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Man, says Aristotle, is by nature a political animal.  This implies that man is naturally inclined to live in a political society. Joseph Omoregbe aptly captures this idea when he says that no one can rightly claim to be independent of the society, because no man is an island. To buttress these points, Aristotle maintained that:  “he who is unable to live in a society or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.”[1]

This is to say that man is a social being by nature. Thus, man identifies and associates with his fellow man and the society in which he lives. More so, man as a member of the human society has been endowed with some fundamental human rights.  Hence, it is the duty of justice to get their rights protected and ensure a peaceful co-existence of man in the society he lives.

Justice is something essential to a society, for right is both the basis of the political association and the criterion for deciding what is just. This is because where justice fails to reign, man will face the difficulties in life; he cannot again attain the goal of life.  The rich gets richer while the poor gets poorer, power becomes might; and there will be a survival of the fittest.  These above facts however, are evident in the case of Nigeria.  Our polity is devoid of justice, and as a result, we are living in a corrupt and unjust society.  Those at the corridors of power have completely lost the sense of justice in piloting the affairs of the public. They pursue their selfish interest and make conflicting claims on public resources, which most often lead to economic hardship and violation of human rights.  This situation therefore, calls for an urgent and lasting solution which could definitely assist in the restoration of justice into Nigerian democratic government.

As it could be noticed right from the ancient era, philosophers and social theorists equally uphold this view that justice is a virtue, which is pertinent or dialectically related to moral conduct. And in line with this thought, Rawls had to say this,

Justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others.  It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. 2

 That is to say that end does not justify the means. So, the investigation into the social significance of justice in Nigeria democratic system is our guiding spirit.


History indicates that right from the ancient times to the contemporary period, justice has been regarded as one of the cardinal virtues which man as a political animal makes quixotic effort to establish in the society he lives.  Thus, justice is the ultimate goal of political life, but experience has shown us that it is injustice that dominates political debate.  The reason is that it is easier to identify and deplore injustice than define precisely what is lacking in an unjust political society or what an ideally just political society might be like.  This however, is the kind of predicament John Rawls sees in modern period, where moral thought and the means of assessing moral behaviour are dominated by utilitarianism. Those who set out, according to him to criticize it often did so, on much narrower front.  They pointed out the obscurities of the principle of utility and noted apparent incongruities between many of its implications and our moral sentiments.  But they failed to construct a workable and systematic moral conception of justice to oppose it.  In reacting to this, Rawls had to develop the concept of justice in which he wanted to work out certain principles that will provide a reasonably systematic alternative to utilitarian conception of justice.  The principles he developed dwell strongly on the constant way of equal distribution of wealth and division of benefits and burdens resulting from social cooperation in well-ordered society.  Similarly, in Nigerian democratic government today, I think it could be an obligation if not indispensable task to seek social justice, where the political elites in the country have completely lost the sense of justice in piloting public affairs and engaged constantly in violation of human rights and injustice.

And to do that however, the Rawlsian concept of social justice should be our stepping stone through which we shall endeavor to restore justice economically, socially and politically in Nigeria.

1.2            PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

A nation as a political society is fundamentally characterized by association of human beings working together for common good and possessing adequate means for attaining it.  Nigeria is a typical political society but seriously lacks the quality of a good political society.  The national peace is threatened by self-interest at all levels of the society.  Caught in the grip of Nigerian systems of government, leaders and various sectors in government are led to pursue their particular aims and ambitious of power, progress and wealth, without taking sufficiently into account the necessity and duty of national solidarity and co-operation for benefit of the common good of all people who make up the human society.

However, the fundamental task or purpose of this research work is to expose the principles of justice as fairness in Rawls and then to extract its relevance and apply it accordingly for the restoration of justice in Nigerian democratic system.  Thus, the summit of our task is how best could these principles of social justice in Rawls help in salvaging the decadent, dilapidating and wounded Nigerian society.

