Na poor I poor, I no crase loosely translates to “I may be poor, but I’m not crazy.” The first time my mum said this to me while recounting an episode that happened—one in which she had refused to entertain a slight on her person; I thought it was a funny but apt expression. In essence, it means that in spite of a man’s penury, he can still muster some dignity. And more often than not, the insatiable appetite for the good life is not an aftermath of poverty, rather, it is a product of avarice along with the absence of dignity.
However, the immense potential and propensity money has to elicit both good and evil will continue to be a force to contend with for a long time to come. The vast majority of people desire financial security. The worker puts in a shift because he desires to earn a wage at the end of the day, the entrepreneur deploys all the tricks of his trade for the sole purpose of making profit, and singles attempt to topple the reign of poverty in their lineage by marrying into wealth.
If one is not actively pursuing the acquisition of wealth, then they are certainly thinking about it.
Endemic lack of the most basic things In these parts is seen as a valid reason for the unchecked pursuit of wealth. More than half of the Nigerian population live on less than a dollar a day, thereby fueling a desperation to stay afloat in the average citizen.
Nevertheless, this wanton thirst for riches is symptomatic of a deeper flaw—greed.
The political class continue to grab everything within sight, not because they are close to sliding into the disappearing middle class, but because they have a morbid fear of poverty. This mentality spurs them to pilfer the commonwealth of the masses, not unlike party-goers who bicker and resort to fisticuffs over food and souvenirs without stopping to consider that they have an abundance of what they fight for in their homes.
So when a serial divorcee dangled the tantalizing offer to visit an exotic European country in the faces of married women, with an extra “incentive” to gift their husband 700,000 naira for the inconvenience, and a significant number of these women were tickled by the proposition while others jumped right at it, I was not surprised.
The contradictory behaviour of these wives who flaunt their “virtue” and are leading condemners of untoward behaviour in others—yet never hesitated to make excuses for considering the inappropriate proposal—should elicit shock. After all, many of them are not poor. They are middle class women who have access to the internet and can afford data. And while they may not have had the opportunity to visit choice destinations, their inability to hold back or reflect on the pros and cons of such an offer—one that came out of nothing—from a total stranger is bemusing.
Not once did the thought of what the impact of this adventure could be on their marriage or how their significant other would feel about it cross their mind. And if it did, then they clearly brushed it aside quickly.
Dignity is what makes a person turn down a proposition that will boost their financial status but on the other hand, gnaws at their insides because they have compromised their values.
There are beautiful girls who are born in the basest of slumps, yet refuse to toe the path of prostitution because they understand that their worth transcends the pecuniary gains from such ventures. A heart that is focused on the physical reality of their situation will happily explore the leeway to experience even the slightest lease of life.
When I was in the university, there was a cobbler who had been there for many years. He was friends with many of the professors and senior lecturers because he knew them way before they attained their current status. He was a happy man; content with the work he did and would never charge a kobo above what was commensurate with his service.
He was by no means a rich man, but he was a satisfied one. One who found joy in his vocation and radiated that joy to everyone around him.
The cobbler fascinated me. He did not aspire to be more in a world that constantly teaches that one should reach for greater heights.
For him, no amount of temptation was huge enough to derail him from his innate conviction. I think we need more people like him in our world. More humans who are unflinching in their understanding of self. People who refuse to join the rat race or get carried away by the inanities that abound in the new media.
Our world is in need of more people who may be underprivileged, yet are affluent in the perception of self.