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Law As A Vehicle For Good Governance And National Integration In Nigeria (Part 1), By Prof Mike Ozekhome, SAN, CON, OFR, PhD


NIGERIA is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual Nation-state, practicing constitutional democracy, enhanced by the rule of law. It is a federalist state with thorny socio-political and economic antecedence. This grave diversity which is believed to be “unity in diversity” have suffered many commentaries, some – believing that the British imperialist failed to ascertain the dichotomy between the people – instead resulted to an inglorious merger maybe due to greed of unit administration. Others ponder on the unstable nature unity and continued existence of the nation – unless a community effort is put in place to address the issues, I fear, that Nigeria’s unity and indivisibility may be an utopia. The antonym of Integration is Disintegration – which showcases it’s ugly face where the dogma of Good Governance is jettisoned in abysmal desecration. In climes where the tripartite dogma of Democracy, Good Governance, and National Integration is adheres to, the dividend of governance is felt by the citizens – still a voyage in Nigeria. However, the law as a societal instrument have been a viable vehicle for promoting good governance and national integration along the decades. Therefore, this paper examines the concept of the rule of law, good governance, and national integration. An examination of some germane policies pursued towards achieving national integration shall also be considered. The vexed issue of ‘state citizenship’ is also blazed, as well as the challenges of Good Governance and National Integration. A conclusive discourse of this topic, engenders and reawakens in me – the lawyer (not politician) the rights activist, the masses advocate, the Constitutional and electoral law expert and the electoral expert, and most important – the citizen. The discourse is not legal, it permeates many thoughts and salient doctrines across the horizons of socially sciences – behavioral tendencies and class selectivism, all heading to a destination far from the pre – designed essence of nationhood. Nigeria has since survived – many a travails.

The Nigerian discourse is like the flamenco music and dance, native to the Andalusia in Spain – indeed a Fandango. Through the books of history and rich literature of Africa – the early ages – the pre – colonial and colonial era, the struggle for independence – the Civil War – the Military regimes – now the Democratic era, the internal antecedence are a critical revelation of issues bedeviling the national spirits of the people.


The world has experienced so many types of governance, but democracy remains the most pronounced and somewhat a normal by nations. The tenets of democracy cannot stand alone; nor can they roar like the king of jungle, because it is entwined and intertwined with other components of governance – balancing the wheels of nationhood. It should be elementary that nationhood entails a bound running through the very belief of the existence of a group of people. Therefore, National Integration and Good Governance, anchored on the rule of law becomes pertinent and germane as a driving factors.

The proper functioning of a nation requires effective governance structures and mechanisms that promote the rule of law, justice, and inclusivity. Law, as a powerful instrument, plays a pivotal role in achieving these objectives. It provides a framework for societal order, regulates human conduct, and ensures the protection of individual rights and collective interests. It also serves as a vehicle that establishes and upholds the principles of justice, equality, and accountability. This article explore the significant role of the law in fostering good governance and national integration, highlighting its ability to promote justice, uphold the rule of law, protect human rights, and create a sense of unity among diverse populations.

The message of love, unity and peace, by various religious applies to all humans, creed, race or colour.

The Bible admonishes thus, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Allah says in Surah Al Hujarat: “The believers are nothing but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.”

After the decolonization of Africa during the 1950’s and 1970’s, there was need for nation building, in other words, national actors began to pursue what became known as ‘National Integration.’ There was need to Africanize Africans. This discourse of National Integration and Good and Governance became more recently resurrected due to the antecedence of this geographical territory called Nigeria.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr., who stated that, “we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” In the same breath, Mahamat Gandhi was pungent to declare, “Unity to be real, must stand the most severest strain without breaking.” Carl Jung said, “wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration…”

The issue of national integration becomes very germane due to the multi – nature of the nation characterized by some negative factors.

Therefore, it is important we agree within us to continue to live as a people, by blurring the differences. Little wonder Chief Dan George said, ” can we talk of Integration until there is Integration of hearts and the mind?. Unless you have this, you only have a physical presence, and the wall between us are as high as the mountain range. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a rights activist who played a major role in freeing Bharat Mata from the clutches of British noted, ” One Country One God, One caste, One mind brother all of us without difference, without doubts.”

