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Ethics and Discipline in Law: Akin to Waiting for Godot (Part 3)

Ethics and Discipline in Law: Akin to Waiting for Godot (Part 3)


Anation is said to be developed when her citizens have easy access to quality healthcare and education, advanced technology and infrastructure, sophisticated, diverse and well-balanced economic sectors, such as industrial, service, and agriculture, and a relatively high gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. Of course, national ethics and ethos are an adjunct to these. These appear lacking in Nigeria. This is what has led her inability to measure up with developed nations of the world. Today, we shall continue our discourse on this and other issues.

Ethics and Morality (Continues)

To analyse law, reference must be made to a classic tale, originating in India, of a group of blind men and an elephant. Even though there are numerous variations of the story, I enjoy the Jain’s version in particular:

“Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today”.

They had no idea what an elephant was. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Every one of them touched the elephant.

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.

“Oh, no! It is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.

“Oh, no! It is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

“It is like a big hand fan,” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

“It is like a solid pipe,” said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant, and every one of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by, and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like”. Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently, is because each one of you touched a different part of the elephant. So, the elephant has all the features of what you all said.”

Because of the multi-dimensional and interdisciplinary nature of law, several theories and schools of law have been propounded to wit: the Naturalist School, the Socialist Theory, the Positivist Theory, the Realist Theory, the Utilitarian Theory and so on; but, we are not going to wear ourselves out with the various theories. For the sake of this write-up, we shall adopt the definition of law proposed in the Black’s Law Dictionary above, that is:

“As that which is laid down, ordained, or established. A rule or method according to which phenomenon or actions co-exist or follow each other. Law, in its generic sense, is a body of rules of action or conduct prescribed by controlling authority and having binding legal force. That which must be obeyed and followed by citizens subject to sanctions or legal consequences. Law is a solemn expression of the will of the supreme power of the State”.

“Waiting For Godot” is a term coined from the story – Waiting for Godot – to describe a situation where people are waiting for something to happen, but, it probably never will. Simply put, it is to engage in wishful thinking or to build castles in the air. The phrase is coined from the play by Samuel Beckett. The play is basically about two clowns, waiting for someone who never shows up. It’s a metaphor for humanity waiting for some revelation of God’s presence, amid horror, destruction and chaos.

They never get it. At the end, a messenger boy comes to say Mr Godot is very sorry, but he’s unable to come today; but, perhaps, tomorrow. That’s life. Waiting for Godot is a tragicomedy in two acts by Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, published in 1952 in French as ‘En Attendant Godot’ and first produced in 1953. Waiting for Godot was a true innovation in drama, and the Theatre of the Absurd’s first theatrical success. 

National Ethics

National ethics simply means a set of conduct and behaviours expected of every citizen, the breach of which attracts punishment. National ethics is defined as a system of morals, rules, and behaviour which every community in a country is bound to abide by; and a breach of such rules usually attracts punishment.

National ethics is stated in the Constitution of a nation, to guide the behaviour and conduct of citizens in their places of work. It serves the establishment of law and order, and attainment of meaningful development in a country. The present Constitution of Nigeria states the national ethics to comprise the following: Discipline, Integrity, Dignity of Labour, Social Justice, Religious Tolerance, Self-Reliance, and Patriotism.

Discipline, Integrity, Dignity of Labour, Social Justice, Religious Tolerance, Self-Reliance, and Patriotism

By discipline, the Constitution means that Nigerians should try not to be corrupt, disobedient to laws or embezzle government’s funds when they find themselves in a position of leadership. Citizens are expected to be disciplined, always observing self-control and associating themselves only with people of good character. The importance of discipline which cannot be overemphasised, includes but is not limited to the following: Discipline builds good habits; helps one stop procrastinating; helps one manage one’s time better; helps one achieve your goals; Discipline also boosts one self-esteem; helps one master things; makes one more reliable;  improves one’s ability to manage challenging emotions. When you have discipline in your life, you can make small sacrifices in the present for a better life in the future. Discipline creates habits, habits make routines, and routines become who you are daily.

Like a muscle, discipline can be trained. The more you work on your discipline, the stronger it becomes. You see this in sports all the time; the more disciplined team, ends up beating the undisciplined team with greater talent. Disciplined teams can see the big picture, and use restraint during adversity. Teams that aren’t as disciplined lose their cool, and end up costing themselves a shot. 

By integrity, the Constitution states that Nigerians should try to be firm and honest in all their activities. They should not allow others to drag them into illegal and dishonest activities. Integrity is a characteristic that many of us value in ourselves, and it’s one we look for consistently in our leaders. But, what does it really mean to have integrity? It is the quality of being honest, and strong about what you believe to be right. One could say that integrity is always doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, and even when the choice isn’t easy. Or, one might see integrity as staying true to oneself and one’s word, even when one is faced with serious consequences for the choices that you’re making.

When we have integrity, we gain the trust of our leaders, our colleagues and our team. We’re dependable, and, when we hold ourselves accountable for our actions; we become role models  for others to follow.

All of this, in turn, directly impacts our success in life. 

Dignity of labour entails that Nigerians should be proud of the work they do irrespective of its nature, provided it is legal. It also means labour should be rewarded accordingly. That is, we should have respect for those who work for us. Dignity of labour is the philosophy that all types of jobs are respected equally, no occupation is considered superior, and none of the jobs should be discriminated upon on any basis. Regardless of whether one’s occupation involves physical labour or mental work, it is held that the job deserves respect. Simply put, any form of work, manual or intellectual, is called labour, and respecting any kind of job (manual or intellectual) is called “dignity of labour”. Dignity of labour, in a nutshell, is the experience of self-worth and achievement that a person derives from his or her work. It is experienced when a person is treated as an equal in the workplace, and when they feel useful to their company and to society in general.

By social justice, the Constitution implies that Nigerians, irrespective of where they come from, should be treated fairly and rightly. That is, they should be given equal opportunities in terms of access to justice, employment, education, etc. This could help to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor to the barest minimum.

Justice is the concept of fairness. Social justice is fairness, as it manifests in society. This includes fairness in healthcare, employment, housing, and more. Discrimination and social justice, are not compatible. Now, social justice applies to all aspects of society, including race and gender, and it is closely tied to human rights. 

More specifically, what does social justice mean? Social justice means that everyone’s human rights, are respected and protected. Everyone has equal opportunities. This doesn’t guarantee that society will be perfect, and everyone will always be happy. However, everyone will have a fighting chance at the life they want. They aren’t held back by things out of their control, like systemic obstacles or discrimination. 

By religious tolerance, the Constitution simply means that Nigerians should learn to stay together without violating each other’s right in their practice of religion. That is, they should learn to believe that the religion of every person is important to him/her. Therefore, every Nigerian should consider the religion of another Nigerian important to the believer. That is, we should learn to believe that, much as we value our religions, other people, too, value their religions, no matter the pattern of worship.

This goal is a complex one due to the great diversity of religions and spiritual beliefs existing in the world today, especially in our society. Religion is also a very emotional topic. It can often be difficult for individuals to put their personal biases aside, and consider ideas or situations objectively. (To be continued).


“In just about every area of society, there’s nothing more important than ethics”. (Henry Paulson)

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