1.3            SCOPE OF THE STUDY

IT is believed that all humans as social being cling to justice in some kinds or another, but the difference is in the application of the concept of justice.  But it is required that justice as a virtue should be interpreted in terms of goodness in human society.  In line with these thoughts, Rawls affirms that “injustice, then, is simply inequalities that are not to the benefit of all.”3  Thus, our concentration in this work dwells specifically on Rawls notion of justice as fairness and its relevance to Nigerian democratic government.  We shall therefore, rely so much on his famous work, A Theory of Justice as our primary source in this research work.

1.4            METHODOLOGY

The method will be more of analytical and expository in approach.  Our primary and specific aim is to analyze critically the primary aim of Rawls, why he decided to invent and develop the principles of justice as fairness.  After that, we shall carefully and adequately place them side by side with Nigerian democratic government, to find out the difference and similarities between the principles, and then to incorporate the good aspects of the principles into the Nigerian democratic system.  In general, the work is to be divided into five chapters. Chapter one will be the introduction, methodological consideration and literature review.  The second chapter, will expose the general notion of justice, and examine the background of Rawls and some key principles of his notion of justice.  Consequently, the analysis of the concept of democracy and Nigerian democracy should be taken care of in chapter three.  In chapter four, the exposition and examination of Rawls’ principles of justice and the social implication of it to Nigerian democracy takes place.  Finally, the last chapter will be the critical evaluation and conclusion.

1.5            LITERATURE REVIEW.

Our overriding aim in this brief literature survey is to explore and examine how some philosophers conceive the concept of justice.

Their notions will be considered with the aim of affirming justice as an important virtue in Nigerian democracy.  In his famous work, the Republic, Plato states that justice regulates and equilibrates other virtues.  Thus, he noted also in his Republic that:

Justice is so great a good that anyone who fully possesses it is better off, even in the midst of severe misfortune, than a consummately unjust person who enjoys the social rewards usually received by the just.4

Plato, just like John Rawls emphasizes justice as the virtue which one must make effort to attain even in the midst of hardship since it appears in human life as important as truth is of systems of thought.

Thomas Aquinas on his own part views justice as “a virtue in a person, is a habit by which a man has the constant and perpetual will to render to everyone what is due to him.  Justice is the virtue, which observes the right of all.”5  From Aquinas’ views above it is quite clear that he advocates the equality of citizens by giving them what is their due, which perfectly defines man as an end and not a means as some individuals think.

Augustine in his contribution to sustain justice in human society, accepted the formula that said “Justice is virtue distributing to everyone his due.”6 But, he asked what is “due” to anyone? He rejected the notion that justice is conventional, that it will differ with each society.  For him, justice is to be discovered in the structure of human nature with its relation to God.  Hence, he said justice is “the habit of the soul which imparts to every man the dignity due to him.”7

Consequently, Augustine shared the same view with Rawls when he (Rawls) said: “justice is the first virtue of social institution, as truth is of systems of thought”. 8

Therefore, the notion of justice is based on the fundamental equality of all men.  In other words, all men are fundamentally equal, and as such they should also be treated as equals.  To treat them unequally is injustice.

Finally, it is pertinent and significant to note that each of these views of philosophers is dialectical related to Rawlsian notion of justice.  Therefore, to employ the above principles into Nigeria democratic government, will be the preoccupation of the subsequent chapters.

[1]  See J. Omoregbe, Knowing Philosophy, A General Introduction (Lagos: Joja Educational Research Published Ltd, 1990) p.117.

2 J. Rawls, A  Theory of Justice, Rev. ed (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p.3.

3Ibid, p. 54

4 R. Kraut, The Cambridge Companion  to Plato (USA: Cambridge Universities Press,1992), p.311.

5 P. J. Glenn, A  Tour of the Suma of St. Thomas Aquinas (USA: Tan Books and Publisher Inc), p. 222.

6 S. E, Stumpf, Philosophy: History and problems, 5thed. (New  York: McGraw-Hill Published, 1992), P. 148

7 Ibid

8 J. Rawls, op. cit, p.3

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