Why Poverty Continues To Prevail In Our World

Why Poverty Continues To Prevail In Our World

By Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA

suleaos@gmail.com

http://about.me/ahmedsule

Remember the poor - it costs nothing

Mark Twain

Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.

Barack Obama

People can be so apathetic. They continue to ignore the real people trapped in poverty and homelessness. It’s almost maddening.
Daphne Zuniga

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.

Mother Teresa

On a Friday evening in April 2012 during a visit to Barcelona, I sat down somewhere along the Passeig de Gràcia avenue. Around 6:30pm, as Barcelonans were either heading home, shopping or getting ready for the weekend, an event occurred which got me thinking. A middle-aged man who was suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) appeared on the street with a brown cup in his hands. As he struggled to walk along the pavement, he suddenly stopped and with his wrinkled hands he slowly lifted up the cup, hoping that the pedestrians walking along the busy Passeig de Gràcia would put some money into his cup.

After a couple of minutes, with nothing coming into his cup, the man walked a few meters along the busy street in anticipation of getting a better response from the pedestrians. What should have taken him ten seconds to get to his new destination took him about forty seconds to achieve because of his ailment. After forty seconds, he then arrived at his new destination along Passeig de Gràcia.

For the next forty-five minutes, I observed the interaction between the man begging for money and the pedestrians walking along Passeig de Gràcia. There must have been one thousand and five hundred people who passed by the beggar. The one thousand five hundred pedestrians could be classified into five different groupings.

The first groupings of pedestrians were those who frowned at the beggar as they passed by him. The frowners looked at him straight into the eye and walked pass him without dropping anything into the cup. The second group of pedestrians comprised of those who did not even notice the beggar. They must have been preoccupied with shopping, preoccupied with rushing to get home or preoccupied talking with their friends. In short, they were too preoccupied to notice the man in despair. The third group that engaged with the beggar were those who must have been observing the beggar from a distance. I am not really sure how many people fall into this category, but I know for sure that I was part of this category. This group observed the interaction between the beggar and the other pedestrians from afar, however, they did nothing to solve the plight of the beggar.

The fourth group of pedestrians were those who flipped a coin into the man’s cup without maintaining eye contact with the beggar.

As a side note, among the hundreds of people that passed by the beggar, there was a little girl walking along Passeig de Gràcia with her mother. The girl who must have been five years old stopped and looked at the man with compassion as he struggled to hold the cup and maintain his balance. As she stopped, her mother held the girls hand so that they could continue their journey. However, the little girl refused to follow her mother and continued to look at the man with compassion. In order to distract the girl from focusing on the man, the mother put her hands over the girl’s eyes. Once the girl was unable to see the beggar, the mother effectively succeeded in making the little girl continue the journey.

The fifth group of pedestrians were those who immediately turned their face away from the man as soon as they saw the man with his outstretched arms.

After forty-five minutes, I got up from my seat, went to the beggar and put money into his cup and left. As I looked into his cup, I realised that for all his efforts standing along Passeig de Gràcia for forty-five minutes, he received only a couple of coins from the over one thousand five hundred pedestrians that passed by him.

The forty-five minute event at Passeig de Gràcia is a useful symbol to understand why poverty continues to prevail in our world today. In this article, I will use the interaction between the beggar and the pedestrians at Passeig de Gràcia as a template to analyse the world’s attitude towards the poor and others at the margin of society.

In understanding why poverty persists in our world today, it is important to analyse the interactions of the five classes of pedestrians and the beggar at Passeig de Gràcia. In short the poverty on the Passeig de Gràcia pavement leads us to understand poverty on the world’s pavement. For the purpose of this article, I use five descriptors of the Passeig de Gràcia pedestrians mentioned earlier to describe the various attitudes of people towards poverty:

· The Frowners: comprises of those that looked at the beggar straight in the eye and frowned at him. Frowners have a dislike for the poor.

· The Occupiers: comprises of those too busy and too preoccupied with their own life to notice the beggar. Occupier’s busyness ensures that they ignore the poor’s plight.

· The Observers: comprises of those that observed the beggars plight and did nothing to solve his plight. Though observers see the sufferings of the poor, they remain apathetic to poverty.

· The Throwers: comprises of those that flipped or threw a coin into the beggar’s cup without maintaining eye contact with the beggar. Throwers offer short-term solutions to poverty.

· The Deniers: comprises of those that turned their face away from the beggar upon sighting the beggar. Deniers, deny the existence of poverty.

If Canaan was described in Scriptures as the land flowing with milk and honey, Passeig de Gràcia could be described as a street flowing with opulence and luxury. It is one of the most expensive avenues in Europe and it plays host to some of the world’s most exclusive brands such as Ferrari, Rolex, Tiffany and Cartier. Paradoxically, in the oasis of opulence that is called Passeig de Gràcia, there was a man – and this man was sick- and this man that was sick was poor- and this man who was sick and poor had to beg. This man thought that the best way to get help was to go to the richest street in Spain and beg, hoping that his problems would be solved on the rich pavement of Passeig de Gràcia.

Was his problem solved? Did his poverty end? No it did not. Why? Because the beggar encountered the frowners, the occupiers, the observers, the throwers and the deniers at Passeig de Gràcia.

Like Passeig de Gràcia where a man had to go begging on a street paved with gold, the world is also a place where despite the abundance of rich resources, billions of people live in poverty. According to the World Bank, the world Gross Domestic Product at current prices is $63.12 trillion. With the world population currently at seven billion, the global GDP on a per capita basis translates to $9,017. However according to the World Bank, nearly three billion people live below the international poverty line of two dollars a day.

It should therefore not be out of place to ask: Why billions of people around the world are poor? Why millions of people around the world are homeless? Why billions of people around the world do not have access to adequate healthcare, water and education? Just like the man at Passeig de Gràcia, the poor in most parts of the world are struggling because they keep on coming across the frowners, the occupiers, the observers, the throwers and the deniers in life’s journey at the individual, corporate and governmental levels.

