In the recently released movie, Unhinged, Oscar-award winning actor Russel Crowe’s mentally challenged character Man said “We seem to have developed a fundamental inability to apologize to anyone, for anything.” I could not go past that point in the movie even though I watched it to the end. My mind kept playing back the line with recent events in Nigeria as some kind of canvas for my thoughts. Might things have snowballed into the massive destruction of lives and properties we witnessed all over the country, if those concerned made the right apologies? How many people remember any moment when anyone apologized? What was the character of the apology? I saw a report in which Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo apologized to Nigerian youths. I thought I saw another report in which Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos apologized too but it seemed the apologies got drowned in the fast-moving river of hurt, anger and grievances. Which is an indication that the character of the apologies required its own stamina. It ought to have been imbued with some
staying power. To make it somewhat proportional to the perceived level of hurt. Not a drop in the bucket kind of thing. And not something that has the tag of ‘Take sorry and leave me o, jare.’ ‘Take sorry and leave me o, jare,’ is that form of apology many commuters often get from Danfo drivers when they suddenly veer off the road into a fuel station to refuel. When passengers challenge them for making the detour without prior notice, they say they are sorry. They will do the same thing again and say sorry if any body challenges them. If no one challenges them, they keep mum.
Instructively, in many schools across the country, children are taught and required to memorize these five magic words – PLEASE, EXCUSE ME, SORRY, THANK YOU, PARDON ME. Some creative teachers have made the five words into songs for the children. The idea is that these children will always remember these words. If there was a time when we need to affirm this lesson, especially with the revision that apologies must have character. Look again at the five magic words and see how many of them project sensitivity and consideration.
Alas, it seems saying sorry has now become something illogical. Or something only weak people do. And in a world where we think only the strongest/fittest survive, it is anathema to express any kind of weakness. We seem to have been sucked into the realm of logic and logicality. If we cannot explain it logically then we should dispense with it. If we cannot reason it out then we should set it aside. Yet, there are still many illogical things we continue to cherish. How many can explain the logic behind a mother cooing or singing to her baby? Does the baby understand the meaning of the words used by the mother? Yet how many people want to stop any mother singing/speaking to her unlearned baby?
Saying I am sorry is one of the best things in the world that is sometimes not logical. We ought to keep it.