The battle for national integration in Nigeria is largely the battle against National Disintegration as same is what we have gotten ab-initio.

The “National Question” is dealt with alongside pressing issues such as minority factor, religious conflicts, ethnicity, resource control, youth reactiveness, indigene – settler dialectic amongst others.

Indeed, it is acknowledged that even the British colonialist utilize the instrumentality of ethnicity and religion to govern the territory, after their exit, those line ought to have disappeared into thin air, but this has not been the case in Nigeria. Nigeria, like India, is pluralistic federalist state.

Ojo (2009) contends that “Nigeria has a unique problem not experienced by any state in the world past or present. The problem is that of achieving solidarity in action and purpose in the midst of hundreds of ethnic nationalities each exerting both centrifugal and centripetal forces on the central issue of the nation, bound in freedom, peace and unity where justice reigns.” (Ojo E. (2009). “Federalism and the search for national integration in Nigeria”. In African Journal of Political Science and International Relations. Vol. 3 (9), pp. 384-395, September).

It was Dr. Otite who submitted that Nigeria has over 374 ethnic groups. (Otite, O. (1990). Ethnic Pluralism and Ethnicity in Nigeria. Ibadan: Shanesco C. L. Limited). Due to this proliferation of ethnicity, the inherent disunity resulted to distrust in governance, polarized security and constant fear of lives and properties. A new wave of disintegration is the establishment and recruitment of local and indigenous outfit like, ethnic and religious militias, vigilantes and other armed groups: the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) in Yorubaland, the Arewa People’s Congress (APC) in the north, the Bakassi Boys in the east, the Egbesu in the South, amongst others. All these outfits have only tried to sharpen and widen the differences we share as a people. But their existence is in reaction to our ever widening fault lines

Now, this is where the concept of Good Governance ought to serve as complementary and uniting force. Good governance is the fuel that moves democracy through national integration – which plies on the rule of law. These concepts are almost like Siamese twins that may not be severed.



There is no universally accepted definition of law over the years, some philosophers and scholars have defined law differently and rightly so. I said rightly so because their definitions of law are reflections of the society and the time in which they lived. Consequently, defining law is like embarking on a voyage of no return – an ungodly gamble.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 7 March 1274), a religious revolutionary and a leading proponent of the Natural Law School, said that law is an ordinance of reason for the common good, which is made by the person who has care of the community. Aquinas’s “Natural Law Theory” contains four different types of law: Eternal Law, Natural Law, Human Law and Divine Law. The way to understand these four laws and how they relate to one another is via the Eternal Law which he defined as God’s rational purpose and plan for all things, (Thomas Aquinas Treatise, Law Overview Categories.<>(accessed July 4, 2023)).

John Austin (3 March 1790 – 1 December 1859), a proponent of Legal Positivism, defined law as a command of the sovereign backed by a sanction. Kushagra Bhatnaja, Austin’s Definition of Law & It’s Applicability in India, 4 Issue 5 Int’l J.L. Mgmt. & Human (2021) at 208.

Rosco Pound, a renowned American and a proponent of the Sociological School of Jurisprudence described the law as a social engineering for balancing the competing interests in the society. The social engineering theory of Pound is based on the belief that the law can be used as a tool to engineer and structure society for the betterment of its members. The theory suggests that lawyers and advocates are social engineers who can use their knowledge and experience to create a framework for a better society.


Jeremy Bentham, a proponent of the Utilitarian School of Jurisprudence, said that the object of legislation must be the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Hart, on the other hand, concedes that law is a social phenomenon which can only be understood in terms of social facts, such as societal attitudes and the language used by people in expressing their conceptions of law, morality, and coercion. Hart claims the main distinctive element of law is that its rules have what he calls a ‘systematic quality’ – i.e. that rules of law are of different types and each category of legal rule interacts with the others in a manner which enables them to be called a system. Justice Wendel Holmes, a proponent of Legal Realism, stated that “the prophecies of what the Courts will do in fact, and nothing more pretentious, are what I mean by the law.” (To be continued).



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