(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, January 25, 2021)
Music blared. Joy floated. Naira rained. Feet trampled. This is the spectacle of Nigerian lavish parties called owambe, a short-lived rivulet of opulence flowing into the sea of poverty.
Despite the sacred warning that the love of money is the root of all evils, man loves money, still. Money has many monikers; here are a few of them.
Apekanuko bespeaks the high esteem money holds among the Yoruba.
Ego, the Igbo magic word for money, is the fuel of commerce. It is different from ego, the personality framework and double-edged sword of Sigmund Freud that can kill or save.
When you hear the Hausa say kudi, they refer not to the unsung martyr of Nigeria’s modern democracy, Kudirat Abiola. Kudi, in Hausa language, is the password for business, and the stimulant that pumps fists in the air and opens mouth in shouts of rankadede.
“You’re dead without money,” says the English novelist, James, who can Hardley Chase nothing but Beauties, Money and Wine while cruising a BMW.
While money is, unmistakably, the oxygen that invigorates the earth, innovation is the blood coursing through its arteries. So, if money is this intrinsic to man’s wellbeing, common sense suggests that it should be treated with decorum. But this isn’t always so.
Oftentimes, money loses its dignity especially at owambe parties after gallons of alcohol had surged down the gullets to sit in the wells of stomachs and fiddle with the senses.
In a matter of minutes, earnings, salaries, overdrafts, borrowings and savings sprayed by friends, colleagues and relatives cascade from celebrants’ foreheads to the floor in moments of self-delusion.
Consultant Psychiatrist, Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso, Dr. Adeoye Oyewole, isn’t fooled by such make-belief opulence.
He said, “Spraying of money is purely a materialistic display of power over others. It’s an ego trip rather than a self-transcendent expression of self. You can’t discuss the issue without looking at the fact that our leaders, whether political, academic or business, are stuck at the lowest rung of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which reflects in the primitive display of money as an instrument of power and dominance.
“When folks are self-actualised and their society encourages it, altruistic use of money for charity and helping the underprivileged are the hallmarks. It’s a self problem. It’s not a decent practice but as society matures, the practice may stop.”
Looking at the issue through the prism of royalty, the Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom, Oba Adesimbo Kiladejo, a medical doctor, said, “Spraying of money was a practice that started out as a show of appreciation and honour. It’s historical in Yoruba land.” The first class monarch, however, called on members of the public to display moderation while spending money at parties.
He added, “The spender and the celebrant are at risk of consequent attack by the men of the underworld. People should obey the Central Bank of Nigeria’s regulation outlawing the defacement of the naira.”
From a medical viewpoint, Oba Kiladejo urged Nigerians to desist from close contact at parties, stressing that coronavirus was real.
Giving a historic perspective to the discussion, a Professor of History, Osun State University, Siyan Oyeweso, traced the boom of mouth-gaping money spraying at parties to the 1970s when people danced to Juju music at grand parties.
Oyeweso, who is a Fellow of both the Historical Society of Nigeria and Nigerian Academy of Letters, however, condemned the practice, saying it negated the values of hard work, transparency, integrity and dignity of the Yoruba.
He added, “Fuji artistes later jumped on the bandwagon in the 1980s and the trend has grown by leaps and bounds till date. The practice is not good for the health of the society because it puts pressure on the younger generation, the future leaders, who engage in Yahoo-Yahoo, Yahoo-Plus etc to get rich at all cost. The millionaires of those days made their money through hard work, diligence and integrity. The youths of today want to get rich quick or die trying.”
An Assistant Professor of Culture History, University of Abuja, Ranti Ojo, recalled that to boost their ego or status in the society, kings and aristocrats of yore gave money and clothes out to praise singers. “However, things have changed and the practice has grossly been abused, hence it should be discouraged.
“There are many aspects of our culture that must be stopped, spraying money is one of them because it promotes insecurity, inequality and financial imbalances in the society. Culture should be dynamic. If you need to appreciate the singer or celebrant, it should be done secretly with all modesty,” Ojo said.
An Assistant Vice President of one of the five top banks in the US, Chief Azuka Aghenu, said it was unwise to fritter money that could be used productively. Aghenu, who is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, worked with the United Bank for Africa before leaving Nigeria for the US over 35 years ago.
He said, “I’ve seen Nigerians in Nigeria and Nigerians in the US take lines of credit to spray at parties. It’s crazy. Many of those who spray at parties have poverty-stricken family members; some of them haven’t paid their mortgages, house rents, children’s bills etc.”
But Soko music creator, Dayo Kujore, differed. The Juju music star said, “Yes, money spraying is part of our culture, it can’t be stopped. Ironically, spenders dancing on stage even spend more money on ladies than musicians. There was a socialite who spent N100,000 on every lady that was dancing on stage but spent N50,000 on the whole of the band.
“Many of the stage plays you see are discounted because some celebrants would come and begin to beg that they don’t have enough money.”
Yoruba’s most profound panegyric singer, Sulaimon Ayilara aka Ajobiewe, said giving money, clothes and shoes to musicians was the heritage of the Yoruba. The Ila Orangun-born artiste said, “There’s no way the musician would know that the person spending money on stage borrowed the money. And it would be insultive to publicly tell someone spraying you money to stop.”
But Ajobiewe explained that spraying money at parties while household bills were unpaid was foolishness.
Popular highlife star, Jesse King, said his brand of music doesn’t dwell on money spraying. The Buga singer, nevertheless, said moderation should temper the inherited practice. “Excessive spending is a personal issue. According to the Holy Bible, the spender should be careful not to make other people sin. We must also consider the mood of the country; a local government chairman, for instance, would be wrong to attend a party and spend lavishly when the road he took to the party was bumpy.
“People have the right to spend their money but we must be guided by the Omoluabi ethos,” he said.
Leader, Osun-famous Peace Band, Babatunde Taiwo aka Shalom, said the desire of every musician was to make money.
Shalom said, “Thugs, security operatives, the underprivileged, staff of event centres etc all wait for us at the end of each show. I have been sprayed a phone before. It depends on how the eulogy hits the spender. But I hate people trampling on money which is more prevalent among the Igbo.”
Missioner, The Companion, Imam Musa Beekolari, condemned wasteful spending at parties, citing the Holy Quran, Chapter 17: 26-27, which enjoins Muslims to give to the needy but likened the wasteful to brothers of the devils.
Founder, Ark of Life Charismatic Global Mission, Osogbo, Apostle Mark Babayomi, said money spraying had no biblical backing. He, nonetheless, explained that Abraham’s good deeds made God swear to a covenant.
The cleric, who called for moderation, said it was better to package a monetary gift and discretely hand it over to a celebrant rather than spraying.”
Culture is dynamic. I stand with Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho in the bid to change the culture of Fulani murderousness encouraged across Nigeria by the retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari-led calamitous APC.
Facebook: @tunde odesola