(By Kolawole Dare Dan)
“In Nigeria, it isn’t just difficult being who you want to be, it is also difficult being who you already are; it is difficult being a citizen, a father, a friend, a son, a husband and so on; because most times in this society, you need money to be all these things. To get the best of available jobs, you must have attended the best schools where exorbitant fees are charged, to be a political leader at a certain level. You must have at least N10 million to pick a form, and so on and so forth. This is why it seems ‘leaders of tomorrow’ are yet to rear their heads— this is how a typical capitalist society works.“
JUST about the time I was completing an article titled “Money and its place in the Nigerian society”, I came across a piece by Oseni Oladipo in The Guardian Youth Speak page of Monday, August 26, 2013, titled “Nigerian artist: Luxury or Charity” and it was clear from the article that Oladipo missed one very important point, that is ‘philanthropism’ (permit me to use that word from philanthropy) Philanthropism is simply a tool in the hands of a typical capitalist. He may decide to use the tool at will or not even use it at all.
Capitalism, just like in most countries, has found its foothold in the Nigerian society and it is now full blown in an already economically and socially troubled society.
In Nigeria, it isn’t just difficult being who you want to be, it is also difficult being who you already are; it is difficult being a citizen, a father, a friend, a son, a husband and so on; because most times in this society, you need money to be all these things. To get the best of available jobs, you must have attended the best schools where exorbitant fees are charged, to be a political leader at a certain level. You must have at least N10 million to pick a form, and so on and so forth. This is why it seems ‘leaders of tomorrow’ are yet to rear their heads— this is how a typical capitalist society works.
This is what also played itself out in the recent action of the Lagos State government in the ‘relocation’ (some other people will prefer using the word ‘deportation’) of some destitute to their native land. From various reactions in the media, it was obvious that people from different quarters hijacked the scenario to suit their sentiments—Politicians played politics with it, ethnic solidarity was not left out and business men and women did business with it. At the end of the day, the real issue got defaced and neglected, yet the facts remain, staring us in the face.
The fact is that Governor Babatunde Fashola has people of Igbo origin in his cabinet and even a principal media aide. The only difference between the destitute and others at the other side of the divide is simply money and access to it. While one side has a means of livelihood which can be taxed by the Lagos State government, the other side has absolutely nothing and therefore cannot be asked to pay tax and shouldn’t be granted the right of movement in parts of the country. So, rather than being a political issue or an ethnicity one, it is purely a class issue.
The big question is what and who are responsible for such a huge class disparity, huge enough to deny one of being human and a free citizen of a democratically governed country? This question will bring us back to the management of resources amongst the people rightly laying claim to these resources by virtue of birth or location—how can every legitimate citizen of a country have the right proportion of the resources of his or her country?
Another fact is that the destitute we find in our society is a reflection or is a result of mismanaged resources; the failure on the part of the administrators who have been saddled with the responsibility of distributing these resources with the most appropriate system of governance and in the most efficient manner. However, the actions of our administrators are deliberate; it has to be so as to maintain a class.
So, telling our artistes, politicians and business mogul to cultivate the act of giving or be philanthropists is like telling a workman to use a tool which is none of our business whether he uses it or not. As a matter of fact, he uses it whenever he needs to, if he doesn’t, it is because he does not need to. Don Jazzy has been sharing recharge cards all over tweeter because he needs to in order to make you guys keep loving him and keep buying his CDs. If Wizkid needs to do the same to maintain his class, he will and so are the politicians and business moguls because they all made their money through the common man.
Wizkid, Davido and the likes of them with their attitude in the usage of their money no matter how they’ve made it are just reflections of the main issue. The problem, therefore, is not a personality one, but a systemic one and it should be treated as such. Treating the problem, as a systemic one, will mean our sitting down and first examining ourselves as a people and review the resources at our disposal and work out a system of management that will make every citizen have a share of them as a right. In this, no one will be needed to plead with or blame anyone for the survival of his compatriot. There will be no ‘deportation’ or ‘relocation’.
• Dan is a farmer and poet, lives in Lagos.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”