Monday, December 3, 2012

From humble beginnings to oppression

I have observed that many of our 'oppressors' usually have humble beginnings - parents who were small farmers, teachers, taxi drivers, cleaners, hair dressers, food sellers, small scale traders. These people struggled through to get an 'education' - in essence, certificates, in this part of the world. They then begin to look for work. Many are lean and thin due to paucity of food in the home coupled with school stress. They "beg to apply" in several organizations. Some of them who 'know someone' manage to get a placement quicker while others have to struggle with other applicants in aptitude tests, interviews to secure a place in the banks, civil service, oil companies and other private companies. The lucky one soon find an apartment and gradually start to furnish the place - rug, settee, fans, AC, fridge, cooking gas, mattress, bed, generators, flat screen TV, etc. Things are beginning to look good. The unlucky ones will have to settle for business - become entreprenuers by force.

Soon enough the plan for marriage begins. Big wedding expense for cake, food, drinks, hall, wedding gown/suit, shoes, rings, traditional clothes, bride's list, aso-ebi, gift souvenirs, car hire, honeymoon locations, lingeries, etc. After the wedding, the woman gets pregnant and the next thing is planning for the baby - maternity clothes, ante-natal clinic, baby cot, breast pump, breast pad, cloth dryer, prams (even though most streets aren't paved and the prams become indoor equipment), etc.

When the baby comes (the in-thing now is to go deliver the baby in the UK or US), another big party take place (food, drinks, tents, lace for husband and wife). Subsequently, the expense graduates to baby food, creche, clothing, school, food, etc. And more and more it becomes a very narrow view of how to care for "me and my family".

In all of this, there is usually an unspoken agreement in the society of the level of celebration expected and standard of living. Also, there is a certain expectation in the office environment to dress a certain way, drive a certain brand of car and live in certain areas. So, the young man/woman who was from a humble home has begun to compete with those from the elite class (many of whom are children/relatives of corrupt civil servants/politicians/businessmen). They have quickly forgotten what is was like to 'struggle' to eat and pay rents. Some get so preoccupied with making and spending more money they even forget to cater for their poor parents (who are now much older and possibly retired) who helped train them to become independent. Then the greed starts to show through the collection of loans (to fund bigger lifestyles)) and the soliciting for 'runs' jobs - a la government contracts (with main aim of sharing in the national cake). They join themselves to big churches where they are recognized as workers who pay their tithes and offerings regularly and who are usually well dressed. Some of them begin to seriously consider being profiled for pastoral work and so begin to do 'eye service' and become overzealous. The pastors and their family members are usually well cared for by the church and if the church is large enough (with members comprising of very well connected and high-earning groups of people), the pastor may be bestowed with a private jet for his 50th or 60th brithday. You never can tell the size of the gift. The church members don't joke with their pastors. They love them very much and they show it through utter obedience and giving of gifts. And if you are loyal (note this word carefully) enough as a pastor, you may get bestowed with unimaginable gifts of private contracts with multinational companies or government.

And so the young individual has no plan whatsoever to be entangled with the poor anymore. God has delivered him/her from the curse of poverty and that is absolute (never mind that some get retrenched when the companies downsize their work force). No plan to reach out to any poor member of the family or even the street on which they live. They have quickly forgotten their journies. They collaborate with those who move money illicitly just so they can also be 'blessed'.

We can see the path of an ordinary person through life (in Nigeria) and how there was no plan throughout to help bring up others or make sacrifices in order to achieve national purpose. Their actions are reinforced by the words of MOGs who continues to 'bless' them the more they give.

Many of the tastes are simply an emulation of some of the children of corrupt members of our society. Many of whom have been given employment deservedly or not. These ones do not need to work before they can go abroad for vacations, shop or acquire a brand new car. They are merely at a job to pretend at it. This young woman/man would not be 'outdone' by some 'rich' colleague (often younger). The competition is usually stiff - mostly unspoken.


