeibo, Tade Ipadeola, Jumoke Verissimo and others distil our national experience in metaphysical submissions, while Ahmed Yerimah, Peter Omoko, Stephen Kekeghe remain poignantly philosophical as they weave dialogues in plays which dramatise the essence of life.

• Dukor is a Professor of Philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Nigeria and Editor-in-Chief, Essence Library (

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