By Toyin Falola
Nobody go ask if you don chop
Nobody go send you free money
If you no get na you sabi
Adulthood na scam!
Nigerians have always been able to express their thoughts and views in the most straightforward and humorous ways. They accomplish this in terms of their actual conditions by using slangs, other gestures, or even dance moves. Slangs like “Adulthood na scam“, “Japa“, Sapa, Shege, and Las Las are sociolinguistic expressions that capture Nigerians’ thoughts and realities. When talented Lade created the “444” jingle for Airtel, perhaps only her close friends and family were aware that she was the composer of the catchy tune that had people bobbing their heads and lip-syncing whenever the commercial jingle played on the radio or television (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQHTY0FZins). I love the song so much that I went in search of her!
In Adulthood na Scam, Lade, in her melodic voice, sang about how things are for grownups in the country, and the song quickly gained popularity among Nigerian young people and even adults. Being an adult includes the hustle and bustle, the need to have good financial standing, getting less attention from others, and eventually yearning to revert to childhood. Many individuals identified with the song and concurred with the singer that life as an adult is not as idyllic as they had imagined or would experience it, and they wish they could go back to being kids. The phrase “Adulthood na scam” was largely agreed upon by the populace.
Mo gbe o!
My landlord wants my overdue rents
Baba Isola is dead!
I don’t have his number in heaven
I drank gari this morning
I smoked gari this afternoon
I don’t have gari left for the evening
Mama mi Isola is dead!
She gave me iresi for breakfast
Amala for lunch
Iyan for dinner
She does not pick my calls in heaven
My best friend at Unilag has sold his computer to buy rice.
He is a Lecturer 1
Better paid than Lecturer 2
Is 2 not greater than 1?
Mo gbe o!
I know Bose, a secondary school teacher at a high school that belongs to my friend. She only hopes for a meagre amount of thirty thousand naira at the end of each month. She is a graduate and a single mother, and also battered with enumerable responsibilities from her family, being the first child. From the N30,000 (taxable), she feeds herself and her innocent little boy. She pays her rent and struggles to do her duties as the eldest sibling of her low-income family. This is not only a sad story but one that tears the heart apart. Hurting, isn’t it? She begs friends and colleagues for money now and then. She is ashamed; her benefactors are tired.
Right on the Lagos highway in Ikorodu, Joseph lives in a one-bedroom apartment with three other roommates. I know him through a friend who hired his brother. He is well-paid. The joyful news is that Joseph is a very talented computer guru who works with a top tech company in Lagos. Recently, he was moved to one of their branches on the Island in Lekki. But the sad story is that the company has no plan to provide accommodation or transportation allowance. He earns N400,000 monthly but struggles to save N10,000 at the end of the month, so he goes from Ikorodu to Lekki every day, spending a lot of his salary on transport fares and nearly as much as the time he spends in the office to commute to work and back. He sleeps in his office from time to time. Luckily, or maybe not so luckily, for him, he impregnated his girlfriend, and now they have to live together. This means he will pay for the entire apartment if he asks the three other roommates to leave. He will also take care of his newly unwed wife and the baby. Sadly, the parents of this school-dropout girl have been demanding. Last week, he had to send N50,000 to his father-in-law, who is yet to make up his mind about the dowry list—all these responsibilities from a seemingly huge looking N400,000.
You, reading this, know more people than I do. You know their incomes. You know their stories. These are the lucky ones with jobs!
The National Bureau of Statistics and the United Nations Office have been conducting the “Corruption in Nigeria Survey” since 2017, and they successfully did so in 2017 and 2019. This was done after receiving responses from 33,000 Nigerians at least 18 years old in the 36 states. In the study, they listed the main issues facing the country, which impact the realities of Nigerians. These include ethnic animosity, drug trafficking, corruption, high living expenses, unemployment, and issues with infrastructure, housing, health care, and education.
The slang Adulthood na scam! raises concern about how the low standard of living in the country affects citizens, as growing up means you will have to start taking responsibility amid a high unemployment rate and the low probability of getting a job that allows you to live comfortably. Unemployment is one of the most pressing problems in Nigeria. Thousands of youths with qualifications have to endure years at home doing nothing despite the responsibilities that come with age. According to Trade Economics, the youth unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 53.4 per cent from 40.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2020. An increase like this impacts adulthood in the country; many youths are stranded or unable to shoulder the responsibilities and expectations of this stage of life.
