“I wreak havoc on the world
Get ready for part two
A younger, smarter, faster me
So a pinch of Hov, a whole glass of Be”
– Glory Lyrics (Jay Z ft BIC)
I find Nigerians especially have a particularly interesting reaction to the success of the offspring of its wealthy. To curtly sum it up, it’s a very shoot first, ask questions later approach to judgement. There is no benefit of doubt. Many of us very simplistically assume that the successful children of the “flying percent” (my contraption of choice for Nigeria’s high class) could never have reached such heights without their parent’s “leg”.
I can understand their frustration. Class mobility is a fair expectation of any society that wants to assume any semblance of democracy –and the truth is that in Nigeria we have little to none. However, I wonder whether this somewhat justifiable prejudice isn’t blinding us to what is actually important for fair and functioning societies; an understanding and appreciation for merit.
I’ll never forget overhearing an interesting discussion between my parents and some visiting family friends when I was barely teenager. The subject was whether private schools for “rich people’s children” were worth the trouble. At the time, my dad, an ardent believer in the intrinsic value of a great education whatever its cost, was punching considerably above his weight when it came to our tuition. My dad especially, in his comments on the topic kept coming back to the idea of “exposure”.
“How will these children be exposed? Who will teach them to use computers in a public school?”, my dad would bellow. “You have to think about it as an investment in their future.”
More than a decade later, those specific words ring loudly in my head when I think about my own life experiences. There is no question in my mind that exposure is the sole defining privilege that differentiates me from the median of my counterparts across Nigeria. Like much of the flying percent themselves, children of the flying percent by virtue of their life experiences are more likely to be exposed than their peers in the rest of the country. This also means they are more likely to do better than their peers not just in academics but in life. They have access to more opportunity, a community of likeminded peers, more time to dream, more appetite for ambition, a cushion for failure and most importantly, a more sophisticated understanding of how the world works. How can they not be successful?
Of course, there are many Nigerians who believe this is disgustingly unfair. “The rich get richer” and all that jazz. Annoyingly enough, this means good will is unlikely to follow merit in Nigeria, unless it comes packaged in a rare Cinderella story. Little wonder, adopted sons and men with no shoes will always inspire more positive emotion from Nigerians than say, the more “exposed” son of Nigeria’s first defence minister.
You see, the truth of all of this, which I don’t think much of the 99% realize, is that the privilege of being “exposed” is by no means a trivial pursuit. The children of the high class come under very intense pressure to succeed.
While the average Nigerian is content with sufficiently negotiating WAEC and JAMB, the offspring of the flying percent must do those and get with Cambridge, SATs and IB, maybe even APs. While their mates barely get six hours of lesson time every day, the children of the high class get another couple hours of school away from school thanks to Mr. Lesson teacher. The common man only need understand a python to be a snake while the children of the flying percent must understand it is may also be a computer language, a student of Plato’s, a poet or a sports car.
It gets worse. Have you ever “gbagauned” in a room full of *Ajebotas*? It is not a pretty sight. Imagine the constant pressure to speak impeccable Queen’s English replete with an accent every day of your life. Or having to compulsorily acquire a taste for things children your age would ordinarily not bother with; like classical music, horseback riding and horrible tasting champagne? And to crown it all, public misbehaviour is not an option lest you are gleefully offered a living sacrifice to internet goddess Linda Ikeji and her scores of gossip thirsty readers.
As if all of this is not enough, even when you are grown, you and your entire worth will inevitably grow into your parent’s shadow. For at least an entire generation, you will always being identified as “so and so’s *son” * regardless of your own personal and professional accomplishments. Let’s not start on the extended family politics, the fake friends or the fact that you will always be in some kidnapper’s crosshairs by virtue of your accident of birth. As I am constantly reminded by a couple of my friends, being born with a golden spoon in your mouth also means having the strength to carry its heavy weight. Even privilege comes with its own immense costs and contrary to the wisdom of the Nollywood movie the children of the upper class do surprisingly well for themselves despite it.
Instead of belittling the achievements of the privileged, and ascribing their hard won laureates to nepotism, why don’t we focus our sights on determining whether or not they are infact deserving of their achievements. If this is the debate, the conclusions are much easier to reach. After all, by their fruits (or in this case, their success), we shall know them.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.