One of the commonest notions in Nigeria is that the child of a “nobody” hardly becomes a “somebody”. The believers of this ideology are always quick to remind anyone, who seeks clarifications, that the rich always move with and helps only the rich. There is this belief that unless a person has “connection”, he cannot make it in Nigeria. In this instance, “connection” stands for people in places of power, who are capable of helping the poor escape poverty through referrals. There is also a belief that the rich do all within their powers to discourage the poor’s upward economic and social mobility. In fact, listening to these persons will give you the impression that, in Nigeria, the poor eternally remain poor.
It will be worthy to state here that the challenges faced by poor and working class Nigerians, as they attempt both economic and social mobility, is not peculiar to the country. Factors such as family income, social class, level of education, disabilities, race, culture, and gender determine people’s ability to climb the social and economic ladder. Note that these factors affect human communities globally though in different ways. For instance, a person’s gender, race or tribe hardly stops him/her from being economically empowered in Nigeria. But if those factors are recognised as global obstacles, then they are mobility barriers to people in other countries.
The centreline of this essay is dissecting the ideology that the child of a “nobody” hardly becomes a “somebody” in Nigeria. The essay will attempt to explain why this happens. So far, the viable causes Nigerians provided are that the rich move together and the poor need the rich to climb the economic ladder. Nevertheless, many people have not considered other intricate factors that might have kept the children of the poor on the same pedestal with their parents.
For the sake of this essay, three factors that contribute to the extension of poverty from parents to their children will be considered. These are: parenting style, access to good education, and career guide.
The parenting style adopted by a family can determine how the children raised in such a home play their roles in society. Parents’ style of raising their children can be influenced by their religious beliefs, level of education, income, family size, and so on. Most times, parents that attain a high level of education handle managerial positions that give them the opportunity to develop and sharpen their interpersonal and problem-solving skills. This means these parents have to think outside the box to solve organisational problems and make their companies grow. Those that find themselves as entrepreneurs, whether highly educated or not, also have to think analytically and act critically to grow their businesses. Parents such as these raise their children to become creative, especially while handling situations. They mentor and encourage their children to become future managers and entrepreneurs. They do not allow their children to conform to norms because they already know that normalcy does not breed wealth. These parents raise people that will take over their positions; and they succeed, in most cases, because they have the knowledge of what it takes to create wealth.
Contrary to the rich parents that are managers and entrepreneurs, the working class and the extremely poor parents are, in most cases, the low cadre employees, petty traders, artisans, and the unemployed. These people do not understand the basis of nonconformity because they do not usually take risks or think analytically to handle job and/or business-related matters. They follow laid down rules that encourages conventionality and, hence, have little or no knowledge of breaking out of norm. These parents transfer their conventional lifestyle to their children. They raise them to follow laid down rules. They do not encourage creativity and critical thinking. They raise their children, most times unintentionally, to assume a second place in the society and never to “compete” with the rich. Children from such homes are either turned against the rich or turned into their slaves.
Access to Good Education
Another way economic inequality rears its head is through the type of schools attended by children from different economic backgrounds. Usually, those from rich homes attend private schools while those from poor backgrounds go for public schools or poorly funded private ones. With the quality of education obtainable in public schools today, it is not surprising that many people that passed through them, especially those in rural areas, have nothing to show for it. This is not to say that all products of public schools are doomed but to emphasise that attending good and expensive private schools gives middle and upper class Nigerians better opportunities to become successful. This is debatable, anyway.
Also note that while in school, students make contacts and network amongst themselves. So, when a child finds himself in a school, where ministers, senators, and industrialists’ children attend, it will be easy for him to break into the circle of these people through his schoolmates. Now if the son of a “nobody” finds himself in the school attended by the children of a “somebody”, do you still think he will find it difficult to climb the economic ladder?
Another thing to consider here is access to study materials. One of the things the COVID-19 pandemic revealed is the inability of some parents to provide facilities needed for virtual classes. Many that could provide internet-enabled phones complained of data consumption. This is also the same case with parents providing textbooks and other materials that make learning easier. Of course, Nigerians that do not have access to these facilities still find ways to meet up but their struggles cannot be compared to those that have them readily at their disposal.
Parents’ attitude towards a profession influences their children’s opinion about it. Parents that have a positive attitude towards entrepreneurship influence their children to tow that line. Those that believed the 9-5 jobs are the best and safest also cause their children to look for white and blue collar jobs. This also explains why children end up in the same profession as their parents.
Apart from career influence, parents also help to guide their children as they search and choose their careers. This means they will help to provide answers to questions their children might ask about some professions as well as help them to discover existing and profitable careers. Only knowledgeable parents can do this. Unfortunately, they are commonly found among the rich.
Furthermore, poor parents may find it difficult to sponsor their children’s dream career. For instance, a child that wants to become a medical doctor will require parents or sponsors that can afford the school fees, study materials and other charges. Instances of poor parents that toiled day and night to put their children through such dream jobs have been told; but how many are they? Another problem is that children from poor backgrounds may not be able gain admission into competitive courses because the primary and secondary schools they attended did not prepare them to score highly in UTME and SSCE. So, for these children to make it into federal universities to study courses of their choice at subsidised rates, they have to become exceptional in their academic performance. Problem is, how many of them are motivated to work that hard?
Actually, the way a person is raised determines if he will become rich or not. This does not mean that every child born into a rich home is capable of becoming rich and/or maintaining his affluence. It also does not mean that all children from poor backgrounds must maintain their parents’ social and economic class. A lot of factors come into play to determine social and economic mobility and that is why humans are complex beings. However, it is necessary to understand that parenting style, access to good education, and proper career guide are some of the factors that determine social and economic mobility.