Thursday, 8th June 2023

No development, national integration without social justice, says Idigbe

By Silver Nwokoro
28 March 2023   |   7:03 am
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Anthony Idigbe, has said there can be no development and national integration without social justice.

Founder and Chancellor, Christopher University, Dr Christopher Ezeh (left); Director of Academic Planning, National Universities Commission (NUC), Dr Noah Saliu and Dr Idigbe at the event.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr Anthony Idigbe, has said there can be no development and national integration without social justice.

He said national integration is crucial for the stability and prosperity of any country and requires the coming together of ethnic, linguistic, religious and regional groups to promote unity and cohesiveness.

He said everyone has a role in upholding national integration, adding that decisive action begins with the citizens.

Idigbe, Senior Partner at the law firm of Punuka Attorneys and Solicitors, stated this in a lecture delivered at the Christopher University, Mowe, Ogun State, during the institution’s First, Second and Third Convocation ceremony on Saturday.

Its theme was “Social re-engineering, justice, ethical re-orientation as panacea for Nigeria’s quest for national integration.”

The SAN noted that social inequality results where sections of the society are left behind.
He said: “Achieving social justice is essential for national integration, as it ensures that all members of the society feel they are being treated fairly and with respect.

“There must be an enthronement of the rule of law and a constitutional arrangement that does not perpetuate inequalities and injustice. These are sine qua non for national integration.”

Idigbe emphasised that it behooved citizens to make national integration a reality, while advocating more of what he called ‘norm entrepreneurs’.

He said: “We are ultimately responsible for developing our country, Nigeria. As with the digital transformation of businesses, innovation in social re-engineering, justice and ethical reorientation towards national integration need not come from politicians and government.

“It can come from the people as norm entrepreneurs working individually and collaboratively to generate and cascade the norms by the socialisation of a critical mass of norm leaders, who will then socialise the rest of the population into adopting and internalising the norms.
“There is a glimmer of hope even from our recent experiences. Any observer would have noticed that a phenomenon with no structure transformed into some system, and a political tsunami swept through many places.
“The young norm entrepreneurs made their voices heard. They confirmed that everyone matters and that you do not need a structure to make an impact. The democratisation of the media enables norm entrepreneurs to circumvent structures.
“We should stop blaming others, whether imperialists, their local collaborators or our weak leaders.”

Idigbe urges Nigerians, at all levels, and as “the salt of the earth”, to preserve values that would prosper the entire nation, not sectionally or individually.

He added: “Nigerians must also use their positions and influence to get their government to allocate more resources to address the needs of forgotten and marginalised portions of the society.

“Nigerians must focus on building common and shared grounds for national integration and development through social justice, reorientation and re-engineering.”

According to him, the norm entrepreneurs can help achieve national integration and could arise from the effort of the respected elite, opinion leaders and intellectuals, or grow organically from the masses of society, as they occasionally respond to issues.

“If our norm entrepreneurs succeed, we will solve the problems of ethnicity, nepotism, corruption, religious intolerance, insecurity, unemployment, rural-urban migration, poverty, crime and hunger,” the SAN said.

Idigbe also believes that national integration is first about solving critical societal problems affecting development.
He was of the view that social re-engineering requires policies and programmes to promote greater unity and cohesiveness among ethnic, religious and regional groups within the country.

“Social re-engineering addresses structural barriers that prevent other groups in Nigeria from interacting and integrating.
“The government must adopt policies and programmes promoting education, employment and economic development in underrepresented or marginalised communities,” he said.

Idigbe also called for a review of a judicial process that is marked by delays in the determination of cases.
“In addition, a justice reform agenda could assist with eliminating impunity and strengthening the rule of law. In many ways, social justice requires individual action wherever we find ourselves,” he stated.

The SAN explained that he was involved in the case of Ukeje vs Ukeje that lasted for 34 years from the High Court to the Supreme Court.
It was a case where a female child was excluded from inheriting from her father’s estate. Though he won the case at the Supreme Court, he said getting the plaintiff’s fair share has been difficult.

Idigbe praised Christopher University for making great strides towards becoming “the premier business school, national management powerhouse, and centre of excellence in the West Africa region.”
He admonished the graduands to be change makers, saying: “You are the next generation of leaders, the salt of Nigeria and the products of this great university – the first focused management university.

“As you leave this citadel into the world, you must deliberately pursue change wherever you find yourself using the skills, values and norms imbibed here.”