In the next couple of paragraphs, I will discuss in detail the role of each player in the poverty continuation chain

The Frowners: often have a dislike for the poor. They are of the school of thought that believes that if a man or woman is poor, then they have chosen to be poor. They look down on the poor and treat them as non-humans. The frowners relegate the poor to the status of things. They are strong believers that if the poor are to rise above their condition, the poor should lift themselves up by themselves and for themselves. The frowners oppose government policies such as welfare benefits and healthcare reforms, which could help the poor. When it comes to the poor, the frowners often use the moral hazard argument to discourage the implementation of policies to lift up the poor, by arguing that such programs will only encourage the poor to be lazy and do nothing. Frowners are at the forefront of scrounger rhetoric’s. They assume that all people benefiting from government welfare programmes are ‘milking the system’ and lazy. The frowners take a Social Darwinian approach towards poverty. They believe that life is a rat race in which only the ‘fittest’ will and should survive. They regard the poor as lazy, immoral and weak. They have confidence in their own wealth, fame, career, connections and education, so they can’t understand why people ‘choose’ to be poor.

The frowners lack a human soul and I guess these are the people Jesus must have referred to when he said: “watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

At the government level, the frowner mentality is demonstrated when government officials demonise the poor in order to gain public support in withdrawing whatever level of support the poor get from government.

The Occupiers: are not as ruthless as the frowners. Instead, they are so busy with their own life that they have no time to notice the sufferings of others around them. Just like the occupiers in Passeig de Gràcia, who were so absorbed in their own world to notice the condition of the beggar, the occupiers in other parts of the world live in wonderland. While it is good to be concerned with one’s own welfare, family and career, it is equally important for one to be his or her brothers/sisters keeper. Unfortunately, the occupiers are caught up in their own world, which beclouds their view of the world of the poor.

Occupiers are too occupied with their own family to see the sufferings of millions of other families trapped in the poverty cage. Occupiers are too occupied with putting food on their table to be bothered about the man next door that has nothing to eat; occupiers are too occupied with climbing the social ladder to be concerned about the needs of those at the bottom of the social ladder.

The occupier is caught up in the routine business of life and so has no time for the poor. As a consequence, they are too busy with their careers to see the tears of the poor; they are too busy with their friends to hear the silent whisper of the poor saying ”help, help, help” and they are too busy with their comfort to feel the pain of the poor.

They believe that their money, talents, skills and education is meant to be used only for themselves and the people they love. They are the ‘me, myself and mine’ people. They are self-centred and self-seeking people and because of this selfish attitude by the occupiers, the poor do not get help. Unfortunately, they fail to realise that these short-term traits of self-centeredness, and self-seekingness, will in the long run translate to self-contemptuousness. To the occupiers, Martin Luther King’s comment that “an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity,” amounts to blasphemy, heresy and gibberish talk.

At the corporate level, organisations adopt this occupier mentality when it carries out activities that benefit the organization and staff without regards of the impact on the wider society especially those at the margin of society. An example of this occupier mentality in the corporate world can be seen in the sweatshops of Asia where large corporations exploit under aged workers who work under very in inhumane conditions - all in the name of increasing profit margins. Another example is the case of the recent financial crisis in which a number of institutions rewarded workers with bonuses running into millions of Dollars even though the activities of some of these employees led directly or indirectly to thousand of suicides, millions of job losses and billions wiped out of peoples pensions.

Governments operate this occupier mentality when it pursues policies to protect its interest to the detriment of the people at the margin of society. One area where this is glaring is when governments spend astronomical amounts on defence at the expense of other expenditures that could help lift the people on the margin of society. For instance, despite the fact that in the UK, youth unemployment is over twenty percent (fifty percent for black youths), the British government recently deployed the £1 billion HMS Dauntless destroyer to secure the coast of Falkland Islands, which is 12,700 kilometers away from the UK. In another case, the Indian government opened a commercial bid to equip its air force with one hundred and twenty six multi-role aircrafts valued at $10 billion even though around forty percent of the Indian population lives below the international poverty line. In Nigeria, legislators earn almost $140,000 a month, while the government continues to drag its feet to implement the minuscule minimum wage of $90 a month.

The Throwers: unlike the frowner and the occupier, the thrower engages with the poor. She also attempts to solve the pauper’s problem by “throwing him a coin”. However, despite the sincere intention of the thrower, the poor still remain in the same condition. This is because the thrower addresses the symptoms rather than the root cause of the poverty. When the throwers at Passeig de Gràcia ‘threw’ coins into the beggar’s brown cup, they did not look him in the eye. The lack of eye contact symbolises the throwers inability to critically look at the structural factors that causes the poverty in the first place. It also symbolises the throwers inability to see the pain in the eyes of the poor.

Throwing money at the poor without addressing the root cause of poverty will not go far in eradicating poverty. Martin Luther King caught this many years ago when he said: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” Structural barriers such as racism, inequality, poor education, inadequate housing, among other barriers would need to be pulled down in order to give the poor a fair chance in life. In the race of life, the poor are at a competitive disadvantage. They are expected to complete the race of life on a racecourse filled with obstacles and hurdles right from the beginning of the racetrack to the end of the racetrack. It is therefore necessary for these impediments to be removed so as to create a level playing field. In this way, we can make poverty history.

Corporate bodies can also exhibit the thrower mentality. For instance, some companies encourage employees to go to socially deprived areas to help mentor children, teach children, build fences and paint walls, even though these same companies employment policies do not give people from these deprived neighbourhoods a fair chance of getting employed in the company.

At the governmental level, many rich countries give overseas aids to a number of least developing countries (LDC) in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Even though these overseas aids run into billions of Dollars, they often come with conditions, which are detrimental to the recipient countries. These aids flowing from rich to poor countries have sometimes created a dependency culture in which the latter becomes dependent on the former. To make poverty history, the rich countries would need to pull down some of the barriers that continue to impoverish the poor nations. For instance, agricultural subsidies paid to US and European farmers have succeeded in putting African farmers at a competitive disadvantage. These subsidies, which total around $300bn a year, drive down prices and the resulting cheap agricultural products produced by USA and European farmers, are then dumped into Africa thereby making the continents agricultural sector less viable. These agricultural policies are hampering economic development in Africa. According to a Christian Aid report, trade liberalization has cost sub-Saharan Africa around $275bn over the past 20 years. Furthermore, high tariffs, some as high as 300% are imposed on African produce, thereby denying African farmers access to international markets. According to the World Bank, rich countries export subsidies and tariffs cost poor farmers around $100bn annually in lost income.

