Growing up in Nigeria, I did not know there was anything wrong with it. My parents were comfortable, I went to a nice primary school, nice secondary school and though I was neither naive or stupid enough to think everyone lived like me, I never dwelt on these others. I knew they were there, you only had to drive through Lagos to see them, but I did not realise how minor my minority was.
It was only after I journeyed over the seas that I realised there was something wrong with my country. Sometimes the things in front of your face are the hardest to see. Poverty was so close that my vision blurred when I looked at it, my mind drifted when I encountered it but from a 6,000 kilometre remove, I could suddenly see Poverty with stark clarity.
It is strange, the things my subconscious has kept intact, things that made no impression at the time. Listless jobless men on slum balconies, roads paved with mud and dotted with tar, six year olds hefting trays of groundnut on their heads - and the more I remember these things, the more a feeling like guilt begins to grow.
Thinking rationally, it is clear that if blame were to be apportioned for the failures of Nigeria, my name would not be near the top. After all, I am not a politician, neither is my father; I have never stolen money meant for education, roads, electricity, transport, water, healthcare, security and neither has my father nor his father before him.
Yet though dismissal of my rich guilt is the only rational thing to do, rationality can be over rated. The fact, that I was born well above the poverty line, the fact that the probability of this happening is so minute it is miraculous, the fact that the government is letting the country go to ruin and the middle classes are content to have their private schools, private generators, private estates, private bore holes, private hospitals, all these facts make me very uncomfortable.
It occured to me one day that this thing that I call rich guilt is not that different from the phenomenom called 'white guilt.' According to Wikipedia:
'White guilt refers to the concept of individual or collective guilt often said to be felt by some white people for the racist treatment of people of color by whites both historically and presently.'
According to me:
According to me:
'Rich guilt is the invidual or collective guilt some (comparatively) rich people feel for the rubbish treatment of the poor both historically and presently.'
Perhaps rich guilt is one of the key factors that will change Nigeria. It's driven some to paint Mushin, start free schools, speak out against the government, stand for government and dig boreholes in their villages. Rich guilt has developped a social consciousness in Nigeria and as long as it spurs to action and not hot air, it will continue to develop more.
Naija oni baje!