Social Justice, Democracy and the Rule of Law in Nigeria

The fundamental rights enumerated in Chapter 1V of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, do not contain provisions that would ensure social justice. Democracy can only thrive where social justice is guaranteed in the Constitution of a state. The rule of law strengthens democracy and social justice. The Rule of Law will be built on shifting sands, if the essential and crucial rights of citizens are not justiciable.

For example, Article 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, proclaims that “Every person has a right to life……..” This was a politically recognised right, before it was transformed into a legal right through codification and the imprimatur of our legislature.

There is a marked difference between legal/political rights and social/economic rights.
The United Nations and ECOWAS have recognised these distinctions
and have reflected them clearly in their Covenants and in many treaties.
From Articles 33 to 44, of our Constitution , the relevant provisions are strong on political/legal rights

but weak in entrenching social and economic rights. For the right to life to
be realisable, the right to work, the right to decent accomodation, the right to receive social security benefits, the right to education, the right to portable water and uninterrupted electricity, the right to attend a good hospital , all these would solidify the right to life.

Western nations and their former colonies put the ability to enjoy these rights on individual abilities and position in society.
Democracy should not be confined to voting at elections, belonging to, or forming political organisations, but the manifest ability of every citizen to social justice that would prepare the citizen to participate in his nation’s governance. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights recognise this right.

The few people in Nigeria, who keep wanting to govern come from a class of those, who came into wealth by virtue of malvesation, accumulation of state funds, which were once placed under their care and not as a result of intelligence, ability or performance.

Nigerian politics and the social milieu in which politics itself has its being
is characterised by trivialization of serious phenomena. There is little effort to reflect upon” the ends of political action, upon the means of achieving them, upon the possibilities and necessities of political situations and upon the obligations that political
purposes impose, is an intrinsic element of the whole political process” Our .politics and societal engineering do not have concluding chapters.
Every new leader charts a “new” course that leads nowhere because no-one has called a National Conference of our Federated States to seek a consensus of how we wish to advance.

Our preferences are determined by “powerful Chairmen of the PDP” Imagine Vincent Ogbulafor decreeing that political power will remain in the North till 2015!
So, why are gearing up for elections in 2011? Should a non-Northerner win the election, this will be voided by OGBULAFOR’S opinion. What a Republic!
Was he saying that to cover his tracks as he is alleged to be corrupt?
Democracy thrives on tolerance. A political organization that lacks internal democratic processes cannot produce a durable government for us.

In a nation in which the party usurps the power of parliament, the executive and the aspirations of the people to participate in politics, fascism is a stone’s throw away.
This government stumbled upon a maxim which extols the Rule of Law in our nation, but it has not shown in its actions and practices that it is genuine in its proclamations. The rules are not observed and laws are not respected.

Our political institutions are weak because they are erected on the personal whims and caprices of the person in power (e.g EFCC, ICPC) as institutions of vendetta.and revenge against opponents based on oligarchic principles.

Our politicians should acquaint themselves with rudimentary studies of the state and the law and political theories from Machiavelli to Marx. To sit in parliament like a dummy is not edifying.. Knowledge is virtue. Political, juristic, economic and other thoughts that have been propagated through the ages must be mastered. How can you be a law-maker, when you have not studied law? Commonsense is not enough, especially when it has not been tutored.

Social justice is the life-wire of societal harmony because equity, fairness and peaceful living will remain the strong foundation of such a society. The absence of social justice
manifests in social unrest, social contradictions, fear, despair, anxiety, , socially
mal-adjusted citizenry that will from time to time ,engage in an orgy of vandalism and mindless violence.
In re-writing our Constitution, we should include direct provisions that will ensure that all citizens can enforce their constitutional and legal rights without let or hindrance.
What shall it profit our society if we conduct free and fair elections without adequate mechanism to entrench social justice, democracy and the rule of law.?
Our political discourse and analysis is strongly coated by tribal and primordial sentiments.

Even the new generation of political activists seems to have imbibed the “blame culture” of seeing evil only in politicians from other states.
This tribalism also thrives in the universities in Nigeria. It is not surprising that the young intellectuals have been inoculated to hate non-indigenes. This is bad for everyone in Nigeria.

Written by
Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai
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1 comment
  • it pertinent for me to state tha this article is very illuminating and educative.if put into practice, i believe nigeria will be a better political, social, and a democratic society.