These subsidies have resulted in mass unemployment and an unprofitable agriculture industry in the continent. According to Mike Moore, the former Director-General of the World Trade Organization, the total value of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) agricultural subsidies are two-thirds of Africa’s total GDP and abolition of these subsidies will give Africa as much as 4 to 5 times all the combined debt relief and overseas aids. Furthermore, the continuous delay in concluding the Doha round of talks continues to hamper farmers in poor countries.

The Observers: see the poverty in the land, they are also aware of the devastation caused by poverty, yet inspite of this knowledge, they do nothing about it. Apathy is a key characteristic of this group of people. Inequality, racism and poverty prevail as a result of their silence. These people remain apathetic for a number of reasons. First they believe that poverty will always remain, so there is no need to do anything. This is a flawed reasoning because it fails to take into consideration the fact that change does not come on a platter of gold. It occurs when people stand up and work towards bringing change. President Obama eloquently stated the need for people to throw away apathetic attitudes when he said: “one voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”

Another reason why observers are sometimes apathetic is because they fear that if they become vocal on issues relating to poverty and social justice, they may be branded troublemakers, they may lose their jobs or they may lose their friends and influence.

Apathy in the face of injustice can have devastating effects, afterall Eleanor Roosevelt was right when she said: “So much attention is paid to the aggressive sins, such as violence and cruelty and greed with all their tragic effects, that too little attention is paid to the passive sins, such as apathy and laziness, which in the long run can have a more devastating effect.”

The Deniers: are those who deny the existence of poverty or its impact. They choose to deny the existence of poverty because it makes them sad. In other instances, they choose to focus on the wealthy aspect of life because they associate with only the wealthy. They don’t come across the poor in their day-to-day living.

The denier’s use statistics, percentages and numbers as excuses to deny the reality that many people are living on the margins of society. For instance, in countries like Nigeria where millions of people live below the poverty line, deniers try to deny the existence of poverty by saying things like: “there is no poverty in Nigeria, afterall the richest man in Africa is a Nigerian” or “there is no poverty in Nigeria, afterall Nigeria’s growth projection of 7 percent makes it the third fastest growing economy in the world. ”

Deniers are also susceptible to being deceived by tokenism. Once they see a person cross a high hurdle, they assume that every one else has and should be able to cross the hurdle. If a group has been marginalised because of the colour of their skin or socio-economic background, the deniers fail to see such injustice and will focus on the achievement of the token black person or the token traveller or the token female high flyer.

Another characteristic of the deniers is that they discourage those who want to make a change. From the Passeig de Gràcia avenue illustration, the woman who tried to prevent her daughter from showing compassion to the beggar could be described as a denier. Deniers sow seeds of discouragement in the heart of those willing to help because they deny the existence of poverty. Like the woman who covered her daughter’s eyes, deniers put a veil across the eyes of potential helpers by either ridiculing them or encouraging them to focus on more mundane things. So they could say: “at least the poor are still alive, so why bother about them”; “you have got to focus on your career, rather than the poor.”

So from the above, one can see that we live in a world that is accustomed to not caring about the poor or those at the margin of society. Having a compassion for the poor is seen as a form of weakness and one can be accused of having a victim mentality. The first and greatest commandment, which the Master taught us: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” has been replaced in our world with another commandment that says: “Thou shalt hate the poor with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”

Any society that has no regard for the poor and the people at the margin of society has lost its soul and is on its way to hell where there will be “wailing and gnashing of teeth”. A society that can spend trillions of Euros to bailout financial institutions and yet watch millions of people go homeless has lost its soul and is on its way to hell where there will be “wailing and gnashing of teeth”; a society that encourages corrupt politicians to siphon almost $130 billion out of a country within eight years and yet watch millions of children go to bed with a hungry stomach has lost its soul and is on its way to hell where there will be “wailing and gnashing of teeth”; a society that spends billions of Dollars on nuclear weapons to maintain military supremacy and yet watch millions of people die because they have inadequate medical coverage has lost its soul and is on its way to hell where there will be “wailing and gnashing of teeth”.

Though I have spoken about the reasons why poverty continues to prevail in our world, I will be doing the reader a great injustice if I stop here, without discussing what can be done to address the poverty in our world.

If the world is to become a more just place, one may have to examine the side note of the event that took place at Passeig de Gràcia. As explained earlier, I mentioned that there was a little girl who saw the beggar and stopped. This little girl was disturbed by the beggar’s plight. She had something that all the other one thousand and five hundred people that walked pass the beggar did not have: EMPATHY. In short, if poverty is to become history, the solution would not be found on the brow of the frowner or head of the occupier or the eyes of the observer or the hands of the thrower or the brain of the denier. Rather the solution will be found in the heart of the EMPATHISER.

Empathy is the capacity to see the world from the prism of another person. It is putting oneself in someone’s shoes. It is important to differentiate empathy from sympathy, as what the poor needs is empathy and not sympathy. Sympathy is a distant feeling, while empathy is a close understanding. A sympathiser pities the sufferer, whereas an empathiser not only pities the sufferer, but also shares in the sufferers emotional pain, as a result, she has a better understanding of what the sufferer is going through. A sympathiser’s sympathy is detached from the sufferer once he is far away from the sufferer, whereas an empathiser’s empathy is still attached to the sufferer even if he is far away from the sufferer. A sympathiser sees a sufferer as another person, whereas an empathiser sees the sufferer as herself.

Barack Obama once said: “we live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principal goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. A culture where those in power too often encourage these selfish impulses.” If governments, businesses and individuals can move away from either a sympathising or selfish spirit towards an empathising spirit, then perhaps ending poverty could be achieved in our world. Viewing poverty from the perspective of the poor will accelerate the urgency on the part of mankind to do everything possible to end poverty.

Over a hundred years ago, William Booth, the founder of the Salvation army when encouraging his congregation to become more compassionate about human souls said: “most Christians would like to send their recruits to Bible college for five years. I would like to send them to hell for five minutes. That would do more than anything else to prepare them for a lifetime of compassionate ministry.” Perhaps if the frowner could spend five days in the poor woman’s hell on earth, his frown towards the poor will be converted to a smile; perhaps if the occupier could spend five days in the poor man’s hell on earth, her busy attitude towards the poor will be converted to a compassionate attitude; perhaps if the observer could spend five days in the poor woman’s hell on earth, his apathy towards the poor will be converted to action; perhaps if the thrower could spend five days in the poor man’s hell on earth, her short-term gifts towards the poor will be converted to long-term structural solutions; perhaps if the denier could spend five days in the poor woman’s hell on earth, his amnesia towards the poor will be converted to remembrance and love.

