Perhaps because he survived hard times in the past, Marne chooses to spend what he earns today to help people rather than indulge in flamboyance. He has built schools, and a stadium, provides clothes, shoes, food for people in extreme poverty, and gives 70 Euros per month to all people in a poor region of his country. He behaves just like benevolent billionaires such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zukerberg of Facebook and Richard Branson of Virgin who are renowned for their simplicity of dress and lifestyle, and preference for assisting the poor rather than adorning themselves with expensive trinkets.
Rich Nigerians, especially those who came from poor backgrounds are a completely different species. They revel in ostentation and the so called good life. While the nation is ranked as the poverty capital of the world, vainglorious egoism and displays of vanity have become a national trait especially amongst political leaders. Unprincipled legislators who insist on being called honorable, mediocre Governors who revel in being referred to as Excellency and a Presidency which corners a totally inappropriate share of the national budget are all evidence of self-aggrandizement.
Paradoxically even as Nigerians continue to groan under deplorable healthcare, flooded communities, bad roads, epileptic power supply, and menacing insecurity the luxury goods retails space in the country continues to grow in terms of customer patronage and the number of players in the industry. Its been claimed with some justification that despite the so called anti-corruption war international luxury brands in Nigeria thrive on corruption related sales. This is understandable because the huge salaries, allowances, pensions and kick-backs paid to top political office holders contrasts sharply with private sector salaries. It also explains why the highest concentration of luxury boutiques isnt in the largest commercial city of Lagos, but rather in the political capital Abuja.
Most of the great economies of the world achieved greatness by the simple economic strategy of making sure that those in government consumed only what they produced and consciously conserved their resources. In Nigeria its the opposite. Large convoys of imported official vehicles, numerous official small jets, unnecessary expensive protocol and unjustifiable benefits for political office holders feed the idea that flamboyant self-indulgent living is a sign of success and leadership. Unfortunately those extremely wealthy Nigerians not in government have also relegated humility and compassion to the background and wallow in ill-considered displays of ostentation.
Ranging from traditional rulers who in spite of pervasive poverty in their domains compete to preen themselves in luxurious Rolls Royce cars; to young entertainment stars who rather than save money for their future spend willy-nilly on expensive gadgets; to African football players in the top European Leagues who own fleets of sports cars, their love of vulgar flashiness is unrestrained. Luxury goods arent essential, they are mainly bought to support self-worth of materialistic individuals and consequently are highly desirable amongst those with easy money and shallow character.
Previously Nigerias high net worth individuals did most of their shopping overseas in places such as Milan, Paris, London and Dubai. Nowadays most luxury brands are readily available in Nigeria where everything to do with the luxury industry concerns imported goods. While government has banned the importation of a staple food like rice, Moet and Chandon who are world famous for their champagnes claim that Nigeria, a nation where government has long since abandoned the idea of tap-borne public water supply is their largest export market! They claim that its because Nigerians love the good life and throwing flamboyant parties. Such grandiosity is the mother of all corruption and Nigeria has long since been described as a haven of the ostentatious and the wasteful.
The patronization of the luxury goods industry by the governing elites and capitalist clergymen reveals an unbecoming love of materialism and lack of compassion against the background of the extreme hardships ravaging the majority of citizens. With the National Orientation Agency (NOA) being to all intents and purposes comatose, what needs to be made clear to political and religious leaders and indeed all those who have wealth beyond what they can reasonably spend without self-indulgence, is that government cannot possibly solve all the problems of poverty.
Our national orientation should be towards the Sadio Mane approach of shunning ostentation and giving a helping hand to the less fortunate. Perhaps one of the main reasons why Nigeria continues to fail to develop its potential is the lack of compassion amongst those who are wealthy and their idolization of vanity.
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