Individual And State In Aristotle In Relation To Promotion Of Human Rights In Nigeria

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1.1            PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

Man establishes the state in order to meet his needs. In other words, the individuals are prior to the state, and the state cannot exit outside the individuals. Hence, the individuals and the state are dialectically related. Again Nigeria as a state has a dialectical relationship with the citizens. To this end, any policy in Nigeria, for instance be it economics, social or political policies made by those who pilot the affairs of the state ought to be directed towards insuring the satisfaction of the needs of the individuals or the citizens. The constant tension between the sate in Nigeria and her citizens is often brought about by inability of the state to live up to such essential responsibilities towards the individuals. The consequence of such neglect in Nigeria is better experienced than described.

As to avoid such unfortunate clashes, this study aims at examining the place which Aristotle gives to the individuals in the state as a means of surveying Nigeria situation. Furthermore, it aims at bringing to lime light the dividends of Aristotle’s citizenship in his political philosophy. For the subsequent application to Nigerian social, political and economic situations.

And by implication the study aims at finding a lasting solution to the age-long and staggering Nigerian problem being manifested in unemployment, bribery and corruption economic crisis injustice, violation of human rights among others


The inability of man to satisfy his countless needs compels him to seek the services of other individuals, hence the origin of the state. Here a state as we have pointed out earlier, exist for the preservation, protection and satisfaction of individual’s needs and for his assimilation.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria today just in Athens at the time of Aristotle, the individuals at the corridors of power have lost sight of the aim for which the state is established. The crux of the matter is that the state seems pitched against the individuals in Nigeria. Sadly enough, this negligence has given rise to a lot of problems. These problems include: injustice, marginalization, economic crises, inadequate social infrastructures, exploitation, bribery and corruption, incessant violation of human rights, selfish leadership, election malpractice, gansterism, sqandermania mentality, labour strikes, to mention but a few. Furthermore, workers are not paid their salaries as and when due. There are inaccessible roads all over the nation. This has resulted in the loss of many lives of the individuals through road accidents. The education system is grossly in a dilapidated state. The university lecturers, primary and post-primary school teachers often embark on strikes due to poor condition of workers and poor enumeration. Nigerians suffer economic hardship resulting from the constant increase in the pump prince of petroleum products. Some political leaders do not have proper sense of patriotism. They often make policies that favour egoistic interest at the detriment of the poor and the powerless. This situation calls for an urgent attention, as well for enduring solutions that would salvage Nigerian form the above socio-political predicaments.

It is against this backdrop that we delve exposing first of all the Aristotle’s notion of “individual” and “state”. Our intention is to present Aristotle’s views as a paradigm to the problem of Nigeria.

1.3            THE SCOPE OF THE STUDY

Our concentration in this work dwells specifically on Aristotle’s notion of the individual and the state, and the relation the individual has with the state.

With genuine humanity, we do not intend to present an exhaustive work or study on the socio-political concepts. This study is specifically limited to the Aristotle’s teachings or views of these concepts as they appear r contained in this politic.

The above being the case, this study is but a stepping-stone towards more wholistic uncovering of the greatness that lies hidden in Aristotle’s socio-political philosophy. In this regard, effort will be made in this work to abstract some relevant truths from Aristotle’s political teachings and apply them as possible solutions to the heart-rending, protracted and precarious Nigerian socio-political and economic predicaments.

1.4            METHODOLOGY

The methods to be used are both expository and evaluative. The study will first explore the background and the environment that helped Aristotle to nurture his socio-political philosophy. Then we shall give a thorough expository explanation of the concepts of the individual and the state as articulated by Aristotle in his political philosophy. Finally, the study will be critical evaluation bring to limelight both the positive and practicable dividends accruing from Aristotle’s notion of the individual and the state.

In general, the work is divided into five chapters. Chapter one offers a synoptic view of the entire work. And the political environment, that is the background of Aristotle’s social-political philosophy. The chapter two is the literature review. In chapter three, we shall dwell on Aristotle’s notion of the individual and the state, including the relationship existing between the individual and state. The fourth chapter is meant to expose the extent of promotion it of human Rights in Nigeria, in the light of Aristotle’s notion of the individual and the state. Here the fundamental human rights will be discussed under economic right, political rights and social rights. And we shall also point out where the human rights are violated. Finally, the chapter five serves as the critical evaluation and conclusion of the work.


