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Justice as the bedrock of national unity: a reflection on the role of Nigeria Supreme Court Justices

By Emmanuel Ihim, Esq


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The recent alleged remarks by Nigeria’s Supreme Justice, suggesting that “Justice or no justice, national unity is paramount,” is very significant to generate discourse and reflection on the role of the judiciary in our democratic society.

This assertion, while evoking sentiments around the importance of national unity, raises crucial concerns about the judiciary’s foundational role and responsibilities. To understand the indispensable role of the judiciary, one must first recognize that true national unity can only thrive on the solid foundation of justice.

The Judiciary: The Constitutional Custodian

Emmanuel Ihim
The author, Emmanuel Ihim, Esquire

The primary role of the judiciary is as the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution. By ensuring all branches of government operate within their constitutionally delineated boundaries, the judiciary maintains the rule of law.

Elevating “national unity” above justice risks subverting the constitutional principles that undergird our nation’s democracy.

Upholding Individual Rights and Liberties

The judiciary’s essence lies in its duty to protect individual rights and liberties from potential governmental overreach. By prioritizing national unity over these rights, there’s a looming danger of overshadowing the freedoms the judiciary is mandated to safeguard.

This underscored the last Presidential Election Tribunal Court Judgment in the Labour Party Presidential Peoples Democratic Party candidates, – Peter Obi and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, respectively, as” Judgment without Justice.”

There would never have been any real national unity, without justice. National unity is undeniably crucial for any nation’s progress. However, true unity can only be achieved in an environment where justice is paramount. The judiciary’s role in upholding justice indirectly fosters social cohesion, as citizens trust a fair and equitable system.

Serving as a Check against Misused Power

The judiciary functions as a safeguard against any branch of government’s arbitrary or unconstitutional use of power. This protective role is jeopardized when considerations other than justice, such as “national unity,” are given undue prominence.

Judicial decisions not only resolve legal disputes but also shape societal values and norms. By steadfastly upholding justice, the judiciary communicates the importance of fairness, equity, and the rule of law as cornerstones of a harmonious society.

Democracy’s Lifeline: Justice

Justice and democracy are intertwined. Without justice, the very pillars of democracy crumble. Suggesting that “national unity” can be separated from justice or is of more significant importance risks undermining the essence of democratic governance and this is the bane of the Nigeria society and justice system.

While the aspiration for national unity is commendable, it cannot be pursued at the expense of justice. The judiciary’s primary responsibility is, and must always remain, the unwavering upholding of justice. Only with justice as the compass can a nation journey toward true unity and harmony.

The Supreme Justice of Nigeria and the entire judiciary must remember that justice isn’t just a component of their mandate—it’s the very heart of it. As guardians of the Constitution and democracy, their allegiance should first and foremost be to justice. For in justice, we find the truest form of unity.

We understand the magnitude of this responsibility and the potential ramifications it bears on our nation. However, the audacity to act in favor of truth, justice, and moral rectitude, even in the face of adversity, has defined and will continue to define our great nation.

With the utmost respect and trust in your wisdom and commitment to justice, we submit this plea to you, bearing the hopes and aspirations of millions of Nigerians who believe in a future where our leaders symbolize integrity, accountability, and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of our nation.

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