One of my earliest articles in this column was titled “prisons.” I cannot remember the details of what I wrote anymore, but I remember what inspired me to write it: We are all prisoners of our upbringing, environment, circumstances, thoughts, habits, etc., which all come together to form our character and define who we are.
I was listening to a prominent pastor. He talked about the need for men to work very hard which is biblical. He also talked about the need for men to provide for their loved ones just in case they (breadwinners) pass on suddenly. This also rings a bell with me. He specifically mentioned life insurance as one of the vehicles. As a chartered insurance practitioner, I have preached the “gospel” numerous times that every family man should have at least one life insurance policy. There are many products in the market to suit all spectrum of the society. We even have products where artisans, for instance, can pay N1,000 weekly in premium. That is less than what some in this target audience spend on data weekly.
Life insurance is even more important and compelling for people without assets and fat bank accounts. If they die suddenly, and none of us knows when death will come calling, the family will have some bulk money to fall back on. They won’t have to start from ground zero. If the family gets, for instance, a pay-out of N10m (sum assured) from the insurance company, that money can see the children through secondary school to university if the schools are public schools and the universities are federal government owned universities. For people with large bank accounts and investments, life insurance is just another investment option or safety nest.
Life insurance is very good. Nobody should be discouraged by the few bad eggs who have made assureds (people who took life insurance) to lose money or get a bloody nose. The fear of accidents does not stop people from travelling. The solution to avoid falling into wrong hands is to get a Registered Insurance Broker (RIB) to guide you. Their names are on the NAICOM website: https://www.naicom.gov.ng, Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers website https://ncrib.net and Nigeria Insurers Association website: https://nigeriainsurers.org.
My point of departure from the renowned pastor was when he called fathers who could not provide safety nests for their children and future generations derogatory names. The pastor comes from a privileged background and he is just a prisoner of his upbringing and circumstances. He probably does not know what millions of fathers go through just to provide the basic necessities of life: food, shelter clothing and education. But he ought to have known that many of his billionaire friends and members of his congregation come from lowly backgrounds. Some could not even get proper education due to poverty. They only got to where they are today by dint of hard work and the grace of God. The only asset some other parents bequeathed to their children was good education. The children simply took the bulls by the horns and started life from ground zero financially speaking.
Some Nigerians are ashamed to talk about their humble backgrounds. They mask it. There are very few rich Nigerians who are open about it. The late MKO Abiola and Chief Cosmas Maduka freely talked/talk about their humble backgrounds. Why not? They were/are no longer in the circumstances they were born into. Their story should inspire upcoming generations to know that they cannot be defined by their humble beginning. I was reading a report recently on a study of billionaires. Only 15 per cent of the billionaires studied were generational billionaires. That is, they were born into billionaire families and all they needed to do was increase the family worth or, at least, sustain it. The other 85 percent are first time billionaires. That is the message that the pastor should have preached to his congregation and, by extension, Nigerians, since the video went viral. Majority of Nigerian fathers will not leave a kobo for their children. Some will even leave debts behind for their children to repay. Some of these debts were incurred to see their children through school and for their upkeep. Look at the current wealth distribution in Nigeria and what I am saying will make more sense to you.
For good reasons, the favourite past time of many Nigerians is to bash government. Our governments over the years have performed below par and deserve all the bashing they get. But I also know that our university education in federal government-owned universities is one of the cheapest in the world. That is the only reason many students in the past got university education and many are still getting university education. I spent about N8,000 throughout my four years at the university of Nigeria, Nsukka from 1984 to 1988. I was relatively comfortable. I know students who spent about half of that amount for the four years they spent at UNN. It was the same in other federal universities. That is why federal universities must remain affordable. The federal government must make that a priority. The removal of fuel subsidy is tolerable because it affects everybody, but making federal government-owned universities more expensive is like waging a war against the poor and embattled and disappearing middle class.
To the pastor, if a man is rich enough to leave behind money and assets for his children, that would be wonderful. But the father who is unable to leave money and assets has committed no crime. What every man owes his children is good upbringing and a firm foundation. Every man should also strive to be a mentor to his children. “Mentorship is a relationship between two people where the individual with more experience, knowledge, and connections is able to pass along what he has learned to a more junior person.” Mentorship is not only about giving tips that made the mentor successful. As a parent, if you failed, you must know why you failed and mentor your children to avoid those booby traps. Every diligent father can mentor his children to succeed and that is significant. Help them find their purpose, help to arouse the giant within them, give them a positive mindset to know that limitless opportunities abound. They will not find life easy, but the gifts God has deposited in them, perseverance, focus and single-mindedness will get them there. These are some of the major routes for people born without silver spoons to success. The ground still has strength and space for more skyscrapers (billionaires and successful people). Nobody’s spirit should be dampened.
The final problem I have with the pastor’s sermon is telling people to leave wealth for their first to fourth generation without showing them how. This can lead to criminal and primitive accumulation of wealth by people in positions. There is nothing wrong in accumulation of wealth, but if it is at the expense of health facilities that you should have built, schools that you should have built and equipped, roads that you should have constructed with public funds and harmful products that you imported or produced for human use, there is a problem. Wealth accumulation should be qualified.