According to Wikipedia social justice ‘is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society ,as measured by distribution of wealth ,opportunities for personal activity and social privileges .’ The absence of social justice is a problem many parts of the world is dealing with , but countries like Nigeria due to a lot of issues like corruption , classicism , tribalism , and gender inequalities suffer a lot because of it .
For a country that is as ‘poor ‘ as Nigeria with half of its population or more living below poverty lines , we sure are a very classiest set of people that tend to support inequalities based on tribe , gender and of course class even if we all suffer the consequences of it all . Nigeria as a country does not value of have respect for the basic fundamental human rights of its citizens and some people may even go as far as to say that the rule of law has fled the country.
We see the absence of social justice everywhere in our communities, from our homes, to schools to offices and basically everywhere else. The inequalities at home can be seen from the way the girl child is treated in most communities, women are treated as second class citizens with little or no value and this extends to almost every aspect of their lives; from the way their family treats them to the way their husbands treats them and the way the society itself treats them. These inequalities have created gaps that cannot be closed anytime soon. Women, who have good jobs, live in nice houses and drive good cars are termed ‘prostitutes ‘even with evidence that they are not. Some landlords even go as far as refuse to sell houses to single women while at the same time selling it to single men without batting an eyelid. Girls are forced to do house chores that will have been easily divided between them and their brothers while going through the same obstacles in life with men to complete their educations, work and basically just survive as a human being.
Another reason why Nigeria has not even come close to achieving this concept of social justice is classicism.
The Nigerian society right from the onset was not created to provide equal opportunities and because of this, the poor work too hard but still get poorer while the rich get richer. We can see these class inequalities in our educational systems, in fact, most poor people are forced to stay out of school and even when they built schools they can afford, the standard is so bad that teachers that cannot even read or write properly are employed to teach students. So it is common to see a ‘graduate ‘from a public school who cannot even read properly. As if this isn’t bad enough, there is a marginalization of poor people from getting things as basic as healthcare or even worse food and shelter. There are so many homeless people around. instead of finding solutions to this inequalities, rich and middle class Nigerians simply blame it on the poor people and accuse them of ‘not working hard enough ‘ even with the full knowledge that they already work harder than necessary .
We can’t talk about why social justice is so hard to achieve in Nigeria without talking about the tribalism that has corrupted the average Nigerian. People celebrate bad things happening to others just because they don’t share the same tribe and when people who share the same tribe with them commit horrible crimes they stand behind them and advocate for them to be released just for that simple purpose. You can get away with murder in Nigeria if you are rich and of course you have your tribesmen standing behind you.
In a country like Nigeria where corruption is the air we breathe, inequality becomes the order of the say; there is no equality of the law. You can buy justice for yourself. The innocent are thrown in jail with terrible living conditions while the rich with connections easily secure a way out for themselves because the justice system was never created to achieve justice anyway. Like everything else in the country, only the fittest survive.
When there is an imbalance is a society, one side will be uplifted and the side uplifted is always the side with more power. And in a country where almost half of it are left fighting over scraps, there is little or no time to fight injustice because you are barely struggling to survive.
The list goes on and on and we can spend years talking about how this lack of social justice is negatively affecting our lives but what are the solutions? What can we do to balance these inequalities, especially in situations where bad leadership, tribalism, classism and deep rooted misogyny makes us feel helpless?
Here are a few things you can do as an individual to help. Perhaps, there is little we can do but that little may go a long way. And yes, we may not be able to change the whole world, but by changing ourselves, we are changing the world and making it a little better than it was. You can therefore:
Acknowledge the humanity of the next person: This may seem silly but by seeing others as human regardless of how different we are, we treat them better. We are human after all before we are anything else.
Lend your voice to the cause : It may seem like talking against something doesn’t really change it. But you never know who is listening and talking against inequality is also a form of activism.
Check the inequalities in your home: Are you from a family where women are being treated like second class humans or poor people are treated as less than human? How about you take charge of how you treat those people and speak up against it when you see it being done.
Do the little you can : Something that appears insignificant can go a long way. Do the little you can, help others. Attend rallies, use your voice, do whatever is necessary to make sure that this stops.
Check yourself: Unlearning is one of the hardest things to do in this world. None of us is perfect, check your harmful habits and try to stop it.
You may ask yourself what difference all this will make. But just imagine if all of us will do that. Just imagine the change we will create. Do your part and try your best. Achieving social justice may seem like an impossible dream, but we can try and maybe one day when we will look back and realize that even just trying is enough.
By Hauwa Saleh