…Thoughts on our general lack of shame
Earlier this week, a video made the rounds on social media and WhatsApp groups. Over twenty staff of Heritage Bank, dressed in the bank’s branded t-shirt, went to Senator Andy Uba’s Abuja house ostensibly to have a meeting. The staff could be seen holding placards and walking in front of the house. The reason for the meeting? They wanted the senator to repay the loans he had taken which had since become overdue. Their jobs are at stake if the senator does not repay the loan.
When I watched the video, the first thing that came to mind was “jaguda behaviour requires jaguda response”. The bank most likely followed all of its usual protocols in attempting to recover the loans. Seeing that those actions had achieved no result, the concerned employees decided to visit the man and document it. We can only assume they intended to make the video go viral so that the Senator would be embarrassed enough to take some form of action.
Whilst discussing this viral video on a WhatsApp group, someone highlighted the importance of the timing of the ambush. Apparently, the Senator is in the running for his party’s Governorship ticket in Anambra state. We concluded that the visit was timed to increase the likelihood of the Senator offering a response. One would assume that he would be concerned enough about his image in the run-up to the party primaries and avoid any public embarrassment.
This is not the first time people have taken private matters public and it definitely will not be the last. It is a standard recourse for many Nigerians. Once a person doesn’t keep to his/ her end of an agreement, you attempt all possible approaches to ensure that you are compensated appropriately as per your agreement, whether documented or implied.
I remember once when I loaned a friend some money. Not a lot of money but significant enough for me to want it back especially as he had requested it as a loan. Time to pay up and my guy kept giving excuses. Believe it or not, he didn’t repay that loan for over a year and I didn’t forget. As fate would have it, he needed me to provide a service only I could provide at the time. I simply made the repayment of my loan conditional on rendering the service he needed: jaguda behaviour requires jaguda response.
We are ever equipped with ingenious ways of seeking redress when people renege on agreements. I have heard of some pretty wild approaches but whether they work is another matter entirely. Here are some of the ones that take the cake:
• Your husband is cheating on you and you now know who his side chick is. You accost her at the shopping mall and threaten her, raising your voice with each sentence. As a crowd begins to gather, you become emboldened and you deal her a hot slap!
• You have a misunderstanding with a service provider. You immediately announce it on social media so that random people can support you as you seek resolution of the matter
• Your tenant has been owing rent, yet he is still living the life. You lock the gate and deny him the right to exit the compound. You make sure you make a public scene. Even worse, you call a carpenter to remove the doors, windows, and maybe even the roof
• There are children whose parents haven’t paid their school fees. You have even sent numerous reminders but no action. You call the students out in assembly, line them up, and flog them properly. Maybe their parents will be motivated to pay when they recount the pain they experienced being flogged
• Someone hits your car in traffic. Instead of acknowledging their fault or even coming down to look at the damage, he sits still in the car. You come down and start hitting their car whilst still on the road, after all, no be only dem sabi craze.
No one wants to be shamed or experience shame but when push comes to shove, we throw away our inhibitions. Our first action on doing something wrong should be to seek to correct that wrong so that our integrity is preserved. Ideally, no one would consider the feeling of humiliation or distress more important than the need to set matters right. This consciousness of our status: the need to remember who we are and remain people of integrity, is derived from family upbringing (home training) and religious morals. Anyone who does not express this personal check on their bad behaviour is shameless: they lack integrity and should be ready to face the consequences of their bad behaviour.
The million-dollar question is then, why does it seem like some people can never be shamed? I find that the people of integrity in our society pale when compared with those without integrity so we are very often in good company when we express shamelessness. If our general attitude to bad behaviour is to perpetuate more bad behaviour, it is only because we believe that is the default action of the majority.
Another reason could be that we celebrate bad behaviour, knowingly or unknowingly. I remember when some politicians were released from prison and they had a sizeable crowd of supporters welcome them back into society. It was hard to believe they had spent time for their crimes. One would assume that their re-entry would have been low-key.
I also remember a point in time when AMCON was publishing debtor lists in several national newspapers. The lists read like a “who is who in Nigeria”. I can just imagine how many listed people felt comforted when they realised they were listed alongside many other bigwigs in the country. I wonder if the approach worked and how many of those people paid back their debts.
Why is it easier for us to take matters into our own hands instead of seeking the legal route? The obvious reason is that we don’t have sufficient faith in our legal systems. The court process can be tedious and expensive with cases dragging on for years. If one isn’t financially empowered, time and money are wasted in the process. Not a lot of people want to pursue a case that would drain them in many ways.
People will continue to shame others until we get to the point where we can trust in the appropriate systems to achieve issue resolution. Will they be successful in shaming others? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes I think that the shaming experience is enough recompense for some people.
We need our systems to work in aiding redress and we also need to build faith in those systems. Integrity is key to upholding societal values and if we continue in this attitude of shaming the shameless, we will continue descending to the abyss, and this is the way I see things today.