Arrangee Parenting: Where the Change Begins With You, By Pius Adesanmi

PIC 6. THE CROWD AT A PROTEST RALLY AT GANI FAWEHINMI GARDENS AT OJOTA IN LAGOS ON FRIDAY (13/1/12).

If we collectively resolve to make change begin with us by reversing elite parenting, the positive results will feed into every other sector of our national life. No matter how tempting it is, this is one change that we cannot afford to live in Buhari’s hands. It must begin with us for the sake of our children.

Reader, this is one of my long treatises. Bear with me. Come with me…

We have overflogged the issue of why and how President Buhari and his team disqualified themselves from being taken seriously when they cling desperately to elite orthodoxy in terms of the paradigms of governance and conspicuous consumption and insist that sacrifice and change must begin with the people. From the mundane to the serious, multiple examples of opportunities deliberately missed to shift the paradigm abound. I’ll remind us of just one only for the sake of posterity for President Buhari’s missed opportunities is not the subject of the present reflection.

In Nigeria’s crude and primitive political culture, no contestant has ever retired campaign funds. Winners and losers of elections treat campaign funds like personal funds. President Buhari would have given change an inaugural energy boost by being the first to retire his own campaign funds in accordance with transparent practices in 21st-century democracies. Part of that fund retirement process would have included a transparent account of how “the loan” he sourced to buy his APC nomination form is being repaid or has been repaid.

When you do this, you acquire the immense mobilising power of the symbolic and the exemplary that no amount of sloganeering can confer on you. You acquire the sort of instrumental legitimacy capable of making the people answer your call. President Buhari, all the labour that has gone into trying to secure public buy-in for your anti-corruption war and your “change begins with me” campaign would have been unnecessary.

All that effort was rightfully greeted with scorn by the people because in case after case where posterity offered you an opportunity to be the first to shift the paradigm of governance in Nigeria since May 29, 2015, you have shirked that responsibility and insisted that change, especially of the sacrifice and belt-tightening variety, remains the exclusive lot of the downtrodden. If you had retired your campaign funds, the people themselves would have gone after an irresponsible tout like Ayo Fayose who had the effrontery to fight for the preservation of his own campaign funds – funds originally stolen from the people of Nigeria through Uncle Dasuki’s ATM.

However, because nuance is not the strong suit of Nigerians, especially in the arena of social dynamics, the legitimate inclination to call out the elite hypocrisy behind President Buhari’s summoning of the people to change and sacrifice has translated largely to throwing the baby out with the bath water.

In returning President Buhari’s message to him and telling him that change is the business of his Presidency and the elite freeloaders he is now sustaining in the Villa, there has been no recognition of the fact by the people that certain self-induced, self-propelled, and self-sustaining social changes need to happen urgently with them, beyond the blindnesses and the hypocrisy of a Presidency we all agree lacks the legitimacy to insist that change must begin with the people.

Many Nigerians believe that financial and economic corruption is what painfully makes of our country Africa’s greatest tragedy and disappointment. But social corruption is worse, far worse than economic and financial corruption. There is always the possibility of recovery from economic and financial corruption. Few people ever recover from social corruption to reach the mountain top if they require of social change to begin with the best leadership, let alone Nigeria’s kwashiokored leadership.

Nigerians think of economic and financial corruption as a greater tragedy because the metrics and indicators are always present in the public sphere in terms of the humongous amounts of money stolen daily by government officials and public servants.

The indicators of social corruption are a little more abstract and insidious. The intellectual has a responsibility to constantly break it down for the people if they are to understand that, for their own sake and that of their children, change at that level must begin with them and not with their disappointing leadership. Financial corruption is a symptom of the disease that is social corruption.

You may insist – and justifiably so – that change begins with the rulership at the level of financial corruption. They are the ones who need to stop stealing, curb their conspicuous consumption and other manifestations of elite devotion to the politics of the belly which makes the rulership of Nigeria so contemptible and detestable. When they take the lead here, civil servants will lose the basis for stealing and the rest of society will lose the inflatus to cut corners and be corrupt in every aspect of their financial relationship with Nigeria.

However, you cannot insist that change begins with the corrupt leadership in the arena of social corruption. It begins with you. Consider the example of arrangee parenting. It is one of the worst manifestations of social corruption in Nigerian society. It is arguable that financial and economic corruption, even at the level of Dasuki, Saraki, Amosu, Patience Jonathan, and other members of the EFCC class of 2016 – is just a symptom of the Ebola that is social corruption. The collapse of parenting across every socio-economic class in Nigeria is a major chunk of the said Ebola.

Arrangee parenting is instantiated by the desire to shield our children from the depredations of a Nigeria destroyed by an unbroken succession of ruinous leadership and complicit followership since independence.

