My World

September 22, 2012

How would you spend three million dollars

By Muyiwa Adetiba
A couple of months ago, in the heat of the fuel subsidy brouhaha, I sent a poser to ten of my friends. My question was; what would you do now with three million dollars if some body gave you gratis?

The responses were intriguing. Quite a few said it was an hypothetical question and they do not respond to virtual situations. ‘Put the money on the table and you can ask tour questions,’ they said. A couple of respondents went spiritual.

They would pay their tithe on the money and ask for God’s direction on how to spend the balance. One candid respondent said his life style would not change much. He would simply stop working and play golf more.

He probably would still live in the same house but would do it up in such a way that I would not recognise it. Another promised to complete his children’s school fees, finish his mortgage payments and divide the rest as take-off funds for his children in their careers. Only one person, a retired Police Commissioner, said he would dispense the bulk of it on charity.

May be I am being unfair to expect some profound answers, because they probably saw my poser as trivial and hypothetical. Although I ask them to think seriously before answering, they might have seen my poser as a joke to lighten up the moment.

Secondly, I have the advantage of knowing why the question was being asked- the Otedola / Lawan ‘barter deal’. Still, I was slightly disappointed. These were people in their late 50s and early 60s who have had many personal issues like accommodation and school fees, settled. These were educated people who had occupied leadership positions.

They know about the rot in education and the encompassing poverty in the society but can’t see how five hundred million naira can help in addressing the situation. Yet for every child that is educated, for every child that is taken out of poverty, there is one less armed robber, one less kidnapper, one less terrorist.

One actually said the money was too small. Three million dollars too small? Then you must be Lawan’s friend’ I texted back 20 per cent of five hundred million naira would teach several brilliant but indigent students how to fish. And should you choose to make an impact in your village, it would help hundreds of widows and rural women in providing for their families and arresting the lure of crime.

But I guess there is a Lawan in all of us. We all want more. If not for our needs, then for our luxuries. Even if it means bleeding the system.

The politician wants to move from being a councillor to being a senator and even beyond. He needs money to achieve this, so he steals and bribes and blackmails and yes, kills. The average business man is no different. Its not about setting up industries that will create employment. Its about sucking up to government for contracts and oil deals. Its about inferior goods and superior luxury.

To the top elites in our society, the top politicians and businessmen, the Lawans and the Otedolas, three million dollars is nothing. It’s something they go through from time to time. It’s spending money. (If you got close to a governor – any governor in Nigeria, to see how he dispenses money, you would feel sorry for our dear country)

Our elites do not appreciate that the terrorism in the North and the kidnapping in the South, is linked by poverty. And its in their enlightened self interest to do something about it. Otherwise

Some one once said that the needs for an individual wealth reduces the more developed an economy becomes. Surely, that should be the role of every right thinking elite?

Something tells me that these children that we are sending to the best schools in the world, these children that are learning the best practises all over the world would one day come back to ask us hard, uncomfortable questions.

They would demand from us, the reasons we allowed their patrimony to be plundered and why we made their country barren. They would ask why a country that gave us so much is giving them so little. They might not be satisfied with our answers.

P.S: About a week after I finished this piece, I ran into an article in the Nation’s newspaper titled ‘if I had a lot of money’ by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, Professor of Psychology at the university of British Columbia and Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School respectively.

Its an interesting article that shows from a 10year-old research, that additional money doesn’t buy us any additional happiness once we reach a ‘comfortable standard’. And that doubling our income does not double our happiness.

It goes on to show that what we do with our money is far more important than how much we have. Those who spend money on the fancy stuffs– bigger house, bigger cars, TV, etc, are not as happy as those who spend on experiences like trips and special evenings out. But the happy ones are those buy less for themselves and buy for others.

Concluding, the report says ‘maximising our happiness is not the same as maximising our gold’. Rather than focusing on how much gold we have in our bowl, we should think more carefully about what to do with what we have got.