Where are your Children? By Mike Ikem Umealo

This ominous question, soberly intoned may just about sound scary, but the intent of the question is very serious.
The time has come for Nigeria to hear the truth about this issue which I will term as “proceeds of corruption”. The truth may be had to come by because most people are deceived about themselves as they try to rationalise their approach to public responsibility. The proceeds of crime cannot be limited to material wealth, but also the privileges that such proceeds create must be included in any assessment of the cause and effects. Otherwise, we will continue to suffer from the psychological cataracts that blinds us to the Realities of the ripple effects of corruption.
The point is that for the life of this nation, we have collectively been caught up in a delusion: millions of people have been denied their rightful benefits as citizens because of the actions of just a few. And the brutal charade for government officials is that they have to perpetuate the illusion that they are serving the people and that they are pursuing a course of action that will be effective, even when they lack the discipline and principle required for such effectiveness to take hold. In short, I am convinced that somehow, these officials think that government business will take care of itself regardless of what they do. Of course, they know neither the truth of life nor its fallacy. Any public official who is misusing public funds must understand that they would have involved themselves in a colossal muddle that must somehow take its pound of flesh; the working of which we may not understand; and this is the dimension I want to take us today in relation to the question: “where are your children?”

Now, there is a reason why I want to write something about the children of our leaders, past and present. I suppose it should not be surprising that I see a facile connection between the office our leaders occupy and the influence their very public role may have on their children. At first, it may seem that there should be real promise of hope, abundance and wealth for the children of the ruling elite, but often than not, this has not been the case. There is always a price to pay for everything we do, and if theft of public fund is considered a toxic asset, then, it should be acceptable that toxic asset may never yield good fruits. Such toxic wealth can be very toxic indeed. When a public officer spends public money meant for public education or public health to send their own children to school, it is not an accident that such wealth turns out to be like some demonic, destructive soak-away pipe; and sadly, they may fail to connect it when their own children become victims of road accidents or die as a result of lack of urgency that could have prevented a fatal health condition, had their parents provided such services.

Most of our leaders often have a certain cache about them, so much so that there are typically people who do what they can to be part of their lives. Political office can attract people who enjoy basking in the reflected glory of a political figure. And while many people choose the company of people in power, children of politicians and those in power, (government officials) have no choice in the matter. While I am not aware of any comprehensive study on the experiences of “politicians children,” it is clear that their family connections bring both opportunities and challenges; and it is to those challenges that I wish to focus.

Like most people from a privileged background, children of politicians often have resources few other have access to- Private schools, private tutors, the best health care available. These material goods are but a few examples of the benefits of having parents who have access to public funds in a society like ours. It is public knowledge that Children of politicians (and of those with questionable source of wealthy) often get admitted into Top grade Colleges and universities even if they have poor grades or mediocre ability. Even highly selective schools like Oxford, Cambridge and some of the US based Ivy colleges are wooed by the unmerited glow of the children of Nigeria’s political class.
But the reality remains that, beyond college, these sons and daughters might have industry connections and doors opened for them by parents and family friends that may propel their careers, but this is true for just a fraction of their number. We may be tempted to think of such muted success as a reflection of measuring the children of such powerful and wealthy men against the success of their parents and would have, otherwise, counted them as successful, but that does not stop there. The question remains, from 1960 till date, where are the children of these past leaders? Why can’t we see sons and daughters of these political colossuses becoming governors and ministers by their own ability long after their parents would have left the scene?
This doesn’t mean that we could come to the conclusion that the privileged birth ought to have brought them some recognition, but it is right to expect those privileges to propel them beyond the success of their parents, who didn’t have such privileges and yet rose to such great heights. In spite of facing significant challenges like criticism that their success is the result of their lineage rather than their own efforts, a privileged name might open doors, but it can also be a burden as these children face constant comparison to their parents. It is not by accident that their parents’ success often overshadows their every accomplishment.
Fashioning their own identity can become such a huge trouble that they become lost in some way when people expect them to be similar or even greater than their parents; And with this comes that moral arch of the universe that bends towards the just. In their search for a private life away from the rigours and challenges of a public live they didn’t choose, and the afterglow of the spotlight- when their parents would have left office- they face many special challenges. I know of one who shares joint with his brothers and smoke pot with his father; I know of another who took his fathers wife; they become engrossed in absurdities in spite of all the privileges of class, wealth and education. Surely, these must be signs of an accursed wealth. And yes, stolen wealth can never establish a lasting legacy for anyone. So what is the essence of stealing from the public to sponsor children who will never take their rightful places in the society? Surely, by your own hands, you have destroyed the same things which you have built because the “means will always justify the end.”
So, perhaps, this is why our politicians and questionable business men and women surviving on government patronage to the disadvantage of a great many others continue to acquire wealth and continue to convert public funds to private use. Could it be that they are angry and disappointed that in spite of the stolen wealth, their children are “useless” and so they don’t want to use public wealth to create opportunities for the rest of the society to benefit? Perhaps they are thinking: “if my children can’t be useful, then no child should enjoy any of the benefits of their citizenship?”
But, you should have seen the signs. If you were spoiling your children, you should know it because your children become rude to you and to others. They would act bossy and demand to be first in line. They don’t answer your questions and ignore your instructions. If you deny them a new toy or treat, you’ll face a tempest of crying, howling, and little fists pounding on the floor because they have seen how easy it was for you to make money; they don’t wait for your salary because they know you don’t depend on it. Do you think that they don’t see all the “Ghana must go” you bring home at night? I know of a certain politician whose son took away US$40,000 from one of his bags and he never noticed till this day; and this was an official on less than 300k a month salary.
If you continue like this, surely, you will soon start feeling defeated. Of course, nowadays many parents do, but it’s not too late to curb spoiled behaviour, but you must set the example for them to follow. I think most parents know when their kids are spoiled, but they feel kind of helpless to do anything about it because their principles and virtues are so corrupt that they are morally weak to correct their children. If you allow him or her to grow to adulthood like that, soon you will be looking for your children on the ghettos of London, Switzerland, New York, Los Angels, Lagos and Abuja. And if you refuse to change your ways, once you leave the scene in death, they too would be lost while still alive.

When spoiled youngsters become teenagers, they’re more prone to excessive self-absorption, lack of self-control, anxiety, and depression, If you give kids so much early on, they get to a point where they can’t be satisfied with anything. When mothers and fathers stop spoiling their children they’ll also prepare their children to handle life’s curve balls and your name will be upheld by your children, from the East to the West, North to the South. So that sons of Governors, ministers and presidents will become leaders of tomorrow rather than the scums of tomorrow- serving the children of those who suffered deprivation in the hands of past leaders. Stop stealing government funds and watch your children develop properly and uprightly.

5 Responses so far.

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