Monday, June 20, 2011

Wrong Family Up-Bringing in Nigeria - Its Long-Run "Negative Y-Index Cost" and Externality

Young Nigerians in the UK
I don’t know if you have received one of those highly forwarded messages with strings of e-mail addresses attached to it? I actually received one of such e-mails recently from an elderly friend titled: “Letter to Nigerian Parents”. Quiet unusual of me, I made effort to read through the entire message whose author remains anonymous; it became the main idea behind this particular writing.
This work starts by lamenting on the idea of not allowing children to have work experience in Nigeria. While many of UK-born, white, English undergraduate go on holiday especially during the summer, they all get jobs to keep themselves running. In fact many of them as early as 18 have become so self-sustaining and ready to leave their parents to begin their own life. These are issues I have experienced through my stay in the UK. The case is otherwise for the Nigerian child who absolutely dependence on parents for food, clothing, housing and shelter. The anonymous writer criticizes this and I share a similar view too.
“I also watched Richard Branson (owner of Virgin Airline) speaking on the Biography Channel and, to my amazement, he said that his young children travel in the economy class -even when the parents (he and his wife) are in upper class. Richard Branson is a billionaire in Pound Sterling. A quick survey would show you that only children from Nigeria fly business or upper class to commence their studies in the UK. No other foreign students do this. There is no aircraft attached to the office of the prime minister in the UK – he travels on BA. And the same goes for the Royals. The Queen does not have an aircraft for her exclusive use…Kate Middleton (lady who married Prince William) drives a VW Golf or something close to it. But there's one core difference [between] them and us (generally speaking). They (even the billionaires among them) work for their money, we steal ours!”
 The anonymous author may sound rather ‘hard’ on his choice of words but he makes absolute sense.
It’s not that parents should hands-off their children affairs but rather, they should tailor it towards them attaining independent economic sustainability in life. Parents in Nigeria, especially the wealthy ones are used to giving their children pocket money that sometimes beat top executive’s salary. Many young people from Nigeria that I have personally met in the UK are living the Jenniffer Lopez, Victoria Beckham, or Parris Hilton kind of lifestyle.
“we have Nigerian children who have never worked for 5 minutes in their lives insisting on flying "only" first or business class, carrying the latest Louis Vuitton ensemble, Victoria 's Secret underwear and wearing Jimmy Choo's, fully paid for by their "loving" parents”
Even the average and middle-class parents are following this trend. You now see many Nigeria campuses flooded with expensive cars driven by young boys and girls who have not worked for five minutes in their lives (the yahoo + syndrome is another issue on its own). Many of them go out with security escorts not because they need them for protection but for someone to be able to carry them into the car when they are overdrunk from parties. What kind of a life is that? And what is the implication of this for our country Nigeria?
First is that it piles up cost for the future. I’ll just call it “negative y-index cost” [i.e. cost to society created by young people which is similar to marginal social cost created by marginal private benefit] emanating from wrong family up-bringing. It leads to a generation, as we are now seeing in our society, that is half-baked academically, physically and mentally. With absolute dependence on parent for livelihood, young adults are liable to become a minus rather than a plus to the nation. While this is the first problem that will emanate from this trend, a second issue is a systemic one that leads to poor productivity in the Nigerian state. So, what happens within the family creates an external, lon-run cost that will be very difficult for us as a nation to recover from if something urgent is not done about this current trend. Space cannot allow me to talk about the poverty we will be carrying on into the future since our competitive value as a nation will drop drastically. This goes first to parents. Spiritual leaders: Pastors and church leaders also have a lot to take home from this. 

Seun Oyeniran.

A copy of the anonymous e-mail "Letter to Nigerian Parents" can be found here