Embed from Getty ImagesRecently, a popular Nigerian blogger made headlines for acquiring a house worth about half a billion naira. Recently too, a Nigeria doctor resident in the United States made headlines for a different reason: He built hundred houses for widows in his village in Anambra. Because the latter story is so good, I will share some excerpts:
“Maduka replaced every thatched house in the area with three or four-bedroom bungalows and about 100 of such buildings are currently in place in the community. They belong to the indigent natives, especially widows. All such buildings carry green aluminum roofing sheets for easy identification and beautification of the place.
Dr. Godwin Maduka is the founder of the Las Vegas Pain Institute and Medical Center. Dr. Maduka completed his Graduate Medical training at the Harvard University School of Medicine in Anesthesia and Critical Care and Pain Management. Explaining his philanthropic gesture, Maduka said:
‘I embarked on all these to save my people from my ugly experience while growing up. I grew up in a home that when it rained, it rained more inside than house. Wealth would be meaningless if it cannot be used to better the lives of the people around the custodian. The wealthy must provide jobs for the youths; build skills acquisition centres for willing adults, market stalls for men and women, if society must be secure.'(Emphasis mine).
Maduaka has opened up Umuchukwu by building schools, hospitals, churches, security posts, industries, police station with modern working tools. He believes that government alone cannot give resounding development due to its meagre resources when compared to the volume of social, economic amenities expected by the people. (Emphasis mine).
Umuchukwu, one of the most backward and remote communities in the state, was totally denied any meaningful government attention. Nkerehi, as it was then called, was in abysmal destitution. Maduka’s gesture compelled former governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi, to construct two roads connecting Umuchukwu with other communities.’
Mr. Maduka’s story is arguably the most inspiring story I ‘ve seen in Nigerian news in months. His example shows how responsible use of wealth entails redistributing it for the benefit of those who are not as privileged as the custodian. While One can argue that one has a right to use one’s wealth as they want because it is their ‘sweat’, the truth is that fate does play a role in how much opportunity one gets to be successful. If one has a university degree for example, it is usually because one has parents that could afford it. If education gives one a better shot at success in life, and one doesn’t choose one’s parents, then it will be illogical to say for example, that a medical license that gives one an opportunity to make ten times more than an okada rider, who wasn’t as privileged, is not an act of fate. Even if one is not inclined to charity out of a sense of obligation, one should consider investing in the dregs of society to lift them out poverty since they commit most crimes, crimes of which the wealthy can be victims. Either way, the rich owe the poor.
If it is true that success comes from a source other than ourselves, then as good stewards, we should account for it. And I find that God does bless people who use their wealth in the service of others. Last year, an old classmate from secondary school and a friend, told me how every year, she goes back to our alma mater to give N50,000 to the best science student as a grant to help them in their university education. Mind you, my former classmate made this donation from her salary as a lecturer, and she was less than thirty years at the time. Recently, she got an admission in Uk for her doctorate degree and she is studying there now. With a brain and a big heart like hers, I am very convinced that God will give her enough resources to carry out all her good intentions. I once told her, and I strongly believe it, that she will make as much impact as the late Dora Akunyili. She is just one of the many examples of people who do good get rewarded with even more success. I can’t keep track of how many charities Bill Gates is involved in. Growing up, I also saw examples from my parents and other relatives of how those who give are blessed more.
Redistributing ones wealth while alive may mean leaving a little less for one’s children, but that is perfectly okay. I used to have qualms with government taxing an estate during probate, but I no longer do because I now appreciate the reasoning behind it. Why allow people leave wealth that will last five generations when it can be used to take care of those already here? And why should someone enjoy the hard work of another by mere reason of accident of birth? While it is the responsibility of every parents to see that their children are set up in life, there is no obligation to leave anything behind. And with the prevalence of children fighting over property left by their parents, there is even a greater incentive to put one’s wealth to good use while alive.
If people focus less on building wealth that will last generations, then they will be more open to taking up tasks that will help build their communities. It will be good for example, to see someone build a public library in my village in Akokwa. Having gained so much from the local library I have access to here, I strongly make a case for having public libraries in Nigeria. I remember once looking for public library in Aba and found none except a neglected one housed in a dilapidated building that proved to be no use. I left disappointed.
It can be tempting for the average person reading this to think that this post is not for them but for the Adenugas, the Dangotes and recently, the Ikeji’s (the last was to lighten your mood), but we can all take small steps. Take the library for example, if I were disciplined enough, I could make the library happen even though I don’t have financial recourses to build a brand new library. I already have access to books I could donate to my community: Between my seven siblings and I, we have used university books from the following disciplines: Law, two sets from Industrial Chemistry (one from a State university and another from a Federal university) Economics, Public Administration, Accounting and potentially three from Public Health, Philosophy and Theology. Surely, if I get these books together, we could start a small library in my village in a room donated by the community. For practically nothing, and if others follow our lead and donate, we will have a library in my village.
It is especially important that the private sector gets involved in building Nigeria because the waste in government cannot match the efficiency by private persons. I don’t know how much Dr. Maduka expended in building the houses but whatever it took, it would have cost probably 20 times more to actualize if same project was awarded by the government and still the houses may be abandoned at some point uncompleted. I also hazard a guess that the cost of Ms. Ikeji’s mansion may be more than the amount Dr. Maduka used to touch 100 families. I do not write this to put Ms. Ikeji down, she is involved in so many charities herself, I wrote it to remind myself that the $5 I spend for lunch may buy a family’s grocery for a week.
We’ll all love to leave our footprints in the sands of time. While many of us think leaving kids behind will immortalize us, truth is that our kids will be busy trying to immortalize themselves not us. Trust me, I know because my two daughters’ English names are derived from mine, not my parents’.
Having seen you can’t count on your kids to immortalize you; go ahead, build that hospital, school, public toilet, library, borehole, road, etc. And when you do, remember to have your name conspicuously and literally engraved on the project because hundred years from now, that may be the only reminder that you once lived. Even better, also have your parents’ name written on those projects too, because even though we can’t count on our kids to immortalize us, we definitely want to appreciate ours.
So do you have ideas of some project you wish you could undertake but which like me, you don’t have the funds to carry out? Please share in the comments section. You never know who might steal your ideas, and yes, we want them stolen.
P:S. I give credit to St Francis De Sales for this post. I prayed to him for inspiration while writing it. He is the patron saint of writers. Even if one person is inspired by this post, it would have served its purpose. I love and appreciate you, my readers. If inspired, please share.