OF PRINCES, PAUPERS AND THE TERRIBLE DANGER OF OVERSHADOWING ONE’S CHILDREN
Three themes here:
1. A normal person’s joy should be to see his/her children do a lot better in everything that he/she does in a lifetime.
2. However as we struggle through life, never looking back, and uprooting any barrier to our success, we sometimes ‘make it’ because we are daring, or because we know the price of failure having experienced poverty, such that our children live forever in our shadows – as mediocres – having never grown some spine or enough mental muscle. Some people also love it that way, and that is plain wicked.
3. The quest to measure up – at least in terms of fame – and to also make it big, quick and easy is driving children of the rich and accomplished into professions in entertainment, fraught with a lot of instability, and at the risks of lives unhinged.
I am compelled to write this by recent events. Of note is the trouble around David Adeleke, the self-acclaimed “Omo Baba Olowo” (rich man’s son), whose song is 100% about money, sex, fame, fortune, enjoyment and acquisition of earthly things. This is a boy who has carved a niche from himself , from the fabric of controversy and he does have a solid following among many Southern Nigerian boys. He is the one who wanted to smuggle his child out of Nigeria until he was stopped by Mr Dele Momodu, whom he later disgraced by calling him ‘my boy’ in an open concert where Dele was present. He is the one whose mobile police escorts shoot happily into the air when he was collected from Lagos airport. He is the one who mocked Paul Okoye about his house in 1004 Estates. He is there in every controversy.
Anyway, three of Davido’s friends and hangers on died within 5 days of each other. All of them were tragic cases. The first, Tagbo, died on his 35th Birthday. The other two died together in a car in the basement of an estate in Nigeria’s most expensive neighborhood – Banana Island. Police have said that the Tagbo died of Asphyxiation while items suspected to be hard drugs were found in the car with the other two dead young boys, one of which is the first son another billionaire oil magnate; Dapo Abiodun, CEO of Heyden Oil. Looking at Gbenga Abiodun’s picture, he looked like a gentle boy, not a druggie, but all of these boys lived in the fast lane, hopping from club to club, and hugging the night life big time, because that is what their ‘jobs’ demanded. It is also a matter of time before one’s friends influence one negatively. Gbenga was one of Davido’s Deejays, even though I learnt he had a car armoring business and was on the verge of opening a filling station and carwash. Anyway, he’s no more. Fine chap.
One of my favorite sayings is one that goes; “Every Prince Descends from a Pauper, and every pauper, from a prince”. Let us consider the import of this saying in some greater depth. First is to say there is a likelihood if you trace everyone’s history today, that those who are rich had some very poor ancestors, while those who are poor may likely have prosperous ancestors back in history. It just means that one needs to be careful. I recall some gatemen in a house I used to live. One boasted on end about how he is the son of one of the deceased Alara of Ilaramokin in Ondo State. The other boasted often of his father’s house at Ijapo Estate GRA, an exclusive area in Akure in the same state. The first one had a drug problem and was soon laid off. The second one is a dispatch rider at a bank today. There was another one among the gatemen, who came to Abuja from the East, precisely Ebonyi State. He never boasted of any such background, but today, he runs a depot where Nigerian Breweries supplies him drinks for the Lugbe community in Abuja. He turns over millions every month.
The danger is that those who are raised in luxury really have no incentive to strive and may therefore not continue the trajectory of their fathers who often struggled to become what they are. That is why they say it is difficult to keep wealth in a family beyond say three generations – except you have a way of passing on this kind of knowledge. Again, knowledgeable people – say in Europe, Japan, China and the USA – have been able to find their ways around this generational issue and to keep money long within a family. But here in black Africa, we have little clue. Some days back someone wrote on social media and asked where are the families of those long gone Yoruba big men whom musicians praised to high heavens. I once met one of Herbert Macaulay’s grandsons who was a cabbie in London. Herbert was a big man in his time.
But there is a deeper psychology. Privileged children may have seen it all and may not be able to understand why they need to hustle like their fathers as if lives depended on it because, well, their lives don’t. That is why parents who allow their children every possible luxury even as students – first class travel, best hotels around the world, the best designer clothes and shoes, the best cars and so on – are actually damaging the ability of the children to grow. There has to be a line drawn somewhere. Richard Branson spoke about how his children always travel Economy in the planes that he owns even if he and his wife are in First Class. That is how sensible parents raise their children. But in Nigeria, I know many people who brag about their children traveling business-class and being upgraded to First, just to resume university abroad! Others in the civil service are known to pack all their wives and children into business or first class on the bill of the country. I think it’s a sign of being primitive. I recently told my 14 years old son to stop using my perfume. Yes, it could be that petty. I asked him what he wants to use when he grows up if he has started splashing my Hermes which even I am ‘economising’, having bought it at great cost.
The story is told about the butterfly, how it struggles through the egg, lava, pupa stages of its development, and how the wriggling out of its hard shell forms its wings. Anyone that helps the butterfly to speed up the process will have a shapeless moth on his hands. But here, the noveau riche will have none of that. We have mums who go pop champagne in their children’s posh classrooms just to celebrate birthdays. It is not enough that these children attend classes with air-conditioning and everything in between.
We should have suspected. The private schools we send our children to, often teaches them everything foreign, and disconnects them from reality. A friend’s children on their first long holiday from Grange School in Lagos, told him how she and her friends had fixed a meeting for New Jersey, USA. He found himself scrambling for visas and tickets. No one teaches an African child how to drum or beat the gangan. That one is for villagers. We teach our children how to play the violin, and the piano, and how to be maestros of classic music. No one knows how to play ‘opon-ayo’ or any local games that we could have developed anymore. Today, 3 years old children are keying into Golf. It’s all about elitism and Nigeria’s new rich cannot wait to announce how they’ve arrived, and could never miss any opportunity to rub it in.
