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CPP Colloquium with Olatunji Oyeshile 'Democracy, Multi-Ethnic Identities and Poverty in Africa'

Thursday 5 December 2019
CPP Colloquia 2019-2020
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden

The Center for Political Philosophy in Leiden is pleased to announce a talk by

Olatunji Oyeshile, 'Democracy, Multi-Ethnic Identities and Poverty in Africa'



Given the fact that democracy has come to be accepted as a framework for good governance in most parts of the world and given the fact that most states in Africa are multi-ethnic in nature, which presupposes some contestations in the sharing of the benefits and burden of democracy, to what extent has poverty in its material and mental dimensions remained a major obstacle to the realization of the goals and promises of democracy in Africa?

In this paper, I examine the incongruous interface of democracy, multi-ethnic identities and poverty in Africa. I argue that much as democracy is desired as providing the basis for the realization of the goals of freedom, common good and development, the goals have become unrealizable in many multi-ethnic states in Africa. This is mainly due to certain contestations in their claim to rights, especially in sharing resources accruing from social cooperation. The inability to realize the promises of democracy in Africa’s multiethnic states is grossly exacerbated by material poverty of vast majority of citizens on the one hand, and the mental poverty of the African elites on the other hand. The paper recommends that true and functional democracy, which is perhaps the most preferred form of government due to its guarantee of freedom and common good, will only be realized in Africa if material poverty is alleviated among the vast populace in Africa and this will stem the often chaotic claims to rights among the ethnic groups in enjoying the benefits of social cooperation. This will subsequently check the mental poverty of the elites, seen in terms of unbridled quest for material aggrandizement and political power as a sure way of protecting ethnic groups and preventing ethnic marginalization. This is possible because the welfare state will be a common rallying point for the citizens rather than the ethnic groups. This paper underscores the crucial place of poverty in African body polity and therefore stresses the need for its alleviation or drastic reduction as the basis for achieving the goals of democracy in African multi-ethnic states.


Olatunji Alabi Oyeshile, Ph.D. is a professor of African Philosophy, Metaphysics and Existentialism in the Department of Philosophy, University of Ibadan. Published extensively in books and journals of international repute, some of his publications include: Reconciling the self with the other: An Existentialist Perspective on the management of Ethnic Conflicts in Africa. Ibadan: Hope Publications, 2005; Co-edited with J. Kenny, The Idea of a Nigerian University: A Revisit, Washington D.C: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2013; “Towards an African Concept of a Person: Person in Yoruba, Akan and Igbo thoughts “, Orita, XXXIV/1 – 2; 2002; “Communal Values, Cultural Identity and the Challenge of Development in Contemporary Africa”, The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3. Fall, 2004; “Corporate Existence and Individual’s Freedom in African Communal Society: The Yoruba Example”, Ultimate Reality and Meaning Journal (URAM), Vol. 30, No. 4, 2007 and “Sen’s Realization – Focused Notion of Justice and the Burden of Democratic Governance in African Societies”, Indian Journal of Human Development, Vol. 5, No. 1, January, 2011.

His research focus in recent times has been in the area of African Socio-Political Philosophy where he has paid attention to the place of the individual within the community and also on how to resolve some perennial problems in the area of religion, politics and nationhood. He is a member of Nigerian Philosophical Association (NPA), Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) and International Society for Universal Dialogue (ISUD). He is presently a Visiting Researcher/Lecturer at Institute of Philosophy, Leiden University, The Netherlands, August to December, 2019.

About the Center for Political Philosophy (CPP) Colloquia Series

The CPP is a collaboration between the Institute for Philosophy and the Institute for Political Science at Leiden University. Attendance of the Colloquia is free and there is no need to register. See CPP for more information. For further questions please contact dr. Wouter Kalf at w.f.kalf@hum.leidenuniv.nl

All are welcome!

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