It starts at an early age: the dream and need to belong. To be one of the cool kids. The drive to be affiliated with wealth and recognition began in high school; children from average homes who did all they could to be friends with the kids from affluent backgrounds. They devised every means to be viewed as one of the creme de la cremes of the student society. Some of them went as far as denying their own parents or seeing them discreetly when they came visiting because they needed to keep up an appearance.
It got worse at the university.
Male wannabes borrowed cars, claimed a friend’s BQ, pulled influential strings to be accepted into a club and generally did whatever they deemed necessary to woo a girl they liked. Their female counterparts appropriated a girlfriend’s clothing and in some cases, stole to ensure they maintained a certain standard when it came to dressing.
Unfortunately, many of these individuals never shed their unbridled quest for riches without the matching desire to generate wealth organically.
Today, they constitute a significant section of the populace who hang around the corridors of power while some of them have made their way into the private sector. They never really tell us how they came upon their wealth, instead, bamboozle the naive with motivational speeches and high energy speeches that are founded on fluff. We respect them, we invite them to our talk shows; they moderate our panel sessions and are keynote speakers at high profile functions. And now, they have become a source of national embarrassment to us all.
The amorphous shadow of corruption that continues to hang over our collective heads took on a more definite form with the indictment of celebrated personalities in damning cases of fraud. From the public sector to the private sector, the credibility of those who are supposed to be beacons of integrity and hope was shattered.
First, it was Okoi Obono-Obla, chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property. He is alleged to have forged his high school certificate. Next, Winifred Oyo Ita the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation found herself enmeshed in a 3bn naira bribery allegation amongst other ignoble accusations.
In rapid succession, former Super Eagles Coach and Nigerian football legend, Samson Siasia, and one-time Forbes celebrated entrepreneur, Obinwanne Okeke followed with their own incidents of fraud on a wider scale. These image-denting occurrences have been a hot topic online and offline. For many Nigerians, the developments signal the final nail in the coffin of our already battered reputation within the international community.
As if the scourge of hoi polloi Yahoo Yahoo boys isn’t embarrassing enough, we now have to contend with the obvious doubt over those who are supposed to be role models for the youths.
On this side of the divide, I’d be economical with the truth if I claimed to be shocked at the recent turn of events.
Things were always going to pan out this way.
In a society where riches are worshipped regardless of the circumstances surrounding their acquisition, more and more citizens are likely to risk a good name to ensure they amass as much of it as they can.
We live in a generation where we are constantly under pressure to make it big. It is not enough to simply be able to put food on the table and live in a decent apartment. You have to build a house before you are 40. You must be welcome at the seat of the table of the nouveau rich or you really are nothing.
At a time when less than 30-year olds are acquiring the choicest cars and mansions overseas, those who hold regular jobs where they are paid 200k salaries are considered borderline failures. But that mentality and consequent hunger to “make it” by any means possible are responsible for the quagmire we are left to grapple with right now.
The epic fall of Obinwanne Okeke, in particular, is an instructive learning point for young people who tend to believe they are smarter and have the trajectory of lives figured out compared to the older generation who were more inclined to build painstakingly. A mindset that is perhaps their greatest undoing.
While it pays to be smart; grab opportunities and explore various avenues for wealth creation, it’s critical to not fall into the trap of comparison and an unchecked pursuit of glory.
In the end, enduring affluence remains a by-product of hard work. Time, energy, sweat, tears, disappointment, a rise. a fall, many falls, despair, loneliness, hope, and a steady rise are all ingredients in the meal of success. These elements feature in every success story, not those backed by old money or acquired through dirty deals.
Hard work is still the key to success.
The hard way is still the only way.