By George Udom
As expected, with the arrest of Hushpuppi came the barrage of criticism and condemnation. However Nigerians have refused to see it as an opportunity to look inside and condemn not just the man who was caught but also the system and culture that produced him.
It is important to condemn and reform the system and culture because there are many more Hushpuppis out there and many more to come in the future if the machinery of the Nigerian culture and system continues as is.
You see, there is hardly any culture in Nigeria at the moment that asks questions about the source of a man’s overnight wealth. Even the tribes who used to pride themselves on holding people accountable e.g the Yoruba now have a generation of youths who say ‘gbogbo wa ni ole, eni tile mo ba ni barawo’; translated ‘we all steal but only the one who is revealed at dawn is the thief.
Why do we all pretend like Hushpuppi is not the profile of the new Nigerian youth who glorifies wealth more than hard work? If you are genuinely not like Hushpuppi, you are among a few endangered species about to go extinct. Hushpuppi is not an isolated case. He is the product of a larger system and culture.
Hushpuppi was made by the government who have made a habit of owing pensioners who have served their state and country meritoriously for 35 years but have to die without their entitlements as senior citizens simply because some big man has ‘invested’ their pensions and is collecting returns for himself.
Hushpuppi was made by the kings who collect huge bribes in exchange for chieftaincy titles without asking how the money was made.
Hushpuppi was made by the musicians who sing songs like ‘if you don’t have money, hide your face’
Hushpuppi was made by the police who guard people with questionable sources of income while leaving the poor unprotected. The police who discourage you from reporting suspicious elements in your neighbourhood because when you do, they will reveal your identity to the person you went to report.
Hushpuppi was made by the parents who put pressure on their wards to look at their mates who are making money without knowing the source of the money
Hushpuppi was made by the politicians who benefit from the services of ‘babalawos’ and therefore are unable to curb the same ‘babalawos’ from using the same powers to graduate Yahoo boys to Yahoo plus
Hushpuppi was made by the big man who oppresses the poor among us saying ‘Do you know who I am?’
Hushpuppi was made by the new age Nigerian showbiz merchants who drive luxury cars and live in luxury mansions yet have not released any blockbuster movie or platinum record all their career.
The civil servants who have property that could only have been gotten from ‘other sources’ It is one thing to have no verifiable source of income like Hushpuppi, it is another to live a lifestyle that is over and beyond what we all know your income can afford.
Hushpuppi was made by the stand up comedians who desensitize the populace saying things like ‘Hustle o…so that law enforcement will not come to arrest your neighbours and leave you’ as if it is a sin to not do crime. Just wait as someone comes at me saying “that was just a joke now”
Hushpuppi was made by the motivational speakers who say it’s better to be the big man inside the car than to be the bodyguard inside the rain as if there are some jobs that are undesirable.
Hushpuppi was made by the Pastors and Imams who collect tithes and offerings from people with questionable wealth and look the other way. This is why crime is increasing at almost the same rate that churches and mosques are springing up. Somehow these shady elements have come to believe that ill gotten wealth isn’t so bad once they’ve given the church or mosque a good portion.
Hushpuppi was made by all of us. Infact only very few of us do not have a Hushpuppi lurking somewhere inside our minds waiting for an opportunity to express himself.
We are a people for whom there is more Dignity in wealth (quick and from any source) than in labor. Maybe the many years of poverty under military rule or the sudden unrestricted affluence of the era of civilian rule have helped to make us want money at all costs. Whatever it is, we need to look inward now and attack the problem from the root otherwise this is the generation of the Hushpuppis…
Credit: Oladeinde Samuel