Which brings me to the crux of my write-up today;
Why are children of accomplished men unable to rise above their father’s achievements or even come close? Let me hazard some guesses:
1. The parents have overachieved so there’s no need trying because you’ll never catch up. So they just atrophy.
2. The long and hard route to success is no longer fashionable
3. Their fathers, in struggling to get rich never really raised these children for greatness, or at best their parents just pampered them.
4. Parents see their children as children even in old age. That is why today, parents spend untold millions for their children’s weddings even when they paid for their own weddings 100%
5. Well-to-do parents never allow their children venture out or take risks on time, so the children are not daring until they are exposed to bad influence maybe at university level
6. Young people mistake fame for real greatness or success
Anyway, we have a situation today where many children of valiant men have veered into music, dance, deejay-ing, makeup artistry, cooking, interior designing, ownership of sex toy shops, acting, ownership of night clubs, organizing of beauty pageants and music shows, and so on. A lot of these professions are in and around entertainment, meaning that the public waits to feed off salacious tales from those industries. This means that today’s hero is tomorrow’s villain. Those who make you and prop up your image are also the ones who make a pig’s meal out of your reputation and sanity when the time comes
Whereas some of these new professions make money and fame, they tap into the ephemeralness of today’s world; a world seeking entertainment by all means. Is it that the options have been totally narrowed for the young people of today to make real differences in places that could really advance society? Are we not still a consumer nation that produces nothing of the things it uses? In the professions listed above, all the materials used are imported from abroad, meaning that the youth of today are not wired to solve our fundamental problems, but to kick the can down the road and generally consolidate those problems. How many are taking on our hard issues?
On the other side are the same children of today’s rich middle aged or ageing parents, who are stuck abroad – especially those ones conditioned by expensive private schools and made fit for employment in the Western World alone. Some of them have good jobs, but almost all of them complain of discrimination because they are reminded times without number that there are glass ceilings they could never breach as the foreigners there often make a point that they are not sons of the soil. There are even children of our super-rich men, like David Mark’s who are stuck in permanent acquisition of degrees abroad.
Back to Davido, whose Dad is a business magnate. I hope he wriggles out of his present troubles but he needs to learn that he is a very bad influence on today’s youth and he has no right to further damage the fabrics of our fragile society. We can see the boys who move with him and the kind of reckless life they all live. We hope they slow down otherwise their lives will be wrecked. Is this rascality all worth it? Does fame and fast fortune equate to the long and hard grind that goes into being a famous lawyer, or engineer, or economist or medical doctor or petroleum technologist, or IT Guru, or publisher even if there isn’t much money in some of those areas? But for now millions of Nigerian youths believe Davido when he constantly sings ‘life is all about the money oh. Biko ye’m ego!’ Have we not now seen the folly of it all?
But there’s a line up. Step up Falz my man. He is one of the more reasonable of the lot and attended court as a lawyer at least up to last year as I understand. Uncle Femi Falana is his Dad and I know how conservative he can be. Maybe Falz will get tired someday and settle down to a respectable profession or business. Money-making apart, we need our children to build this nation and elevate the black man beyond being seen as a global entertainer. All these professions they are choosing to today will not build Nigeria because they cannot. Those professions merely play at the edges. We have others like Naeto C, Kema Chikwe’s son. Chukwuma Soludo’s first son, Ozonna is also a musician. Seni Saraki, Uncle Bukola’s first son, is a rapper. Femi Otedola’s first daughter is a DJ. One of the president’s daughters recently hosted a photo show, and one of the VP’s daughters recently open a beauty parlor. Two things are common to all these; bling and blitz. Thankfully, Halima, Aliko Dangote’s second daughter is presently studying him while working with the group as a strategist. Mike Adenuga also tries off and on, to keep his children in the business.
I ask; can these guys not combine the irresistible allure of entertainment and blitz with a steady career progression? I know it’s tough but that is the price for being born with golden spoons in their mouths. Can they also imagine themselves being musicians still at 50 or 60? I know Charlie Boy has made something of a success with that but what about the ups and downs? Even Charlie boy does not sing about sex and money all the time. He is famous for being an activist with a crazy persona. It may seem fun for now to get the attention of millions of fans of the opposite sex, but when the trouble shows up it is never funny.
I write out of fear myself. I strive for greatness daily, by doing what others shy away from doing. I pray my children do even more than I could dare but I’m trying to find out how to help children build spine. Part of the process is writing this down in the hope that someone will point us in the right direction. How do we get this done? For starters let us clear the Augean stable and let those rich kids today know, that making money and fame and finding satisfaction through careers in entertainment is one thing, but getting involved in drugs and alcoholism, and living a totally hopeless life is another thing entirely. Let us also remind them that when it matters most, they will find themselves still entertaining, while children of today’s poor will emerge as the critical leaders who will then superintend over them… if they aren’t careful.
Every prince descends from a pauper, and every pauper, from a prince…
Perhaps that saying goes beyond prince-hood as defined by money, but also as defined by ideas, philosophy, class, respect in society, respect from the comity of nations, ability to infuse into others that much-needed respect and decorum, and the riches that come with a great vision for the future. Most of these cannot be found in quick entertainment professions, and so some of the rich entertainer children of big men have already become pauperized by the company they keep even though they may have money. This is applicable to the present genre that promotes getting rich by all means or dying trying, that glamorizes sex beyond its utility, and emphasizes the acquisition of luxury cars, yachts and private jets, none of which we produce. We need thinkers among the youths.
And for adults, the biggest prayer we can continue to have is to hope that our children surpass us in everything. That is how societies actually improve. Any society that achieves the opposite is on its way to extinction.
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