Several attempts have been made by a number of medieval scholars to conceptualise as well as offer an all encompassing illustration of the concept of justice. Notable among them was Cicero, a Roman juristic and constitutional figure who attempted to define justice from the angle of ‘classical’ reasoning and moral approbation. According to him, the foundation of justice is that no one should suffer wrong and that public good be promoted. And if we are to traverse through the surface and literal foundation Cicero built the concept of justice on, then our society must operate strictly on the premise of morality, and not law. Furthermore, the proposition that no one should suffer wrong perpendicularly contradicts the Biblical narratives of Abel and Cain under whose circumstance the supreme crime ‘murder’ emanated from (Genesis 4:8). In the light of Cicero’s theory of justice, had Cain hearkened to the dictates of moral precepts, Abel would have lived longer on the surface of earth. Abel had suffered supreme wrong from his own blood brother but Cain suffered more wrong by allowing his emotional inclinations to dominate his faculty conscience; the aftermath is the large-scale criminality that permeates the world today. Therefore, Cicero’s postulation of justice might have been faulty on the grounds that law and not justice is the only social machinery that could be used in promoting the public good, ensuring no one suffers wrong, whether man, woman or animal.
Unsatisfied by the definitions some scholars of jurisprudence have offered in the past, the widely acclaimed ‘Socrates of the Nigerian Supreme Court’, Hon. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa JSC (of late memory) conceptualised justice as a tripartite vessel which habours the inseparable triumvate of plaintiff, defendant and the general society. In construing the real intention of the erudite jurist in his contemplation of justice, I always supposed that he must have bore substantive justice in mind, and not technical justice in my deepest imagination. Alas, if his lordship had envisaged technical justice in his conceptualisation of justice, it would not have found its trajectory into modern-day jurisprudence.
In my view, the whole idea of technical justice has defeated the original purpose of substantive justice through the many intrigues, twists and superfluous technicalities that characterise its use. Again, technical justice pays a considerably large level of concentration to the appendages of our laws upon which many ills and abnormalities of our society thrive. Also on the altar of technical justice is an unaffordable twist of injustice exercisable on any light-weighted plaintiff who cannot sufficiently establish the proprietary interests (in his claims) with some piles of evidence, even though they are obvious on the face of logic. Technical justice is photoshopped injustice whose regalia are approvable and known to the principles and procedures of our laws. It is an end of the road for a wronged plaintiff on whose manifest weakness an unjust defendant can circumvent justice and advance his trade to an unwary society. It has continually offered a garb for the evil ones to hide their dirt.
Like the learned Justice Oputa, my philosophy of justice is tripartite but in a contrary dimension. In my view, justice is retribution, egalitarianism and affective reprobation. Justice is an eye-for-an-eye approach to streamlining the standards of human dispositions and exploits in the ordinary course of existence. Justice is retributive in character; an indispensable feature that intimates man’s common conscience with the obtainable consequence of his every disposition. The enthusiasm of the society to follow the dictates of its will rather than the intimacies of its conscience amounts to a high level of disorderliness. Justice is also egalitarian in every sense of rarity; it substantiates the divine precept of fairness, equity and truth upon which religion survives. It seductively counters class categorisation, preferential stratification of individuals and any other selective discrimination and unjust tendencies.
While trying to illustrate my own philosophy of justice, I willingly closed my eyes to have a full mental imagery of the Figurine of Thamis, the widely acclaimed mother justice. I could see that she is less exuberant in comportment; face fully blindfolded, and armed with her sword on one side and silver scale on the other side. I also observed that mother justice recognises nobody regardless of their personality, physical aesthetics and status in life. This, I suppose, should ordinarily represent the ideologies upon which our justice institutions exist. But for the many lacunas in the system, the attainment of justice is more of technical formality than the ordinary premise on which a layman would have crafted the idea of justice. The way I see it, modern-day justice is like a lustful bride (would-be) who wants to offer her chastity to the highest-bidding suitor. I would have concluded that our justice system should vertically premise justice on pure reasoning rather than the many procedures which often defeat its purpose with the slightest lapses. Technicality offers little or nothing, and presumably leaves the weak and disadvantaged at the mercy of apparent injustice.
- Smart writes in from Port Harcourt, Rivers State