Selah

Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA

April 2012

The views stated in this article are personal to the writer and does not represent the views or opinions of any company or organization with which the author is or was associated.

© Ahmed Sule, 2012


Appendix 1

Some information sources on ending poverty

http://www.makepovertyhistory.org/takeaction/

http://www.whiteband.org/

http://www.christianaid.org.uk/aboutus/who/aims/our_aims.aspx

'Occupy London' - What it is all about : Photo Essay

#OccupyLSX

The Williams Sisters: Family Affair

An Anatomy of the New Nigerian Middle Class

A  Sociological Analysis of the

Attitude and values of  the New Nigerian Elite

by

Ahmed Sule, CFA

suleaos@gmail.com

http://about.me/ahmedsule

&

Akeem Sule, MRCPsych

akeemsule@hotmail.com

“I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world’s deepest inequities……on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but your humanity.”

-Bill Gates

“I have to live for others and not for myself: that’s middle-class morality.”

-George Bernard Shaw

“Slums may well be breeding grounds of crime, but middle-class suburbs are incubators of apathy.”

- Cyril Connolly

Introduction

In most countries, the middle class plays an important role in its economic, social and political development. The middle class often acts as the backbone of society. Despite not constituting the majority in most societies, the middle class is a key contributor to better governance, economic growth and poverty reduction. The middle class segment often acts as a driving force for political change by demanding from the government better governance and provision of services.

In Nigeria, the middle class segment (Nigerian elite) is currently influencing the economic dynamics of the country. With the emergence of this new generation of middle class, the economic, cultural and political landscape of Nigeria is being transformed. Domestic demand is now on the ascendency, driven by the demand for middle class products and services, which has created vibrant industries in a range of sectors including entertainment, retail, banking and fashion, thereby opening up employment opportunities to Nigerians. Foreign investors who previously avoided Nigeria are now flocking back to the country in search of opportunities to tap into the potential demand from the Nigerian middle class.

Purpose of This Paper

Why have we decided to write this paper? What is the purpose of this paper? What do we hope to achieve? There is currently a paucity of research into the Nigerian middle class especially from the sociological perspective. Most studies have focused on the economic aspect of the middle class such as the study carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics titled “The Middle Class in Nigeria: Analysis of Profile, Determinants and Characteristics (1980-2007)”. In April 2011, the African Development Bank produced a report titled “The Middle of the Pyramid: Dynamics of the Middle Class in Africa”. This report made specific reference to the Nigerian middle class, however like the National Bureau of Statistic’s study, it was more economic in focus.

A critical analysis of the so-called Nigerian middle class from a sociological perspective is long overdue. In this paper, we dissect the anatomy of the Nigerian middle class by analyzing its values, attitudes and behaviour. By examining the middle class from a sociological perspective, we are extending the work of the civil rights activist and sociologist Franklin Frazier, the author of the iconic book titled ‘Black Bourgeoisie’(which examined the African American middle class). Professor Franklin suggested in his book that further study may need to be carried out on the middle class in post-colonial Africa. We also hope to dispel the myth of the so-called Nigerian middle class. Another objective of this paper is to provoke debate regarding the role of the middle class in Nigeria in addition to contributing to the modification of the mentality of this elite, which appears to be oblivious to its social and moral responsibilities and duties. Finally, we hope that this paper will bring self-revelation to the Nigerian middle class.

Definition of Middle Class

Middle class is defined as individuals or households that fall between the 20th and 80th percentile of the consumption distribution or between 0.75 and 1.25 times median per capita income, respectively. The African Development Bank uses an absolute definition of per capita daily consumption of $2-$20 in 2005 PPP US dollars to characterize the middle class in Africa in the above-mentioned study. This translates to a per capita monthly consumption range of N9,090 to N90,900. Taking into consideration inflation and the pricing structure in Nigeria, we will use an absolute definition of a monthly consumption of at least N400,000 to characterize the middle class in Nigeria. We will also cover the Nigerian middle class in Diaspora.

Evolution of the Nigerian Middle Class

The new Nigerian middle class is not the first set of middle class that Nigeria has produced. During the colonial era, the Nigerian elite comprised of interpreters, chiefs in the colonial legislative councils, lawyers, doctors, judges, magistrates, top civil servants, senior army and police officers. At the dawn of independence and post independence, the elites were products of the administration and educational system set up by the colonialists.  Some of these elites that came from the educational system, in the words of Kwame Nkrumah “tried to be more British than the British, and imitated the dress, manners and even voices of the British public school and Oxbridge elite”. Prior to independence, foreigners controlled the mining and banking sectors, as a result, very few Nigerians were employed in these sectors. Upon independence, a new set of elite emerged when a couple of Nigerians were employed in these sectors.

The indigenization programme of the Muritala Mohammed/Obasanjo regime in addition to the oil boom ushered in a new generation of middle class Nigerians. By the 1980’s, this generation of elites was financially obliterated due to the after shock of the Structural Adjustment Programme and military rule.

Since the beginning of the second millennium, a new generation of middle class Nigerians began to emerge. Democracy, globalization and technological advancement enabled Nigeria to join the global village. Foreign capital began to flow into the country, as military rule became a thing of the past. Banking and telecommunication reforms created a new generation of banks and telecommunication companies, which employed many Nigerians thereby increasing the number of middle class Nigerians.

Caveat

We are conscious of the fact that the middle class is not a monolithic group. This paper represents our understanding of the middle class based on observation, discussion, interviews, and review of newspapers, blogs, television, radio and magazines. We would like to emphasis that we are examining the behaviour, attitude and values of the so-called middle class and not addressing the sampling of attributes of the Nigerian middle classes, which can be tested statistically. This is not a study to degrade the Nigerian middle class, but it is to bring self-revelation to the class. Moreover, when we refer to middle class we are NOT suggesting that everybody in this segment of the Nigerian society exhibits the traits that we identify. Finally, this study excludes the super rich who we define as those with a net worth in excess of N500 million.

