(Unfortunately, this too is quite a long piece, but there’s a lot of juicy gist in it and I didn’t want to cut all of that off, eh?!)
There are plenty of laudable reasons I started the Thisday column, Sons & Daughters, but there was also a selfish part. Wide-eyed teenager that I was then, I believed it would make it easier to find a space in the social ladder.
Dumebi Agbakoba (Will be in Sons & Daughters tomororow)
What I wanted to do with that space if and when I eventually got it, I don’t think I knew for sure. But did I get what I sought? Well, there were varying results – and I will drop some names, trust me! Some of them have become real friends, like Morenike (Dr. Rasheed Gbadamosi’s daughter), there’s Solape (Governor Agagu’s daughter) who took me as some kind of ‘aburo’, Gbolahan (Sen. Obanikoro’s son) and I now have a distant mutual-respect friendship, and how could I ever forget how SHOCKED I was when Charly Boy said yes, I could take his teenage daughter, Adaeze, on a date?! But of course not all have ended well; Zemaye for instance, and Bimbo Adenuga (I still don’t understand what happened here, I had all her numbers both here and in the UK and her emails and suddenly I couldn’t reach her on ANY of them!).
When I started, I was much enamoured by wealth and wealthy people. I still am, but my fascination is much healthier, thank God. I do the column with more wisdom now: no more puppy-eyed questions, no sucking up, definitely no more of being patronized by kids who might be smart, yes, but when it gets down to it, really should be listening to me (Note: This is NOT my ego speaking!).
I can’t deny the power and importance of wealth. It is certainly a good thing that rich kids are able to go to the best schools, have capital to start good businesses and something to fall back if they make a mistake. Heck, if I had a father with plenty of money and contacts at the highest levels of the blue chips, can you imagine how much more of a grand success something like “The Future…” Awards would be? But the point is, no more respect for people who have money just for the sake of it.
A friend was having issues with her boss, a popular young publisher that typifies all style and no substance. This is also a guy said to have hit money by sleeping with older woman, coupled with the fact that his English is so bad I wouldn’t let him write the obituaries in my paper. But he had the guts to talk down on my friend’s excellent writing simply because he has enough money to buy a printing press. He had really killed her spirit, and I had to tell her: ‘Don’t let him get to you. Always remember that you are better than him – all he has is more money’. And then what I had just said hit me: it is SO true!
Temi Ogunsanya and Bolanle Austen-Peters (Two of my favourite 'aje-butters' - these two women have such a sharp business sense you would think they grew up with nothing!)
The main gist: there’s a rich-kid friend of mine (no names!) who’s ED of a big company on the Island, and has a father with legendary wealth, apart from being on first-name terms with Governors and Ministers – and no it’s not who you think, thank you very much!
Very deep and intellectual and witty; and anytime I visit her office it would be a roller coaster of fun gossip. Then I took our event for her company to sponsor.
Unfortunately she is also a disorganized person, so in between forgotten appointments, sudden trips, lost proposals and unwritten memos, one week to the event we had nothing. Plus, you know how these people are; she didn’t appreciate just how much we needed the money. I fired an sms telling her how disappointed we were about the seriousness.
My dear friend wasted no time firing an sms back calling the money ‘peanuts’ amongst other things that sought to let me understand she is so way above me on the money ladder that perhaps I should be grateful she’s even my friend.
It was so predictable I could almost laugh: it came to a battle of wills, and she took that easy way out! You can’t blame her; others do and get away with it, because they are usually dealing with people who are already insecure about their relative poverty (whether they confess it or not). It’s like what impotent rich men do; they can’t get the girl the good old woo-her way, so they use the cheque book. It is actually a sign of weakness. Ultimately, a display of powerlessness.
But I didn’t expect it from her. I was so shocked in fact that I sent off what was actually a cowered response (very unlike me, I assure you). Emilia flew into a rage and said I had to send a stronger reply! I should have, but didn’t.
Then a few days ago, I read that text again and realized that truly, the insult couldn’t go without an adequate response, and so I drafted one – I let her know her reply was tasteless. And I was ready for war!
My friend, however, floored me. She might have taken the easy road at first, but then there are those who have money and no substance and there are those who have both, and she is one of the latter. She sent me an sms, this time, with apologies and a coherent explanation (in fact going too far in the apology by exaggerating and calling me a “great writer!”). I was gob smacked, but I was also greatly relieved; it means I wasn’t wrong about her after all.
That’s it really: by all means, use your money – but use it only where it matters: if you want a loan, by all means let them that you have collateral; but not when it comes to stuff like inter-personal relationships … you can never be better than the other person by reason of the fact that you have more clothes, more shoes or a better perfume bottle. Oprah says it best, no matter how rich she is, she is still the same person – only in better shoes.
