Social Justice according the Business Dictionary is the fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural laws that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally without prejudice
World Day of Social Justice is a special day set aside to encourage efforts of the international community to work towards poverty eradication, gender equality, access to social well-being and justice for all. This year, CSR-in-Action Advocacy through our Good Citizen Initiative sought to engage the nation on two of the most active social media platforms (Twitter and Facebook) to discuss issues related to social justice in Nigeria. The purpose of the discussion was mainly to increase awareness on social justice in the areas of culture, human rights and economy.
In order to use this special day to showcase how citizens can personally contribute to national wellbeing and clamp down on social ills that exist in many guises, we invited Aisha Yesufu, co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign to a tweet chat tagged ‘Social Justice and Its Many Facets’.
Aisha Yesufu was an appropriate choice for our chat, not only because she is a private citizen of Nigeria, she is a spokesperson for the BBOG campaign, a compelling social justice movement. In this tweet chat with CSR-In-Action, she spoke on the high levels of social injustice currently present in the nation, on certain positive examples of social equity, and on what she feels must be done to tackle this issue, on the part of both citizens and government institutions.
- Please define ‘social justice’ in your own words?
Social justice to me is equity and fairness. It means getting what you deserve according to what you bring. Equal opportunity to be able to access the fundamental basics that are considered as human rights. What one then does with the opportunity should determine what one makes or gets out of life.
- How seriously do you think the Nigerian people place and react to social justice and injustice?
The Nigerian people are now so used to social injustice that we have come to accept it as a way of life. Mostly social justice has so been relegated to the back that it’s almost nonexistent. It’s normal to see a student who finishes secondary school with all A*s staying at home with no admission because of lack of connection; such student repeats JAMB couple of times because they do not have the required connection. While another with below the required results get a place into a university because they have the right kind of connection.
- Can you please talk us through 3 of the most prominent examples of social injustice in Nigeria, recently?
There is so much social injustice in Nigeria that one wonders where one should start from. Is it the first-class graduates roaming the streets without jobs while less capable ones keep changing jobs? Is it the businesses that are denied forex while their well-connected ones get? It’s almost alien to see social justice in Nigeria. We have become all guilty of perpetrating social injustice either by our acceptance of it or by our silence.
- Lack of Free Good Quality Education – The greatest social injustice in Nigeria is the lack of good quality education for all. Education should be accessible to all whether they are rich or not. Unfortunately, what we have is that good quality education is only accessible to the rich who can afford to pay for it. The poor have been denied good quality education making them stay in perpetual poverty. The easiest way to break the shackles of poverty is by education and when people are denied that education the gravest of social injustice is meted on them. One very alarming culture that has taken root in Nigeria which I fear is the culture of children of the same economic status mingling only with each other. Schools used to be where children of different economic status get to meet and mingle and sort of learn from and about each other. Today it’s no longer the case as education is now based on affordability and so those who are able to afford certain type of education, meet and interact only with their kind. What this would do to the future generation of Nigerians I fear to think is that we would have different groups who have never learnt to relate with each except as adults divided by economic status
- The Menace of Connection – This has affected Nigeria more than any other single fact including corruption or bad leadership. “Connection” is the reason we have incapable people being put in places they are not suited for and end up destroying the place. To reform country, we have to begin to do things based on merit rather than on whom one knows. If people are admitted based on merit, employed based on merit, put in position based on merit, our problems would drastically reduce. A lot resentment has come from the social injustice that connection has caused in Nigeria. Many also behave with impunity knowing they were put there by connection and nothing can be done to them. We must fight this menace of connection which unfortunately many have come to accept as norm.
- Gender Inequality – Gender inequality is one of the biggest of social injustice in Nigeria. The female child born into this country has found herself sometimes from birth treated less of a human being. Stories abound of women abandoned in the hospital by their husbands for giving birth to a girl again. Some girls are born and heralded with tears instead of joy. Many females have been denied education for nothing other than she is female. We have seen situations in which a female was denied inheritance because she is female and even not allowed to own properties. There have been inequalities in terms of earnings for the same job. Even in sports we see that in women earning considerably less than their male counterparts. Gender inequality has been one big social injustice in Nigeria.
- And social justice? Any examples that you have seen in everyday life?
This is hard. Even in crime where you would expect same treatment for all criminals the economic status comes into play; there is more leniency for the rich than the poor. Well, the only thing I can think about is in sitting for an exam; there seems to be social justice as all are marked according to their ability rather than gender or economic status. This too is mostly in external exams and professional exams. Some internal exams grading is based on certain factors other than ability. The other thing in which I see as social justice to an extent is during voting; everyone is counted equally.
- Who bears the most burden when social injustice prevails over justice?
The poor, the uneducated, and the voiceless pay the most price when social injustice occurs. They are unable to speak for themselves and challenge the injustice and at the end of the day the whole society suffers. It has a ripple effect; whether we like it or not, our lives are intertwined.
- In what aspects of our national polity should social justice be always ensured in order to promote sustainable development?
In education; to ensure all get access to quality education. Also, in everything being done based on merit only. This would ensure that people get things based on what they are capable and would reduce the resentment currently faced by many. The government should be more transparent and accountable to its citizens. This would tickle down to institutions being more transparent and accountable and would ensure merit is used in everything. The issue of gender inequality should seriously be addressed and equality to access by all put in place to ensure sustainable development from the social justice that would accrue.
- How seriously do you think the government of Nigeria has responded to social justice or injustice?
Not seriously. Government hasn’t really responded to social injustice. It’s mostly not accorded the seriousness it requires. Because many benefit from the social injustice or hope to benefit from it, it is left by the side. Issues like gender inequality that should be tackled seriously as it affects over half of the population. We saw recently the way the National Assembly treated the gender equality bill.
- What role do govt institutions, CSOs, private orgs, the media, & the public have to play in upholding social justice in Nigeria?
First of all, the government has to play its role before others can effectively act. Government must give an enabling environment and punishing or sanctioning acts of social injustice. Government must give an enabling environment for all to have the opportunity to excel. Government must also empower institutions to help entrench social justice also in capacity building and development. CSOs can help in educating people on their rights and helping the voiceless fight for their rights. CSOS can hold government accountable for any act of social injustice. CSOs must continuously demand and pressure government to ensure a more socially just society. Media can help in amplifying social injustice so it’s not swept away. Private organisations and also individuals must ensure they live by example by ensuring social justice. They must practice social justice and not allow any form of social injustice.
- Do you think Nigeria will be more peaceful if majority of the citizenry are gainfully employed or have decent jobs?
Definitely! Nigeria would be more peaceful if majority of citizens are gainfully employed and have decent jobs. People who are gainfully employed would not be easily used by mischief makers to cause trouble. A gainfully employed citizen knows s/he has a stake in the country and would protect it from anything that threatens it’s peace. Youth unemployment has been attributed to many ills in society.
- How do you think we as a nation can combat unemployment in Nigeria?
By providing good quality education for all; the human capital must be built up. Our greatest wealth are citizens. By ensuring conducive environment for businesses to thrive and people utilise their talents and be creative, by ensuring gender equality. We cannot have development with half of the population shortchanged
- And who are the major players for achieving this?
Government and citizens are the major players. For there to be good governance that would lead to growth and development there must be demand and supply. The citizens must demand for the good governance while the government supplies the good governance.
- What is your advise to compatriots following this chat on how they can be part of the solution to social injustice?
Occupy #OfficeOfTheCitizen. Be active! Demand that the right thing be done always. Don’t agree to shortcuts or connection. Respect each other’s right and do unto others as you would want done to yourself.