This Obsession With Money In Public Office (2)

(By Zayyan Umar) 

Our obsession with money in this country has led to a perverted, dangerous and unrealistic financial mindset, especially among today’s youth. It is not wrong to assume that our generation will be worse than our predecessors unless something drastic were to occur. Even Nigerian movies haven’t been left behind with their daft portrayal of riches.

Continued from yesterday

HAVE you not studied for your exams? Fear not, someone can be bribed to procure your exam papers for you. You didn’t meet the grades to be accepted into a university? No need to fret, someone can be bribed to sort out your admission. Have you missed the deadline for NYSC registration? It’s alright, I know a guy. You know you cannot park there right? Don’t worry, I ‘settled’ that guy over there, nothing will happen. Bro, you know you shouldn’t drive without a number plate, the police or road safety will harass you. It’s fine, I’ll ‘settle’ them if they stop me. Have you been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for misappropriating public funds? Not to worry, seek audience with someone more powerful than the EFCC, cut a deal and the charges will be dropped or thrown out of court. These are just a few examples of what money can do in our country.

   How did it come to this? In the most general sense, it can be argued that the discovery of oil coincided with a period of poor and undisciplined leaders, which has inevitably led to a morally decrepit nation where almost nothing works and corruption is the order of the day. This is not to say we did not have corrupt leaders amongst our founding fathers, but they had less to play around with. Thanks to our oil wealth, we live in an age where civil servants are billionaires and a person can go from broke to filthy rich after a four-year political appointment. Is it then a surprise that we as a people are obsessed with money? Is it a surprise that high ranking civil service and any public service job is now a matter of life and death? Is it a surprise that everyone and their grandmother liaise with a marabout? Is it a surprise that you ask a child in primary school what he/she wants to be when he grows up and his answer is ‘a politician’, when you ask why, he replies ‘I want to be rich’. I remember a time when I was afraid to say N100 million out loud. Today, it sounds quite normal. Granted inflation has played a part but that is still no reason for me to think that.

  Our obsession with money in this country has led to a perverted, dangerous and unrealistic financial mindset, especially among today’s youth. It is not wrong to assume that our generation will be worse than our predecessors unless something drastic were to occur. Even Nigerian movies haven’t been left behind with their daft portrayal of riches. I will provide as examples, two conversations I have had with acquaintances concerning money. I have a friend who is currently working in the United States. The other day we were having a conversation, and then he said ‘Bro, I’ll feel like such an average guy in Abuja if I don’t have at least 2 million dollars in my account’. I burst out into laughter on the phone and he asked me why I was laughing. I said, ‘you’re 27 years old, what do you want to do with 2 million dollars?’ There were a few moments of silence, and then he said that was a stupid question. I promptly changed the topic and left it that. Those moments of silence and a lack of an answer told me that he wanted money to engage in frivolity. I have had eerily similar conversations such as this one with various acquaintances. Keep in mind these acquaintances are all within ages 24 to 28. Late last year, I was at a get-together at a friend’s place and was engaged in a discussion with two guys who were about my age. Coincidentally, the three of us had just finished our Youth Service and were discussing future plans. When it was my turn I said I was flirting with the idea of a PhD and they erupted into laughter. I had a puzzled expression on my face and one of them said, ‘you must have billions to inherit and you’re just trying to while away the time until you can inherit it’. I have to admit I laughed after he said that, but I was also thinking to myself that money has made them short sighted. The implicit message from their reaction is getting a job is the priority, which I don’t argue with. It’s the rational thing to think or do. However, their myopia did not let them think maybe I had some sort of long-term plan for my career, and a PhD would help me achieve my aim. Well, I have castigated a few of my peers so it is only fair to balance things out a bit and note that I have friends who want to be extremely wealthy, and have creative and substantive ideas they are currently pursuing to that end. One of them, in tandem with his brother, has been working very hard promoting their educational animation programme aimed at kids. If their hard work pays off, and he’s ‘vacationing in his villa in Brazil sipping cocktails’ as he says, why would I resent that? I have personally seen the hard work they have put in. So, it’s not all bad.

  So, what can we do to mitigate this obsession with money? In a general sense, my generation and the older one are lost causes. However, maybe we can do something with the kids, something to bring about an attitudinal change towards this obsession with money. We should make them understand that stupendous wealth is not the sole measure of success. Going back to the book I highlighted earlier in this article, maybe we can utilise their proposed ‘seven elements of success’ which are; health, security, respect, personality, harmony with nature, friendship and leisure, or at least some of it as a means of conveying what success is to the kids today. This is not to say I want to discourage them from making money, not at all. It is just so this unhealthy relationship we have with money ends, because it plays a major role in the corruption we face in our nation. We have to put an end to this misconception that an individual can only live an amazing life with an abundance of money.

  On a side note, I want to acknowledge an article that was published on this page titled ‘Youth: The NYSC, Zamfara State and I’ on the 14 May by Mr. Anyiam Nnaemeka. The author wrote about serving in Zamfara State, and how that experience made him discard a few Northern/Islamic stereotypes among other things. Those are the sort of things we should really be hearing more about, instead of the daily doses of tribal and regional prejudice and hate. It is imperative that we do not behave like sheep and follow/fall for the polarising political practices employed by our leaders. Regardless of religion, tribe or language, we are all Nigerians.


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