Law and Legality; The Failings of a Nation – Terinwa Adesipo



The definition of law has been one of the greatest conundrums in legal history. While it is espied by some as a trap which should importantly be avoided, it is considered by some others as a necessity which must importantly be provided. The decision to define law will be somewhat of a manifestation of being caught up between the proverbial devil and the deep blue see. Surely, we might not really speak in one voice when it comes to the definition of law, neither do we have the luxury of time to comb the entire school of legal theory in search of what we can consider to be the best definition or like some others will say description of law.

Notwithstanding this many synthetic obstacles, the purpose of law remains clear and undisputable which is that laws are those rules that exist to guide the existence of man in the course of his existence. It is a well-worn axiom that a society without laws is a society without crime, permit me to also add, that a society without vigorous law is a society without, peace, unity and progress, laws are the foundation of every society, they are the thread that holds together the different fabric of what constitute the society, without vigorous laws, it becomes impossible to for any society to experience peace nor attain any scintilla of progress.

To this end, vigorous laws must importantly be made to exist in every society of man, it should therefore be importantly noted that the enactment or the existence of a law isn’t really the beauty, the real McCoy beauty lies in its vigour and as well as its enforcement. Laws are the flowers that beautify the existence of man; they have also from time immemorial guide and guard the existence of man in a world defined by diverse sins and innumerable iniquities. Law is the only talisman against the manifestation of evil, anarchy, oppression, tyranny among other innumerable weapons of existential mass destruction. To cut the long story short, law is the whole foundation on which humanity stands, when this foundation is therefore lacking or deficient, such gigantically structured building called humanity cannot progressively exist.

It was Ronald Dworkin, the American Legal philosopher who wisely quipped that “we are all a product of laws empire, liegemen to it method and ideals…”, in this words, Dworkin carefully expressed the fundamental as well as the sacred place of laws in the life and living of man, without which there might never be anything called humanity. Simply put, there is no such society of man that can reasonably or conceivably exist without laws, but on the other hand, laws should not just exist, they must be just and progressive. They must preach peace, orderliness, and manifest justice. Simply put, Laws should not just be enacted for the ‘mere’ sake of its existence, they must be utilitarian, encompassing attributes that are beneficial to the people, in such a way that it fits the people it was designed to guide while also necessarily remedying wrongs when necessary as well as addressing and soothing the plight of the people within the society.


To those who might really be oblivious of this evident but not self-evident fact, Laws exist in Nigeria just like every society of man, but just like I earlier stated that is not restating the obvious, because the manifestation of actions and conducts in Nigeria Is all a reflection of a what can be termed city of sin, although sin might really not connotes illegality, its attributes as well as resultant effect are too grave for illegality itself to really encompass. The Nigeria state has become an abode for every form of illegality; a place where everybody is free to manifest whatsoever wrong pleases them without restraint nor any sanction of the law, the average Nigerian glory in iniquity.

In this part of the world, we have divorce the laws away from our lifestyle, actions and day-to-day activities, our delights are founded on nothing other than the ‘enemies’ of the laws, a clime where breaching law is just commonplace, not to say a norm. Ours is a jurisdiction where laws exist in their own shadows, despite the avalanche of laws created to guide and guard us, we glory in illegality, illegalities and more illegalities. The average man in Nigeria sees no justifiable reason in the laws made by the Legislative houses. In Nigeria, mere traffic rules are hard to observe, not because there are no laws preaching against it, but rather because we pretend as if they realistically don’t exist or maybe they were created for beings on the Jupiter planet.

Sadly, but the average Nigeria man acts as if  the laws were created for generations unborn, and  to make things worse, this illegality is even buoyed up by our so called law enforcement agencies as well as their agents. On the first part, the so called law enforcement agents in Nigeria greatly default in religiously carrying out their duty, actions which include but not limited to them turning a blind eye to any act of illegality or criminality being perpetrated by the ‘untouchable’ citizens, or what do you say in a country where the Law enforcement agents deny their availability when called upon to act in a robbery scenario, the response of which as though already scripted is the lack or unavailability of required manpower.

