HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? By Philemon Doro Adjekuko

by on May 17, 2016

The figures are mind bungling. But there seems to be no end to the revelations. As you get over a story another breaks. These stories are about billions of naira belonging to Nigerians fretted away by a few individuals.

And now you have the Panama papers. When the story broke, a friend said that the story would turn out to be fake if some Nigerians are not on the list. Sure enough, the names of Nigerians on the list  have started coming out like a school of fish heading into a mating season.

Around the world, some individuals mentioned in the Panama files are already taking a duck under their tables even before anyone asked them to confirm or deny.

But at home in Nigerian, another circus has just began. Oh, it is a  witch hunt. Oh, it is my political enemies at work. Oh, somebody is trying to tarnish my image. Oh, my name is not specifically  mentioned anywhere in the document . Oh, the properties belong to my wife’s siblings.

It is only in Nigeria that it does not matter whether you hold somebody on the elbow or on the wrist. It is only in Nigeria that the words “red handed” have no probative value. it is only in Nigeria that  the phrase “prima facie” is exists only in the law books. Here we leave the substance and put the shadow on a marathon for our bizzare entertainment.

For me the nagging question is “how much is enough?” Rev. Kukah once told the story of a man who got to a land where strangers are offered land free of charge. At the king’s palace he was told that all he needs to do is run  around the area he wants for land and it would be his. The foolish and greedy man ran all day, trying to cover as much land as he could instead of what he actually needs to settle down in his new abode. At the end,   he arrived back at the king’s palace  but collapsed and died out of exhaustion  before he could tell what amount of land he had covered. As he was being lowered into his burial place, a small piece of earth,  the king asked his subjects “how much land does a man need?” . The fact spoke on its own behalf.

Economic theory has proven that the welfare of an individual increases as his income increases but only up to a point and then it becomes flat thereafter no matter how much income or wealth increases from that point forward. This is perhaps one of the reasons why some extremely rich people desperately look for means to give away their wealth. The money is meaningless to them.

However, in Nigeria logic is always turned on its head. The rich are scared to give away even crumbs that they do not need just as they continue to acquire more. They will tell you just how tough things are while billions lie idle in their local and foreign  bank accounts. They use their feet to pick up crickets while carrying elephants. Usually, it is the crickets, the little items of greed,  that put them in trouble. Otherwise, what do you make of the charge that the Senate President,  Saraki continued to draw salary as if he was still governor of Kwara state. Assuming that allegation turns out to be true, would it not make you wonder what on earth he needs those peanuts for. No governor bothers or thinks about his salary  because it is  a  meaningless figure compared to what he has access to spend monthly while in office.  But such is the nature of greed in Nigeria that the so called big men steal little things they don’t need. They even still such little things  from the poor.

And as always, at some point, what has been meticulously shielded from public view will be a subject of conversation at the market square. Those experts  of secrecy havens scattered around the remote corners of the world  are nothing more than mere salesmen of worthless snake  oil. It has always been so and it will always remain so. Only time separates the known from the unknown in this turbulent world of nosy technology.

But then, I must again raise the question. How much is enough? Eventually, these men will die like all other sons of men. Some of the stolen money will be lost to phony secrecy brokers. What is left will be fought over by wives, mistresses and wayward children. And society will take a further plunge into despair. The big men may have had some fun but they did not need all that money to have what is adequate lifetime fun. A few things are enough for any man. Anything beyond is a waste.

Mr Adjekuko, an Economist, wrote in from Abuja.




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