It seems to me that we are on a long “moral holiday” reminiscent of the ancient Feast of Fools. The Feast, which had many cultural and historical variants, was generally marked by unrestrained hedonism and lawlessness. During its observance, it was customary for masters to serve slaves. The Lord of Misrule had the provisional power to legislate vices. Right and wrong meant nothing. Children were not required to observe codes of proper conduct. They were at liberty to do anything to get money. Greed reigned supreme.
Greed is a menacing force. It is destroying our material and moral universe, and dragging us towards a black hole. It has so heightened our self-absorption that we do not wholeheartedly inspire the best in others and contribute to the wellbeing of our nation. The fact is; patriotism and greed hardly coexist. Corruption flourishes where greed is not denounced. Hence, many wealth-besotted Nigerians think it is okay to underhandedly enrich themselves from public coffers, if they have the opportunity. In view of this, any strategic plan to combat corruption would be ineffectiveness in the long run, if fighting greed is not integrated to it.
Greed corrupts motives. Greedy leaders do noble things, but with seedy intentions. As long as crabs walk sidewise, it is wrong to expect greedy leaders to be propelled by pure motives and set things right. They cannot. History’s verdict is; money-lovers are bad leaders. Don’t forget, the love of money is the spring of all evil. Greed reduces our capacity to build anything of enduring value for humanity. It makes us to scoff at the conventionalities of transparency.
Greed is delusional. It has changed our self-perception in relation to our fellow compatriots and country. In part, this explains why it is now old fashion to say, “I am because we are” or “I am because I think.” It is now trendy to say, “I am because I shop”, “I am because I have.” As our world is becoming fatally materialistic, many people understand who they are mainly in terms of their economic status, shopping habits and acquisitive ability. Hence, Nigeria’s power-besotted elite would loot to buy high-end properties in Dubai and around the globe, though they may never live there or gainfully use them.
Whenever there is brewing corruption scandal in Nigeria, if you have the luxury of time to read some comments it has elicited on social media, you are likely to get the feeling that greed has muddled our sense of priority and undone our collective capacity for critical reflection. This is evinced in how we confer primacy on side issues, overlook the substance and spin conspiracy theories that seemingly make government and people of other tongues and tribes the scapegoat of the ethical failings of grafters from our ethno-religious affinity. It is ironic, in defence of the ethical infallibility of “our own”, even some notable Nigerians with proven cognitive ability to objectively reflect on issues from multiple viewpoints chant insipid mantras of ethno-religious bigots.
This is not a good way to protect our wounded “heroes.” Ignoring the essentials and cuddling shadows is still fatalistic. There is nothing redemptive about it. When we use puerile logic to build haven of succour, where we venerate exposed villains, we present ourselves to the world as shamelessly unethical people. We seem to have forgotten one lesson history teaches clearly: The darkest moment of any civilisation is heralded by the canonisation of twisted principles and doctored truths for base gain. Perhaps, we have not forgotten. It is just that when greed is at work, dubiousness is seen as a redemptive force.
Unfortunately, those who ought to set off the alarm are intoxicated by deceit, blindfolded by the god of pleasure and morally photophobic. They have become fugitives from truth and have forgotten that there is no marked difference between heaps of cash and ash without contentment. Hence, they say, “Pill gold skyward by any means or be doomed to misery,”
One of the marks of a greed-ravished society is that religion acquires the essential character of business conglomerates. “Get gold, forget God” becomes the subtext of sophistic sermons of preachers jinxed by illusion. This has given rise to the perception that religion is a system of embellishing delusion in order to promote devotion to money.
This sentiment is reinforced by spiritual airheads who market totems of handmade gods, exploit unsuspecting miracle seekers and build empires from proceeds of deceit. In fact, it is foolhardy to expect religious leaders who graduated from the Business School of Balaam, a prophet turned profiteer, a connoisseur of evil to draw attention to the dangers of living primarily to make money.
Now for the love of money, several young men resort to crime. For the love of things, some ladies would get nude in front of a camera. For the love of luxury, some parents fail to rightly prioritise the education of their children. Sadly, some unethical parents now use the don’t-you-want-good-things bait to entrap their children in the world of sex trade.
As a society we seem unmindful of Epicurus’ words; "Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants." Unfortunately, we don’t own things anymore, they own us. They are integral part of our souls; to part with them spells death.
On interpersonal level, greed is changing the fine art of friendship. Value-based friendship is now unpopular. True friends are rarer than ever. What is commonplace are hangers-on with veneer of advisers. Likability has nothing to do with personal qualities, but with possessions. When some want to “play in the big league”, they acquire airs of success, get the mask of affluence. This is destroying lives and homes as it exacerbates financial pressure.
One of the greatest minds of modern era, Albert Einstein, noted; “Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear and greed.” Greed rules by delusion. It makes us to tune out the voice of truth and reason. Wherever greed rules, domestic happiness does not come with prosperity. The saying, “The shoemaker’s son always goes barefooted” is true mostly of the greedy. For, greedy people do not seek riches to enrich the world, but to impoverish humanity and turn society to a junkyard of shattered dreams.
Dear compatriots, let’s not forget; freedom from want is a precursor to inner enlightenment. The joy of wholeness will elude us, if we live like moral cretins that are enslaved to wants. The journey to personal wholeness begins with the knack to rightly differentiating needs from wants. Conflating needs and wants makes us victims of the crushing yoke of consumerism.
Civilization as we know it does not have a great future, if we fail to combat the contagion of greed. Why? People tyrannised by materialism malfunction in a connect-and-collaborate world. They do not understand the dynamics of win-win situations. Over time, they become agents of destabilisation and engage in economic crimes. The fact that empathy and greed do not coexist has made violence a common feature of life. Anyone that lacks fellow feelings will become a plunderer regardless of his education, social standing and economic class.
We need to change the way we couch our anti-corruption messages, because some Nigerians are like the drowning moneylender. It is said; “It is useless to shout to the drowning moneylender “Give me your hand!” He does not know how to give. Instead, shout: “Take my hand!” and he will clutch at it.” Bearing this in mind, let’s stop saying, “give Nigeria your best” and start saying, “take Nigeria to greater heights.”
It wouldn’t take long to transform Nigeria to a 21st Century Eden, if we exorcize greed from our psyche. It will mark our exit from the defamed league of corrupt nations. It will make integrity the plumb line of public expenditure, which means, crony capitalism will become anachronistic. Leaders would be inclined to wholeheartedly pursue pro-poor development agenda. Entrenching a culture of contentment will make Nigeria great.