 With this, the average civilian who is in danger is now being told to pray to high heavens for his safety and protection from the hands of this instrument of evil; some of those whose engagement in this ‘prestigious’ profession( of crime) is all a clear manifestation of the popular expression of an idle man’s being a devil’s workshop. Pardon the earlier digression, the law enforcements agent either doesn’t shows up or so as not to paint itself irresponsible, arrive at the scene of the event when the whole incident is all wrapped up and the ‘big boys’ already chilling out in their various abodes. What an identity for a country that posits itself as the giant of Africa. To live without security is to live without peace, not to say peace of mind and without this life is never really safe living.

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Just as though this were not enough, those who are unlucky to be housed within the territory of incarceration in Nigeria find themselves on ‘death-row’, this is simply because the treatment they are subjected to even before ever being convicted by a court of law is realistically that of someone in death row. The financially weak suspects are unhesitantly suffered to death or while the financially strong are released unconditionally; free, discharged and acquitted without any court ruling so long as they can tick all the boxes of the financial obligations listed out for them.

Ours has become a world where justice and freedom is lot of the highest bidder. Most Law enforcement agents in this clime of the world are not apt to be referred to as law enforcement agents as they blatantly violate the right of the average man, while being quick to accord respect to a man in a luxurious car, and additionally not to say embarrassingly shower on them praises as if they are some sort of angels carrying out worshipping duty to their deity. This is abashedly a set of law enforcement agents who carry out their duty as though the world was made specifically for the powerful, anyway, I won’t be quick to blaming them, they are all a product of a system where you are either loyal to power or destroyed by power.

Anyway, this is just a drop in the ocean of what is our legal identity in Nigeria, or what do we say of political leaders who swore the oath to uphold the provisions of the law when seeking election into office but who now seek solace in loaves and fishes not to also say the destruction of the people they swore to protect their interest. A political class that embezzle public funds just as though it was bequeathed to them as ancestral patrimony, the latest breaking news of which are defined as to how a particular government official has embezzled millions of dollars and how another is ‘keeping’ away billions of dollars in a foreign account.

What is meant to be a commonwealth now lost in the wilderness of greediness and selfishness, after all this, this so called people who have perpetrated this grave injustice against humanity still wine and dine untouched at the helms of affairs of the country’s political life, rather than be behind bars they exist extravagantly in bars without bars. Ours has become a National Tragedy. A country once baptized ‘hopeless’ by an old man (citizen). He lamented how the future holds nothing beautiful but ugliness and suffering. How the entire treasury would be boasting in pride of futility and emptiness when this wasteful spending has reached its peak, and how the next and unborn generations would be at the receiving end. A nation as impervious as this to the progress of its economy as well as the well-being of it citizens but derive pleasure in squandering the common wealth is not only a danger to itself but also to its unborn generations.


Law in any society must be sacred and must necessarily be an apostle if not a direct reflection of justice but this pragmatically cannot be made to happen without vigorous lawmakers. Simply put, no matter how beautifully couched and worded the laws are, they cannot achieve anything productive without legislators who are quick to think intelligently. This is because laws are not just meant to be made or enacted; they must be made to address the burning issues in the society. A lazy farmer can therefore not possibly expect a bountiful harvest not even with the blessing of the god of earth; so also, a law that comes from an infected foundation cannot possibly be clean, holy and fruitful.

 Enough of this parables, the Nigerian legislators are the real identity of a two edged sword, simply put, although they exist to make laws, they brazenly violates and contravene the law they make. It used to be that only the politicians never believes what he says, but those days are long gone when this is only applicable to politics majorly, it has now been introduced not to say infested the chambers of law making in Nigeria, meaning, the legislators themselves do not believe in the legality of the laws they enact anymore. So on this note, their best bet has been to contravene them, and when necessary amend them to their own benefit.

It was St. Aquinas, the Great Christian philosopher who expressed in his book Summa Theological that ‘leges positae humanitus sunt vel justae vel injustae’ simply meaning “laws framed by men are either just or unjust”, but this does not seems to apply to the Nigeria Legislator as Laws made by them are either archaic or unjust. To which end, surprises do not arise when those laws are either contravened by the people or not enforced.

