Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: Cut the privileged some slack… (YNaija FrontPage)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

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Comments (24)

  1. Iyin is a smart guy but this BS. My daddy is rich but don't take it out on me i have a hard time growing up to – studying six hours for Cambridge exams wow! that's really a hard life. He must have taken stuff that drifted him to a parallel universe when writing this crap. Anyway rich kid don't mix coke with vodka bad for your brain.

  2. Biko correct typo…

    U SURE helped my lit. Skills…

    Must be the "pressure" *shrug*

  3. Wow!!! The "sufferhead" d rich have to face according to you is funny… 'Pressure not to Gbagaun in a room full of ajebotas'??? Seriously???

    Anyways u write good… I don't agree with a lot of what u said but u shld helped my literary skills

  4. You seem to actually justify this rubbish? I am stunned! Please wake up and tell me it was a parody. Dont let this hunt you in future should you ever seek political office

    1. I am libertarian. I'll never seek political office. That's for sure.

  5. This article appears to be doing three things:

    1. Redefining Nigeria's privileged- 'Flying class' includes anyone that can afford to fly. Be it the guy in economy who is renting so he can just about send his children to good Nigerian schools or the guy in First class who barely blinks when paying international school fees.

    2 Recognising that not all children of the privileged take their opportunities for granted- indeed many work very hard, sometimes in countries where their being 'privileged' counts for nothing and they get recognised based on merit.

    3. Some Nigerians are quick to judge-they tar the struggling father in economy with the same brush as a father who could be a crook. They wrongly assume that all the children born to the privileged are lazy and undeserving of their successes. It is only the children of the poor who work hard.

    I agree with these main observations. Privileged children who work hard are sometimes dismissed as lazy. No one's saying there's a level playing field between the 'grass to grace' child and the one born privileged. Still even the poorest of parents do what they can to improve their child's chances in life. Children who take opportunities they are given-no matter how big or small-and work hard to succeed should not have their efforts dismissed. After all there are children-both rich and poor-who throw away the opportunities they are given.

  6. I know we don't have stats but from the few I know, I don't think this is true but it is possible.

    I know a lot of people who ascribe success of rich kids who I've watched work their way up and make a name for themselves to their parent's "leg" despite their obvious qualifications.

  7. I don't know if this is meant to be a parody or actually are your real views. If they are then the case you make is weak to put it politely. You are trying to compare traveling from Lagos to Abuja by night bus with the stress of having to cope with delays at MM2 while sitting in the Business Class lounge and complaining that the drinks are not cold enough.

    Maybe your wonderful and gracious father should also have given you the privilege of traveling by night bus as well. Poverty is not funny and nobody aspires to it but the only people I admire are those who have those privileges and options to be in "flying class" but deny themselves so that they can experience "night bus".

    To some extent I fall into that category because I decided to leave the shadows of my famous and illustrious uncle and not choose a career in finance. Everyone thought I was crazy and I still do too sometimes but the ride was worth it.

    Mike Osime a famous Nigerian in the tech and capital markets space told me once that he realized he was doing his son no good by allowing him to study in England when the business he will come back to run is in Nigeria. He brought the boy back home to get him grounded in Nigeria. The guy came back from school once and someone had beaten him and he didn't just know why the guy did it. He warned his son never to come home defeated but to be the one who defeats and that changed the boy for good. Next time he came home from school he was more confident that he beat up someone who was "trying him". Not that I encourage violence but that is the Nigerian reality.

    There is something I notice each time I travel, it is that those in 1st Class are those who are unquestionably rich and they are either very eccentric or very polite. Those in Business Class are a different breed altogether. Most of the time their tickets are paid for by their companies or other 3rd parties and they are the biggest snobs on earth. They are snobs because they really don't get it and are the most insecure people on earth. The reasons you have given in this article is just a justification for snobbery and insecurity.

  8. I cannot wholly agree with your argument.

    It is true that by virtue of being the beneficiary of a good education, you are more likely to be successful. I don't think the poor harbour grievances against "ajebo" kids who have done well at university.

    Truth be told, many of the children of our kleptocrats do not pass Jamb, SATS or IB. But we all know that there are universtites abroad who will accept you as long as you can pay. These kids then return to Nigeria and contsitute a nuisance on the streets of Ikoyi and VI. They dont have stable jobs yet they live like kings.

  9. I don't know if this is meant to be a parody or actually are your real views. If they are then the case you make is weak to put it politely. You are trying to compare traveling from Lagos to Abuja by night bus with the stress of having to cope with delays at MM2 while sitting in the Business Class lounge and complaining that the drinks are not cold enough.

    Maybe your wonderful and gracious father should also have given you the privilege of traveling by night bus as well. Poverty is not funny and nobody aspires to it but the only people I admire are those who have those privileges and options to be in "flying class" but deny themselves so that they can experience "night bus".

    To some extent I fall into that category because I decided to leave the shadows of my famous and illustrious uncle and not choose a career in finance. Everyone thought I was crazy and I still do too sometimes but the ride was worth it.

