Sep 3, 2015

OPINION: The Imperativeness of Justice in Nigeria: Fact or Fiction? by Arikor Ogonnaya


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 "Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Ancient Laws of Moses and the teachings of the prophets." (Matt. 7:12. Good News Bible.)

Retribution and reparation remain the two principal concepts behind establishing any criminal justice system. The final end, cause or design of men, who naturally love dominion and liberty, is the introduction of some restraint upon them, the ultimate purpose which is for the preservation of their lives. Man is miserably entangled in the web of deliberate amity, such that if left to his noxious whims, he might inevitably self-destruct.


However most Nigerians would reach the obvious conclusion, upon the slightest instance, that justice is a rare commodity or a reserved luxury meant only for the sole enjoyment and pleasure of the rich in Nigeria. As a poor person, don't even bother about dreaming of justice for you were not meant to be compatible with the concept of justice. But it may peradventure interest the proponents of such idea that justice can never be bought nor delayed; natural justice, that is. The truth remains that you must reap what you sow. The conspicuous certainty is there. What any individual who has bribed the criminal justice system simply got was the human justice which has a temporary alignment. When the time eventually comes, nature must take its due cut, and there can be no bargaining with that. As for the law, it will remain blind if the ultimate goal were not justice.

Maybe I am speaking Greek or Latin. With the constant news and instances of bribery, corruption and intimidation emanating daily from our justice system; the clear cases of 'big' men and politicians going scot free after it is clearly established that they had brazenly stolen public wealth. Where and how then can one claim that the much needed justice has been achieved in such cases? Sadly, it is a world renowned fact that Nigeria is corrupt; the world has taken due notice of this fact. On the contrary, however, virtually not all the cases of corruption go unpunished. I stand to be corrected. Granted, such individuals might have gotten some form of reprieve, but such reprieve lasts only as long as nature is asleep. And when nature awakes, which must be sooner than not, apparently such individuals must face the consequences of their actions.

The laws of nature are totally unlike the laws of men. What man might think he's escaped with the fallible and corruptible laws of men, nature has that thing around the corner waiting for him. What some people don't understand is that former Delta State governor James Ibori is currently facing the consequence of his actions committed while in office, one way or the other. Even though the Nigerian criminal justice system has failed in this regard, that doesn't mean another would fail. Same for many others like Ibori. The huge volume of adverse publicity and public shaming they are getting from being harassed by law enforcement alone and the subsequent extra-large amount of the inner turmoil they undergo tell of the fact that nature is taking its course. There can never be peace for the wicked.  
A friend of mine staunchly posits on the side that Karma' is really not in existence, that it remains a creation of our imagination; something which merely exists in dreams and fantasies. Apparently, his view that Karma is hastened by the fact that nobody has ever seen 'Karma' to know the form and structure he/she/it took; none can tell if 'Karma' were a he, she, or even sexless. Hence the staunch insistence that Karma is not, and has never been in existence. It would be pointless trying to argue against such view, though. The result of such argument understandably will be ambiguous.
But in order to cut a long story short, it is my belief that 'Karma' does indeed exists, and it remains very much alive, though in what form or sex, I can't tell. A simple illustration will suffice here: Once, a man living abroad sent some money to be used in constructing a house for him back here in Nigeria. Because of the obvious untrustworthiness which has pervaded social and family unions, he sought the services of a professional building expert to build the house. The construction engineer consulted, as is the norm of some, used the most inferior materials he could lay his hands on in building the house. Upon arrival, the owner saw how very beautiful and lovely the house looked. For having nothing to appreciate the engineer, the owner there and then, during the house warming gifted the house to the engineer. Immediately the engineer began crying profusely, and only then did he confessed that he used inferior materials that might soon collapse the house. Of course, anyone is free to draw whatever moral he/she'd to draw from the above story but it is certain that whatever evil we may plan for others would only boomerang at us one way or the other. Our Karmas are personal and they are real.
Left for man to impassionately or impartially judge between men, only a handful or so can successfully deal equally between men without the negative complexities of intrigues or the express likelihood of bias. That is to be expected for it is mans' nature to be swayed by emotions or filial or social affinities. Man has always tended to cripple the law for his unjust demands. There are few things that are incapable of swaying men, and they might not be found amongst us here. That notwithstanding, it is not to be said then that justice can permanently be denied.  

The experience of sister countries has provided us with a vivid opportunity to see how well justice is the underlining factor of human existence and human relationships. The realization of justice in Nigeria, however, requires more than the adoption of aspirational laws. It requires a critical reassessment of the reasons underlying our flawed criminal justice system. The starting point could be a revamp of the wrong legacies which we've imbibed down the years. Efforts must be made to unlearn the lessons already learnt. More significantly, however, Nigerians must come to expect that justice in practice will reflect justice on the books. Only then will the concept of justice move beyond the books, and into the lives Nigerians.

 Conclusively then, I will state categorically that though the wheels of justice may be slow to grind, nevertheless they surely must grind one way or the other. Retribution and reparation must be done to any who transgresses. We just can not escape the inevitability of it. If further proof be needed for the assertion that justice must run its due course, the spherical nature of our globe is a pointer to that fact. What goes around, comes around. Albeit it is a fact of life that anyone who has done wrong must get his full measure back. No matter the time it will take, but it must surely happen, one way or the other. Hence, I leave you with these instructive words of the late reggae legend, Lucky Dube, "Be good to the people on your way up the ladder because you'd meet them on your way down. That's the way life is."


WRITTEN BY ARIKOR OGONNAYA.
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