Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are – Benjamin Franklin
For a while now the whole media outlets locally and internationally has been agog with stories and the analysis of the Judges’ house raids and arrests. A whole lot of media attention has been given to this issue: there has been series of debates, articles, talks and meetings; one of which was that of the NJC (National Judicial Council) and their resolutions etc. That is to say that I am not here to share a “Breaking News”. I simply want to share an angle of my thoughts on the saga – my layman thoughts; of course I am not exactly an expert in constitutional law and the likes. I do not want to discuss the various laws and acts establishing the DSS (Department of State Security), their modus operandi and recent seeming over-zealousness. I am not out to canonize or defend their actions neither I’m I ready to reel out the rights of the Judges or the DSS. I am a simple freelance writer/blogger who is interested airing his views about the saga – the ethical implication of a neglect of natural justice.
My whole drift is hinging on the simple concept of natural justice and the law of Karma. The philosopher Aristotle thinks of it this way; the natural just, if there is such a thing, must be the same everywhere, for nature is the same everywhere. It is the duty to act fairly at all times and circumstances. For instance if it is naturally just to hear the other party out in a criminal case between two people, then it should also be naturally just to extend such right to a judge if he is accused of any crime and vice versa. Or, take the principle of law that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law for example; it is only naturally just to extend same principle to every other person not some people under the law. How does that even play out in the Nigeria justice system? Do you see natural justice, selective justice or the highest-bidder justice? Take a good look and get back to me.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s thinking that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” is only a confirmation of the ancient thoughts of Aristotle, namely that “nature is the same everywhere”. Only that I think in this case it implies that if you condone injustice in Kano then it naturally translates to a (possible) nationwide injustice. I think the meaning comes out comes out more when we put it in local parlance; hence, “you do not throw a stone into the market for you do not know who the stone will eventually fall on (maybe your father, mother or sibling)”. Sadly, that is a question that many people I know including myself just do not think about. We say that is a shame that something bad happened, but we do not usually consider the possibility that it could happen to us especially when we are keep quiet in the face of such evil. Karma on the other hand consists of a person’s acts and their ethical consequences. Human actions lead to rebirth, wherein good deeds are inevitably rewarded and evil deeds punished. Thus, the wise Buddha thinks that neither undeserved pleasure nor unwarranted suffering exists in the world, but rather a universal justice. We are subject to the “law” of karma just as our physical movements on earth are subject to the law of gravitation. But just as the law of gravitation does not take away our freedom to move about, the doctrine of karma does not leave us restricted to act. It merely describes the moral law under which we function, just as the law of gravitation is a physical law governing our being. As such, when we decide to turn our backs to a single unjust act we are ultimately promoting such evil and we will most likely suffer the same fate.
The problem with us is that we all have become so numb to injustice unless it is actually happening to us. “I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them” as Charles Bukowski wrote in his novel Ham on Rye. Such has seemed to become the lot of the embattled Nigeria court judges, the NJC, the NBA (Nigeria Bar Association) and some few elite Nigerians. While some of them where busy buying judgments, perverting justice and condoning obvious acts of partiality, they did not realize that what goes around comes around. Now that the injustice they allowed to go around came around, some of them are screaming blue-murder. I wonder if it is not “injustice” in itself now, to try righting the wrongs of injustice melted out on the poor and the underprivileged these decades just because big named judges are victims now. I am not oblivious of the fact that it is the morally correct thing to do right now – righting the wrongs of injustices these decades.
A lot of our elite Nigerians and some of those in the judiciary arm of government have not been very vocal when it comes to issues concerning injustice and the breach of fundamental human rights of the ordinary Nigerians. They have been overlooking it forgetting that “he who lives in a glass-house does not throw stones”, meanwhile, the judiciary is supposed to be the last hope of the common man. The gentlemen of the Bench and Bar have not been exactly helpful in the fight against fundamental human rights abuses. Over the years, we have been confronted with different arrays of cases; namely, wrongful arrests, unconstitutional and prolonged detention, house raid without valid search warrant, police brutality etc. What has the priests at the temple of justice done to forestall these incessant occurrences of injustice? Well, what could some of them have done when some of them are also either actively or passively involved in obstructing justice? A lot of them take bribe to pervert justice, while others look the other way as if it is not their business. But guess what, it is their business now. They are now the victims of the bite of the mad dog they conscientiously left to roam the streets. They have been paid back in their very own coins. It is no longer news that lots of legal luminaries are speaking out now; condemning and rebuking the raid of the houses and arrests of the judges. Where they ever this vocal before now? If the answer is no, then what was the problem? Perhaps, one of the reasons amongst many will not be so far from their being so blinded by the preferential treatments and the “undeserved” privileges they have been enjoying all through these years. The proficient African writer Chimamanda Adichie once said in one of her talks that; “privileges blind”. It is in the nature of privilege to blind the privileged. The fact that you have been so fortunate could eventually make you not to see the predicaments of others around you. Now that this privilege has been punctured, we are witnessing great vocal outbursts like never before. And so, our judges and lawyers are raising alarm now not remembering that some of them had practical cases of ordinary citizens who suffered same fate in the past and they did nothing to redress the wrongs. Could it be that this is natural justice or that these judges are suffering from the reprisal of karma? I think the answer leans more towards a bountiful harvest of the consequences of their moral actions and inactions.
What is the way forward? I will simply suggest a true and sincere application of justice in every situation and for all people. Natural justice exists because what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Be that as it may, truthful and sincere commitment to justice is what is needed to drive home this natural justice. Just as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “truth never damages a cause that is just”. Another point to consider is our readiness to make justice our collective business. If we do not tirelessly see to it that justice is given to our neighbour then, we are at the risk of generally promoting such unjust act. But remember: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and “an injury to one is injury to all” because essentially nature is the same everywhere. Do unto others what you would like done unto you.
Michael Chukwuemeka Uzuegbunam is a freelance writer/blogger based in FCT Abuja, Nigeria and the author of the blog: JUST for the Love of Wisdom blog.