“Let there be justice or the heavens fall” is a quote often credited to the imposing symbol of the legendary Roman empire, Julius Caesar, though the veracity of this as its source remains disputable. For the sake of this discussion however, the source bears little significance. But what is justice, may I ask?
There are a plethora of definitions but for simple me, whenever I cast my mind on this concept, these are the words that immediately flood my mind; equity, fairness and each person getting his just deserts. Meaning each getting what is due to him or her. Of course, what’s due to anyone can be good or bad, depending on what their commissions or omissions deserve.
The importance of this is that justice would not have been served if one gains or loses what one didn’t deserve to gain or lose. Whether it be reward or punishment. Let’s put it another way. Some boys are out drinking at a beer parlour and they get arrested for robbery, just because a robbery took place a little earlier in that vicinity.
Next, they find themselves paraded on national television as suspects before conviction or before the trial even commences. This is total injustice, no matter how you look at it. I’m very sure if the shoe was on the other foot and any of the arresting officers had found himself in the position of those arrested and paraded, he would feel the same way.
The rule of law discriminately applied will not only produce injustice but also a pervasive sense of injustice amongst the people, which is never good
Why do we find it difficult to see the injustice in perpetrating or supporting something which we cannot readily agree to be applied to everyone? If it cannot be universalized and accepted to be so, it cannot be just hence it cannot be morally right either.
Regarding this, Immanuel Kant once said, “I cannot approve of whatever I do as morally right and disapprove the same as morally wrong for others”. Like another wise man once said, “the fundamental principle of morality is that we should not make exceptions of ourselves.” To do this is indeed corruptive.
Yet again, I align myself to those who say the height of corruption is when an individual makes himself an exception to something he prescribes or subscribes to. “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you” is what the Bible says and this is universally acceptable and upheld as a sacrosanct principle for any human dominated community to harmoniously exist; so much so that it has for long been termed the Golden Rule. Same goes for any society which harbours any ambition to prosper. Without it, we may as well just wave any such ambition “bye bye”.
It is the very foundation of human dignity, to which we all have a rightful claim. So, if you lose your freedom as punishment for something you didn’t do, it goes against the grain of justice. Remember, I earlier said gaining or losing what you don’t deserve to gain or lose.
The danger this portends if not curtailed is one of chaos. Why? Because those in positions of authority who lack the necessary restraint to wield such power appropriately or fittingly, if left unchecked will fall victim to absolute power. And we all know what that does to a man.
Chaos, because it won’t take long for the ordinary man to lose faith and all respect for those who see their position as licence to oppress rather than to justly uphold the law. It’s a two way thing.
I believe we can longer feign indifference to our plight as Nigerians. Someone once said the Nigerian’s greatest undoing is his seemingly infinite elasticity to suffering. There seems to be some truth in this because filled with what I can only describe as a macabre sense of pride, we grin through our teeth while patting ourselves on the back for our famed resilience. No electricity, we adapt.
Crater-infested roads, we adapt. Government services are deliberately made inaccessible at the official price so we pay through our nose, we adapt. Those who have stolen from us before return to power in one form or the other to do the same, a second and a third time, and yet we just adapt to the ever dwindling resources. Inadvertently, we continue to provide the perfect enabling environment for oppression, poor governance, impunity and lack of accountability to the people to reign. And the suffering goes on.
Alexander Hamilton, founder of America’s financial system, the Federalist Party and the New York Post amongst several other accomplishments, was one of the nation’s founding fathers. In a study he conducted, he discovered that, “an economy with a very efficient judicial system, clear and enforceable property rights, and an effective and incorrupt government will produce higher total wealth”.
What this means is simply that a nation’s economic planners can only manage to produce incomplete and unreliable plans and projections at best, if they fail to factor in the integral nature of the rule of law in a nation’s drive for prosperity. Perhaps even more instructive is Ronald Cass’s position which says:
“A few fundamental choices set the pattern for a society. Among the most basic of these choices is the commitment to be governed by the rule of law. The depth and sustainability of that commitment affect societal prospects for wealth, for freedom and for many other goods.”
So if the foundation set is not right, what will ensue from that moment on can only follow the established corrupted pattern. We shouldn’t continue to deceive ourselves either as a government or as a people, no matter how magnificent our plans may sound; if the rule of law and justice is not established as a negotiable recurring decimal, we’re going nowhere. It’s not a curse, it’s just a principle.
If God was to go ahead anyway to bless a nation which wilfully turns its back on His laid down principle, would we not question His claim to be just? I believe we would. The rule of law discriminately applied will not only produce injustice but also a pervasive sense of injustice amongst the people, which is never good. In closing, Lee Kuan Yew once said, “the key to peace and harmony in society is a sense of fair play”. Without justice, peace will remain a pipedream.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.