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THE POOR ARE NOT BLAMELESS

Mammie, why are Africans so poor? The mother looked at the program on television the child was watching and answered: Just look at Nigeria. She put on one of Fela's vinyl records on an old gramophone made “centuries” ago and the voice sang: Buy Africa! Africa's problem is much more but Nigeria captures it. Unfortunately, Nigerians do not see themselves as poor. If you showed poverty on Nigeria's TV, it was defamation.

The rich live in an island of false sense of security, paved streets inside their estates, regular supply of water and electricity and their own work, play and shopping centers like anywhere else in the world. So who in his right sense would label that as poverty? After all, a friend mused, there are classes of people everywhere in the world, so are Nigerians. It is true, there is no types of houses or cars you cannot find in Nigeria.

One of our most noble deeds is to fight and care for the poor. The rich can fight and do fight for themselves. They make, write and enforce the laws to favor themselves. The liberals amongst them fight for the basic human rights from which the poor benefit. But make no mistake about it, many poor people remain poor out of bad habits that impede our progress. The rich invest their money, the poor waste the little they have.

Once you have a full time job and spending more money than you are taking in, it does not require a financial planner to say that is the way to the poor house. This is where our tastes and way of life come in. There was this friend that claimed he would never live or date people outside of certain posh areas. The other friend decided to build in a modest area rather than pay another two or three years rent in an area. That is a choice.

When the new generation banks started paying high salaries to graduates, we told our kids that left steady poor paying jobs to save and invest it in real estate and for their pension. They thought they would never get old. It was the same advice to their cousins in Diaspora that did not realize that their duration in high paying jobs would not be as long as their colleagues. Those who failed to heed the advice lived to regret it.

There is this song about money – ti m'ba lowo lomode mi ma ni la'gba. The best time to make the money you will live on for the rest of your life is when you are young. Waiting to get older to make it is an act of malpractice. Some people never had their first house until they were fifty. Those were late bloomers. We are not all that lucky. Some never had, not because they were lazy, but because of circumstances beyond their reach.

So why are we surprised that Boko Haram, MEND, MASSOB and OPC strive very well and are even represented at the highest levels in the Federal and states governments. You cannot flaunt riches to the poor and expect them to be satisfied with window shopping. If anything it's surprising that the situation is not worse. The poor are so condescending; they tolerate abuse to the highest order in Nigeria. The poor are not blameless.

The poor direct their anger to their closest neighborhoods making them dangerous, to their own families and relatives making who to trust doubtful, and kidnapped the most vulnerable or defenseless demanding ransoms because those are the ones they could reach. But pour out all their venoms against politicians because they are graduates that cannot find jobs. Apart from militias, who else has the attention of the politicians?

If the poor people fail trying to make it and hostile environment make it improbable, no one can blame them. That is the reason we want equal playing field so that everyone would stand a chance based on their own effort. Nobody should be condemned to a life of poverty because of the neighborhoods, homes, schools or area/zip code they come from. Those fighting for the rich are selfish because they only care for their pockets.

Those familiar with this writer must have read that: if one million people are given a million in any currency or naira each; by the end one year, some would be poor again while others would be richer. Of course unforeseen disaster, swindlers and excessive obligation must contribute. It does not excuse safe investment, good judgment and cutting our coat according to our sizes. The poor would rather copy bad taste of the rich.

Some fell on bad times, others into bad relationships or unfortunate marriages. As for those that claim they never made enough money to make ends meet, how did their friends and colleagues making about the same amount of money able to build a house and send their children to modest school? They would rather party and spend lavishly for the moment with those richer than them.

Greed has a little place in all of us as long as it does not blind. Gambling in one form or the other is a good example of greed. When we are told that we stand a better chance of being struck by thunder than winning a million, our friends said you got to play to win. Poor people spend so much money gambling, it becomes a regressive tax. The rich can gamble all they want, it's proportionally smaller part of their income.

Moreover if the rich lose all their income gambling, they stand a better chance of making it back than the poor. Their contacts, class and favors may still be useful. The same is not true of the poor that is struggling to make it rich. There is nothing special about the rich, more than glamor: glories of our births are shadows not substantiality.

The best way rich people make money is to pool money from as many people as they can. The smaller the amount pulled, the larger the crowd. Indeed most companies make more money selling to more households at a lower price than at a high price. As getting more people to buy coca cola than buying cognac. The more purchasing power the poor have, the better for the businesses. This is not working because we refuse to Buy Africa.

So if you are so smart, how come you are not rich? Answer: if you are so rich, how come you are not smart?

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Farouk Martins Aresa and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Farouk Martins Aresa