One of the curses nature imposed on
Nigeria is that of abundance of
resources. Like the saying goes “too
much of everything is bad.” Nature
deemed it fit to “over bless” Nigeria
with resources and Nigerians in a
spectacular fashion have turned the
blessing into a curse. In terms of
natural resources, few nations in the
world are as endowed as Nigeria yet
Nigeria is still waddling in the abyss
of underdevelopment. Inarguably
there are a variety of factors
responsible for our economic woes, but
two major precipitants most people
tends to overlook is the ostentatious
lifestyle of some Nigerians and the
general culture of waste. Take a
cursory look at the major streets of
Nigeria, to the discerning one thing
should be clear, there is too much
waste and showoff in the land.
In Nigeria, we astoundingly and
astonishingly fritter away so much of
our resources, that one begins to
wonder if the concept of saving and
judicious use means anything to
Nigerians. We waste all kinds of
resources in Nigeria, such that none
are spared of wastage! None!
Economic resources, human resources,
intellectual resources, water resources
etc is perennially wasted in Nigeria
with no thought for the morrow. The
perplexing part is that we don’t just
waste, it now seems like we are now
exalting the culture of waste. The
present culture of wastage cuts
across all segments and strata of the
society and knows no boundaries.
Permit me to give an account of the
experience I had one time in Nigeria. I
stayed the night in a friend’s house
and in the morning when we were
about to leave, I noticed he didn’t
bother to switch off the light-bulbs in
his house. I thought he probably
forgot to put them off since we were
in a hurry and tried to remind him to
turn off the lights. To my utter
amazement, he told me he doesn’t
care, matter of fact he liked leaving
his light bulbs switched on. I asked
him if that was not a waste of
resources, he answered curtly and
sarcastically, what resources? I said
natural resources. He told me he
doesn’t know what I am talking about
and if he could, he would leave the all
lights in his apartment on perpetually.
He then added for full effect “Na
light when we no dey even see at all
naim you dey worry me make I save, I
no dey save anything.” Although I
perfectly understood his frustration
with the epileptic power supply in his
area, I tried to make him see that he
may just be part of problem with his
imprudent and wasteful use of scarce
power, he stood his ground that he
didn’t care much about my sermon on
judicious use of resources. I left his
place slightly sad because I know my
friend’s mindset is not an exception,
rather it is the norm. Most people in
Nigeria don’t care about conservation
and prudent use of resources. But
there is no way we can progress as a
nation if we continue on this road of
waste.
Most of the great economies achieved
greatness by a simple economic
strategy. They made it a necessity to
conserve their resources and consume
less than they produce. In Nigeria the
reverse is the case, we consume far
more than we produce. As a country
we spend more than we earn and this
reflects in our constant annual deficit
budget. The sad thing is that most of
the wasted resources does not go to
satisfy the basic needs of the people,
but is simply used the feed the ever
burgeoning avarice of the rich.
Government officials are most guilty.
Daily we are regaled with stories of
how poor Nigeria is by government
officials and how Nigerians should
adjust their belts yet the same
government officials live like Arabian
royalties, like we have all the money in
the world. They fly out of the country
at the slightest whim and when they
travel, they don’t do economy or
business class, they do first class.
They lodge in six star hotels, they
collect hefty estacodes, they are paid
all sorts of allowance and salaries
that is clearly not commensurate with
the services they give Nigerians.
In reality, the rot really starts from
the “oga at top” who spends almost
one billion naira on food yearly, when
more than 70% of his countrymen
lives on less than $2 per day. Only
“oga at top” reportedly has a fleet of
12 airplanes, while the nation as a
whole cannot boast of even one jet.
What kind of lopsided allocation of
resources is that?
On their part, our governors are the
culprit-in-chief of wanton waste of
resources. From their conduct, it is
apparent that these guys are so
separated from reality, the reality of
excruciating poverty in the land, the
reality of so many destitute and
desperadoes in the land. A single word
that is lacking in the dictionary of all
the governors is modesty. From their
offices which look like palaces of
sheikhs to their convoys which will
make some presidents in Europe go
green with envy, to their jets,
everything about them screams waste
of public funds! The other day I heard
a governor moaning about the seizure
of his jet as if it was his breathe that
was ceased, amazingly so many
Nigerians even joined in the
hullabaloo, they raved and raved, yet
no one asked if the dividends of
democracy have trickled to all parts
of the state that the governor now
felt justified to indulge himself in the
luxury of owning a private jet. The
truth of the matter is going by our
economic situation NO governor
deserves to own a jet in any guise.
There are states in Europe, Asia and
America which are ten times richer
than the states of the jet cruising
governors, yet these guys do not own
jets, some of them them even resort
to using public transportation when
the occasion calls for it.
I once saw the convoy of a Chancellor
in Europe which comprised of a grand
total of four cars, amazingly the
convoy cruised past me without any
fanfare, if someone didn’t tell me,
there is no way in the world I would
have known that the leader of one of
the richest economies in Europe and
the world just past me. Compare this
with the typical Nigerian Governor,
who moves in convoys of up-to 35
cars. As for “oga and madam at the
top” don’t even go there! Why should
a governor waste such much resources
in a land as poor as Nigeria? Let’s not
even talk about the cost of
maintenance, let’s just concentrate on
the cost of fueling those fuel-
guzzling jeeps in the governors’
convoys. Is this how to build an
economy? By wasting such much for
nothing? I see the “Governojets” I
weep! In just one geopolitical region,
three governors reportedly own
private jets, yet the states which they
govern continue to wallow in squalor.
The Nigerian lawmakers who are some
of the highest paid lawmakers in the
world are in a class of their own when
it comes to wasting resources.