Descriptive Analysis of the New Nigerian Middle Class

In this section, we examine the educational, demographic, religious, occupational and life style characteristics of the Nigerian middle class. According to the African Development Bank, the lower middle class constitutes 6.2% of the Nigerian population while the upper middle class constitutes 3.8% of the population. The average Nigerian elite is likely to have a first degree. Some have attained professional qualifications, while others have achieved additional academic qualifications such as Masters or PhD’s. The Nigerian elite is likely to live in the urban areas of the country. They are situated in cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, Kaduna and other state capital and major cities in the country.

The new Nigerian middle class has emerged along with the expansion of the private sector in industries like banking, telecommunication, consulting and entertainment in addition to existing industries like the energy and manufacturing sectors. The middle class comprise of people in a range of professions including but not restricted to accounting, banking, engineering, fashion design, law, medicine and retail. While most of the people in the middle class are in salaried employment, a sizeable number of the people constituting this class are entrepreneurs. The return of Nigerians in Diaspora in search of opportunities has added to the number of the middle class resident in Nigeria. The Nigerian elite is likely to be either a Christian or Muslim and they often worship in places where other middle class people worship.

They often own durable goods such as cars and computers, are well dressed and either rent in the more expensive parts of the city or own their property.

The Talented Tenth and The Nigerian Middle Class

In September 1903, the African American civil rights activist and sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois published his influential essay titled ‘The Talented Tenth’. In this essay, Du Bois argued that social change for the blacks in the then segregated America could be accomplished by developing the small group of college-educated blacks he called “the Talented Tenth“. He suggested that the educated and influential among the blacks should lift up the remaining blacks. He wrote, “The Talented Tenth rises and pulls all that are worth the saving up to their vantage ground”.  In a follow-up article, Du Bois argued that “the power of this aristocracy of talent was to lie in its knowledge and character, not in its wealth”.

We live in an unfair world and ideally those who benefit from the system should take the moral high ground and lift up those not in a position to rise up.  In our society, the middle class should assume the role of the talented tenth and pull up the downtrodden up to their vantage ground.

History is full of examples of the talented tenth guiding the masses away from what Du Bois called “contamination and death”. For instance, in Nigeria a middle class elite comprising of people such as Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikwe and Anthony Enaharo used their knowledge, education and wealth to lift up their fellow Nigerians from the shackles of British colonial rule. The next generation of middle class elites such as Fela Kuti, Beko Ransome Kuti, Gani Fawehinmi and Wole Soyinka used their wealth, intellect and talents to lift up their fellow Nigerians from the manacles of military dictatorship; in South Africa a middle class elite comprising of people such as Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko and Walter Sisulu used their knowledge, education and intellect to lift up their fellow South Africans from the chains of Apartheid rule; in America a middle class elite comprising of people like Martin Luther King, W.E.B. Du Bois and Angela Davies used their knowledge, intellect and influence to lift up their fellow Americans from the fetters of Jim Crow, segregation and racial discrimination.

A critical examination of the recent revolution that took place in Egypt and Tunisia reveals the role that the middle class played in ousting the regime of Hosni Mubarak and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali respectively.

The above examples demonstrate that in any society, the middle class has not only an economic role to play but also more importantly a social and moral responsibility.

Unfortunately, the present Nigerian middle class appears to be oblivious to this additional responsibility.

Myth, Overestimation and Detachment From Greater Society

Even though they constitute a small percentage of the total population, the Nigerian middle class, like Alice, live in a wonderland and are unmindful to the happenings in the rest of Nigeria. The more their wealth increases, the more detached they become. As they continue to move out of the suburbs into the middle class and richer environments, they become more detached from the sufferings of millions of Nigerians. The elites have a high estimation of themselves and see Nigeria from their own paradigm. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the social crusader captured this mentality in his song ‘Ikoyi Mentality vs. Mushin Mentality’ which analysed the detachment of the elite from the masses.

The Nigerian middle class including the Nigerian Diasporan have created a myth about their economic power, yet it is still as fragile as that of the previous generation. International business media such as the Financial Times and The Economist have encouraged the hype as they are all too willing to praise the achievements of the new middle class while ignoring the plight of the downtrodden in the society. The Nigerian middle class is still made up mainly of salaried workers whose source of income is still heavily correlated with the price of oil and the economic cycle. As a consequence, there is a high risk of some members of this class falling below the middle class in the event of a significant economic shock.

Values, Attitude and Behavior

In this section, we discuss the attitudes and behavioral characteristics of the new Nigerian middle class. Six areas will be examined namely:

a)    Break of culture

b)    Wealth Amnesia

c)    Consumerism and Increased use of debt

d)    Self-centeredness and Disregard for the “Least of These

e)    Shallow Mindedness and Superficiality

f)      Inferiority Complex and Egocentricity

a) Break With Culture

Like some of the early elites of the post independence earlier who often behaved ‘more British than the British’, these current crops of Nigerian elites are gradually losing their Nigerian and African identity. Thanks to modern technologies such as the Internet and satellite television, which is accessible by the middle class, they now have exposure to news and trends occurring all over the world. While this is good, unfortunately, it has resulted in the development of the Anglicized Nigerian elite. This Anglicized Nigerian even though based in Nigeria has little interest in what is happening in the country. While he can tell you what is happening on the British and American news space, he has limited knowledge of the Nigerian headline news. While an elite is willing to wear the jersey of an English premiership club and can name all the teams in the English Premier League, yet she can’t name a single club in the Nigerian Premier league.

Middle class parents often brag about how their children can’t speak the indigenous languages such as Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba. Conversations between parents and children are now in English as our indigenous languages gradually become extinct in middle class Nigeria.

Previously held African values such as respect for the elderly are no longer observed. The children of the Nigerian elites have been accustomed to seeing their parents disparage the house help and drivers. In some instances, these children are disrespectful to the much older house help and driver.