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Surprisingly (or maybe not), this is just a fraction of the illegality manifested in this (un) holy chamber where Nigeria laws are birthed, this is because every recognized form of illegality occurs in here, from bad laws to disorderliness to corruption , they are all sheltered by this ‘sacred’ chamber. Ironically, it is so disheartening that only the lawmakers fully understood the ‘herculean’ duty and ‘sacrificial’ task they carry out for their fatherland, to which end, they are quick to justify their ‘legally’ sucking away the financial potentials of a country which its citizens wallow in poverty, while switching from gigantic mansions to luxurious cars and ‘holy’ allowances, they are simply the gods the Nigeria people worship. Ours is a nation where lawmakers rather than make laws treat the entire world to entertainment shows such as boxing bouts. Despite all this, they are crowned with the medal of being the highest paid legislator in the word, a statistics even premised on incomplete arithmetic analysis of their allowances. Illegalities have therefore been re-modeled in this clime of the world to be legal, since the law creator himself is an ambassador of illegality.

In adding insult to the gradually rotten injury that currently bedecks the nation, the only hope of the common man popularly baptized the judiciary has failed in justifying its nickname, rather than bespeak hope for a bleaking future, they also stylishly fan the flames of this national woes and destruction packaged into corruption and resource mismanagement. It was the one-time Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the revered Justice Kayode Eso who said, “There is no justification for the existence of the judiciary except in its existence for the defense of the citizen …”, but looks like those days in Nigeria Judiciary are long gone.

In this era, the judiciary rather than help in abating all this existential malpractices that now bedevils our national life through judicial activism would rather stick to religious application of procedures to cases that requires urgent and immediate adjudication, so bad so that many cases bothering on such existential indecency are thrown out of the court for non-fulfillment of ‘mere’ procedures while giving room for counsels to seek adjournment limitlessly, if possible till eternity. Where then is the hope of justice for the common man? As if this were not enough, the hopelessness of the average man in the Judiciary began to reach its peak when some judges now become instruments in the hand of what they were meant to preach against; prophets of corruption and injustice rather than justice and integrity. Where on earth is the hope for justice when the courtroom becomes an auction room for ‘justice’, simply put, he who gets justice must have bid the highest, the once revered and sacred bench now tainted by the illegality it solely exist to exterminate.


At this juncture, I can fully understand the bitterness of every Nigerian who is deeply affected by this manifestation of anarchy and also inflicted by the disease of social hatred and by now thinking not abiding by the law is the solution or rather still not upholding justice is the only way out, let me offer you all some comforting ideas, two wrongs really don’t make a right. We necessarily don’t need to be hurt by the disappointment around us, we don’t need to react to those unjust laws enacted by our legislators and political leaders, this are really critical times in the history of our existence, one where the onus to cut the mustard in this journey of our existence lies greatly on us, we must remember that we the Nigerian people are greatly favoured, and just like every sinner, we have the opportunity to retrace our steps and live the life that really pleases not just us, but one that glorifies our existence.

This is nigh the end of another year, we really cannot continue to dwell in crimes and illegality and expect progress to abound, we cannot continue to live our lives a free man in bondage. It is high time we allowed all this passed away and take on a new identity, we were really created specifically for greatness but not when we live our lives as if everything in life should be all about hating one another, killing one another, living against the law, claiming to be ‘law abiding’ laws while living against what it preaches.

It is time we abode by the ancient Athenian theory of 5th century B.C premise strongly on the Social Contract Theory which view is summarily expressed in the dictum of “submission to government and law; the fundamental civic duty, rests on a supposed original agreement to which the individual citizens remains by implication a party”, simply meaning that we as a people have a duty to ensure the evident manifestation of law in our society by abiding to its provisions. We were given a life to live, we are a blessed people and our joint existence was never an existential mistake. The judge who refuses to uphold justice when life calls for it must never forget that injustice just like a disease is contagious, and that he will one day be a victim of the injustice he once protected and nurtured.

