The ‘Prodigal’ Nation: THE ORIGIN OF OUR DESTRUCTIVE ATTITUDE OF EXTRAVAGANCE
Benjamin Disraeli once said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to show your riches but to reveal to him his own.” There is a wild mentality that is prevailing among the Nigerian youths and also portends great danger for the so called ‘future of the nation’. The ostentatious display of wealth among the Nigerian youth is both appalling and frightful. Greece, one of the world’s oldest civilizations is headed back to its ‘dark ages’!
The Greeks are used to extravagant lifestyles supported by unrealistic and over-generous public wages, tax evasion and outrageous government spending which has driven the country into a deep abyss of debt and tangent of oblivion. The current happenings in Greece are a great pointer to the ultimate end of any nation with the culture of extravagant spending. Greece has piled up a mountain of debt by spending beyond limits. The irresponsible lifestyle and tax evasion practices of the citizens have crippled its economy and brought a giant nation to her knees and if something is not done fast, the end of times just might have come for a nation that is ‘anointed’ only to borrow!
Fyodor Dostoevsky said, ‘’It seems, in fact, as though the second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has accumulated during the first half.’’ The spate of extravagancy among the Nigerian youths portends great danger for the latter half of their lives. If the youths are actually the future of the nation, then the appalling trend and habit of extravagancy among the Nigerian youths needs to be seriously addressed. One of the most reforming parables in the Bible is that of the prodigal son who squandered his inheritance on extravagant and riotous living, the most poignant part of the story was that he ended up sharing meals with pigs. The prodigal son had the habit of extravagant spending and he eventually ended up inhabiting a place meant for pigs; your habit determines your habitat.
‘’I’m afraid you’ve sold your own land to see other men’s. To have seen much but own nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.’’ The excerpt was lifted from one of the plays written by William Shakespeare: As you like it and it vividly describes the lifestyle in the present Nigerian environment where people spend recklessly and with great impunity. Many Nigerians are so rich in their eyes but starkly poor with their hands, they spend poorly with their hands! President Jose Mujica from Uruguay gives away 90% of his monthly salary to the poor, giving him the label as ‘The World’s Poorest President’. He also shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and has chosen to stay at his wife’s farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo, where they grow flowers. “I’m called ‘the poorest president, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,” he says.
You know a truly wealthy man by how he spends his resources. Poor and extravagant spending is a reflection of internal poverty and inner misery. Extravagant living is not a reflection of affluence but of ignorance. Mental poverty is reflected in poor spending style regardless of how financially buoyant the victim is. Scott Hamilton once said, ‘the only disability in life is a bad attitude.’’ From political office holders, private workers to the cleaners on the streets, we must review our attitude of impunity and irresponsible spending style which has decimated national growth.
We have become victims of our spending styles, such extravagant spending style is a reflection of lack of financial intelligence. It is pathetic in today’s Nigeria that impulsive and senseless spending pattern has crippled many lives, organizations and enterprises. Politicians have turned themselves to social nuisance with their attitude of erratic spending styles. Extravagant spending is an indicator of inner poverty and has become an ‘anathema’ to national growth.
The origin of extravagant spending can be systematically linked to our present culture of total dependence on the oil revenues. The Nigerian economy can be captured as mono-cultural and it has performed dismally since oil was first discovered in commercial quantities. The advent of the oil money has seriously affected how we spend and has turned Nigeria into gangster’s paradise by rewarding political miscreants and social touts ahead of people with great intellectual value. One of the conspicuous ills of the total dependency on oil is extravagant spending at the national and state levels. The oil money is so volatile and prone to abusive spending. If we truly want to perpetuate the existence of this great country and eliminate abusive spending patterns, then it is high time we redesigned a future where the control of oil on the affairs of this nation will become negligible.
One critical aspect worth realigning is our insatiable and voracious appetite for foreign and imported goods. We need a major shift from our ‘destructive’ preference for imported goods at the detriment of our local contents. We need an attitudinal overhaul towards our ‘foreign taste’ at the detriment of our local contents. We have blatant disregard for our local goods; an average Nigerian will prefer to spend more on foreign commodities than spend less on local ones. The level of inferiority complex amongst Nigerian consumers is so demeaning to the extent that we’ve added toothpicks to the list of our imported goods, something that can easily be made locally.
The eminent taste for foreign materials has overly depleted our sense of value and has relegated our local industries to the background. The revolution in the Japanese economy was initiated by strong patriotism of the citizens to their local goods and their belief in the superiority of their local content. We need a form of social reformation that will produce Nigerians that will be patriotic to our local content and goods.
The problem of extravagant spending has become a norm and an integral part of our culture. Among the Yoruba of southwest Nigeria, the owanbe phenomenon has become part of our western culture. Owanbe is a large grandiose party thrown by Nigerians, that involves a lot of social paparazzi and also synonymous with ‘spraying’ of currency notes at the slightest provocation. The evolution of this extravagant way of living started in the 1970’s in the capital city of south-western Nigeria, Ibadan, in the present Oyo state where canopies are hung for partying and road blocks mounted to divert traffic.
This lifestyle was more of a display of impunity than of opulence or wealth. It has been ingrained in the Yoruba culture that it is either you don’t party at all or party only in the owanbe way, the wild western way! Despite, the federal government banning the ‘spraying’ of money in parties, the impunities still go unrestrained. The ‘Owanbe’ spirit in the Nigerian culture seems to have gone beyond redemption.
The economic waste of huge amount of money during burial ceremony of dead ones when the ‘object’ of celebration never enjoyed such luxury in their lifetime is another way of wasteful spending in the Nigerian society. Burial ceremonies must be befitting but not given to extravagance, burial ceremonies are meant for sober reflection and not flagrant display of wealth. The Igbo culture is being constantly eroded by the attitude of ‘ndigbo’ to flagrant display of wealth. Sometimes families bury their loved ones with lavish ceremonies that are fuelled through huge indebtedness. This demented way of celebrating the dead while ironically, they lived in abject negligence is a measure of mental degradation in the Nigerian society. A society where we celebrate ‘death’ more than life!
Nigeria’s democracy is surely one of the most expensive to run. The jumbo allowance of Nigerian legislators is obviously unsustainable, profligate and wasteful. For us to minimize our capacity for extravagant spending we need to start from the top, we need to regulate spending in ‘high places’, the hallowed chamber of the National Assembly inclusive. Our leaders and political office holders must show the example for productive and disciplined spending styles. President Muhammadu Buhari has been consistently advised to sell off the eleven presidential jets and take a cue from the former President of Malawi, Joyce Banda who sold off her presidential jet and sixty Mercedes Benz limos in her fleet. I was excited to read recently that a small readjustment was done to the 2016 budget in which the President reduced the allocation for exotic cars by seven billion naira!
I am encouraging the youths to fully participate in the evolution of a new Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. The austerity measure introduced by the present government is unavoidably needed to readjust our spending style. The Treasury Single Account (TSA) introduced by President Muhammadu Buhari to curb excessive spending and make fiscal policy implementation more effective should be fully supported. My only advice to the President is to add a little bit of ‘human face’ to the operation of the TSA.
We also need consumer orientation policy to educate the populace of the need to be patriotic and supportive of our local content. I want to sincerely advise the youths to stop the demented race to outspend one another! Let’s design a nation that detest profane spending and reveal people’s latent riches to them.
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