The situation is no different for the Nigerian Middle class in Diaspora. As they attain middle class status in countries like the UK and the US, they begin to lose sense of their identity. They no longer see themselves as Nigerians, but as Brits and Americans. In order to integrate into the society, they change their Nigerian names to English names; consequently, Oluseun Adamu becomes Sean Adam, Mukaila Alani becomes Michael Alan and Anike Suleiman becomes Anne Su.

b) Amnesia

Another behavioral trait of the Nigerian middle class is wealth amnesia. From Scriptures, we learn that  ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. This means that everything that is happening now has happened before. The new Nigerian elite often suffers from wealth amnesia as they behave like i) they are the first generation of middle class Nigerians ii) Nigeria never experienced a period of abundance.

They brag about shopping in the new malls while failing to realize that Nigeria once had stores like UTC, Kingsway and Leventis. They talk about Beyonce and Jay Z coming to Nigeria, while forgetting that bands like Kool and the Gang and Shalamar performed live in Nigeria.  They brag about forking out thousands to watch a movie at Silverbird Galleria, while they forget that not long ago, there were cinemas all over the country.

Those that have escaped from poverty into the middle class forget about their small beginnings and talk about poor people as if they are contagious. They are always talking about the riches in the land and the opportunities to be exploited, yet they ignore the reality that millions of people are suffering without access to quality healthcare, education and food.

As explained earlier, those in Diaspora also forget where they are coming from and throw away their Nigerian identity.

c) Consumerism and Increased Use of Debt

With the emergence of the new Nigerian middle class, has come an increase in consumerism. Like their counterparts in the Western world, the Nigerian elites have started to take on more debt to support their growing consumption pattern. In the aftermath of the consolidation in the Nigerian banking sector, there was an abundance of excess liquidity. This coupled with the rising oil prices flowed in the form of  loans granted to a number of middle class Nigerians. Some of these loans were in the form of consumer finance, to fund the purchase of consumer durables such as televisions and automobiles. Many of the Nigerian elites took margin loans to invest in the capital market. With the crash of the stock market, the elites ended up holding stocks that had lost as much as  80% of its market value , while still having to repay the outstanding loan amount at astronomical interest rates.

In order to ‘hang out’ with fellow middle class friends, a number of people have had to take loans so as to live in expensive areas of the city. Some take loans to finance overseas travel, while others acquire designer clothes on credit, repaying the outstanding amount in installments. With the high level of leverage coupled with the increasing consumption appetite, a sizeable portion of the Nigerian middle class is living on the edge. Since most are salaried workers, they could face a financial tsunami in the event that they lose their jobs.

The situation is no different for the Nigerian middle class based in the Diaspora. A number of them have taken large mortgage loans so as to live in expensive neighborhoods closer to the whites and as far as possible from their fellow Nigerians. Coupled with the increase in consumption for wasting assets, these groups of people are also in a vulnerable position especially in light of the global economic crisis.

d) Self-centeredness and Disregard for the “Least of These”

During Jesus life on earth, he was very concerned with the plight of the people on the margin of society. These were the people that Jesus spent a considerable amount of his time with. In describing these people, Jesus used a very deep term named the “least of these”.  On the contrary, with the emergence of the new Nigerian middle class has come a disregard for the ‘least of these’ . Besides the disregard for the people at the margin of society, the elites also exhibit a high degree of self-centeredness.

Unlike the ‘dawn of independence elite’ that identified with the struggle of the masses, the new Nigerian elite is more satisfied with self. As millions of Nigerians wallow in poverty, these elites believe that they are entitled to the  ‘milk and honey’ of the land due to their hard work, intellect, academic qualifications and connections. Rather than use their wealth, influence and intellect for the benefit of the masses, they only use it to achieve their selfish goals.  This sense of entitlement has often resulted in these elites regarding the poor as lazy and deserving of their misfortune. They believe that the poor choose to be poor and if they would just be hardworking, then they would join the so-called middle class.

The Nigerian middle class chooses to ignore the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘haves not’. For the elite it is often about me, myself and I. In their dealing with the poor and less fortunate, they substitute what Martin Luther King calls the “I-thou” relationship for the “I-it” relationship in which the poor are relegated to the status of things. They come across as not only self-centered, but also self-seeking, self-conceited and self-important.

A classic example of this mindset was revealed when Farouk Abdul Mutallab was arrested over an attempted terror attack on a US airliner on Christmas Day of 2009. Rather than being bothered about the implication of Mutallab’s action on Nigeria’s reputation , safety and international relations, a number of members of the so-called Nigerian elite were more concerned about the possibility of Western countries refusing to grant visas to Nigerians.

Another recent example of the self-centeredness of the Nigerian elite occurred during the “Youth Lunch with  Jonathan”.  As part of the pre-inauguration programme of the newly elected President of Nigeria, Jonathan Goodluck set up a forum to engage with the Nigerian youth to discuss and debate on issues pertaining to the Nigerian youths. Invitations were sent to the ‘Talented Tenth’ who were supposed to voice the cries and concerns of the masses to the newly elected president. Rather than utilize the opportunity to challenge the president to make good his promises, majority of these so-called middle class youths chose to remain silent thereby confirming what Martin Luther King said many years ago: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people”. A few Uncle Tom’s and Aunty Jemima’s even decided to shower praise on the elected president rather than address the real issues. Although a couple of these elite youths challenged the president; while they were standing on the wilderness of concern, their lone voices were drowned by the silence of the majority of so-called middle class youths sitting on the mountain of apathy.

The Nigerian middle class in Diaspora also exhibits the same self-centeredness and lack of concern for the unfortunate.

They fail to be concerned about the fate of the millions of Nigerians and other people at the bottom of the rung of the social ladder, instead, they are satisfied being the token person at the top of the ladder.  They look down on the less unfortunate as inferior who have failed to seize the opportunities available in the land. For those based in the UK, they often look down on the Afro-Caribbean’s  as lazy; those based in the USA often look down on their African American brothers who they view as criminals and lacking in ambition; those in South Africa often fail to appreciate the challenges of the black South Africans who are just beginning to recover from the tragic Apartheid policies. These Nigerian Diasporan elites, turn a blind eye to racism, tokenism and classism.

Those that go back to Nigeria often have one major objective in mind: to make as much money as possible with no regard to making Nigeria a better place for all. It is this motivation for quick wealth that has often resulted in situations whereby the elites go back to Nigeria and get involved in corrupt activities all in the name of making a ‘quick buck’.

