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Different perspectives and dimensions of justice in Igbo society

Different perspectives and dimensions of justice in Igbo society




     Man lives with others in the society with his fellow men and as such, there is need for regulatory principles to modify his freedom as well as those of others in order that co-existence should thrive. This is why every human society (nations, states, Religious groups, Associations etc) make laws.

     Law according to Thomas Aquinas is “an ordinance”. By ordinance, he means an order or rule made by an authority it is therefore not advice, counsel or suggestion from an individual to members of the society. This ordinance being from constituted authority is enforceable.

   But the centrality of “Justice” in law cannot be overstressed. The purpose of every law is to secure “Justice”. During the Socratic period in history of philosophy, the concept of Justice attracted the attention of the people of the time. For Plato, there is Justice in the state and Justice in the individual when all parts function harmoniously. Also in the Gospel of John, Justice is used as a principle of life which is associated with the legal Justice and social justification in the society. There is a great need for just law and just dispensation of law in an organized society. Unjust law is immoral and lacks powers to protect the citizens in the social order. Justice stands as the foundation of the society. It is because of the invaluability of justice in law and social order that Iwe said that “justice is a moral virtue which inclines the will constantly and perpetually to render to others their due in time and place and in a given set of circumstances

     In Igbo setting and Africa in entirety, man is at the center of philosophy, common ethics and justice is seen as communalism. Generally, the Igbo seek and cherish justice in all spheres of human activities. An unjust man is looked upon with contempt and disregard, and is never allowed to hold any serious social position. The Igbo idea of justice is clear and distinct. For them, justice simply means “giving to everyone what is his due and having the common good at heart”. Favoritism in any case and selfishness stand condemned as a mutilation of justice. There must be equal reward or punishment for equal merit or offence and the common welfare of all the members of the society.

     However, some western schoolars like G.T. Baden writes that;“The word “morality” and all the allied concepts including justice have no significance in the Ibo (Igbo) vocabulary; and where the natives remained untouched by outside influences, there is nothing exactly corresponding to the social evil of European life”.

The implication of the above statement is that, moral concepts and values are alien to the Igbo. In other words, the Igbo’s have no developed moral values.But contrary to this, Frantz Boaz observed that “in the main, the mental characteristics of man are the same all over the world”, including Africa (Igbo). According to Bentham .J. “Ethical concepts are universal, what differs from culture to culture is languages used to express or analyze them and attitude of conducting them”. Thus, in Igbo cultural setting they have language which they use to express and attitude to conduct ethical or moral conceptions.

     Philosophers who have offered definitions and analyses to the concept of “justice” did so in the bid to seek its applicability in governance of the society (ies). But the persistent cries and woes over “unjust” leadership and “unjust” laws across the world; the African continent and Igbo society in particular could be traced to misconception and miss application of “justice” in the governance of the society (ies).

    This underscores the need for proper definition and analysis of the concept “justice” in general and in the Igbo society in particular. By so doing, prejudices and ambiguity in the conception and expression of “justice” will be eliminated, understanding of the concept will be guaranteed and proper application of it will be enhanced in the societal administration. The later will create room for the thriving of harmony and peaceful coexistence, which is the main objective of “justice”.


   In a cultural milieu that relies much on oral traditions and expressions, there is always a noticeable lack of documentations. This is true in the case of the Igbo, and black Africa as a whole. The problem is such that non-African scholars as reported by Joseph A Wight, “often refuse to even consider Africans as potentially philosophical, or ethical”

       “Justice”, which is the foundation of ethics (morality) and laws must be re-examined in the light of modern societies and especially as to what the Igbo society perceive.

       If the concept, “justice” is not well analyzed how could the outsider understand what the African (Igbo) mean when he talks about “justice”?. A good understanding which will result from such analysis will remove prejudices from the westerner, which made him to classify Africa (Igbo) as ethically impotent. The African (Igbo) also needed to be acquainted with the meaning and proper application of the concept in order to enable him apply it properly in the society.

   This work therefore tends to examine what the concept “justice” means in Igbo society.

     Again, in every sphere of human activities people cry of injustice meted on them either by the Government or their fellow members of the society, even when democracy has almost become a universal form of government.

     It is based on the above that there is a need therefore to evaluate the meaning of “justice” for different people of the world especially the Igbo society, in relation to its applications.


     The main trust of this research is to examine what the concept “justice” means generally and to the Igbo society in particular, in a bid to remove the prejudices in the western view of the Igbo society as non-potential in ethical considerations.

     Again this research is aimed at analyzing the different perspectives and dimensions in which the concept justice is applied in Igbo setting. It also aims at assessing the applicability in the modern Igbo society.

   Further more the research seeks to discover the major similarities and differences in the western and Igbo conception of “justice”.

   This will enhance its applicability in the modern society of the different settings.


       This study is designed to examine the meaning and the different conception of “justice” in general and the Igbo society in particular, so that governments and individual members of the society will be provoked to be “just” in their undertakings.

       The westerners will be freed from their ignorance about Africa, which made them to consider the Africans (Igbos) as not being potential in ethical considerations.

     The Igbo man will understand that he has a rich heritage in ethical considerations. He will be acquainted with the meaning and value of “justice” in Igbo society.

     This understanding and acquaintance will induce the people to strive towards living just lives and thereby promoting harmony and peaceful co-existence among the different society and groups. This is what the whole world is calling for.

       Finally subsequent researchers would find this project work useful.


         The study examines the different perspectives and dimensions of justice in Igbo society. The research also seeks to discover the relationship between the Igbo conception of justice and it application in the modern Igbo society.

         This work also seeks to pinpoint modalities of improvement in the application of “justice” in modern societies especially in the areas of governance\politics, judiciary, economics, social, Religion, ethics\morality etc.

   The above would enhance the researcher reaching useful conclusions and also making useful recommendations.


       The method is essentially analysis involving consultation of published textbook, journals, unpublished articles, News papers\magazines; and oral interviews\information from fairly educated elders, which is of course very scanty.

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