After all the noise the federal government has made in recent times of how all bad federal roads would be made motorable for Christmas, how real reconstruction would begin in full swing immediately after the festivities and how some N57 billion (or is it N40 billion) has been released for all that, the minister of works came to Lagos a few days ago to announce that the Lagos/Ibadan road would be ready in eight weeks. Now, eight weeks from December 2 and we’re already in February 2013.
What does that mean? Good roads by Christmas might not be feasible after all. But that is not my concern here. I also learnt that the SURE-P people are planning to spend some N60-something billion on local travels in 2013. I consider it a rumour. But if it is true, I want to resign and join the team. And then, there is the ‘rumour’ that the petroleum ministry wants to spend N6.2 billion to convince us Nigerians to accept the Petroleum Industry Bill.
Yes, the same PIB which, by the way, we have all agreed is the only way to go, if we are ever to make sense of our oil sector and stop the national bleeding that the oil people are causing our country). They say it is awareness campaign. I just love this country! But I will not say anything until I see them actually spending the money. Yes! Like the proverbial madman in my village folklore, I’ll not say anything to the machete-wielding man who just went behind my back, until when I discover that my head is no longer sitting on my neck.
This week, I’m rather interested in the issue of Wills and how, in recent times, the families left behind by late respectable men (and women) are now dancing naked in the market place. In the part of the country where I come from, it is said that while the madman may have lost every sense of shame, it is usually his kinsmen who always suffer the shame of his madness. That is why I often feel the shame on behalf of shameless families who squabble in public over the estate of their late relations.
While the poor fight over rooms in face-me-I-face-you bungalows, the rich squabble over mind-boggling billions and real estate that we didn’t even know belonged to their late parents. I don’t want to mention names, but I believe everyone knows some of the more celebrated recent cases. One is from the South-west, another is from the South-south and yet another, is from the South-east. May be it has to do with the fact that I am not the son of a stupendously rich father, but I still find it hard to believe that fully grown men and women, who are not handicapped in any way, would spend a large part of their lives battling over the property one dead man or woman acquired in his own lifetime.
They do not spare a moment to ask themselves that: so, I can’t make anything of my own life without parasiting on my father or someone else? Oftentimes, if you look at the ages of those fighting over the property, you’d find out that their late benefactor acquired most of it when he was not even as old as those now fighting over it. Then, you begin to wonder: what makes these grown up men and women think that they cannot make anything of their lives without inheriting some other person’s property?
That is why I have always admired the position of one retired jurist from the South-west who insisted that all he owed his children was Education – the best that he could afford (and to whatever level they were willing to go). After that, he could put in a word for them wherever they were seeking employment, and his bit is done. The children are on their own from then on. Although the jurist had many cars, he was not going to pass any to any child. Ditto for his houses. And to underscore his seriousness, now that he has retired, he has sold off all his house everywhere else (US, UK, Lagos, Abuja etc) and retired to his country home in the village. Even that country home, I recently learnt, has also been willed to a school – which would take possession as soon as the respected legal luminary dies.
Conversely, I lost all the respect I had for another legal luminary from the same South-West the day I read in his interview that he would not even let his children train their own children. Yes, he was still paying the school fees of his grandchildren because he is not sure that his children (their parents) would give them the kind of quality education he (the grand dad) wanted them to have. Can you imagine that! The problem with Nigeria today; why corruption does not appear to be in a hurry to leave our shores, is rooted in this mindset. If everybody in government stole just enough to train his children (even if he sires a whole village) and guarantee him/her (and the spouse) a comfortable retirement, our country would not be in the sorry state that it is today.
Our problem today stems from the fact that both the people in public office and organized private sector steal for their children and children’s children. In the process, they encourage the children to be lazy. The children learn everything about how to spend money and nothing about how to make money. And because they have everything at their beck and call, there is no longer any drive to work, to create, to struggle, to make money – which is actually the excitement for those of us from poor fathers.
