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Of apology, forgiveness and penitence

By Mohammed Adamu

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget”. –Thomas Szasz, Hungarian-born U.S. psychiatrist.

A SISTER of mine once –against all counsel- ended her 25-year old, mutually-consensual marriage, -a victory at last, for her unmarried high society female friends who had always wanted her out. Not that my dear sister’s  middle-income-earning husband was failing in his matrimonial duties. On the contrary, given his modest earnings, he seemed providentially over-capacitated, especially considering his indulgence of her every vain demand.

In fact, a second wife that her conjugal belligerence once forced him to marry, had to leave because she could not bear the ‘servitude’ she said, of having to cook separately, often, for each of my sister’s six children -depending on the whims of their varied culinary preferences. This was how superfluously provident my sister’s husband was. Yet her out-of-wedlock, fair weather friends were able to convinced her he was not good enough.

At the peak of her intransigent demand for divorce, my dear sister rebuffed the wise counsel even of the oldest members of the family, insisting it was her life and her prerogative to live it. And even as her husband dithered over what to do, my impatient sister abandoned her six children and left, leaving word that whenever he decided to write a divorce letter he should do her the favour of dropping it with the family. Us. She excommunicated every one of us and for months we had no idea where she was.

Said William Shakespeare “what we have we prize not to the worth whiles we enjoy it, but being lacked and lost… then we rack the value, then we find the virtue that possession would not show us whiles it was ours.” After a period of failed expectation, my dear freedom-seeking sister suddenly returned home to her husband. And although she now seemed freshly determined to keep her marriage, yet she would not back down from her usual grandstanding.

Instead of being chastened by the humbling anti-climax of ‘the vulture returning to her home on the tamarind’ my sister was egging herself unto more and more defiant tantrums. She gave the impression she was doing both her husband and us a favour by coming back; so that even as we expected remorse, apology and possibly repentance from her, to our chagrin, she was the one expecting gratitude, patronage and some kind of doting forbearance from us.

In fact, my sister had thrown word around meant especially for us, that she was the proverbial ‘bante’ (girdle), adequate, she said, for every ‘qugu’ (waist); preemptively warding off any attempt to go to reprimand her. I should say that my sister overestimated our filial adoration even as she underestimated our kinship pride. She had excommunicated and blacklisted us.

She did not know that the family had virtually disowned her. And as we maintained a dignified family silence over my sister’s unrepentant return, her arrogance of unrighteousness only grew more and more. Until when –least expectedly- her cautiously receptive husband now handed her the divorce letter she had always asked for. Perfect time you would say. Just when she was ‘racking the value’ and ‘finding the virtue’ of her marriage, my sister, at last, lost it. Yet, without shame she now came to us ‘remorsefully’ and ‘apologetically’ in search of: kindred shoulders to cry on, a family sanctuary to live in and the benevolence of sibling provision to live by.

And since blood is thicker than water, we all resolved to forgive my willfully errant sister. Or as others said: ‘to forgive and to forget’ what she had done. But I was only ready to ‘forgive’ her. Because I did not know when I will ‘forget’ what she did. Whereas I can control my capacity for ‘forgiveness’, I do not have the capacity to restrain myself from ‘remembering’.

And I cannot pretend that the thought of her brings pleasant memories when truly what it brings are horrible reminiscences. And so, soon when I sent round some finance to our sisters in matrimony –which I often do as a token of reward for their conjugal forbearance – naturally I ‘remembered’ to omit my divorced sister because I cannot ‘forget’ that being no longer in wedlock, she was not eligible.

But everyone in the family said that this was proof that I had not ‘forgiven’ her. And I wondered whether it was ‘forgiveness’ that my willfully erring sister had sought from us or it was the benevolence of our filial gratuity to cushion the effect of her conjugal daredevilry? Why can’t we ‘forgive’ her and still decide whether or not to finance her willful destitution? Or why must bearing the burden of her self-inflicted depravation be the only proof that we ‘forgave’ her?

If my sister was ‘remorseful’ and ‘apologetic’ only after she had fallen into the ditch, how genuine then was that ‘remorse’? Or how true was that ‘apology’? And where was the ‘penitence’? God alone ‘forgives’ and exercises the prerogative not to punish. But He has instructed ‘man’ even after punishing, to ‘forgive’; or to ‘forgive’ even as he prepares to punish in order to deter.

Because, what manner of ‘remorse’ is there without ‘repentance’? What manner of ‘apology’ without ‘confession’? What manner of ‘forgiveness’ without ‘penitence’? And what manner of ‘transgression’ without ‘retribution’? Only the PDP will commit such high crimes and misdemeanors against the people and without ‘remorse’, without ‘repentance’, without ‘confession’, without ‘penitence’, will be asking us to ‘forgive’ and to ‘forget’; to not ‘recall’ and to not ever ‘remember’; and to ‘restore’ a willfully erring party to power without ‘restitution’ and without ‘retribution’.

Should ‘forgiveness’ not be only to the ‘remorseful’, the ‘repentant’, the ‘contrite’ and the ‘penitent’?. You have to realize the ‘wrong’ first (be truthful); then have a feeling of ‘guilt’ and ‘regret’ (be remorseful); and then be ‘ashamed’ and ‘sorry’ (be contrite); and be ‘ready’ to ‘remedy’ (restitute and return what is wrongly possessed); and to be penitent, (crave justice, bear the rigors of the law, atone); and finally to resolve never to do it again (be repentant). Ironically PDP’s ‘apology’ is coming not only when they have an imminent need of our PVCs, but it is coming even before the expression of genuine ‘remorse’; and before the making of true ‘confession’.

They are asking us to ‘forget’ the ‘wrongs’ that they are not ready to ‘confess’; they are asking us not to ‘remember’ the ‘transgressions’ that they are not prepared to ‘restitute’ for; and they want us to forgo ‘stolen items’ that we see culpably in their possession. They confirm the saying that ‘a thief is only sorry that he is caught, not that he has stolen’. An African proverb says: “The axe forgets, but the cut log does not”. And which is the equivalent of what the Hausas say: “Idan maye ya manta, uwar diya bata mantaba”. (‘if the witch does not remember, the mother of the victim child will seldom forget’). ‘

You forgive the one who has learned from his mistakes. But what has PDP learned? Nothing. They are, in fact, still in denial.  Until they go through purgatory, they have ‘learned nothing’, and until they learn something, they have ‘forgotten nothing’. By the way, having ‘forgiven’ them –although we know their ‘apology’ to be fake- we are not the ones to be put to purgatory in order to ‘forget’ or so that we do not ‘remember’.

But having sought our ‘forgiveness’, they are the ones to be put to purgatory –in order to be expiated- and not back into political office, to be further corrupted. Genuine ‘regret’ is not a pretentiously apologetic PDP asking for ‘political power’ after it had just ‘abused’ it. Genuine ‘regret’ must be as deep as Albert Einstein, after realizing that his ‘splitting of the atom’ had given rise to the atomic bomb, said “If only I had known, I would have become a watchmaker”.

 


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