Sometime ago, my cousin who lives in England, received an official correspondence from a professional organization that I am affiliated with, addressed to me, because I had used her address as a forwarding address. It was a copy of a replacement certificate of membership which I had ordered from them at a cost off course.
Unfortunately, when my cousin was trying to open the envelope to see what was included in the mail, she mistakenly tore the upper part of the certificate. The next time I saw her, she handed over the torn certificate with an apology and a cheque for 25 pounds for me to order a replacement certificate. I looked at the cheque, and dreamed of all the things I could do with it – purchase a new bottle of cologne (Emporio Armani Diamonds by Armani, which was new at the time); squander all of it on kebabs and chips and a bottle of wine, buy a pair of slip-ons from Clarks, load my mobile phone and call Naija, enter Poundland and buy 25 bucks worth of candy for people in Naija who were waiting for ‘Janded’ stuff; sow (or sew) it into someone’s life in Nigeria; blow it buying 2 packet shirts at the NEXT clearance sale on Oxford street; renew my subscription to 442 magazine; buy a kpanjo phone without camera from Phones 4 You, and use it as a spare phone to put my MTN sim-card; ‘repatriate’ the 25 pounds back to Nigeria and utilize it on next summer as forex.
As you may have noticed, none of my thoughts went to ordering a replacement certificate. But deep down within me, I knew I could not accept the 25 pound check from my cousin. No be her fault say the certificate tia (tear). But I was amazed at her willingness to take responsibility and attempt to make amends by apologizing and handing out payment for a replacement.
Many people in Naija would label her a mugu, and me a bigger mugu (maga) (the superlative term for mugu is maga) for rejecting the free-fall cheque. In Naija, many people fail to take responsibility for their actions. They just gloss over their wrong-doing, offer lame excuses and throw an abject apology towards the victim if he or she persists for too long. I have even seen where someone apologized, and when the victim insisted on compensation, the person retorted “Fuck you jor”.
The above example is a simple illustration but study our national life. Hardly do you see somebody hold up his/her hand and accept that he or she has erred.
Have you heard of a guy called Lawrence Anini? You have? Okay, what about Monday Osunbor? Maybe or probably not. Do you know why the name Anini would forever live in infamy in Nigerian memories? He was the Jesse James of his time – a reckless armed robber and car tif (thief). He terrorized the old Bendel State, robbing, killing, looting and pillaging. Osunbor was his side kick, and the muscle of the operations.
When they got caught, Anini the ‘strong-man’ of the Bendel State criminal underworld was singing like a tolo-tolo. A forgettable memory of the period following the capture of that infamous gang is NTA news footage of Anini begging for forgiveness from the Nigerian public. This dude who had slaughtered many innocent victims, swore that he had turned a new leaf since his capture, and would be a model citizen if released.
This nigga is talking now about turning a new leaf. But what about people you and your blood gang murdered and robbed. The difference between Anini and Osunbor, is that while Anini was pussyfooting trying to curry public sympathy, Osunbor manned up, and was ready to face the consequences. In fact Osunbor last words were for a message to be delivered to the youths of the time to shun crime and fast money. Today, the name ‘Anini’ is the definitive word for thief or rogue or ole, the same way Indomie defines noodles, Maggi means all kinds of stock cubes, once it is blue detergent powder in Nigeria, it must be Omo (much to the chagrin of Elephant Blue Detergent).
Osunbor is just another Edo surname, confined to the subconscious of Nigerian people’s memories.
And it is not just criminals in Nigeria who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. The ordinary man on the street just wants to gloss over his wrongdoings. And why won’t he? He watches our politicians lie, squeal and tell half-truths, get caught and blame it on the work of saboteurs. No Naija politician has ever resigned out of disgrace or scandal. In fact up to 2004, and I stand to be corrected, Ebitimi Banigo, a former Minister of Science and Technology is the only Nigerian politician to have ever resigned on a matter of principle. Catch a Nigerian politician on camera with a Ghana-Must-Go bag filled with cash with his pants down being fellated by a ‘runs’ girl in a dingy Abuja hotel, and he would swear that it wasn’t him, and blame it on photo-shop.
Our everyday life is based on passing the buck. You are stuck in traffic on a hot summer afternoon on a busy street in Lagos, and someone upends your car, cracking the bumper into 2 and smashing the brake-lights.
The person gets down from his car, assesses the damage and puffs out his gorilla chest as he mutters: “Sorry o” and he dangles his keys impatiently. Some people do not even cut out their engine, when they come down to inspect a damage that was their fault.
