Ethics and Discipline in Law: Akin to Waiting for Godot (Part 5)


By  Prof. Mike A.A. Ozekhome, SAN, CON, OFR

Self-Reliance Concept (Continues) 


The philosophical concept of self-reliance takes a slightly different path to development by focusing on the power of independence, creativity, originality and belief in strength and resilience. It rejects the need for external support and seems to glorify the importance of self-application. Interestingly, the concept was given more weight and further expanded to incorporate a simple lifestyle by Mahatma Gandhi (1859-1948), a preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement. He asserted that “nature produces enough for our wants, and if only everybody took enough for himself or herself and nothing more, there would be no people dying of starvation in this world”. Therefore, it is fair to say that self-reliance is defined by independence, the ability to think and act without the help or influence of others, as well as the ability to decide what to be or what to do.

Self-reliance and sustainable development are associated with a series of normative principles, which include the preoccupation with human well-being, the basic needs of the poor, the welfare of future generations, as well as the limits and preservation of environmental resources. It is clear that Nigeria has made several attempts, towards achieving self-reliance and promoting sustainable development. However, the efforts and strategies adopted seem to have yielded limited results. Two key imperatives for sustainable development in Nigeria, are suggested for consideration. First, there is need to internally identify and adopt realistic indicators of sustainability, to steer and guide development in Nigeria. Secondly, there is an urgent need for institutional reforms in Nigeria, taking into account the requirements of sustainable development and the indicators to measure them. Self-reliance and sustainable development in Nigeria will require strong non-oil growth, and a focus on human capital development.

Concept of Patriotism

Patriotism under the Constitution, implies that every Nigerian must give his/her unflinching support to the government of this country on all occasions. It also implies we should have the love for Nigeria in all our activities, putting National Interest above all.

It is trite that the truth doesn’t mind being questioned, but lies don’t like being challenged! One of the ways in which the Federal Government seeks to end challenges to its lies, is by labelling its critics as “unpatriotic” and stressing that they have no doubt as to what they are doing. As Charles Bukowski famously said, “the problem with the world is that intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence!” Those calling for the President to be somehow replaced by force or trickery, are committing treason. His constitutional term of office expires in 2023. However, this doesn’t mean that expressing points of view different from those of government, is treasonable or unpatriotic.

Nigerians need to make a clear distinction between nationalists who seek high political office, and patriots who don’t. The former love themselves, are egoistically proud to occupy high political office, and will praise government no matter how bad things are, while the latter love their country and are honest in their assessment of its

successes and failures! Nationalism is based upon the premise that an individual’s loyalty and devotion to their country, should come above all other interests. It breeds the kind of people who trumpet a country’s virtues, deny its deficiencies and are contemptuous towards citizens.

Patriots on the other hand are attached to a homeland, love and adore the place where they were born or are now citizens of, and do not deny their nation’s deficiencies, but, rather, openly accept them and are eager and ready to correct them for the better. When Carl Shurz, an American General who emigrated from Germany, was accused of being too willing to criticise really his adopted country, he replied: “my country, right or wrong: if right, to be kept right; if wrong to be set right.” This was the voice of a reasonable patriot.

Patriotism nurtures a feeling of responsibility, while nationalism breeds blind arrogance and denial of widespread disaffection. Patriots say “I love my country and am proud of it, but will speak up if something is wrong”, while Nationalists like those currently in power say “I love my country, and I will not stand anyone who speaks ill of it no matter what!” Patriots try to understand all points of view, while Nationalists despise any form of discussion which points out errors or failures in governance.

Encouraging patriotism, is the way forward.  Unfortunately, as far as the Federal Government is concerned, being patriotic these days means praising government to high heavens while condoning ethnic genocide, supporting nepotism and religious bigotry, being unconcerned about the rape and murder of unarmed law-abiding citizens, supporting the destruction of farms, burning of villages and appropriation of ancestral lands, as well as not caring about the collapsed economy, massive ongoing corruption, or growing nationwide insecurity. As George Orwell famously said: “if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”. Perhaps, it’s a good thing that increasing numbers of Nigerians are “unpatriotic”. After all, it’s not a crime!