My advice to the Jurist lays greatly in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, the one-time Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States of America who said “The remoter and more general aspects of the law are those which gives a universal interest. It is through them that you not only become a great master in your calling, but connect your subject to the universe and catch an echo of the infinite, a glimpse of the unfathomable process and a hint of the Universal law”, every judge has a duty, the duty to ensure justice either reigns or injustice is ruined. We are a chosen nation, but never has any society of man existed peacefully and progressively without abiding by the laws. It is a basic concept of life simply called the rule of law.

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It is sine qua non to clearly state that the status of this promise land is impossible to attain without laws that are utilitarian and also buoy up the progress of the people, laws should not be archaic and unjust, they must be the wheel that drives the progress of a nation. It is high time we reformed our unjust laws, amend the archaic ones, and trashed away the retarded ones into the bin of history. It was the Irish Political theorist and Philosopher, Edward Burke, who wittingly stated that “bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny”, to which I couldn’t agree more. Simply put, there can never be anything called progress, freedom or justice in an environment where bad laws reigns.

The time to therefore live a right is now. It was the Late Nnamdi Azikwe, the First Indigenous President of Post-Colonial Nigeria who pleaded with the people of Nigeria saying “let us forget our differences” to which the Ahmadu Bello, The one-time Saurdana of Sokoto replied “No, let us understand our differences”, maybe we really haven’t done this after many years of our joint existence as a country, and somehow life is necessitating this structure at this historical time of our existence. This is our only opportunity to just like the biblical Nicodemus be born again, we must live a life worth emulating, we must therefore say good bye to unjust laws, one whose offspring is unfulfilled existence. I think the time for our greatness is now, the time for progress is now, the time for unity is now, the time to uphold justice is now. Let our laws therefore be modeled in a way that preaches this greatness and, methinks, every other great thing of life shall be added unto it.

 It was Cicero, the Greek Naturalist philosopher who wittingly remarked that “it is agreed of course that laws are devised to ensure the safety of the citizens, the security of states and the peaceful and happy living of human beings…from this, it is inferable that those who framed harmful and unjust rules …acting in a way quite contrary to their claims and promises, introduced measures which were anything but law”, a law that is not adequately garnished with all this essential ingredient which gives birth to the well-being, safety, peace and happiness of the people is devoid of any existential potential to therefore be baptized law in the real sense, to which furthermore St. Augustine, also noting the irreplaceable worth of this stated that “an unjust law is no law at all”.

We must therefore at this critical point in our existence understand this, we must understand that sitting in legislative chambers all day without laws that butter the bread of the citizens and buoys of justice is nothing but legislative futility. It was Cicero who further added that “The origin of justice must be derived from law. For Law is a force of nature, the intelligence and reason of a wise man”, simply put those who are not qualified or intellectually competent to conceive good laws should not be place in charge of the duty of law creation.

This is no doubt a herculean task, but I trust us to emerge a conqueror, but we first start with our laws. It was the Ahmadu Bello, who further wisely stated that “Nigeria is too big and too important, and too many people are involved to use it as a stage for amateur administrators”, as for me I personally believe that our laws are too sacred and its worth too important to be left in the hands of incompetent legislators, so also are our political offices; they are too prestigious to be entrusted it in the hands of unqualified and incompetent personnel, but this cannot possibly manifest without the people intelligently exercising their civic duty to vote in Next Year’s election founded on the concept of popular sovereignty; one which is legally guaranteed by such provision of Section 14(2) of the Nigerian Constitution.

As we wish ourselves a Happy New year in advance, we should also not hesitate to wish ourselves a Happy new (national) life in advance but never without working towards it. This is my message to the people of Nigeria at this critical time, destiny has inevitably lay on us a duty of effecting eternal positive change, it has place us in the position of the ultimate decider in what will become the future of this ‘nations of nations’ It was Obadiah Mailafiah, the Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria who once intoned that “if the Nigeria project fails, Africa fails”. This is life’s second chance for the Nigeria people; let us embrace it with all hope of possibilities, but we cannot possibly win this war against these armies of illegality that now bedevils the Nigeria existence without the weapon of law and the armour of legality.


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