BY Muyiwa Adetiba
A video of a young girl dancing on a thick, lush carpet of crisp Naira notes went viral recently. She was barely in her teens. She was also covered in a confetti of new currency notes by adults who danced around her.
They were adults who seemed to relish in a macabre dance to some frenzied music that filled the air – a dance which was accompanied with throwing of money into the air in a form of strange exhibitionism; and parents who had successfully indoctrinated this young child into the cult of money worshippers.
It was alas, just one of the many videos of how Nigerians have acquired a perverse pleasure in throwing money away. I have seen too many of these videos for comfort. I have seen a video where someone was throwing money from an hotel window onto the streets and poor people were scrambling to stuff money into any place – including their underwear – that could serve as a pocket.
They were like chickens being teased with corn. I have seen a video where the exhibitionists didn’t even bother to remove the band and just threw money in bundles at whomever caught their fancy. I have seen a video where a convoy of cars stopped in the middle of the road and those who came out started throwing bundles of money into the air for passers –by to pick. I don’t know how many of these videos are skits and how many are real. But even if they were skits, one can confidently say that art was merely representing life. Nigerian life.
After all, we heard about how a certain club owner buried his mother a couple of years ago and the exhibitionism which followed this rite of passage. We also heard about the number of private jets that descended on a sleepy town when the son of a ‘top, top man’ took the daughter of a ‘Royal Father’ as wife. We heard about the trunks of goodies that flowed at the ‘royal wedding’ of two elite Northern families.
We know there is no cheap ‘Nikhai’ ceremony when children of the elite are involved. And recently, we saw the ‘style’ by which the Senate President celebrated his birthday. And also the way a former Senate President and now a Presidential hopeful celebrated his. Both are Nigerian leaders who celebrated the loud Nigerian way. The only Nigerian way as it now seems. The way you and I are expected to celebrate if we had the money. And some of us would not hesitate to ‘borrow, beg or steal’ to prove the lavishness of their weddings/ funerals/ birthdays to their peers. I know someone who sold a piece of land in Ikeja so his daughter could have a ‘decent’ wedding. That is the way we flow.
Success in Nigeria is not success until it is accompanied by a lavish display of wealth. The more money one has, the more successful one is deemed to be. It does not matter if one is a university professor, or a university administrator, or a professional who has achieved all there is to achieve in their profession, or a Civil Servant who reached the peak in government, all that attainment is nothing if it is not accompanied by wealth which the owner must not be afraid to flaunt. Even a Pastor is not deemed to be successful at winning souls unless he is wealthy. And these days, it is not just having money, you have to be seen to be spending it. It is not unusual to rent a hall for twenty million Naira and spend another twenty million decorating it. It is not unusual to spend in excess of two hundred million Naira for a three, four- hour entertainment of guests. That is the way the rich Nigerian flows. Some fifteen years ago, the daughter of the Managing Director of a multi-national wanted a wedding to match that of her friend whose father was a top Civil Servant. When the girl’s father said he could not afford let alone justify such a lavish wedding to the owners of the company, the atmosphere at home became frosty. What was he trying to prove? And to whom?
Some of us went clubbing a lot during our youthful days. But a night out didn’t exceed a couple of beers or a few shots of whisky or brandy for those who had the liver. It was very rare to buy spirits by the bottle as most of us were salary earners.
Certainly nobody broke the bank. These days, I hear some liquors cost about a million Naira per bottle and that when the ‘big boys’ want to play, a thirty million Naira bill hardly raises an eyebrow. Such expenditures are allegedly reported with glee on the social media so that their poorer neighbours can eat their hearts out. It is not just spending the money it seems. People have to know.
Since we live in a society where degrees count for nothing; professionalism counts for nothing and money counts for everything, why then are we surprised that our youths have abandoned education for the pursuit of wealth?
Since our society no longer frowns at unexplained wealth and the means no longer justifies the end, why should our youths bother about burning the midnight oil or learning a trade? In my younger days, youths either went to college or served some form of apprenticeship. These days, the apprenticeship they serve is under a Yahoo master. Some parents turn a blind eye to the strange ways of their children and the company they keep.
Some even urge them ‘to go and earn money’ like their mates. I grew up and used to live in a society where an unexplained wealth was frowned at. What happened to that society? What happened to its values? From the highest rung of the societal ladder to its lowest, our values are so debased that nothing about the flagrant display of wealth disgusts us anymore.
Our self-worth as individuals and as a nation is so low that we have become like empty barrels which glorify in hollow sounds. We should therefore not be surprised at the increased spate of kidnappings, money rituals, scammers and Yahoo – yahoo. After all, money is our new god. The worship of it is our new religion.