Unlike the earlier generation of Nigerian Diasporan elites who united with their African brothers and sisters to fight racism and colonialism, this current set of elites are just satisfied with three things – SELF SELF SELF.

e) Shallow Mindedness and Superficiality

Unlike their Western middle class counterparts, the Nigerian elite demonstrates a high degree of superficiality and shallow mindedness. This could be born out of the inability of the Nigerian elite to develop the mind. While the middle class in developed societies are respected for their ability to apply their wealth, intellect or influence to solve the societies pressing problems, our so-called elites are recognized by the size of the wheels of their cars, the index of their salaries, the number of digits on their bank statement and the label of the clothes they wear. A doctor, accountant or engineer who has excelled in her field of endeavor is not respected for her contribution to her field but is respected for her flamboyance, wealth or fame. This results in a situation whereby middle class professionals are pre-occupied with appearing on Ben TV or adorning the front cover of Ovation magazine, rather than sitting down to think about solving the many problems confronting our great country.

As a consequence of their shallow-mindedness, the Nigerian middle class focuses on the monetary and materialistic aspect of live while disregarding the intellectual, spiritual and human aspect of live. An elite  may have the money to visit the great cities of the world such as New York , London  and Calabar, but she is incapable of appreciating a stroll along Centre Park, a jog around Regent park and  the stillness and artifacts of the Calabar museum; he may buy his children the best clothes and gadgets, buy them first class plane tickets to tour the world, but he is incapable of spending time with them, showing them affection and teaching them values and wisdom to make them men and women of integrity; he may send his wife to Dubai, Paris and Milan for shopping, but is incapable of giving her love, affection and  attention.

The Nigerian elite is very class and money conscious and finds it difficult to hold a normal conversation without making reference to money and riches. For them Psalm 23 is rephrased to:

The Naira is my shepherd,

I shall not want. It makes me to be happy and

leads me to sleep in hotels in Dubai, London and New York.

It restores my bank account, dignity and connections.

It guides me in the path of selfishness, vanity and ignorance.

The Nigerian elite in Diaspora exhibits the same form of superficiality when he feels that because he has a well paying job in the Western world and has achieved middle class status, he is superior to the people based in Nigeria. Another example of this mindset is shown when these elites feel comfortable being the token black in their offices or on their street. They feel proud to say “ I am the only black person in my office” or “I am the only black lady on my street as all my neighbours are whites”.

f) Inferiority Complex and Egocentricity

The Nigerian elite lives in a bubble and has an oversized ego. However a critical examination behind this ego would reveal a high degree of inferiority complex. Evidence of this inferiority complex is manifested in several traits such as: the need to always ‘keep up with the joneses’ and the quest for status and recognition.

They often build their life around their role, their job, their houses, their cars, their looks and other material possessions. The risk with this approach to life is that in the event of any change in fortune, there is a high risk of them losing their sense of worth. This inferiority complex has resulted in many people using their limited earnings to maintain a standard of living that enables them to hang out with the ‘Joneses’. This leads people to move into expensive neighbourhoods, ride expensive cars and wear expensive clothes, which they can’t afford in order to be seen by others as wealthy. They believe that once they are seen with these possessions, it will encourage other wealthy people to associate with them.

In order to ‘belong’, they wear their best clothes to go shopping in places like The Palm Mall (Shoprite) so as to be seen with other ‘Joneses’. A place like Shoprite, which is just a shopping mall, has now become a melting pot for the so-called Nigerian elite to display their latest clothes, hairstyle and cars.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Having explored the evolution, characteristics and behavioral traits of the new Nigerian middle class, the next question to ask is where do we go from here?

On the economic front, the Nigerian middle class must shift from a ‘consuming middle class’ to a ‘producing middle class’. Any society built on a consumerism culture, especially a debt fueled consuming culture is a society  ripe for an economic disaster as can be seen from the recent Global Financial Crisis.

The Nigerian middle class must not only embrace its economic role in the society, but should also embrace its moral and social responsibilities. With tens of millions of Nigerians living below the poverty line without access to quality healthcare, quality education and quality justice, the Talented Tenth  should use their intellect, wealth and education to lift up the ‘least of these’.

We should learn to be our brothers and sisters keeper, because what affects them affects us. Afterall, Martin Luther King was right when he said “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” ; Obama was right when he said “if any child goes hungry, that matters to me, even if she’s not my child. If any family is devastated by disease, then I cannot be content with my own good health. If anyone is persecuted because of how they look, or what they believe, then that diminishes my freedom and threatens my rights as well.” ; Jesus was right when he said “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Conclusion

It is time for the new Nigerian middle class to wake up and build a legacy that will outlive and outgrow this generation. How does this generation of Nigerian middle class want to be remembered in future? Does it want to be remembered as the generation  of middle class that used its wealth, intellect and education to tear down the walls of poverty, disease and injustice that inflicted a generation of Nigerians? Does it want to be remembered as the generation of middle class that the Master spoke about when he said “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”? Does it want to be remembered as the generation of middle class that led the fight against oppression, exploitation and classism?

OR

Would it rather be remembered as that shallow-minded, self–centered and egocentric generation of elites whose vanity, apathy and indifference allowed oppression to continue in the land? Would it rather be remembered as that generation of elites that Jesus referred to when he said “for I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me’? Would it rather be remembered as that generation of elites whose first name was ‘ME’, middle name was ‘MYSELF’ and surname was ‘MINE’?

The choice is yours and history is watching.

LET HE OR SHE THAT HAS EARS…………

Ahmed Sule, CFA                                                Dr. Akeem Sule

suleaos@gmail.com                                            akeemsule@hotmail.com

PS: If you would like to discuss any of the issues contained in this article feel free to contact us by email using the address detailed above, otherwise, you can go to

http://zangodare.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/middle-class

and write your comments

The Winner Takes It All: Wimbledon 2010

US Open 2010

Photo Essay : 2007 Rugby World Cup- Fans Perspective

Mo Farah & Kweku Adoboli : A Tale Of Two Britons of African Descent

By Ahmed Sule, CFA

suleaos@gmail.com

Introduction

Once upon a time, over twenty-eight years ago, somewhere in Mogadishu, Somalia, a woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The child was given the name Mohammed. Three years earlier, in 1980, somewhere in Ghana, another woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The child was named Kweku.

