By Taiwo Abiodun-Oni
I never really understood the whole idea of teaching and learning jurisprudence and legal theory as a final year law student. Concepts and theories propounded by Kant, Kelsen, Aristotle, Socrates, Locke, and Montesquieu came off as vague and unnecessary, to put it nicely. It is even more mind-boggling that students of the tech and artificial intelligence ages are made to study ideologies formulated by persons who died before the Lord Jesus Christ was born. It is no doubt commonsensical that the times, events, and variables that validated these antiquated theories are no longer relevant to the modern day.
Furthermore, I am confident that whatever Karl Marx said about economics, Lagarde or Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said it better. Worse off is that students of African descent are made to study some Greek or Persian-induced ideology. This, along with many other factors that I will discuss below, has prompted my thoughts on the need to decolonize legal pedagogy in African universities.
The process of dismantling the colonial legacy in legal education and replacing it with indigenous perspectives and knowledge is referred to as “decolonization of legal pedagogy.” This process involves rethinking traditional approaches to teaching jurisprudence and legal theory, which have been heavily influenced by Western thought and ideology.
One of the key issues in decolonizing legal pedagogy is the lack of representation of non-Western perspectives in traditional legal education. The dominant approach to teaching jurisprudence and legal theory is heavily influenced by the Western legal tradition, with little consideration given to other legal systems and cultures. This has led to a lack of understanding and appreciation of the diversity of legal traditions and practices around the world.
The decolonization of legal pedagogy calls for a more inclusive approach to teaching jurisprudence and legal theory. This includes incorporating non-Western perspectives and knowledge, such as indigenous legal traditions, into the curriculum, the study of Nigerian legal history, the contributions of local scholars and legal practitioners, as well as incorporating traditional dispute resolution mechanisms and forms of justice. It also includes critically examining the ways in which Western legal thought has been imposed on colonized societies and how this has affected the development of their legal systems.
One way to accomplish this is to incorporate interdisciplinary approaches in legal education. This could include incorporating anthropology, sociology, and other social sciences, which can provide valuable insights into the social, cultural, and historical contexts of different legal systems. Additionally, incorporating perspectives from critical race theory and feminism can also contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which the law has been used as a tool of oppression and marginalization.
Another important aspect of decolonizing legal pedagogy is to ensure that the voices and experiences of marginalized communities are heard in the classroom. This includes creating space for the perspectives of people of color, women, and other marginalized groups, who have often been excluded from traditional legal education. It also includes actively working to address structural inequalities in the legal profession, such as the underrepresentation of women and people of color in the judiciary and legal academia. One aspect of decolonizing legal pedagogy in Nigeria is the re-examination of the role of customary law in the legal system. Customary law, which is based on the traditional practices and norms of indigenous communities, has historically been marginalized and dismissed as inferior to Western-style common law. However, recognizing the validity and relevance of customary law in Nigeria is essential for creating a legal system that truly reflects and serves the diverse population of the country.
Perhaps a much tougher stance will be to completely rid the African tertiary curriculum of the course called “Jurisprudence and Legal Theory.”
In conclusion, decolonizing legal pedagogy is essential for creating a more inclusive and equitable legal system. It involves incorporating non-Western perspectives and knowledge, critically examining the ways in which Western legal thought has been imposed on colonized societies, and ensuring that the voices and experiences of marginalized communities are heard in the classroom. By taking these steps, legal education can play a vital role in dismantling the colonial legacy and building a more just and equitable society.