Oguche Agudah, Regional Director, Nigeria, OurCrowd

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Government should enable Nigerian legitimate hustlers 17 Jun 2019

Music can have a cultural and political impact on real-world events. Lyrical contents of songs can also provide an understanding of the beliefs and practices in a society. Popular culture, which encompasses music, arts and fashion, also has significant influence on language.
A cursory assessment of very popular songs in Nigeria over the last decade would identify hit songs like “Yahoozee” by Olu Maintain, and “Maga don pay” by Kelly Hansome; both songs glorify internet fraud. There was also Korede Bello’s “I don get alert, God win,” referring to a miraculous credit of one’s bank account.

Neologisms or slangs spurred by Nigerian pop culture over the last decade include “hammer,” “blow,” “hit,” “I don arrive.” All these slangs simply mean coming to a place of instant wealth and/or fame. The society has been bombarded with music and language amplifying the need to acquire money instantly, irrespective of how it comes. This speaks of a “get rich quick” mentality; an “end justifies the means” mindset or what might be referred to as instant gratification philosophy.

While this might suggest an aversion to hard work, there are many Nigerians who are working very hard to make ends meet and be successful. From the individual working in a multinational who moonlights as web designer, to the government worker who brandishes his personal business card in your face when you’re looking to receive a government contract, or the young boy selling bootleg DVDs in traffic, or even the young lady standing in a dark corner of a dimly-lit street looking for “clients millions of Nigerians are hustling.

The word "hustling” originally had a negative meaning. It signified engaging in activities that were deceptive and fraudulent. But the word's meaning has recently evolved. In their 2016 book, "Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum," Jonas Koffler, Neil Patel, and Patrick Vlaskovits define "hustle" as "Decisive movement toward a goal, however indirect, by which the motion itself manufactures luck, surfaces hidden opportunities, and charges our lives with more money, meaning, and momentum." Essentially, hustling is now viewed as finding one's own way to move forward and succeed through legitimate endeavour.

There is nothing wrong in trying to make an extra buck legally using your skills, relationships and passions. Hustling takes a whole new dimension in a country like Nigeria where basic human needs of shelter, healthcare, power and education are not easily accessible by the poor. The services that citizens of other countries consider as rights and are, therefore, easily accessible and affordable are considered luxuries to the majority of Nigerians.

For instance, in Nigeria, the home penetration rate is estimated at 9 per cent. This means only approximately 18 million Nigerians own their own homes. In addition, the most common home acquisition model in Nigeria is outright purchase. This is because mortgages are rare and expensive. The implication is that homeowners in Nigeria are mostly wealthy people or those who have “hammered,” to use the local parlance referring to instant wealth.

Nigeria has one of the lowest rankings in the world when it comes to access to healthcare. The World Health Organisation ranks Nigeria 187th out of 190 countries in terms of access to healthcare. This is why many Nigerians die every day from diseases that can be avoided by “timely and effective medical care.”

In February 2019, Nigeria, a country of approximately 200 million people, reached a peak power generation capacity of 5,375 megawatts. This was celebrated by the country and its officials in the power sector. Compare this to South Africa, that has an installed power generation capacity of approximately 51,000MW for a population of approximately 56 million people. The sorely inadequate supply of power in Nigeria leaves individuals and companies resorting to widespread self-generation of power for daily life and business operations.

As one could see from the foregoing discussion, the Nigerian society is one in which essential services are not guaranteed or have to be procured at a high cost without bank financing. Coupled with the high level of poverty, this situation has led to an escalation in all manner of crime, including kidnappings, advance fee fraud (colloquially referred to as “419”), and corruption.

While one does not condone illegal money-making activities, it is also important to point out that the get-rich-quick syndrome is the unintended consequence of an ostentatious culture that is promoted by some rich people and perpetuated by pop culture. For instance, for a country where 91 million people live in extreme poverty, some super rich Nigerians import pizzas from London, according to Audu Ogbe, erstwhile Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. And while Nigeria does not rank highly in terms of healthcare provision and education, compared with peer countries, the country is among the world’s top consumers of champagne.

If such unbridled ostentation continues, amid grinding poverty, the social and moral fabrics of the Nigerian society will continue to degenerate until we reach a state of anarchy. Some will argue we are already there as bandits now rob in broad daylight; corruption is a blatant affair; and online scammers now operate schools where they train anyone who want to learn how to become an online scam artist.

But we can reverse this tide of hustling that involves crime and other get-rich-quick activities. We can have a society that rewards hard work and promotes honest living. To achieve this, the Nigerian government needs to provide basic services like healthcare, education, shelter and power to support entrepreneurial hustle and enable individuals to reach their potential.

To eradicate the rent-seeking culture that fosters corruption, a new culture of public service should be entrenched in Nigeria. Anyone seeking for elective office or aspiring to work in government should see public office as an opportunity to deliver services like education, healthcare, security, transport, power, welfare, among others. Public servants should have integrity and be nationalistic in their outlook. A Nigeria that has leaders who are accountable to the people and that provides an environment for hard-working citizens to hustle for success will grow and develop quickly for the betterment and prosperity of all.