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Opinions of Thursday, 21 May 2015

Columnist: Muhammad Ajah

The burden of justice in Nigeria’s governance

By Muhammad Ajah

“I have known you to be a man of justice and I ask you to please continue. Do not change or compromise justice for anything. We know what we have gone through, I will ask you not to discriminate against any part of Nigeria but do justice to all parts of Nigeria, justice that will bring about peace and stability, justice that will lead to the development of Nigeria”, first and second Republic minister, Alhaji Maitama Sule told the incoming President Muhammadu Buhari when the former led a delegation of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) to the latter.

Justice is the best quality of a good leader. A just leader, therefore, is he whose actions are for all the people he leads, not for parochial interest such as party, tribe, religion or business. It is a burden just like trust, so heavy to bear. Its demands are so much that nearly non-humans can withstand it. How difficult it is for a man to be just among his wives, among his children, among his families, among his communities and among his people! How about being a just leader in a multi-ethnic, multi-political, multi-religious and multi-interest existence called Nigeria. It is clear that Nigeria has been governed by people whose qualities leadership qualities largely excluded justice. If not, Nigeria would have, with its riches and intellectuals, been out of its present deplorable conditions. Nigerian electorates assist the leaders by placing the heavy trust on their shoulders. The leaders agree to carry the trust by promising to do everything humanly possible to change Nigeria for the better and best. But justice had never been doggedly displayed by the leaders, hence the assured failure. There should be a clear difference under Muhammadu Buhari’s government.

Justice is an abstraction that is needed to move any gathering of people of diverse interests forward. It is a quality that is prescribed by all divine religions: Islam and Christianity. The Qur’an and the Bible are decorated with many verses containing the call on believers to don themselves with the laudable quality, not only as a leader but also as the led. No man or woman is not a leader. The capacity differs.

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines justice as the quality of being fair and reasonable. In another explanation, it is the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness. The free encyclopedia, Wikipedia, describes justice, in its broadest context, to include both the attainment of that which is just and the philosophical discussion of that which is just. The concept of justice is based on numerous fields, and many differing viewpoints and perspectives including the concepts of moral correctness based on law, equity, ethics, rationality, religion and fairness. Often, the general discussion of justice is divided into the realm of societal justice as found in philosophy, theology and religion, and procedural justice as found in the study and application of the law.

The opposite of justice is injustice which is caused by ignorance, fear, want and meanness. Ignorance and defective thinking can be the cause of injustice/oppression because a man may do things that result in oppression and persecution. Sometimes, it is fear that causes oppression because a man in power is often scared of another strong power which is its enemy and knowing that if it does attack the other power, the same would attack it. Therefore, in order to forestall this possible danger it commits oppression by making an attack on the other, sometimes presumed power. Similarly a despotic ruler in order to be in a formidable position persecutes the people who want freedom from his oppression.

A sense of deprivation can also lead to injustice because, from the psychological point of view, one is obliged to an act of oppression for fulfilling his wants. And the inner meanness of some people leads them to oppress others or when they see the deprived and oppressed people, they derive pleasure in seeing them so.

Revolutions and even civil disturbances have erupted due to perceived injustice from the leadership of any kind: family leadership, business leadership, political leadership, religious leadership, socio-economic leadership, name them. Injustice has caused Nigeria great pains and losses. The incoming government of Muhammadu Buhari must therefore, guard against this deadly social disease called injustice. As a man of faith, he should be abreast with the revelation of in the Holy Qur’an. It is clear in Suratu Ala Imran, i. e Chapter 3 verse 108: Allah does not wish injustice for any of His creatures. And in Suratun-Nahl, 16:90: the divine call to do justice was set forth: Allah commands people to maintain justice, kindness, and proper relations with their relatives…

However, the concept of justice is not equality according to place and occasion. For example, if a teacher without taking into consideration the abilities and the hard work of each student gives equal marks to all of them, he actually commits cruelty. Likewise, if a physician gives the same medicine to all of his patients without considering the nature of their diseases and conditions, he does the same cruelty. In both these examples the demand of justice is that the teacher and the physician should treat his pupils and the patients differently according to their merits and ailments respectively. It should not admit any consideration, recommendation, favourtism etc, but the different attitude of treatment in different cases according to the demand of the occasion.

Justice resists hasty decisions. One of the four Guided Caliphs of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) Imam Ali is reported to have said: “In the matter of administration your attention should be towards the comforts and benefit of the common people irrespective of the annoyance and displeasure of a selected few”. An incident happened to a man who had a pet dog. He went out to fetch something from the bazaar leaving his infant child in the care of his dog. When he returned to his house his dog welcomed him outside the house with blood-stained mouth. He thought for a moment that the dog had devoured his child and under the heat of passion he fired his gun and killed the dog there and then and went inside hurriedly. There he found his child hale and hearty. In fact a wolf used to visit the town and since the door of his house was wide open it went inside and wanted to devour the child. The dog jumped upon the wolf and in a grim battle he overpowered it and tore it into pieces and thereby saved the child from the wolf's clutches. But the man in his extreme haste fired at his faithful dog which had saved the life of his child. After this tragic event the man wrote an article captioned “O man! How hasty you are in taking a decision!”

We can recall the main causes of the Niger Delta militancy and its resultant effects. The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and the Boko Haram insurgencies have been recurring decimals in the annals of the country. Their activities have been propelled by perceived injustice from the leadership of the country. All of these groups have claimed to be fighting for justice, equity and fairness in the sharing of the nation’s wealth, recognition in the scheme of things, socio-political opportunities in serving the nation and participation in governance.

And any other group that may result to violence cannot be pushed except by the feeling of injustice by its leadership. A great religious poet once declared against an unjust leader: “Your eyes are closed in relaxation, while the oppressed is alert; Praying against you, and the eyes of Allah sleeps not.”

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja E-mail: