Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
In the light of the extreme forces currently ravaging the cosmos, challenging, and disrupting the world moral order, killing off human beings like birds eating ants, with the ascendancy of impunity and strongarm tactics, it may be apposite to examine what may be the last resort of man- an appeal, a reminder that ultimately, there is a Great One, the Almighty Force which will hold man accountable for evil deeds known and unknown. How many eardrums will catch the drift of this treatise is cause for worry. How many will heed the warning is another kettle of fish! Yet the spoken or written word is testimony of the wailing one against the rapists of the world order!
Eternal justice is the final principle which governs the affairs of humanity, of the world and of the cosmological order. Justice is crucial to a balance of the forces of nature, and of the relationship between man and man and between man and the order of things, visible and invisible, now and in the future. Justice and its principles, go beyond man utterly. So, it is a forever thing. Man often does not comprehend the depth or scope or dynamism of justice. He often ignores the principles of justice, hoping, praying, and believing that nemesis will never catch up with him. He thinks that he will get away with acts of injustice, impunity, of infinite callousness to fellow human beings. How small-minded can man be sometimes!
All the religions acknowledge this. Sophocles the classical dramatist once wrote: ‘Justice that dwells with the gods below, knows no such laws’, recognizes no law which oppress the poor and weak. Man in his spiritual state knows this. But when he is swept away by the pleasures of the transient world, those deep things become ephemeral and he floats into the world of injustice, destruction, oppression and annihilation of beings he cannot create.
Justice, we are taught is ‘the quality of being just, impartial, or fair’. It is the ‘principle or ideal of just dealing or right action. It is further seen as ‘conformity to this principle or ideal. Right and wrong are embedded in our consciousness. Remember that we speak of actions that have consequence. We speak of actions carried out when man is conscious; of our hidden and open acts in the world which invariably have effects on the order of things, on us and our descendants. There be some who face the consequences of their actions this side of the world. Some it is automatic, direct, flowing from the actions which we have taken. And we weep, ‘why me?, forgetting that which we have wrought with our evil hands. ‘Nemesis’, a philosopher once wrote, ‘is that recoil of nature that ever surprises the most wary transgressor’.
In the eyes of mortals, man may even get away with acts which trample upon the ideals and practice of justice. But justice which rules the world from above is the final arbiter in the fate of man. Of one’s final fate we are not in a position to tell. Power- physical, financial or otherwise- has the capacity to lead us to a delusion. And for this reason, we will believe a lie, live with the lie, and perhaps die with the lie. At some point in the journey of life we realize that the consequences of our action have locked us in time or have led us to destruction. That is justice!
In our age, the State is charged with the responsibility to carry out justice through the courts, the lower and higher courts. Man knows that even institutions of State charged with the responsibility of discharging justice sometimes enter into a miscarriage. A learned judge could ‘misdirect himself, in the course of dispensing justice. A judge could be compromised by the powers-that-be or by promise of the notorious filthy lucre. For this reason appellate courts are created. It is true that even the highest court in the land could trivialize or distort the rules and dispense injustice. In that hour, man appeals to a higher authority whose hands may not be openly visible. But when we remember the words of the Perfect Master that ‘we shall reap whatever we sow’, the eternal truth and power of justice is not lost on the man whose mind has an open eye!
Men of power, ensconced in the material luxury of filthy ephemerals, often delude themselves by thinking that their power is forever, and that they would never be accountable. Even when they have knowledge that their power is ephemeral, it registers as an abstraction, a distant event which may never come. They may even raise the delusion decibel by believing that they would ask God’s forgiveness in the twilight of their lives. And so the fool tells his Maker: God please grant me patience, but hurry!
Those who understand that whereas we could, we may escape man’s justice, the final justice which rules the world is a perfect system, not to be bribed, coerced, twisted, distorted, or manipulated by anyone. No man can escape it. It is beyond the power of any powerful man. It is beyond the power of the most powerful religious leader or charlatan. Who knows what man sees when he finally closes his eyes in the final sleep? As dreams torment the transgressor of sacred rules, are the wicked tortured once they close their eyes? Is that what some call hell, the condition of perpetual pain and suffering? Are there some who live in hell even before they die physically? Are there some whose current physical illness is the result of their improper actions? Is that what some call ‘judgment day?
So, when the philosopher in Soyinka posits that ‘the first condition of humanity is justice’, he calls to the deep. For, that moral compass which directs man in all his dealings must recognize right and wrong, even in the smallest of matters in both our public and private lives. It is the only guarantee of the continued existence of man in the cosmos. If the most favourable political ideology rests on injustice, on exploitation, on racism, the future of humanity would be threatened. It is this notion of justice that holds perpetrators of genocide accountable, now or in the future.
As with the giver, so with the receiver. Those who dispense justice or injustice today will certainly face their fate someday. It is as certain as day and night. The ends of justice therefore should not be toyed with. When the wall tumbles and earth finally closes earth in its pit, it is not the end of the journey. It is the beginning of the journey into the final act of justice!
Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393.