The kids whose dad have stolen and stockpiled all they would need (even before they were born, grow up never knowing the excitement of earning your first salary, saving up to be able to finally rent an apartment of your own, buying your first car, building your own house, making your first million, and all those things that make life worth living. They had all those things without leaving their fathers’ houses. And since there is no excitement anywhere else, they discover new friends in drugs. Something must blow the excess money! They become party animals, hopping into private jets to attend drug-fuelled wild parties from one corner of the globe to the other. Some of them could even crash and die in the process.
Today, we can’t send our children to the schools we went to, we wouldn’t let our children use the public transport, we chaperon them like agric fowls everywhere, scared that kidnappers would grab them the moment they step out of our sight. We forget that while growing up, we always heard tales about gbomo gbomo (Yoruba for kidnapper), but our parents taught us how to keep safe and avoid getting into trouble. Now, instead of passing on these life’s lessons to our kids, we have resorted to keep carrying the risks for them – including crossing the road for them. That is why a father would go and break bank in order to give his son a befitting wedding, forgetting that he (the father) funded his own wedding according to the size of his pocket when he wedded.
Today, the only part we want our children to play at their own weddings is just to make themselves available and attend. We take up all the expenses, thinking we are doing the young couple a favour (and to impress our friends and fellow millionaires and billionaires). Of course, few months after the ‘high society wedding’, it turns out that we only funded a wedding, not a marriage. And the couple ‘of spoilt children’ soon split.
The marriage collapses, and everyone returns to his or father’s house to constitute a silent heartbreak for the parents. Of course, because many of us from poor families don’t see these inner hurts of the rich, and we continue to look up to the silver-spoon kids and their families. We also aspire to such wealth. In the process, we throw away the good thing that we have ( i.e. rising from poor/modest backgrounds to make something of our lives) and instead of passing on that great work culture and ethic to our children, we rather launch them into the life of obscene opulence – to enjoy without working. Our ready explanation for it is: ‘I don’t want my children to pass through the hardship I faced growing up’.
It never, for a moment, occurs to us that it was that ‘hardship’ that made us the ‘good’ citizens we are today. That it was that ‘hardship’ that made us realize (and seize) genuine opportunities when we saw them. So, when we die, it suddenly dawns on our children that they actually have no means of livelihood and that it is too late in the day to begin to learn a trade. Although they went to the best schools, they were probably too busy painting the town red to learn anything. They allegedly graduated with top grades but have never put this ‘famed’ learning to use, besides being listed as directors of their fathers’ companies.
They have set very high living standards for themselves and suddenly realize, with their father’s death, that the only way they can sustain such lifestyles is to grab as much of their late father’s estate as possible. Everybody in the way of that goal then becomes an enemy that must be destroyed. It does not matter if that person is their brother, sister, mother, uncle, anybody. But even that realization only comes to those of them who are not too stoned to think straight. Others would have been so far gone that their only concern would be for the next fix. Once they get that, they may never even realize that the old man is dead.
Luckily, God also has a way of adding to these families woes as soon as the old man is gone. It suddenly comes to light that they may not be the only children the man fathered. The wife who had been parading herself as the ‘one and only’ suddenly finds out that her seemingly faithful husband actually had a full compliment of family elsewhere – complete with wife, children, in-laws and outlaws. She would be lucky if there is only one other family outside her own. And she would also be shocked to discover that some of her most trusted allies in her husband’s family always knew about this other family (or families).
Of course, since the Good Lord is the ultimate master of the game, these other children are so physically made that they are the ones that would not need a DNA test for anyone to tell they are their fathers’ sons. So there is usually no controversy over partenity. If they are from a certain cerebral lawyer-politician, they would come out with that trademark Up-Awo gap tooth. If they were sired by a certain billionaire politician, they would come bearing those unmistakable roofing-sheet ears. And if they were from the loins of a certain General, they would come with all the bulgy eyeballs and beards.
It does not matter whether they are mentioned in the old man’s Will or not. Suddenly, it turns out that the estate they thought could last them a lifetime is almost not enough to pay the next set of bills. So, let the looters go on looting. We shall all meet at the probate, when the time comes for reading of their Wills.