The Need for National Ethics

National ethics are sign posts of growth and development of an individual, as well as the country. The need for National ethics arises because they provide the following: Development of the country, since the funds would be judiciously managed instead of being embezzled, and this invariably, helps develop the citizens; Bring citizens closely together, since they behave in the same way and aim toward the same goal; Equality among the citizens, because the rich and the poor have the same approach to life; Eradication of religious riots, because both religions – Christianity and Islam, would be able to understand and accommodate each other; Make a citizen proud of his/her country; Make individuals good citizens and a good ambassadors of his/her country and; Ensure good   governance, because those in government would not like to be found wanting in the discharge of their duty, in order to avoid punishment.

It is widely acclaimed that the Nigerian economy has strong potentials for sustainable growth and development, in view of its abundant and variety of skilled human and extensively rich natural resources. Nigeria is a country blessed with favourable vegetation, alluring topography, vast deposits of mineral resources and a large reservoir of resourceful manpower. Its population size and inherent dynamics should make it not only the largest market in black Africa, but, also a haven for foreign investors. Unfortunately, this situation which would have been transformed for the general good of all, has now turned into a deteriorating macro-economic environment and unstable political system, characterised by wide- spread poverty (70% of Nigerians are in this class), disappointingly low return on public sector investment, deteriorating infrastructure resulting in poor service delivery, low industrial capacity utilisation and high unemployment. Available statistics point to the fact that the performance of Nigeria in overall development since independence (62 yrs ago) has been abysmally poor, and confronts the world with a most perplexing paradox that one can best describe as “Resource – Development Disequilibrium” occasioned by a vicious cycle of economic waste and deep ulcerated economic injuries, inflicted on the country by its resource managers. Our leaders have basked in the sun of insensitivity to the realities of our people, squandered our resources and opportunities, devalued our dignity and pride as a people, mortgaged our future and eroded all the advantages we have as a people.

The custodians of State powers have run down our basic institutions, made corruption an art at one time and, at another, made corruption the prerogative and exclusive preserve of a few, while flagrant violation of the rule of law is the fashion. The negative consequence of this arrogance and misguided deployment of power, opportunities and resources is vividly clear for everyone to see. Discrimination and nepotism exist in employment, granting of distributorship, sale of government companies, parastatals and agencies. There is alleged payoff to some members of our legislative houses; electoral officers manipulate elections either for “Ghana must go” or to get friends into leadership positions; frequent fire outbreaks at government offices to cover fraud, etc.

There are also reports about Secondary School principals who receive a few Naira notes for students’ admission, enlist ghost teachers on the payroll, and teachers who sleep with their female students in exchange for passing them in their examinations. On the Business front, the situation is horrible. There is the almost daily disclosure of unethical business practices in Nigeria. Profiteering, window dressing, juggling of books, bribery and corruption prevail. Women are alleged to wield “bottom power” very effectively to win contracts and supplies, or young beautiful ladies in our banks using their bodies in order to meet deposit targets.

Ethics in the Legal Profession: History, Nature and Meaning of Ethics

The legal profession is an imported vocation. It has its origin, in ancient Greece and Rome. In its modern form, it is British. It comprises of the Lawyers and Judges (Bar and Bench) and the duo are generally regarded as instruments of justice, honoured and honourable. According to Honourable Justice Kayode Eso, ethics commenced with creation. That man was given leave to dwell; for his life only, to die in it was ordained for him; he must, and so was he meant to be in the theological Garden of Eden for that life. He was given dominion over everything; Animals, Vegetables, Minerals therein, with only one obligation on his part, and that was to refrain from eating fruits from just one tree. Ethics demands that Adam should keep his own part of the bargain. He did not; that was unethical and there came his fall. Ethics demanded the best of man, that is, obedience and decency and that, having been given free sojourn in the Garden of Eden, he should leave by the tenets and conditions as enunciated by his creator. Man failed and that was the first known breach of ethics. (To be continued).

Serious and Trivial

“A person’s most beautiful asset is not a head full of knowledge but a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help others”.


Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. (Potter Stewart)

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