Recently it was reported that 34
members of the senate have not
sponsored any bill for the entire
duration of their stay in the senate,
what a horrendous waste of
resources! What the heck are they in
the senate for? For sightseeing or to
collect allowances?
The Nigerian dollar billionaire and
millionaire especially the nouveau riche
are not left out in this malaise, they
spend outrageous sums of money
trying to outdo themselves in their
petty game of opulence. From the way
they squander money on acquiring
expensive toys like airplanes, yachts,
it doesn’t take much arithmetic to
discern the fact that most these guys
flaunting their obnoxious wealth did
not work hard for their money. From
the oil subsidy thieves, the politics-
made millionaire to the jet cruising
pastors, most of them can afford to
lavish money because they never
worked hard for the money. Nigeria
has the highest number of private jets
in Africa, the question arises why
should Nigeria have the highest
number of private jets in Africa? Is it
that we have become too rich or
what? Surely the increasing number
of jets is not indicative of economic
growth or development, rather it is an
evidence of mis-allocation of
resources, it is indicative of the fact
that the commonwealth of the nation
is been diverted into a few hands at
the top.
Take a long look at Nigerian cities, the
mishmash is is befuddling. On the one
hand you see sheer opulence and at
the other there is excruciating
poverty. Nigerian cities can be best be
described as a paradox, only in
Nigeria can you see owners of
expensive machines like Porsche,
Bentleys, Pontiac and others driving
nonchalantly past a sea of
desperately poor hawkers, beggars
and destitutes on the death traps we
call roads in Nigeria without any care
in the world. The kind of exotic cars
you see on some Nigerian roads makes
one begin to wonder where all the
money is coming from. The same land
where the minimum wage is eighteen
thousand naira, yet there are so many
expensive cars struggling for space on
Nigerian roads; certainly these cars
do not belong to the hoi polloi or
masses, it belongs to the “big big
Ogas at the top” who corner the
wealth meant for the people, if this is
not evidence of chronic corruption in
the land, then I wonder what is.
Truth is the so called average
Nigerian big man spends a little too
much on luxury goods, no wonder
branches of many luxury goods
companies are sprouting up in Nigeria
daily. Recently it was reported that
Nigeria has the second highest
growing champagne market in the
world.
This is the same country where 63%
live on less than a dollar a day. Who
are those buying these jets, who are
those drinking these champagne, who
are those driving all the expensive
cars? How many are they? How can a
few set of people hijack the resources
of the country for the sole purpose of
satisfying their ostentatious greed?
The unfortunate thing is the
government regards this wastefulness
as a sign of economic growth, it is
not! It is simply “a bubble or burst
economy” and from the way we are
heading we will most likely burst,
because our consumption is hinged on
oil, nothing more! Elementary
economics dictates that you don’t
grow by consumption only, you need to
think manufacturing.
Most Nigerians are plagued with a
disease economists call conspicuous
consumption, id est, the need to to
consume resources not because it is
really needed but just to show off. We
see manifestations of these traits
every day. Our governors are buying
jets, our musicians are flouting
wealth, the pastors and religious
leaders are not left out, they are
buying jets left and right.
The danger with conspicuous
consumption is that it easily leads to
greed and thievery. A man who is
self-contented does not need to steal.
The corruption we see in Nigeria is a
direct result of our need to impress
each other with frivolities, at the end
it becomes a brutish rat race, a race
of survival of the fittest, but are we
really surviving, how can so few people
be rich in an ocean of poverty?
The “case” for ostentatious living in
Nigeria is boosted, accentuated and
promoted by the modern day Nigerian
musician. The modern day Nigerian
musicians and entertainers have taken
outlandish and ostentatious lifestyle
to another level. For the contemporary
Nigerian musician, no song is complete
without mention of how much he has in
his bank account, how many cars he
has, all they sing about is “my pocket
and your pocket no be mate” “I don
hammer” “maga don pay” “I don make
am.” Listening to these new kids on
the block and the way they glorify
money you don’t need to wonder why
our youths are so crazy about making
it and making it big, no matter how
they make it.
It is time to cut our coat according to
our cloth, as a people and as a
government.
We can’t continue living only for
today, we have to think about
tomorrow; for us to take the giant
leap out of poverty sacrifices have to
be made, there is an urgent need for
resources conservation, be it time,
natural resources, economic resources,
human resources, energy etc. It is
imperative to block all the loopholes of
wastage in Nigeria, starting from
“Oga at the top” to the “madam at
the bottom”. For us to get out the the
poverty conundrum, there has to be a
reorientation, people need to be made
aware of the need to conserve
resource. The rich people on their part
need to understand that a tree cannot
make forest, one rich man cannot
make a nation except he spreads his
wealth.
In conclusion, it behooves on the
president to show the way. He has to
start by letting government officials
know that governance is not an
opportunity to loot or show off. He
should start from himself, and do
away with all the extraneous luxuries
he is currently enjoying. He should
borrow a leaf from the late Burkinabe
hero Thomas Sankara who personally
lived a very frugal life as a head of
state and introduced sweeping
changes and ordered all his officials
to jettison all their luxurious lifestyles
for a modest one. If he cannot
emulate Sankara because he is dead,
he should take a cue from that model
of modesty the Uruguayan president
who lives in a ramshackle house and
donates 90% of his salary to the poor
in the his country. Finally, the truth is
that only when Nigerians learn to
manage our resources in a frugal and
proper manner will Nigeria get out of
the poverty conundrum.

Ikechukwu Mbachu
Brandenburg Technical University,
Cottbus, Germany
Email: ikechukwembachu@
gmail.com