There are three stages to life; first, you are a child, then you become an adolescent, and later an adult. According to an Encyclopaedia, childhood begins at age one and ends circa age 12-13, after which adolescence begins, where individual transitions from childhood to adulthood. This Encyclopaedia puts adolescents between 10 and 19 years; it is the shortest of the three stages of life. Adulthood takes a larger share of one’s life. In many countries, individuals are considered adults when they reach the age of 18. Wahala arrives!
As a child, one lives a relatively easy life, and the major difference between most rich and poor children lies in the care they receive. At this stage, you can play as much as you want. Your parents would be happy to have you away so you can have fun, and as long as you do not suffer bodily harm, everything is fine, and you can always come home to ready-made meals. During this stage, you earn ridiculous amounts of money, material gifts, and love, especially if you are a cheerful, smart, and witty kid. Children are unconditionally loved, and their only nightmares would be the lack of freedom of speech, thought, and choice, as well as the numerous errands they are made to run.
During adolescence, youngsters try to prove to others around them that they are no longer children but are now grownup. This is where the suffering begins. You are put in many rough situations to demonstrate that you are no longer a child and can face life’s challenges. At this stage, your wants and needs increase geometrically, and the rate you get free money and other gift items decrease arithmetically, putting you in a tight angle. Also, the unconditional love you receive as a child reduces gradually, and the love you get will now be determined by your looks, behaviour, and efficiency. However, the joys of being an adolescent lie in the fact that you can now access more freedom of speech, choice, and thoughts, and most of the time, you are in charge of younger people and can lord over them like a real adult.
The adulthood stage is the last. It begins around 18 to 20 years of age and is maintained for the rest of one’s life, making it the longest stage. This time, you are as free as the birds in the sky; there is total freedom of speech, thought, and choice. At this age, you either receive love or hate, depending on what kind of grownup you are. This age can be tasking as adults like you, adolescents, and children expect you to make things happen. Your finances will largely depend on how you earn, how much, and how you spend. Your wants and needs, which now include that of the children, adolescents, and adults under your care, will never end. Do not expect material or monetary gifts at this period of your life because they will reduce geometrically.
An average child wants to leave the childhood stage and be an adult. They envy the adults’ freedom. One of the biggest pains for a child is waking early five times a day when school is in session while the adults relax and do their things at their own pace and time. Children want to grow quickly to that level and be free of the school burden. They envy adults who are rich and long to get to this stage of life where they have their own money (not as gifts). However, these children fail to realise that adulthood comes at a steep price. Adults only give out money after taking care of a long list of bills and responsibilities, and being present when their children go to school is also part of their duties as parents. Since no one explained this to the young ones, adulthood looks like a paradise to them, so when they get to that stage and face the reality that adulthood is not what they thought it would be, frustration sets in.
This type of frustration inspired Lade’s “Adulthood na Scam,” which means being an adult is a fraud. Lade sings about how adults do not get free money, how no one cares about an adult’s well-being, how they have to hustle all day to make ends meet, and that they must manage their finances and pay bills. If we are being realistic, is adulthood a scam? Or is it that some adults do not know how to manage their affairs? Or is it the environment that has made life torrid for adults?
Firstly, the hustling part of adulthood is non-negotiable. It is the backbone of adulthood. As an adult, you need a source of income, if not several, to sustain your life. This does not make adulthood a “scam,” as it is just normal. As an adult, you become the giver rather than the receiver; therefore, you should expect the rate at which you receive freebies to reduce significantly, and you should start giving more. This is another reason the hustling part of this stage of life cannot be negotiated.
Secondly, how adults manage their finances will determine whether they consider adulthood a scam. Many people cannot make a scale of preference or even differentiate between wants and needs; they just spend on anything and everything. Most times, people spend on things that do not add value. Expensive clothes, jewellery, alcohol, and so on, all on a relatively small budget that would cover their needs and take care of their younger ones. This means they must work extra hard to tick all their boxes, and surely, this set of people will believe that adulthood is a scam.
Lastly, society or the environment plays a major role in this matter. More developed societies like the United States of America and China have better economies, unlike Nigeria; therefore, it will be easier for adults to survive in these societies than in Nigeria. In America, for instance, one may get a job and a car at 18 (a fresh adult), even if it is on loan. Sadly, such is not the case in Nigeria, where adults in their late twenties struggle to secure a job that does not take care of their needs, let alone secure a loan for a car.
“Adulthood na scam” is largely based on the adult’s perspective and the realities of their localities. To some, adulthood is the survival of the fittest! They have chosen to kala and daju, ignoring every responsibility of being an adult. Instead, they adopt the stance that las las everybody go dey alright!
Adulthood is not a scam; scamming is for adults! I still have space for adoption if you want to end adulthood and become my baby. Not babe!