Shame, recapitulations, and the tribunal verdict



In Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs, we are told the story of Abdulfattah Jandali who ran a Mediterranean restaurant in California. He was a Syrian immigrant, balding and intelligent, with fierce eyes and round, wire-rimmed glasses. After coming to America, Jandali earned a PhD in economics. He got a job as a professor at the University of Michigan. He began dating a woman named Joanne, and she became pregnant. But despite his brilliance, Jandali was a flawed and restless man. So, with Joanne still pregnant, he abandoned both his family and his career. The baby boy in Joanne’s womb was given up for adoption. Jandali later reunited with Joanne, they were married (briefly), and the couple had a daughter. But when the child was young, Jandali once again grew restless. He left and never returned. The baby girl grew up to be a famous novelist named Mona Simpson. And as an adult, she decided to seek out her long-lost father. What was he like? she wondered. Why did he leave? 


Simpson hired a private investigator who tracked down Jandali, managing an eatery in California.


In a corner booth, Jandali told his daughter proudly of the places he had managed over the years — primarily the Mediterranean one near San Jose. “That place was wonderful,” he remarked. “All of the successful technology people used to come there. Even Steve Jobs. He was a sweet guy and a big tipper!” Mona Simpson’s mouth fell open. She never told her father that Steve Jobs — the brilliant billionaire and founder of Apple Computers — was the baby Jandali had abandoned in the womb.


And despite never knowing one another outside of those brief, oblivious encounters — the two men shared uncanny characteristics.


Fathers shape us even in their absence. We inherit things.


Like a sharp mind, a set of piercing eyes, and maybe even a taste for round-rimmed wire glasses. There is a mystery in what gets passed down. But in the case of Jobs and Jandali, the similarities do not stop there. Eerily, the founder of Apple Computers would also abandon his firstborn child, Lisa, in the womb, at the same age Jandali had been when he left. What should we make of such surprising recapitulations? My claim is not that every aspect of our fate is predetermined by our past or our genetics.


The temporary state of feeling shame when we realize that we have lost standing in someone’s eyes because we have done something wrong can be redemptive. As the theologian Lewis Smedes writes, “A healthy sense of shame is perhaps the surest sign of our divine origin and our human dignity. When we feel this sense of shame, we are feeling a nudge from our true selves.”


But feeling shame as a more permanent trait—a sense that we are fundamentally flawed and are unworthy and unlovable — is toxic and destructive. Healthy shame can function like a proximity sensor on a car, signaling that we have veered off in the wrong direction so we can steer back toward our divine origin.


It is in the light of the latter that I address us, Nigerians, and Nigeria has no shame, and what we are witnessing is a recapitulation!


In the past referred to as the "Giant of Africa," we are still on the tumultuous journey towards establishing a stable democracy. We continue to grapple with issues such as election disputes, the refusal of politicians to accept defeat gracefully, concerns over the perceived corruption within the judiciary to even address defeats, and the fact that in many cases the electorates are denied the right to pick their leaders by these verdicts of the law instead of the ballot.


These challenges have not only tainted Nigeria's democratic processes but have also had far-reaching consequences on its socio-political landscape.


Again, we are on our way to the Supreme Court, at best antecedents, or precedents would be set. We have not changed, with our behavior we not only fuel political tensions and violence but taint and shame our judiciary. The judiciary which plays a pivotal role in upholding the rule of law and ensuring the integrity of elections, battles allegations of judicial corruption, including bribery and political influence, thus eroding public trust in the justice system. This perception of a compromised judiciary has further fuelled election disputes, as losing candidates often question the impartiality of the courts.


Like Steve Jobs’ father and Jobs himself, there are consequences, The sad reality is that these protracted legal battles that follow disputed elections create uncertainty and instability, hampering the nation's not just socioeconomic progress. Political violence and unrest become all too common, leading to loss of lives and property damage in cases. Additionally, the erosion of public trust in the judiciary undermines the very foundations of justice and the rule of law. Add to this, the further divisive lines that it cuts into the tapestry of a country struggling to attain nationhood.


The consequences of these challenges extend beyond Nigeria's borders. International observers and the global community's neo-colonial nature continue to raise concerns about the credibility of Nigeria's electoral processes. These issues tarnish the nation's image on the international stage, potentially impacting foreign investments and diplomatic relations.


I conclude by stating, that Nigeria's journey towards a stable democracy has been marred by not just election disputes, the refusal of politicians to accept defeat, perceived corruption within the judiciary, and their far-reaching consequences. Nigeria must address these issues to safeguard the integrity of its democratic processes and restore public trust in its institutions. Only then can the nation truly move forward on its path toward a thriving democracy, ensuring the will of the people is upheld and respected—May Nigeria win