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Ostentation as the mother of corruption (II)

Something has to give. Naija people love to live big. When it comes to weddings, we want to outwit the Dangotes, Otedolas and the Alakijas. Made in Italy gowns finally end up with the local tailor we sidestepped for fitting alterations. When Adam and Eve were married in Eden, Gucci, Versace and MVP were not there. We never miss an opportunity to advertise our emergent pecking order on the social scale.

Weddings, birthdays, unnecessary anniversaries and even sad occasions like funerals become fashion shows planned to impress the neighbour, become the talk of the town and the standard bearer for the community, even as it plunges us into unnecessary debts.

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The mad quest to meet up with the expectations set in the head of the celebrant. An office assistant hopes the file owner would reward him handsomely for doing his job; the police officer expects something at checkpoints and at the station for his work.

Unnecessary celebrations impoverish the celebrant, their family, friends and well-wishers. It creates enmity and breaks the natural bonds of friendship and kinship.

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Invited guests must buy expensive aso ebi, irrespective of their own financial situation such as paying rents or children’s school fees. To decline the invite is to be marked for life as a witch or wicked. To keep up a face, people must risk traveling. Those with sleek cars find an occasion to race them against the kabukabu operator whose kinsmen ‘in the abroad’ works his bones off to create the impression that overseas is heaven. They might be living in a hovel, involved in drug trafficking, 419 or living on welfare, but they too must keep up a face. This leads to accidents attributed to the handiwork witches and enemies who must be exterminated.

The young villager does not want to be left behind; they do whatever it takes to keep up. Our society is riddled with incredible tales barbarity, the extent to which we go to meet up and stay there. Naija kids display the latest – from phones to bags, shoes to clothes, provided they are made abroad. They resort to all sorts of ways to feed the fake lifestyle they see on social media. There is no legitimate way of financing our grandiose lifestyles. The travel that people take for granted in other lands is a real wing and a prayer job here. But we are the source of the nightmares that makes us crave the atmosphere for miracles. There is no miracle bigger than life for anyone who has visited a hospital ward and seen people with means dying like all the rest.

The priest and laity are in a competition for fraud as the spiral video of the pastor cunning his members to give offerings ranging from N5,000 to N100 or the one telling his congregation they’re not blessed until they bless their pastor. These pastors are driven home at the end of service with swollen bank accounts but the gullible believes in God’s trekking punishment as precondition for blessing. The smart pastors reinforce counting rooms with CCTV cameras knowing that there are smarter crooks that pilfer offerings.

A viral social media post revealing how a conscious Muslim decided to challenge the average amount realised after every Juma’at prayer shows no difference in the mosque or masrasah. When this smart Muslim dropped the same weekly average into the offering box, there was no change the next week. He designed a lock safe as offering box and discovered that innocent people have been ripped off for Allah knows how long. If as zealot as we are, we could steal from God, stealing from the nation should shock no one.

The recent story of Folake Folade of Cele Bus Stop, in Lagos is a case in point. While other humans are pre-occupied with climate change, making inventions to simplify living and preserving the environment for posterity, we are obsessed with making money by all means including harvesting human parts for ritual. Escapees describe in horrid details the atrocities that go on in the slaughter camps. There are young girls ready to give birth for money and people ready to buy the children for ritual – in 2018!

As elections draw near, leaving one’s home comes with fortifying oneself with whatever guarantees a safe return and reinforcing it as night falls. The night offers no rest in our society just as iron bars defer no marauder. For as long as material wealth is the ultimate aim of everyone you see rushing off somewhere, these crimes that is now myth for over a century in developed nations would continue to increase in our society.

The electoral cycle exacerbate the level of criminality. Nomination fees make you ask if the ultimate goal is service. After coughing out millions, the aspirant needs to loot a treasury to support the rigours of campaign. This is how political corruption is financed as a cycle. Until we’re generally content with living for the moment, conscious that today’s invention is tomorrow’s antique and that life and living is the greatest miracle of all, we’ll remain far from redemption.

 

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