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Opinions of Sunday, 5 August 2018

Columnist: Farouk Martins Aresa

Conspicuous spending bravado killed humility

The lack of candour, bravado and ostentation displayed by “money miss road” has finally infected many of us, including some genuine wealthy folks, to the point where our youths are willing to do just about anything necessary by all means to get rich. The usual pathway to riches or even becoming just wealthy required arduous labour, perseverance and to be well informed in order to retain most of your gains before you lose it for being dumb and silly.

Sudden wealth, riches without traceable source and a waste of lives hoping against hope in richer pastures have driven our youths to their breaking points and suicides. We used to proudly claim that “African man does not commit suicide”. Time has changed leaving us with many broken promises, broken hearts and broken dreams.

Yet, we are not better off than we were when we did not have these riches, material wealth or comparing ourselves to “saner climes”. We are in a race rushing to our deaths and sacrificing our children and grandchildren to avarice of the present that set us back a hundred years. While material wealth has increased, it has only concentrated in the hands of a selfish few venerated and worshipped for the easy way they got their loot.

Most of the politicians that liberated us from the clench of colonialism like Nkrumah, Zik, Nyerere, Awo or Steve Biko rose from poor Xhosa parents came from very humble background. This is in stack contrast to what we have today. The politicians selling us back and mortgaging the future of our youths today are filthy rich. Some of their parents were so rich, they trained a few of these Vagabonds In Power abroad.

There is a generation of young men and ladies that are now influenced by the “get rich quick” mentality. It has gone wild; even those with legitimate source of wealth are not helping matters. In the days of Pa Da Rocha, Ajao, Dantata and Ojukwu wealth was not on display and these men were even called stingy for not squandering their money. In those days, this writer had to challenge his mother to explain how Bank Anthony could be rich if he wore the same suit every day! Little did we realize he had many khaki suits.

Da Rocha, the richest of them all was even worse. We hardly see him except a few of us that went to his house as kids to “pluck fruit” in his compound which is still a big house by today’s standard. Pa Ojukwu lived modestly not far from one of his businesses and most people would not be able to tell the difference between these men and their workers pushing the pens.

Then, there was a brand new city called New Lagos. It was later surrounded by private houses; before getting to Shell Club and areas around Ogunlana Drive. We used to survey those houses because they were better than those in Government Reservation Areas (GRA) in Ikoyi, Ikeja and major cities around the country. The architecture and the way these houses were built were even better than our old Brazilian quarters.

The admiration during our survey around was that: “No be there him papa born am O!”. Loaded in that statement was the respect, esteem and praise accorded to the hard work that propels these hard-working men into such beautiful houses. Most of these men and of course a few ladies too had visible source of income. Most people could put their wealth relative to their standard of living. There was no magic or “magomago” about it.

When children looked unto those men and say - I want to be like him when I grow up. Someone, not even your parents are ready to ask you if you are ready to work as hard. These were what is known as good characters to emulate that both your parents and your children would be proud of. Indeed, most of these rich men were not professional doctors, lawyers, accountants or teachers (the noblest profession then).

Pa Ajao became the biggest landlord in Lagos. He started as a humble loader, built and employed more loaders and the rest became history until today. Ojukwu was always a transporter with many big buses. The point here is that most of these men did hard labour before fortune smiled on them or better still before they smelled fortune. This little story is necessary for this generation that only thinks about jumping to riches.

Unfortunately, it is not the youths alone that are caught in this exaggerated standard of living. Modestly wealthy parents that barely survive as middle class after “Structural Adjustment” can simply not meet the demands coming from their children either in grade schools or colleges. They want what their classmates are getting from nouvelle riche parents. These are looters and Vagabonds In Power that hardly work for money.

The more some of these parents struggle to keep up with these demands, the more their children expect. We heard about cases of youths kidnapping themselves so that their modest parents can find the money anyhow to “bail” them out. Even worse, was the case of one of the youths that arranged with robbers to take his parents as hostages and dispossess them of some cash. When the parents were killed, he cried like a baby. It went worse than he had expected.

This is where we find ourselves these days. All the riches and extravagant toys have not added value to our lives. If anything, it has killed the ambition of our youths to work as hard as those that deserve to be emulated. It has reduced self-pride, killed our perseverance and reduce our country to pitiable state. Indeed, many of us have lost hope and do not think this state of hopelessness is redeemable.

The masses are preoccupied with rogues changing parties. They have been reduced to praise singers fighting for the rights of their oppressors when they have none themselves. They are the first to cry for the rule of law and democracy that is not extended to them. Every discussion always ends with the help of God coming down to change our country while we sit idle. No, many of us would settle for a devil if he could clean up the mess.