So, this young man/woman begins to 'pray' to be like these 'blessed' ones. Because their tastes have grown large, they will do anything to maintain it. They will lick asses (white or black it doesn't matter), forge documents, engage in fraudulent activities, collaborate with contractors to shortchange the government or the organization. Few years down the line, many rise to the top ranks and become managers and supervisors who help to fuel the corruption within their organizations just so they can maintain their overbloated lifestyles. They really do not care that ordinary people will suffer because of their actions and inactions. Their focus is now in the adornment of designer lables, driving of four wheelers, clubbing, vacationing abroad, etc (the foreign taste syndrome).

I am quickly reminded of our sitting president who 'had no shoes' growing up. Some say the number of shoes (and they don't come cheap) he now has is enough to fill and start a shoe shop. I know also that many senators (at state and federal levels) fall into this category. I do know of managers of local businesses, banks, oil companies and parastatals who also fit this description. Just look around and you won't have to look far.

Many of us fall into this category. We allow our consciences to die and join the bandwagon of 'if you can't beat them, join them'. We simply forgot our origin, our heritage. We simply help to further enslave our own people through our foreign tastes which inadvertently develop the foreign economies. Yet, we complain with others when simple things elude us right here. We just can't see our own role in the whole scheme of things. We forget that we are the ones the country has been waiting for to come of age but sadly we simply went with the flow. We simply forgot about purpose. We simply fell for the illusion of money and continue to chase after it to our own hurt and the hurt of past, present and future generations.


  1. Thanks for this great piece and more grease to your already well oiled elbows.

  2. We will get there with more of your type who sit down to think intelligently like this...I glad to know that we still have people like you in our almost going dead country....Thanks sister Mary for this elaboration....

    1. Y'see, success or failure doesn't happen on us suddenly, they are a cumulative of what we do every minute, hour, day, week, month and year. As a people, we must begin to develop the new mindset and skill set needed to truly liberate us from slavery. I hope you will also shine the much needed light in the darkness of Nigeria (and afrika as a whole).

  3. Mary, this is the all too often sad story of humanity! The book "Arrival City" by Doug Saunders ( explains this journey from going from dire poverty to money all too well.

    I too came from poverty and being able to go to school found a decent job in computing. I was fortunate to work at a university where outward appearances count for less than what one produces and luckily I never had to "dress for success". I found this community more tolerant of my idiosyncrasies: my mental illnesses, not owning a car at all (often arriving at work covered in snow during the winter) and marrying outside of my racial grouping which did not happen often,in the 1960-1970's, here in Canada. Otherwise I would have starved or be forced to stay in bad marriages or worse "dress for success".

    In the early 1970's, I was able to visit Jamaica and for the first time saw abject poverty (people living in cardboard boxes) at a foot of high hill with people living in crazy wealth on the top of the same hill. That contrasting image has never left me and I made an oath that this craziness in inequity has got to stop. I am still searching for an answer or answers.

    Then there is the other side. You will be amazed at the number of people who ask me for stuff when they hear I am from Canada.. a radio, a car, a suit,...the list goes on and on. Then I discover they already have these things and more.

    I want to help with the bit extra that I have. I forgo movies, restaurants, etc. to be able to help but I know with roughly 2-3 BILLION people on the planet that are still very disenfranchised, money and gifts will not solve this very basic human problem. Certainly not what I have...and certainly not solutions that are sustainable.

    We need to learn a different set of that is based on QUALITY of life for ALL and not on stuff or money (as the latter are addictive and the person can never feel satisfied if that is the goal). The other side of the equation is for people to find self esteem that comes for ones inner self and development, not some boastful arrogance and elitism based on have a bigger bank account than others.

    Marianne Van der Wel

    1. Thanks Marianne for sharing your own experience! You are lucky to have worked in a 'learning' environment where emphasis is more on knowledge than on 'appearance'...I was also in such an environment (not a university) for some time. The craze of having to satisfy this vain societal appeal is removing from our humanity. And for us in afrika, this vanity drives the greed which fuels corruption that has brought us down on our knees for soooo long. We quickly forget what things used to be and we just want to be 'recognized' in society. We no longer see sacrificing our selves (time, material, money, resources) as honourable, the honour now belongs to the dough..

      Thankfully, some of us has seen beyond this illusion and will continue to enlighten others on the need to develop a new mind set and revert to the old and timeless principles of character, honour, integrity,truth and love.

      Thanks for being an example Marianne!!!!