And to him, ‘sorry’ should be the end of the matter. If you persist that you and he exchange insurance papers (if you are brave enough for kasala) or that he pays for the damage, the idiot may further throw you the only apology in the world that sounds like an insult “Sorry na!” Pscheeeww!
If it is a bus or okada driver who wrecked your motor, he may even try to prostrate, and bide his time until back-up arrives. Then you would be royally fucked.
And you are like, dude, the last time I checked, sorry never fixed a Mercedes Benz rear grill. Or a Kia Rio one for that matter.
I was in a car once with my friend’s older brothers, and we were driving into a paid parking lot on Marina when a man in his 50s was backing up from a lot and crashed into our slick Honda vehicle. The man got down, ‘begged’ and tried to convince my friend’s brother to forgo asking for a repair. The gash was really bad, and the car door couldn’t even shut. The man said that he had just come to distribute some wedding IVs for his daughter’s wedding. He then asked us to forget about the crash, and shoved some IVs into our hands, inviting us to the wedding as ‘special guests’ to come and eat, drink and be merry. The wedding reception was at Onipanu that Saturday. We were all weak.
I mean, we like red party jollof rice, but not that much. Please fork out money for our car repair.
This happened to me, and as the guy kept on saying ‘sorry’ it was really beginning to piss me off. His ‘sorry’ just made me madder like Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the below scene from the 1996 classic Pulp Fiction. I double-dare you to say ‘sorry’ one more time
So what is it about our national psyche that makes us reluctant to bear responsibilities for mistakes or wrong-doing? I remember reading an edition of Island News where this 45 year old carpenter was arrested when neighbors caught him sleeping with his 12 year daughter, Can you believe that this brute tried to put up a defence? He first said that he only slept with her after their mum died and he needed ‘companionship’, and he only did it once. He even tried to blame the girl, by saying that the girl was dressing provocatively?! Your own daughter? This dude should have had a stone put around his neck, and chucked off 3rd Mainland bridge, so he could swim with the fishes.
Or did you guys hear about the LASU dudes that raped a girl. Never ever once where they apologetic for their crime. Please peruse their explanation in this link, and see if you can trace any ounce of remorse or sense of responsibility in their confession.
The part that irked me most was one of the rapist’s cry that “I regret everything because it has landed me in big trouble. Unfortunately, my father is not alive to bail me out of this. Please help me beg Sandy to forgive me.
Note that he does not regret the pain and anguish he had caused the rape victim. Bail you out? We need more fathers like Mutallab’s own.
The Nigerian psyche and cultural inclinations are to think that apologizing profusely, throwing one’s self on the floor, and passing the buck to Satan, claiming that it is the devils work, shows remorse. Someone takes responsibility and doesn’t try to shirk the blame is seen as a hardened criminal. Bystanders would remark ‘This man dey very wicked o’
In boarding school, a Form 3 student was caught stealing a box of Golden Morn and a tin of Nido powdered milk. His modus operandi was that he would wait till it was time for student’s assembly, then scale into the dorms, and break into people’s lockers. The guy was caught by the house captain and taken to the school captain’s quarters where he received a thorough beating from some prefects.
As the thief sobbed uncontrollably and begged for mercy, the school captain asked him” Next time, when you see someone else’s belongings, what would u do?
He replied as he swallowed huge tears “I would run in another direction.”
The school captain further inquired as he brandished a huge scratcher (a cane made up of twisted metal hangers) “What direction?”
The thief answered “The opposite direction!”
He was released with a warning and not forwarded to the house-master for suspension, as was customary.
Another guy was caught stealing a few weeks later. The prefects gathered and flogged him, but he didn’t shed a tear or ask for forgiveness, not even once. As they thrashed with scratchers and belts, dude manned up and didn’t show any emotion. He was beaten to a pulp and then suspended.
It even starts from childhood. A kid was caught stealing meat from a pot of egusi soup, and he denied an intent. I was just checking the temperature of the soup.
Recently, my friend and his wife and kids came over to my place to visit us. His 3 year old son, Rasaki, was a bit of a brat. Remember my 40-inch Sony Google TV? This boy kept trying to climb the glass TV stand, and hold on to the television set. He tugged at it once, and it looked like it would heave over and smash. My girl was gracious and smiley, but I wasn’t finding it funny at all as I swallowed. If that TV got smashed, you could bet your bottom dollar that the boy’s kids would not offer to replace it. Their defence would be ‘Eiyaa, sorry, but he is just a child.”
I had to act fast by tempting him away from the telly. So I called out “Rascal kid, Rasaki, come and take biskit (biscuit).”
He ran towards me….and away from the TV. It worked.
To the families, I never meant to cause no pain/
I know the truth, but if you want, then I shoulder the blame/
Puff Daddy (Pain, 1997)