At no point in my life did I ever experience the social corruption of arrangee parenting. Today, many millennials and younger folks have never experienced a Nigeria in which every process of national life, every institution of state, is not being constantly subverted by their parents who are constantly trying to rig and arrange things for them.

As the leadership responsible for this monumental national rot and the followership that has hailed and praised her in complicity since independence, now 40 to 80 years-old (or even older than 80), contemplate the ruin that is Nigeria, their instinct is the ironic recourse to arrangee parenting rather than fix the problems. You further wreck and destroy Nigeria by constantly rigging and arranging Nigeria for your children in the bid to secure special privileges for them and shield them from the decay.

Arrangee parenting is largely how my generation and older generations, those of us in our 40s to our 80s, have produced Nigerians who are 15 to 30 years-old. Arrangee parenting is the dominant model through which Nigeria has produced the millennials that many of us in the older generations turn around to blame as being living embodiments of the rot that is Nigeria.

I have always argued that I belong in the last generation of Nigerians to have been raised on the parenting model I experienced with Baba and Mama Adesanmi during my formative years. In those days, the parent who sought to rig or arrange Nigeria for his kid, instead of training and preparing him to make his way through life using his God-given talents and gifts, was the exception and not the rule.

Today, constantly trying to arrange and rig Nigeria for your children is the rule. It would have been unthinkable for Baba Adesanmi to have tried to buy common entrance expo papers for me ahead of the exams in primary school. It would have been unthinkable for Baba Adesanmi to have tried to arrange WAEC expo papers for me ahead of time in secondary school. It would have been unthinkable for Baba Adesanmi to have tried to cut corners, rig, and arrange my admission to the University of Ilorin. It would have been unthinkable for Baba Adesanmi to have tried to influence my NYSC posting.

At no point in my life did I ever experience the social corruption of arrangee parenting. Today, many millennials and younger folks have never experienced a Nigeria in which every process of national life, every institution of state, is not being constantly subverted by their parents who are constantly trying to rig and arrange things for them.

That is why I have always insisted that whenever you see a millennial who has turned out fine and upright, you need to greet him and shake his hand, for millennials are Nigeria’s first and only orphan generation. They are the first generation to be exclusively raised by a nation which offers them zero role models in the public sphere. They are the first generation to have experienced mostly arrangee parenting.

There is a story I have told readers of my Facebook Wall which I am yet to share with readers of this column. In late August, as I stood in a long and chaotic queue at the international airport in Lagos, waiting for my turn to check into a KLM flight on my way back to my base in Canada, two millennials arrived, escorted by soldiers in uniform. Most of the people in that queue were trying all sorts of tricks to take advantage of others by jumping ahead.

Man pass man being another feature of social corruption in Nigeria, the millennials whose parents arranged military escorts for them jumped straight ahead of everybody and went to the counter. At the counter, it was unthinkable that the two boys would undertake a task as demeaning as checking in by themselves. They stood aside as the soldiers did everything for them. Those millennials were obviously undergraduates returning to University in Europe, the United States or Canada. Directly behind me was a Colonel in the Nigerian Army. He was not in uniform and was determined to wait for his turn. I later discovered that his wife and their son – a millennial – were also with us on the queue.

The colonel would have none of arrangee parenting. He condemned Nigeria’s social decay vehemently and told me that he was merely resisting the urge to out himself and discipline the soldiers who had helped the two millennials jump the queue. He told me he was never going to do that for his son. His son must learn to wait for his turn in Nigeria. The colonel and I have remained friends and we now exchange emails.

That episode was an occasion for me to assess just how bad the phenomenon of arrangee parenting has become in Nigeria. That I was surprised to have encountered a parent determined not to rig and arrange Nigeria for his son is itself telling. It means that I experienced that parent as an exception. At some rungs of Nigerian society, it is no longer fashionable to use police escorts to try and rig and arrange life for your children. You must now use soldiers as a marker of class and status. And because you have rigged and arranged everything for them their entire lives, you have now produced children who cannot even check-in by themselves for an international flight.

When the super elite rig and arrange everything for their kids, the social phenomenon of arrangee parenting trickles down every rung of the ladder to the lowest classes. Because every opportunity in life, every fair chance, has been rigged and arranged for their children by the wealthy and the powerful, whatever crumbs that are left have to be ferociously fought over by less privileged parents in a national context underwritten by the law of the jungle and in which it is suicidal and unwise to be morally upright.

This explains why the civil servant, the office messenger, the driver, the maiguard, the houseboy, the roadside mechanic, the vulcaniser, the peasant farmer, and the peasant fisherman are also all involved in arrangee parenting. The rigging of society for one’s children trickles all the way down from the super elite to the super low. Because the super rich have rigged and arranged Nigeria for their children to the point of being able to create an alternative universe of private schools and private everything for them, all things public are left to rot and those in the lower rungs of society must also try to rig and arrange their own children out of the rot.