At the age of eight, Mohammed left Djibouti (where he was based after his birth) for England to join his father Mr. Farah who was based in the UK at the time. Likewise Kweku also came to England at the age of eleven in 1991.

Life in England and education

Mo (as he was later called) attended Feltham Community College in London where he struggled academically, but excelled athletically. Kweku on the other hand attended Ackworth School, a private boarding school where he excelled academically. He was appointed the Head Boy of the school in his final year. Kweku later attended the University of Nottingham, where he obtained a degree in e-commerce and digital business.

Achievements

After their education, their careers took different paths. Mo became a long distance runner specialising in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres races. At the commencement of his career, Mo was an average runner achieving an average placing of seventh in various races at the European and World Athletic Championships between 2005 and 2009.

Three years after graduating from University, Kweku Adoboli secured a job at the blue chip Swiss investment bank UBS. Kweku was very hardworking and extremely intelligent. Within a couple of years of joining UBS in 2006, he rose through the ranks eventually attaining a position as a Director of ETF Trading , earning a seven digit pay packet. Kweku was well loved by his colleagues and was a star trader.

What Kweku achieved in the trading room of UBS, Mo began to achieve on the racing tracks of Europe. Between 2009 and 2010, Mo Farah won three gold medals at the 3,000 metres, 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres events of the European Athletics Championships.

Worldwide fame

The year 2011 was a watershed year for these two hardworking Britons of African descent as the year brought them worldwide attention. At the 2011 World Athletics Championship, which took place in South Korea, Mo competed in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres events. Mo won a silver medal at the 10,000 metres event and his crowning moment came on the 4th of September 2011 when he won the 5,000 metres race beating America’s Bernard Lagat. By this feat, Mo Farah became the first British athlete to win a global gold medal at 5,000 metres and a medal over 10,000 metres.

Exactly eleven days later on 15 September 2011, Kweku Adoboli was catapulted onto the world stage as it was revealed that he was alleged to have lost his employer $2bn as a result of a rogue trade. The amount lost by Kweku was the biggest loss ever accrued by a single trader in British financial history. Kweku made headline news all over the world and his face was adorned on the front pages of the tabloids, the broadsheets and the financial newspapers. Kweku was eventually arrested and has been charged with fraud. As at the time of writing, he is yet to be convicted.

Analysis

Mo and Kweku are both British citizens who have spent 70% and 64% of their lives respectively in England. They are also products of the British sports and financial institutions respectively in addition to the British educational system. Although they are of African descent, they are British by culture, citizenry and fame.

However, at the peak of their fame, one notices an asymmetric treatment of their recognition as Britons. While most people have recognized Mo as British, the reverse is the case for Kweku who has been widely described as African.

To illustrate my point, I highlight below references in the press to both Kweku and Mo at the peak of their fame:

04 September 2011 to 05 September 2011

“Great Britain’s Mo Farah crosses the finish line to win the 5,000m title at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu” – AP

“Few British athletes have sacrificed more to win, and he was elated with what he had achieved” – Guardian

“Mo Farah claims place among British all-time greats with World title triumph”

- Daily Mirror

“Brendan Foster believes Mo Farah is Britain’s greatest ever long distance runner”

- Daily Mail

“Patience, patience, patience. Those were the last words of advice Mo Farah received from his American coach, Alberto Salazar, before he went to the start line for his 5,000 metres final. Britain must give thanks that the Londoner is a good listener”

-Daily Telegraph

“MO FARAH became the first Brit to win a global 5,000m title and then roared: ‘Bring on 2012’ “- The Sun

and here are comments from a number of blogs

“well done for all in Britain”

“Mo got the tactics just right in the 5k. Up there with the best of British distance running and a great guy.”

15 September 2011 to 16 September 2011

“From Ghana to the City: the rise of a trader who had it all”- The Telegraph

“Adoboli, British-educated and of Ghanaian descent, did not enter pleas to the charges when they were set out at the magistrates court”.- Guardian

“The Ghanaian, who was privately educated in Britain and is the son of a retired UN worker, is accused of being responsible for the biggest loss ever accrued by a single trader based in London” – Daily Mail

“Adoboli appeared before City of London Magistrates’ Court this afternoon.  During the fifteen minute hearing, the well-built Ghanaian was handed a tissue from the clerk as he wiped a tear away”.- The Sun

“Vickers, silver-haired and a knighted academic, is a far cry from the 31-year-old party-loving Adoboli of African origin. Still, they are in the spotlight this week and inextricably linked.”- Business Standard

“Educated at an exclusive school in a picturesque patch of English countryside, Ghana-born trader Kweku Adoboli was known to neighbors as a polite and well dressed young man who mixed grueling hours in London’s financial district with a lavish social life in the capital’s nightspots.” – AP

and here are comments from a number of blogs

“Thought so when I heard his name, looks Nigerian, fraud and scams are endemic to these people, I always used to tell my clients never accept payment from Nigeria except in hard cash.”

“The bank that trusts a Nigerian employee (Kweku Adoboli) with money is a bank that’s about to go out of business rapidly.”

Conclusion

As the saying goes, “success has many fathers, while  failure is an orphan”. Could this explain why Mo Farah is referred to as British while the public forgets his Somalian roots and why Kweku Adoboli is referred to as Ghanaian, Nigerian or African and his British affiliation is easily forgotten?

Would Kweku have been referred to as Ghanaian and not British if  he won the Nobel Prize for Economics? Would Kweku have been referred to as African and not British if  he found the cure for cancer? Would Kweku have been referred to as Ghanaian born and not British if  he won the Olympics 100 metres final?

Or

Would Mo have been referred to as British and not Somolian if  he was found to be a terrorist? Would Mo have been referred to as British and not African if  he failed a drug test?  Would Mo have been referred to as British and not Somolian born if  he was a serial killer?

It is time for Britons of African descent or Africans of British birth to be recognized as either Africans or Britons irrespective of success or failure, fame or notoriety, good or evil; after all Brits of Jewish descent are recognized as Brits; Brits of Australian descent are recognized as Brits and Brits of American descent are recognized as Brits.

Ahmed Sule, CFA

suleaos@gmail.com

September 2011

(Source: obv.org.uk)