IThis question came to my mind when I saw the video of Senator Dino Melaye giving his online fans a tour of his gold, silver and diamond plated wristwatches, cufflinks, belts and shoes. The ostentatious display should elicit pity, not admiration, because it suggests he is a man held down by the troubles of complexity. It is unnecessary for a man of his standing, who claims political and economic fulfilment to be seeking validation online, from youths who can barely afford a meal a day. The act suggests there is a kind of yearning, a vacuum, in him, and the manner he seeks to fulfil is a problem for Nigeria as a whole.
Dino Melaye is no stranger to poverty. Fate catapulted him from a background of want and unmitigated poverty into a new life of riches and fortunes. Within two decades, he has achieved what his contemporaries, those before him and even many after him may not achieve in their lifetimes. Instead of using his grace-to-grace story as a positive example to the next generation, the senator has gloats and brags, as if to provoke his fans, most of whom live in abject poverty, into depression.
It is easy to say “let the senator be” or “what is anyone’s business with how he spends his money.” While these may be valid questions, we must remember two things: Dino Melaye is a politically-exposed person and, second, he has a large following of young Nigerians. His actions have far-reaching consequences.
I will attempt to explain the problems I see in the following three points:
1.It empowers the yahoo yahoo culture. We cannot deny that Nigeria has a fraud challenge. Almost every major international fraud case involves Nigerians. It has almost become the number one employer of youths, many of whom view it as a valid occupation. How would fraud not become a youth-culture with high-profile individuals like Dino Melaye, in his quest for attention, openly frolicked with the infamous internet fraudster Hushpuppi? The fraudster is now cooling off in a US prison, awaiting the punishment for his heinous crimes, and the senator continues to theatrical display of obnoxious wealth.
2.It puts a question mark on youths in politics. The politics of the old has been one issue Nigerians condemn about national politics. Should young people who venture into politics not be better than the old people we berate? Yes, they should. Instead, we have younger people like Dino Melaye who emerge from political positions to display wealth in a manner that mocks the poverty of the people they serve. This act filters a message to young people coming behind: “Join politics if you want to become like me.” The mirror effect of this character flaw is that young people will abandon the quest for real hard work for mass movement into politics. A better way of inspiring for someone like Dino would have been to mentor young Nigerians at universities, town halls and the social media to become champions of democratic governance. Instead, he sells them vain messages via ostentatious display of aesthetic possessions they will never acquire in multiple lifetimes.
3.It furthers the unhealthy appetitive for materialism. One of the major motivations for vices in the whole world is materialism – the quest for more and more earthly possessions. This quest motivates youth into crime and other forms of corruption. When a man of Dino Melaye’s calibre continually gloats online he fires up passion that is more likely to be pursued via wrong choices than not, especially given the economic challenges in the country. What legal ventures can his fans participate to own a fraction of what he shows off? This hunger to own what he shows off is a big problem.
Personally, I see Dino Melaye like a tree inside the river that craves for another kind of water – attention. He is in a perpetual race for recognition and validation, which is creating a silent problem for the entire country. His wealth is not a problem; after all, he is nowhere near the list of the richest Nigerians. His display is. He forgets that you do not need to advertise wealth. It manifests itself; Dangote needs not to show his diamond collections for the world to admire him and his riches.
Let me conclude by saying that there is nothing wrong in living in fulfilment with your riches. It, however, becomes somewhat offensive when you are a product of politics. It gives a damaging impression that the only way to make it big in Nigeria is through politics. This alone puts the future of our nation at risk.
I am simply curiously musing with concern for my country.