Obnoxious Mansions as Luxurious Prisons

Osbourne Road, Ikoyi Lagos is one of the havens of the nouveau riche in Nigeria with a concentration of jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring mansions like homes in paradise. Such avenues of the wealthy and classy are common in our metropolitan centres, sheltering the powerful in politics and the business barons or perhaps the big men in drug and crime.

Although, Voice of Nigeria, where I work is also in Ikoyi. In fact, not too much of a distance to Osborne, I have never taken so much interest in this posh neighbourhood of the mighty until last weekend when the providence of being a Muslim professional forced me to have a good look of the area.

It was while returning from an engagement of Muslim professionals with the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. As the Director of Media & Strategic Communications of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), Nigeria, I was part of my group’s nominees.

My fellow MPAC official, in whose car I had a return ride to Egbeda, decided to take us through the Osbourne splendour for us to appreciate the obscenity and recklessness of the rich in the taste and obsession of their properties.

Osbourne is where he maintains a moderate office, although he lives in Abule Egba. As we manoeuvred around the circular Osbourne, he identified each property and its owner also regaled us with their atrocious automobiles worth millions in dollars, not just in naira.

He pointed at the luxurious house a certain former governor, I remember. He pointed at a castle-like or palatial mansion of a wealthy madam reputed to be the fourth costliest in entire Africa and I nodded.

We saw the homes of many foreign nestling on Osborne, numerous mansions of mindless dimensions. One thing I also noted about all these obnoxious and profane palaces is their high Iron wrought gates of handcrafted design and monumental concrete fences akin to walls of correctional facilities, the euphemism for prison yards in America.

And I ask if you must live in luxury, must it be behind prison walls?
What a contradiction in the life of men and women of means and grandeur.

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These posh palatial and magnificent castle-like homes strewn around Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki, Ajah, Magodo and other exclusive areas of Lagos and the larger Nigeria tells of the futility and vanity of our acquisition.

Why build a house in which you will be afraid to live so, you have to wall up yourself? Why build a house whose cost of maintenance will ultimately outstrip the total cost of construction?

Why build a house which in your twilight years too big for you to walk around? Why build a house when, at old age, you become lonely or isolated in it beginning to regret that you could have done something more average and manageable? Why build a house that you would be afraid to sell off, yet has outgrown your need?

I have heard of multiple rooms hilltop mansions of our former rulers. When their owner’s demise, they are either abandoned to be overgrown with weeds or to be cheaply sold off by ill-bred children and family members with least appreciation for such monuments.

Some of such homes eventually become criminal havens or hideouts. They become for beggars and itinerants and the homeless or the insane. They lost value despite their humongous cost.

If you are crazily rich, my advice is for you to build mansions for yourself in paradise, not on earth. How, you might ask? Build hospitals, build religious houses, build courthouses for the government, build markets for the common man and build police stations and detention centres for public use.

You may also build conveniences that meet the emergency needs of road users, offices that can be rented cheaply, low cost houses whose payment terms are flexible for salary earners and struggling career men and women, build clean inns and decent motels for wayfarers, libraries for higher institutions, even for neighbourhood primary and secondary schools, buy and put mass transit buses that the public can ride on subsidy.

There are so many other good deeds, what Muslims called Sadaqatul Jaariyah (Everlasting reward) that will outlive but still continues to count you can do with your wealth rather than building or acquiring conspicuous homes you can’t transfer to heaven to continue living in luxury. But you can still live in luxury if you invest in good deeds on earth.

The obsession for earthly mansions and possessions even if we are stinkingly rich to afford them is a kind of slavery and entrapment. It is a kind of prison in a fortress of luxury, and wealth.

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Its symbolism is in their heavy steely gates and hard concrete and impregnable walls, of their spiralling watchtowers and tiny holes to view visitors from afar, of their fireproof doors and entrances, of the CCTV tucked at every turn and corner of the benumbing buildings, of their barrel-chested security guards, of scanners that have to scan every approaching visitor.

One day you will be brought out shrouded delicately in a simple casket never, to return inside or you will go out alive and return a lifeless to be buried at a corner of the luxury compound, sleeping outside for life in a cold tomb.

The lesson in all these, is you need not to build a big house that will limit you soon. But you can build wealth, empower man and comfort millions with your billions.

In doing that, you are building mansions in paradise more beautiful and comfortable than the prisons we build on earth as homes of the wealthy.
If I have my way as a policy adviser, I will recommend that each house should be fenceless or with low fences and beautiful flowers.

I think the rich should be free and happy in the world around them in the good they spread and the mercy they show and not the wealth they flaunt with their oppressive mansions and mobiles that depress the less privileged or the ordinary man and call them to crime and cults.

It is sheer madness to be rich and insecure, locking oneself up in edifices that are more or less like living behind prison walls and correctional homes as one sentenced to life jails for unpardonable crimes. Or is it a crime to be rich?

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By Abdulwarees Solanke, an assistant director of Strategic
Planning & Corporate Development at Voice of Nigeria. korewarith@yahoo.com, 08090585723

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