As I made my way into the cabin, I saw him and his sister both seated in business class. He, about 3 years old and his sister looking every inch a 5 year old. Their mum sat on the same row. Her clothes were ill fitting, eyebrow conspicuously penciled With sweeping eyelashes a camel cannot boast of. Her luggage was hefty, much like her “poorer” compatriots in economy class. She bore none of the mannerisms of the cultivated rich. What is a 3 year old doing in business class? That is Nigeria for you, and I understand there can be no moral rectitude for a thief. My concern is that parents are destroying their children’s future with ill-gotten riches and worshipping Mammon. Mammon is a false god and a grossly inadequate one indeed. Mammon pushes his worshippers to more stupid things!
The rich Nigerian makes a compelling case that unearned money is unfulfilling. That explains their enslavement to primitive acquisition, ostentatious consumption and transparent displays. The Nigerian wants to be rich just to show and to oppress those around him. They steal more and covet more, long after the money has become a burden rather than a comfort, because the pleasures of consumption wear off easily with time. The rich Nigerians are raising brats and self-absorbed children who are accustomed to living large from infancy. They have no idea they are ruining this country much more than what they stole but by contaminating the environment with children who have no respect for hard work and know nothing about integrity. They see expensive vacations and high brow shopping as commonplace. Such forms of consumption are so often done that it has lost all its psychological benefit. What the truly wealthy in other nations consider as luxury is commonplace in Nigeria. Luxury loses meaning when it is a constant. Constant luxury is no luxury at all; luxury is not commonplace!
There is no need for sweeping generalisations as some people earned their wealth in this country but how many are they? How many are genuinely rich and not fronting for people in government or enabled by insiders? Richard Branson who owns Virgin Atlantic has children and they fly economy. How many Nigerians are as rich as Richard Branson? Unfortunately for these thieving parents, their children know them as thieves and they themselves are trying to be bigger thieves when they grow up. They are all over the Lekki-Ikoyi corridor and the streets of Maitama and Asokoro displaying the stereotypical arrogance of privilege. They are everywhere, driving fast cars and lacking the motivation to accomplish anything in life. Our rulers who stole us blind sent their children abroad to study with the aim of coming back to take the reins of power; have they? No! It doesn’t work that way. Privileged children have no motivation to take better control of their education. They have the money to stay in posh apartments, ride expensive cars and party away because the money is there for taking. There is no need to learn for a future career.
While their children struggle through school, partying and doing drugs, the parents are still delusional, hoping it is just a phase. It is not a phase! Life without work, however financially secure, is an aimless life. A life without purpose. Not having to work in life is better appreciated in the abstract. In practice, not working feels like prison, it is unpleasant. Life’s successes are measured by advances in chosen careers. That is why monied children are swinging in oceans of anxiety, indecision and despair. In essence, money robs children of their ambition. When children are in full knowledge of their parents vast fortunes, they are more likely to develop a twisted view of the world. Money prevents them from developing a strong sense of empathy and compassion. The result? The aim of sending them abroad eventually falls flat. The best among them come back as DJ’s and the children of their drivers and nannies become doctors!
Whether money is earned or stolen, parents owe the society the obligation to raise good children. The rich Nigerian have a harder time getting their children to do chores at an early age because it is hard to get a girl to sweep or vacuum the house when you have a professional cleaner in the house. There are servants waiting on them to do everything they want. The thieving rich is not worthy of envy. Even the truly wealthy elsewhere; those who worked hard and got rich, inheritors of wealth, Silicon Valley types and the accidentally rich who won lotteries have their hidden dilemmas and agonies. Getting rich is certainly not worth sacrificing one’s conscience and life to attain. We owe it as a duty to society that stealing millions of dollars and billions of Naira will not bring them all that they had hoped for and neither will it guarantee happiness. We owe it as a duty to educate people on the concept of service and aspiring to something greater than the self. Parents, teachers and clergies needs to go back to preaching our lost values; people are truly happy when they concentrate on things that makes the world a better place. There is no point stealing money or even acquiring it honestly because it will not get you much if you ignore everything else. It is pretty much established that money may ease some worries, but others always remain and they loom larger than those eased. Lack of money is not an excuse for not being at peace and for lacking in integrity. How many Nigerians alive can have the cult following Buhari has? Money did not fetch him all that, something far greater than himself did.
If nothing is learned from the profligate times of Goodluck Jonathan, we know that stealing is far more complicated than it seems. Money is never enough! The rich worry more about money than the poor. They worry about losing it, so they steal more and more. As the zeroes increase, the dilemmas get bigger. If anything, the rich faces more melancholy than the rest of us. We generally believe a little more money would make our lives happier and in many instances it is true. But the hard truth is; human appetites for material indulgence are rarely satisfied. Money is overrated! It can buy friendships but it cannot buy affection. Worse, it cannot soothe the soul or give meaning to a wandering life. It cannot guarantee one’s children will not grow up to be a nuisance to society.
We have to go back to learning our lost mores. We have to go back to the time in our history when we question sources of wealth and shun thieves and the dishonest. There is a lot riding on Buhari’s presidency for us as a people. We hope he can make hard work and integrity fashionable again. We hope he can stem the tide of unrestrained looting made most popular by Jonathan. We hope he can level the playing field more for all of us to live according to our means. I hope to see in my lifetime a Nigeria in which the truly wealthy will live a life in which there will be correlation between wealth and philanthropy as in other climes. While waiting, I know enough, that the joys of wealth are self-evident but its dilemmas are very hidden. Let your children live right, lest you be miserable to your death and in your grave.
Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú maintains a weekly column on Politics and Socioeconomic issues in Premium Times every Tuesday. She is a member of Premium Times Editorial Board, and can be reached on Twitter @olufunmilayo.