“I hate rich niggas, godammit/Cos i ain’t never had a lot, dammit” J Cole.
We live in flats (apartments, yes), own a piece of land in the outskirts of town. We holiday in Ghana and Dubai; and dream of one hundred other ways of making money.
We read Times magazine, gawk at expensive wristwatches online. Our palate for music is unfussy. We will rock to Davido and spend the night with Avici.
We gossip a lot, wear nice ties and jewellery; buy expensive pieces of accessories now and then that we sing to the whole world about on Instagram- most times on credit.
We love to move in groups. Ah! Middle class Nigerians cannot live without a friend or two. Their opinions and lifestyle are tied to the apron strings of another friend who has his/hers tied to another friend and another friend and on and on. We are nothing without popular validation.
We are smart because we know what it means for hip-hop to get its first billionaire (so, what does it mean really?). We are witty because we laugh at British jokes. We are cool because we can get a seat on the last row of an international fashion show. We are cocky because we know how to put people in their places.
And most importantly we are the white flag in the middle of an unspoken war between the rich and the poor.
Imagine a Nigeria without the middle class. As suffocating as we are- exaggerated and haughty, we are the balm soothing the anger of the poor and the biting nonchalance of the rich.
The poor has no hope; the rich needs no hope. We- the middle class are defined by hope. We are hope personified.
So let the world never forget- the middle class Nigerian is god. The harbinger of peace!
So now that I have made that clear, can we move on with the issue at hand- why does the rich upset us?
It is simple: all that wealth, sometimes prefixed with “ill”, like a disease makes us, yes, sick- sick to the very pit of our stomach! We work hard, middle class Nigerians bleed on their jobs; then as you take a walk home, thinking about debts and loans, you come across the headline:
“Chief Jagajaga buys an Island.”
The Island is somewhere in Seychelles and it cost 13 billion naira. Jagajaga is only a commissioner in Nigeria. He is rich, his mother’s sister’s best-friend’s daughter’s cat will never have to work a day in its life!
And here you are- educated, brilliant, working round the clock and in your sleep, competent but still average. You have to listen to semi-literate people decide your future; you have to listen to them pronounce “bourgeois” wrongly. You have to read about their children- average kids (nothing close to your genius) living like kings and queens. This upsets you. It upsets you greatly. You end up working for one of them and their snooty kids who have no clue what the job is about. But you will take their orders and try to lower your abilities just so they can shine brighter than you. You need the job, you need the money to keep up with your average lifestyle.
Even in cases where the money is duly earned by these rich folks, you question life still. You wonder when it will come to you- these opportunities that you read about; the right connections, the right sentences that should follow. And it upsets you; keeps you up all night, grieving.
We envy the life of the rich. We read their biographies and spend hours pondering and taking down notes; planning our own moment.
Sometimes, the middle-class Nigerian is only a few people away from his own money-revelling instance, but he may spend the rest of his life without ever making the connection. And that is super depressing!
We don’t get along with the poor. The middle-class Nigerian likes to erect a sturdy barricade between him and the poor. Why? Well, sometimes it is hard to make the distinction, and this is so unnerving for the middle-class. He shares everything with the poor- the same bus, the same open market… he deals directly with the poor- no middle men, like the rich, to help keep the distance away from him and the poor. So many times, he is left at the mercy of a poor man… who might just have a few more naira notes than he does.
The middle class Nigerian is not distinguished by earning power oh! Ah! Not at all. The elements of middle-class existence in this part of the world is judged by how well you are able to convince everyone else that you are not poor with impeccable English as your witness and insanely expensive gadgets as your best friend, acquired through insane credit splendour!
Oh! Did you think money had anything to do with all this rant? The middle-class Nigerian is living from hand-to-mouth nah. He owes school fees, owes rent and owes the bank monies he cannot afford but has refused to bring down his collar lest he is wrongly identified as poor, as not having enough. For the fear that his neighbour will look down on him, he goes a-spending!
Don’t laugh, it is the posturing of this class of people that keeps the country at peace. The rich is full of…well, wealth that they have no need for a conscience- it has been buried somewhere in the sands of Malibu; and the poor can sell theirs for a pot of porridge.
So we are left with a class of people full of dreams- too big, too close to becoming a reality to allow these extremists- the rich and the poor, get in the way.
The middle-class with all his false grandeur is the only sane one at the cocktail.
We are the bastion of conscience and (pretentious) good living! All hail the middle-class!