The Wisest Woman on Earth!!!
People cover up their inadequacies with money. In fact, certain people make money just to cover up their inadequacies! An illiterate will make more money in order to be able to employ literate people so as to be able to ride roughshod over them; but you see, he might be able to do that, yes, but he will still always feel inferior to them - always.
I had course to ask myself recently: why was there that obsession at the beginning of my career to belong in ‘the crowd’? The answer is simple: a complex; a complex that told me every waking day that because I cannot afford to be in Business Class, because I’m not in the Presidential Suite, because mine isn’t a four-wheel, I am less.
I know plenty of otherwise accomplished people who are prodded on by this intense complex. That’s why many of these Lagos Big Girls are broke I tell you! They grew up in Mushin and Ijesha and wherever else, got some good job or slept with some man and moved up to buying a house in Lekki, and instead of building something solid and investing, they want to sit in First Class with Okoya’s daughter, they want to be in Bambuddha with the Priddys, they want to ride the same cars with the Ibrus, to use the same Louis Vuitton, wear the same Tiffany Amber … for these ones, unfortunately, no matter how many contracts they win, how many awards they get, how many magazine covers they make, they will never feel good enough. And it is so, so sad.
The LOOMING Evil that is Louis Vuitton(Lol)
But you can’t really blame them. It is also the pressure of our society: a society that still talks about such crap as ‘old money’, nay a society that demands of you to live above your means to get respect! Isn’t it ironical for instance that City People columnists will yab movie stars for not driving good cars when they have none themselves?!
Before I bought my car for instance, certain people would treat me one-kain, mostly because I won’t dress up, added of course to my hatred for shoes. Yes, there was the ‘bohemian’ part of me, but there also the part of me that was earning less than the national minimum wage, yet was expected to ‘keep up with the joneses’ who were certainly earning at least 10 times what I was?
All that changed when I changed jobs, started earning some real money, and then I bought the car – the ultimate Lagos symbol that separates the poor from the climbing. Now this truly mirrors the shallowness of our society … I was still wearing my slippers and my adire, but as far as I could wave my car keys at the right angle, people who wouldn’t give a glance before began to discover some respect! It was the same me! The same stylish-less, shy, under-stated me. Only I now had a car key!
Sadly, soon you too begin to buy into the hype. It was one day, while discussing with Bola and Emilia, that I realized my self-confidence was beginning to depend on those perks – a 'big' phone, a laptop, the car etc - so that anytime I wasn’t with any of those things, I began to feel less! It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. But of course the biggest tragedy of all is that this is the story of thousands of other people.
Something had to be done! Which is one of the reasons I accepted my Abuja posting without a fight. I also wanted to see how my self-confidence would fare, especially in a law school where you would find the hyper-wealthy daughters of some Northern millionaires in cars shiny enough to blind your eyes!
I sold off the car before leaving Lagos, and embraced the idea of a place where True Love doesn’t circulate, where the people wouldn’t have seen me on STV, and where I could only be judged on how I comported myself (which really is the beauty of school, as a leveler), what I had upstairs and how I related to other people.
There is of course still recognition here and there (and it helped that a girl I had a short crush on saw my name in the magazine!), but all I really have now is me and my self worth.
And when I win the respect of my colleagues, based only on the things that I say and do now, and when someone picks an interest, not because I swung my car key, or I just walked out of Cubes, or the person I am talking with is some major Marketing Manager, I know I made the right decision to come here and be reminded of what’s most important.
Wait! It would be an equal tragedy if anyone runs away with this saying crap like ‘money is not important’. See, there is no pride in not being able to take care of your family or yourself. That is not the point here.
By all means, strive to make money, and even I continue in my striving to make more money to buy a better car, to fly First Class, to buy even more expensive perfume, and very importantly to be able to finance my ideas and create more value, so yes please let us all make money … but, let’s say, God forbid you don’t make that money, does it mean you will live the rest of your life thinking yourself less than the moguls and the tycoons?
The thing is, money certainly means you will live a better life (even though that, of course, is debatable), but don’t think it will make you a better person. You will just end up a small man in a big car.
Sad Anna (When she made such a fool of herself at the AMA Awards; it's hard not to feel sorry for her)
Everywhere you turn, wealthy bosses are still intimidated by their brilliant staff (Re: Obasanjo and Okonjo-Iweala), insecure husbands still can’t stand high-flying wives, Anna Nicole Smith just committed suicide, Judith Regan finally got fired, J-Lo still can’t find Love, 50-year old Republican congressman Mark Foley was caught molesting 16-year old boys, George Bush is back to drinking, Mel Gibson is in rehab, Governor Ayo Fayose is still on the run … and so on and so forth. And all of these people have money. Lots of it in fact. That’s something for us all to think about.