It was K.C. Anyanwu who states that “the understanding of the mindset of people leads to the understanding of their behaviour”1. Therefore, for us to understand Aristotle’s political philosophy in general and his notion individual and state in particular, an exposition of the environment in which he lived and had his experiences becomes imperative. This is because “facts have no meaning except within a system of reference”2. Consequently, as depicted in the dialectics of background and foreground by Gadamer: There is no open discourse without hidden presupposition. No explicit statement without an implicit. There is no reflection except against a background of the unreflected3. In the light of the above, we shall discuss in this the nature, life work and characteristics of Aristotle’s environment.

It was this that let to the postulation of his political philosophy, which anchors on his notion of the individual and the state. K.C. Anyanwu gives credence to this fact when he sates: “Human beings are the products of culture, that is to say that culture has made people what they are or almost what they are. Culture cannot be separated from human experience”4

Aristotle was born in 384 BC at Stageria in Thrace, and was the son of the Nicomachus, a physician of the Macedonian king, Amyntak II when he was about seventeen years old; Aristotle went to Athens for purpose of study and became a member of the Academy in 368BC. Where for over twenty years, he was in constant intercourse with Plato until latter’s death in 348BC. Human Rights

It will be very pertinent to note here that Aristotle’s master (Plato) influenced his life. As we know that his father was a physician but he developed interest also in politics because of his studies at Athens, following the experiences of his master in Athens within his life span. These could be categorized into two aspects, namely: the Athenian socio-political crisis and its most outstanding resultant effect, the oppression of the individual.


The Athenian city-state like every other nation of the world, suffered lots of political crisis in her historical and political development. There was indeed a pronounced political instability then in Athens. Within the thirty years of Periclean democracy, Athens was booming in all aspects of its life, especially in commerce and (or economic) and social life. Unfortunately the political peace, social and economic advancement associated with the Periclaen democracy did not last. The glory was in fact, short-lived. The glory was short-lived. The city-state of Sparta, a neighbouring Greek state, out of sheer jealousy and covetousness for Athenian wealth, state and power, declared war (a war that lasted twenty-seven years) against Athens…5 When the war ended in 404 BC, Athens was subsequently defeated. This defeat was not only a disaster but also a turning point for the Athenian social, political and economic peace. Historically, this defeat of Athens marked the end of the only democracy existing in the ancient world.

At the end of the war, a thirty-man commission was set up to draft new constitution for Athens. The members of the commission were also given the mandate to govern Athens until the completion of their assignment. In practice, the reign of the thirty men was harsh on the people of Athens. They were ready to act on the belief that it is natural and sensible to exploit the weak. These thirty men seized the opportunity to settle old political scores, to oppress and suppress the individual citizens. Human Rights


The Athenian city-state was arranged in such a way the inhabitants were classified into different groups and privileges as well. The system provided some possibilities or avenues from marginalization. The citizens were grouped into three social-political classes namely: the freeborn (indigenous citizens) the resident foreigners and the slave. The members of the first class were the only citizens entitled to take part in social and political affairs of Athens. Human Rights

They attended town meetings: they were eligible to arrange of public offices. They also participated in public debates and election. This class was a privilege attained by birth.6 The second group was made up of none indigenous citizens, that is the residential foreign individuals. They had no part in political affairs of the city-state. The slaves occupied the third group. The slaves were used for domestic, military and industrial purpose. The fact that there were slavery and slaves in Athens points to the fact that some human elements were marginalized and kept under subjugation and oppression by the wealthy and free citizens. Human Rights

Hence, it could be stated that the political instability, marginalization, intimidation, an oppression of the individuals in Athens led Aristotle unto the postulation of an ideal state where he envisaged justice, peace, harmony and fair play would reign supreme. Human Rights


1.                 K.C. Anyanwu, The African Experience in the American Market Place.  New York: Exposition Press 1983, p.2. Human Rights

2.                 Ibid. p. 4 Human Rights

3.                 T. Okeke, African Philosophy, A Historico-Hermenutic Investigation of the conditions of it Possibility.USA University Press 1983, p.65.

4.                 Ibid. p.21 Human Rights

5.                 E. M. Ome, The Ideal State in Plato and Nyerere, An Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, to the Department of Philosophy. University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1991, p. 1. Human Rights

6.                 E. M. Ome, Op. Cit., p. 20 Human Rights

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