Justice and Human Dignity in Africa: Collection of Essays in Honour of Professor Austin Chukwu, HPC Books, USA, South Africa, Nigeria, 2014. pp. 644
Justice and Human Dignity in Africa: Collection of Essays in Honour of Professor Austin Chukwu is a traditional festschrift only in the sense of being a collection of essays from colleagues and friends in honour of a distinguished professor and a consummate academic, who has traversed the global circuit propagating the gospel of justice; a cerebral scholar of international repute, dexterous and sagacious and an astute administrator.
Beside this traditional role of festschrifts, Justice and Human Dignity if Africa… is a novel dimension in the production of festschrifts, having been organised around the thematic foci of justice and human dignity in Africa; an issue pertinent not only to Africa and African Diaspora, but one which the entire globe is in desperate need of.
The book contains essays from scholars and intellectuals from multiple arrays of human endeavours on the subject-matter of justice and human dignity in Africa. The idea of justice and human dignity as the thematic thrust of the book is not only instructive but significant as this reveals and demonstrates the ideological “obsession” of the personality in whose honour the book is packaged; a man who devoted almost his entire career life canvassing and advocating for the entrenchment of justice and fair play in social relations.
The book contains forty-eight (48) well researched and painstakingly written essays under eleven (11) subunits. These subunits include: African Diaspora, Children, Culture, Science and Society; Drama, Film and Media Studies; Finance; History and International Studies; Linguistics; Peace and Conflict Studies; Poetry, Prose and Religion. Before the sub-units are two significant sections of the book entitled “Introduction” and “Preamble”.
The editors, who are also international scholars of note, use the introduction to situate and contextualise the concept, scope and content of a festschrift and offer an elucidating insight into the festschrift. In the Preamble is an interview granted the editors by the distinguished Professor. From this point, readers become aware that the book is not just another collection of essays, but one suffused in memorable intellectuality built around a man of honour and integrity; an enigmatic scholar, who is unapologetic in a matter of “speaking truth to power”; and a man who cares less about sycophantic posturing.
Above all, readers are introduced to a man whose actions and utterances throughout his career life promoted and sustained human dignity at all levels of his social interactions.
This book may not be a code of conduct pamphlet or how-to-do-it treatise, but the differing perspectives on the subject of justice and fair play provide panoramic views and deep-seated concerns on the issues of justice and human dignity. For instance, in the section on African Diaspora, three essays deal with faces of inhumanity as in the African American quest for racial justice, displacement and deprivation, where it is revealed that even in modern America, race, not achievements, controls choices, opportunities, power and freedom.
Another essay on Braithwaite’s “Rights of Passage” examines the artistic depiction of human indignity in the transition of Africans from the status of “slaves or cargoes”, to that of ‘spades’ or labourers/servants, and finally to “Negroes” with justly claimed identity as ‘Caribbean Nationals’.
In the subsections on Children and Culture, Science and Society, there is a high degree of passion and empathy as the discussion of the violation of children takes different dimensions using the Almajiris of Northern Nigeria as a case study. Also in this section, language usage as having both positive and negative effects on human dignity, discriminatory citizenship, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as one of the organs that can possibly bring about positive signposts even beyond the Nigerian universities, are explored.
In the same vein, Criminal Justice System in Nigeria, which continues to impugn on the rights and privileges of Nigerians, is interrogated, in addition to the disruptive effect on the autochthonous methods of justice and social control in Africa. The influences of the West/Christianity on Igbo traditional understanding of justice and human dignity were identified and examined in their relation to justice and human dignity.
Other sub-sections in this book that are peripheral to issues of justice and human dignity include: Drama, Film and Media Studies; Finance; History and International Studies. Interesting is the exploration of the masquerade performances of Oteru and Okpaa of Ehugbo (Afikpo) as representatives of traditional justice system, but whose significances have been reduced in the contemporary times, the resultant effect of which has culminated in the cultural failings of social institutions.
Peace and Conflict Studies sub-section contains eight (8) essays, one of which contends that the linguist is most well equipped to utilise language engineering and communicative strategising to manage conflicts and deliver justice and peace. One other essay discusses development as an aspect of African culture hindered by many factors like violent conflict, while another examines the trajectory of terrorism in Nigeria with special attention on some modern expressions in politics, revealing the reasons behind the formation of such organisations as MEND, MASSOP, OPC, Bakassi Boys, Ijaw Youth Congress, and the like.