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What the royal wedding can teach us about class differences in Nigeria

LIKE most of the planet, I spent Saturday morning watching the royal wedding. I’d like us to view the occasion through the lens of the Nigerian lived experience and to compare or contrast two very different lifestyles or world views. Nigeria abounds in celebrity weddings where our multi-faceted elite congregate.

But notice how little noise the political class in the United Kingdom made about this wedding. It was also primarily about the couple. No party chieftains or parliamentarians, no ministers, no “stalwarts” or “bigwigs” used this wedding to assert their wealth or power, nor did anyone count on their presence to make any sort of statement.

This wedding was stately but not overtly ostentatious: the bride’s dress, jewellery, hair and make-up pale in comparison to what a state governor’s daughter might have worn in Nigeria. Meghan Markle was exquisite, simple and elegant, two words we in Nigeria mostly refuse.

You might say if a girl wants to be dripping in diamonds on her wedding day, it’s her choice, and it certainly is, but interestingly, we never stop to consider that many of those who make their money through legitimate means are less flashy, more conservative, and less willing to spend large sums simply to show-off.

Oppressive displays of wealth

Who are Bill Gates children? Are they famous on social media? Do they dress to oppress or simply live their lives honestly or as best they can? Yet in Nigeria almost every single politician’s son or daughter is a celebrity. Young people whose income (many have no real jobs) cannot explain or justify their spending keep posting their cars, luxury goods etc. on social media for the world to see.

Anyone who asks a question is termed “jealous” by an army of sycophants who don’t realise the money meant to transform their communities is in the hands of these clay gods.

The British do pomp and pageantry better than anyone on earth but the royal family is much too elegant, much too “classy” for the crass, oppressive displays of wealth we value in Nigeria. No make-up artist or bridesmaid created a behind the scenes social media post-gushing over how much money was spent or how rich the couple is. Elite Nigerian weddings are a sort of carnival, both online and offline where all that matters is how much one can show. If no one is envious of you, you haven’t made it in Nigeria, or so we believe. Especially if the source of our money is less than legal, then we truly go out of our way to oppress onlookers with lavish displays of ill-acquired wealth. None of that for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex! Their love is quite simply contagious.

Many couples in Nigeria seem bored on their wedding days. I’m yet to see a groom in Nigeria look at his bride the way Harry looked at Meghan. And why should they, many unions are based entirely on circumstance and calculation: in the Western world money is freedom, it gives people the power and the liberty to make their own way, to make lifestyle choices which go with the times. In Nigeria, money is a prison because in many cases it has no solid basis in reality, it is “easy come, easy go”, based on cheating the public, on oppressing those who can’t defend themselves. So, very few people can afford to marry for love, one has to marry for gain, for benefit, to exploit certain scenarios and connections.

Money in our clime is a slow acting poison which robs us all of our humanity. Many of us would do anything for money. Success is conditional, it is based on access and matrimony is the ultimate all access pass, if of course one marries into certain families.

There are no Cinderella stories in Nigeria. No fairy tales, no years of hard work which end with a reward. Fraud is the magic we prefer. We don’t nurture the dreams of our young people.

For those of you who watched the royal wedding, do you remember the 19- year-old royal wedding Cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason who performed? Ask yourself how many of your “idols” in Nigeria have shared their platform with anyone meaningful that they didn’t simply employ to sing their praises. This is why, fundamentally, the Royal Family is not met with scorn during its public appearances. Politicians in Nigeria always wonder why they are insulted, or occasionally stoned by angry, frustrated youth, who couldn’t make in a lifetime what a legislator makes in a month.

Harry and Meghan’s union didn’t offend the average British person’s sensibilities; in fact, it was a moment of national pride, despite, ironically, the fact that the monarchy partly lives off of British taxpayers’ money. The Queen’s private investments provide a large part of her income but about £48 million pounds a year comes from the British government, according to the BBC; imagine that, they even tell their people how much they earn or have access to!Imagine that!

Meritocratic principles

Meanwhile, here in Nigeria, the real income of many of our representatives remains a mystery. This is why the British public can stand the Royal family. Its existence doesn’t kill meritocracy. The average Joe can still get a job, send his kids to school, live a decent life whether the Queen lives lavishly or not.

The Queen doesn’t affect meritocracy. In fact, her charities and her symbolic action support meritocratic principles and democracy, despite the fact that she herself is the beneficiary of family wealth, prestige and heritage. Do you see the difference?

Our political class is constantly astounded to find the average Nigerian doesn’t wish the political elite well. Why would they, knowing they cannot access the basic comforts of modernity precisely because of the selfishness and greed of said class? Yet, 66 million Britons voluntarily support the lifestyle and income of less than a few thousand people, the royal family.

What does that tell you? Class differences in themselves aren’t the poison (you’ll remember the African saying “all fingers of the hand are not equal”). The poison, the tragedy, in Africa, is the conscious decision, by a few, to hoard opportunities and progress.

For this reason, despite their wealth, despite their privilege, the royal family can symbolise Britishness, or the average person can accept to be represented by them, despite the huge divide, in a way few members of Nigeria’s business or political elite can claim to be loved or accepted by Nigerians.

Show VAIDS (Voluntary Asset Income Declaration Scheme) your tax clearance, and we’ll let you know if you are worthy of accolades!

 

IGP

A SHORT clip of the Inspector General of Police has been making the rounds on social media. The video features the IGP mispronouncing or struggling to read “transmission” thirteen times in less than two minutes. A number of people noticed his lips don’t match the audio (obvious signs of a doctored video).

Some are asking why the IGP is suddenly being portrayed as “speech deficient”, right after alleging some powerful people in the National Assembly are linked to hired killers. There are no shortage of conspiracy theories because nobody seems to pay for crimes committed.

 

Political parties

EVEN after a senator admitted, on camera, to rigging elections, we all moved on (can you imagine a former parliamentarian in the UK admitting to rigging elections without any swift action?)

Yet, many of his alleged “co-riggers” and associates are the same individuals crossing from PDP to SDP, rebranding, etc. to “dislodge” the APC. The greatest tragedy of President Buhari’s first term is the EFCC’s inability to secure convictions for corruption, based perhaps on the fear-mongering some members of the cabal caused to be broadcast and the public gullibly swallowed, which is that the heavens will fall if some people in this society are investigated or charged.

The leaders don’t want change; the led are too compromised in their thinking to demand it. It’s an all-round tragedy.

Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.