The children of the downtrodden are better informed than their parents. They are armed to the teeth with weapons of mass information and enlightenment lodged in the cell phones in their hands. Their mind is being shaped differently by the dynamics of the global knowledge economy.

This explains why the messenger who lives in Nyanya and earns N18, 000 per month must also enrol his own children in private schools. He will look for a Nursery & Primary school in Nyanya that he can ill-afford and must therefore also constantly cut corners and participate in corruption in the office.

This is the chain between social corruption and economic corruption. In the Federal Ministry in Abuja, the Minister, the Permanent Secretary, Directors, and mid-level staff are all thieves and must constantly loot, divert funds, and pad the budget in order to be able to fund the sort of arrangee parenting which involves creating spheres of exclusive opportunity for their children away from public institutions.

They expect the janitors, the drivers, and the messengers who labour beneath them to be content with the rot from which they have extracted their own children, but it doesn’t work that way. This messenger will also steal at his level in order to be able to practice arrangee parenting for his own children. He will aim for a Nursery & Primary school that he cannot afford because the public primary schools in Nyanya have no doors, no windows, no ceilings and boast pit latrines filled to the brim. Aiming for arrangee parenting means partnering with his pastor in prayer and fasting so that God will give him his portion.

His portion will come in the form of being able to disappear files and make them reappear upon bribery. From the proceeds of corruption, he will be able to finally pay for private school in Nyanya. He will also not forget the pastor who prayed and fasted and commanded the heavens to open up opportunities of corruption for him. He will pay his tithe. It is a no brainer that Nigeria cannot afford to insist that the change from elite parenting must start with Buhari for the direct victims are your children. This is one change that must begin with you, whether you are super rich or super poor.

Consider the case of the super rich. Too much easy money and a life time of corruption and privilege have blunted their capacity to read Nigeria. There is very little brain work going on in the ranks of the Nigerian elite. This explains why in Maitama, Asokoro, Gwarinpa, Wuse, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki, Magodo, and Banana Island, they are incapable of reading Nigeria’s social dynamics.

They have practiced arrangee parenting and rigged Nigeria for their children through primary and secondary school. Then they send those kids abroad for University education with the assurance that kids – who have no Nigeria street smarts and can do nothing for themselves because even soldiers have to help them check in for their international flights – will return home at the end of their University education abroad and inherit a Nigeria rigged for them by their parents.

The idea of inheriting a rigged Nigeria is why the elite are now already smuggling their kids back home after University education for rigged plum jobs at the Central Bank and other commanding heights of the private and public sector. These children do not even need to do interviews for those hiring them just assign quotas and slots to powerful Nigerians. For low paying crumb jobs, the Nigerian elite then assemble the children of the downtrodden in stadia and expose them to the elements and kill them.

The inability to read social dynamics, the assurance that the children of the domestic staff serving them today in Maitama and Asokoro will also serve their own children who would have inherited rigged jobs in a rigged Nigeria is what will prove to be the undoing of the Nigerian elite. The Nigerian elite have no clue. When you smuggle your kids back from the Western world and rig jobs for them and deny an equal playing field to the children of the downtrodden, you assume that the children of the downtrodden intend to serve your own children the way their parents are serving you.

And this is where you are mistaken. The children of the downtrodden are better informed than their parents. They are armed to the teeth with weapons of mass information and enlightenment lodged in the cell phones in their hands. Their mind is being shaped differently by the dynamics of the global knowledge economy. I assure that these children of the downtrodden will ensure that your own children will have no rigged Nigeria to inherit.

You guys are already living behind high-walled fences in Maitama, Asokoro, Ikoyi, Lekki because you are scared of the insecurity regularly unleashed on Nigeria by the victims of your social rigging. I tell you that high-walled fences will not be enough to secure your own children. To stand any chance in Nigeria, a time will come when your children will have to live in bulletproof underground bunkers, never to emerge to see the sunlight.

That is the imminent future that you cannot see because you are too intellectually blinded to read social dynamics. I tell you again, there will be no rigged Nigeria for your children to inherit. They will either have to remain abroad perpetually as second-class citizens or return to a Nigeria that will eventually consume them when she collapses under the weight of social contradictions occasioned by five decades of social rigging. Something is looming in the horizon but you cannot see it.

Sadly, the looming combustion and conflagration will also affect the children of the poor for when the sky falls, it falls on everybody. If we collectively resolve to make change begin with us by reversing elite parenting, the positive results will feed into every other sector of our national life. No matter how tempting it is, this is one change that we cannot afford to live in Buhari’s hands. It must begin with us for the sake of our children.

Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada.

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