Few, if any, of the heroes of Nigeria’s youths, are children of “big men” born with silver spoons.
Those not blessed to be born of rich parents, and didn’t school overseas, and don’t have well-paid unadvertised government jobs arranged for them, are abandoned to increasing hopelessness.
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If despite the odds they still become wealthy, regardless of the source of the money they become “heroes” to their age-mates and are referred to as “successful businessmen”. Their success renews hope for aspirations of youths frustrated by the geriatric politicians governing the nation.
Obi Cubana is one of such “successful businessmen”. He isn’t the child of a big man, and wasn’t born with a silver spoon. Indeed he says he was born with no spoon whatsoever! He made headlines when videos of his mother’s lavishly flamboyant burial hit the social media. He claims to be a self-made billionaire businessman, but the source of his “seed money” is opaque. Calls to investigate his wealth are based upon the premise that those who make money honestly don’t throw it around with careless abandon.
It’s easy to appreciate why many people deemed his display of wealth and jollity to be “unbecoming” of a burial, but not everybody thinks alike. No doubt his excesses could have been fine-tuned and managed better, but that’s really neither here nor there. The propriety or otherwise of the manner in which a son buries his mother isn’t a matter for public discussion, except when public funds are involved. Undeniably the occasion appeared to be less about mourning the death of a mother who, according her son departed prematurely, and more about celebrating money. Be that as it may, the pseudo-outrage of high-profile critics is contrived. Their disgust at the impropriety of money being frivolously squandered rather than used to improve infrastructure, or uplift impoverished people is somehow suppressed when dollars are sprayed at social functions of top political office holders’.
In truth all manner of “big-men” unconscionably spray obscene amounts publicly without reprimand. As a result Nigeria has lost its moral compass and lamentably produced a generation of youths who worship money. The blame lies squarely at the feet of political office holders. There is a trending video of a federal lawmaker throwing mint Naira notes over a balcony while gleefully watching his impoverished constituents fight themselves for their “dividend of democracy”. It’s evident that government officials aren’t committed to the concept of a “cashless society”. Not only is the internet replete with photographs of them handing bundles of cash over to bandits, but also humongous amounts of cash are routinely stolen from government offices.
The Naira raining “Honorable” lawmaker referred to isn’t known for spending money to establish a welfare system or facilitate much required developmental projects, rather he opts to demean constituents by throwing money at them to fight over, rather than honorably handing it to them individually. Obi Cubana could have chosen to spend his money building roads, hospitals or schools in his area, but as is his right, he didn’t. Those criticizing him for not doing so are way off the mark. If he is enamored with designer clothes, shoes, watches and trinkets, luxury hotels, beautiful girls, and exotic cars that’s his prerogative. He is neither in government, nor entrusted with public funds. It’s not his fault that political office holders, who control the budget and are mandated to develop communities, prefer to spend public money on purchasing official luxury vehicles, and allocating themselves unjustifiable allowances.
Neither Obi Cubana, nor indeed any other private individual, no matter how rich, is morally obligated to take on the work of government. The bundles of new Naira notes thrown around during the burial once again posed the question of how come elites have so many crisp mint notes to throw around when Nigerian banks habitually give their “ordinary” customers old and defaced notes ?
Since 2015 government has been harping on about respect for currency notes, and enforcing the law which bans defacing currency by spraying them on the floor. The problem is that political office holders are the biggest culprits! It’s difficult to enforce the prescribed penalty for a crime when those committing it are accompanied to crime scene by their police escorts! Nigerians love ostentatious displays of wealth, and there is a belief that the only way youths can legitimately become wealthy is as entertainers, sports personalities, or big-men’s children! There is no denying that as a rule wealthy youths who made their fortune outside these areas tend to end up in jail convicted of big time fraud. In reaction to this, without giving room for the exceptions to the rule, police constantly harass law-abiding youths who show signs of succeeding in their struggles against poverty. This led to the tragedy of the #ENDSARS protests. That the likes of Obi Cubana are admired by youths may disappoint some people, but shouldn’t surprise them. Every young man wants to “live large” but insecurity, joblessness, and low value Naira is frustrating them. They see Obi as a symbol of rising above the mess.
Nigerian youths express distain for their political leaders who have sold their honour and integrity. They feel betrayed by a political class that takes care of itself while citizens degenerate into poverty and hopelessness. Government needs to wake up to its responsibilities. Nigerian youths are full of energy and ready to work, alas their President has made it clear that as far as he is concerned, they can have good qualifications and never get a job! There is an adage which says “you can’t beat children and tell them not to cry”. Something urgent needs to be done about youth empowerment and job creation to rekindle hope. If not, then any child of “common people” who manages to rise above the prevalent parochialism, poverty, nepotism and lack of opportunity by whatever means will continue to be a “hero” to Nigerian youths.