    Mike Osime a famous Nigerian in the tech and capital markets space told me once that he realized he was doing his son no good by allowing him to study in England when the business he will come back to run is in Nigeria. He brought the boy back home to get him grounded in Nigeria. The guy came back from school once and someone had beaten him and he didn't just know why the guy did it. He warned his son never to come home defeated but to be the one who defeats and that changed the boy for good. Next time he came home from school he was more confident that he beat up someone who was "trying him". Not that I encourage violence but that is the Nigerian reality.

    There is something I notice each time I travel, it is that those in 1st Class are those who are unquestionably rich and they are either very eccentric or very polite. Those in Business Class are a different breed altogether. Most of the time their tickets are paid for by their companies or other 3rd parties and they are the biggest snobs on earth. They are snobs because they really don't get it and are the most insecure people on earth. The reasons you have given in this article is just a justification for snobbery and insecurity.

    1. And it is because I had the opportunity to experience that "night bus" that I know success is just as difficult for the rich as it is for the poor. As Jesus said, it is difficult for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle, so also is it for the children of rich people to become successful. The comfort gets in their way.

      My general point which you seemed to have completely missed is that your struggle to come to a point in your life shouldn't matter as much as the fact that your deserve it through your hardwork. After all there are poor people who have come through the ranks by hook and crook too, no?

  10. I think you got your arguments crossed here, Iyin. There is a place for the aristocracy and their children within every society. The problem in Nigeria isn't just the usual dislike that the poor have for the rich, it's also the deep innate distrust borne of the fact that a majority of said wealthy have accessed their wealth through means that directly or indirectly deprive the common man of his own opportunities.

    The examples for this are all over; giving import licenses to a few and denying everyone else, giving out contracts at whim, sealing off entire industries from competition and sometimes outright stealing. Like it or not, the children of today's subsidy thieves will grow up to be aristocrats tomorrow, whether their parents deserved their wealth or not.

    So you do not expect a child of the poor who heard of the poverty that this generation's thieves inflicted on the Nigerian populace to take an instant liking to the children of the selfsame thieves, regardless of whether their thieving directly brought about his own poverty or not.

    Until we create an economic elite whose wealth is seen by all to have directly stemmed from hard work in open and competitive markets, the distrust that he poor have for the rich in this country will persist and even taint the few who created their wealth legitimately and ethically. It's what it is.

    1. I think it is easier for all of us to point to the specific and obvious instances where illegal wealth has been made than to make dangerous assumptions about the entirety of the wealth creating class of society. At least that's my opinion.

      1. The problem here is that most instances of wealth you can point a finger at in Nigeria have come about because of direct government involvement and connections, patronage, favouritism and outright theft. I believe it is actually very possible to create wealth in Nigeria without any of the above, but those means are way less obvious.

        As it stands, most of our icons of wealth in Nigeria have earned their fortune through very exclusive means, sometimes even when they don't mean to, Iyin. Imagine my heartbreak when I found out that Cosmas Maduka's first major breakthrough came when he got an exclusive government import license, not from creating an innovative product that millions of Nigerians flocked to buy.

        So until our icons for wealth change and become symbols for inspiration, not oppression, do not expect the poor to love the rich, not in Nigeria.

        Another reason that Nigerian youth love Nigerian music is that the artistes themselves represent struggle made good. These artistes didn't make it by knowing someone in power, but by creating something people love. This is why, despite the fact that Don Jazzy's paid, people love him. He reminds them of them.

        So you

        1. A lot of the biggest names in Nigerian music today weren't necessarily low class. Its a false dichotomy.

          I'ld rather people said, hey, this particular guy didn't make his money clean. Shame. Than everyone with money in Nigeria is a thief. Which is stupid. People worked several years, up the ranks in multinational companies and they are well to do now. Are they thieves?

          1. The essential issue isn't whether they were originally low class, the issue is, were they known to have created their wealth fairly and is there a track record to show them climbing this ladder? And Nigerian entertainers currently represent that because their output is very evident.

            That said, Nigerians aren't that daft. They do know there are lots of people who created their wealth legitimately within the system and they do acknowledge these. But like I said, these people aren't yet the icons for wealth and aristocracy in Nigeria. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are American icons for wealth and success, and the evidence for how they made their wealth abound (I'm typing this on a Mac), and every kid wants to be like them.

            On the other hand, who're the Nigerian icons for wealth currently? Dangote? Otedola? Adenuga? Babangida? The Abacha family? Besides Dangote, what value did the others provide and where's the evidence for how they made their wealth legitimately?

            Like I said, until we have new icons who symbolize legitimate wealth in Nigeria through and through, do not expect public sentiment to change. After all there're still Americans who hate Bill and Steve for being too rich…

        2. By the way, how are you going to inspire icons of wealth to be symbols of inspiration when you treat them like they are criminals because they are successful. If you will call me a thief, there is a lot of sense in being one anyway?

  11. 'Oh, I'm rich. Boo hoo, poor me'. Please.

    1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      1. That's one way of looking at it.

        I guess the poor deserve everything. Even when they obviously can't run the country with newly acquired shoes

  12. I get what you're saying: That people only trade one set of problems for another, no matter their station in life. This is true. While I am all for understanding, whatever sympathy the privileged might have had is eroded by their ostentation and desire to continue to amass wealth by fair – and often foul – means.

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