The Oba Carnival: My View
By George Eze Emeghara
Many, many years ago I had an encounter with an Okada rider which has remained indelible in my memory. I was driving down a four lane road in my humble silver grey Nissan Sunny station wagon.
I had purchased it about three years earlier from a car shop around Ajao estate in Lagos for the ” princely” sum of 140,000 naira. I got near the point where I wanted to make a U turn and I prepared to do so.
I drifted into the left lane as I approached the gap, put on my trafficator( turn signal) and looked at my left side mirror to ensure that my left side was clear.
I saw a motorcyclist who I noticed was not looking at the road in front of him.Instead, he was looking at some people standing by the side of the road who he hoped would flag him down.
I blew my horn , stuck my hand out of the window, waved frantically to attract his attention, all to no avail. He kept on coming. Then he returned his attention to the road and saw my car.
He slammed on his brakes very suddenly and his bike skidded and fell. Part of his motorcycle slid under the back of my car.
I came out to access the damage.
In a jiffy a small crowd had gathered, including some of his fellow motorcyclists. As they helped him to his feet, they berated him for his carelessness, and after ensuring that he was okay the crowd vanished as suddenly as they had appeared.
After he pulled his bike from beneath my car, he turned to me and began to abuse me.
“Onye ogwu ego”(ritualist) You want to kill me and use my blood to make more money. It won’t work for you.
“All of you who own cars, do you think we don’t know what you people do?
” How are you people able to count one thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand and go and buy a car.
“How did you get so much money? Owerri will burn again ( the Otokoto riots had taken place a couple of years earlier) and we will deal with all of you ogwu ego people”.
I looked at the ignorant, unkempt and frail looking fool, decided he was not worth a response and drove off. However, I did not forget his words or the venom or bitterness with which he spoke.
From time to time I have had cause to recall or think about him. Here was a commercial motorcyclist who, at at the rates they charged in those days, probably made about 500 Naira everyday. From that amount he maintained his family, his motorcycle and himself. The motorcycle probably did not belong to him.
He could have been working for someone or he had acquired it under some credit arrangement, both of which would have compounded his frustration. If he managed to put away Fifty Naira from that amount everyday as savings, he was fortunate.
He could not begin to imagine how he could ever accumulate the many thousands of Naira required to buy a car, despite slaving from morning till night everyday.
As far as he was concerned anyone who could afford a car was doing something illegal or fetish. It could not have crossed his mind that there were many people who made his daily income of five hundred Naira a hundred or more times each day from legitimate and clean businesses.
The ” hulaballoo” generated by the Cubana’s mother’s burial in Oba and some of the comments I have read in the media reminded me of my Okada rider “friend”.
Clearly, the tunnel vision or limited world view of my Okada friend afflicts many people going by the comments from even
those who are better educated and more exposed than my “friend” and who should know better.
Funnily enough some of those who criticised the event were from the part of the country which introduced spraying of money and lavish and expensive parties to Nigeria.
Some of those who commented said that no one could spray or throw legitimate and hard earned money around in the manner Obi Cubana and his pals did. That for them to do so meant they were drug pushers, fraudsters and ritualists.
There is no doubt that there are people in Nigeria who are making millions of Naira everyday from legitimate hustle. How they decide to spend their money is entirely their business.
Let us take the man who was burying his mother for instance.
From what we know goes on in big night clubs in the land, he must be making at least 50m Naira every week from his various clubs.
As a club owner and entertainment guru, he would have a wide circle of friends, including those who started off as customers and became close friends as time went on.
Only a fool would not go out of his way to befriend or cultivate the friendship, of people who come to spend hundreds of thousands and even millions at his establishment, week in, week out.It is really not his business how they come by the money they spend in his clubs.
Part of his networking efforts would include standing with or supporting these customers of his now turned friends in their times of sorrow, joy or need in whatever way he can.
It is the reward for his efforts that we have seen in the huge attendance at the burial, the cows presented to him and the millions of Naira people gave him.
Some people said why couldn’t he build an industry with the money he spent on the burial.The man is an industrialist already. He has many factories. That is what his clubs and hotels are in the tourism and entertainment industry where he has carved a lucrative niche for himself.
They provide jobs and a living for the many people associated with them.Some of those commenting asked what he has done for his people and whether that money could not have been put to better use to benefit the community.
His traditional title of “Okpataozuora” and the love shown by his kinsmen speak volumes about what he must have done in his community with his money. Okpataozuora, roughly translated, means he who makes and shares his wealth.
Some said the display by Obi Cubana and his friends was unduly loud, garish and even shameful. As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks. Our tastes and preferences vary, that is why we are individuals.
Most importantly, no one should tell a man how to spend his money. Especially if you made no contribution towards making it and if the money vanished it won’t affect you.
Even the cows got some attention. Some said they were too many as if Cubana asked for them or should have stopped people who were bringing cows.They even wondered what he would do with them after the burial.
Some others criticised him and his friends for patronising and empowering the herdsmen and cattle owners.
Almost every aspect of the burial was scrutinized and commented on.
The truth is that no one can please the world. There will always be those who will complain and criticise, no matter what one does
For example there was a certain wealthy man who celebrated his birthday a few months ago.
He decided to use the money he would have spent on throwing a party to upgrade a primary school in his community.He quietly spent several millions of Naira to fence the school, provide water, build toilets, re-roof and renovate the school buildings, replace the furniture, install computers and audio visual study aids, solar power, white boards among others.
In short, he brought the school into the 21st century.
Yet, there were those who criticised him for not throwing a big party to thank God for all that He had done for him.
To sum up, not all wealth is ill-gotten.
People have a right to spend their money how they see fit or how it pleases them. We reap what we sow. Especially in our relationships with others.
Granted there are ingrates among us, but they should not stop anyone from doing good whenever one can, especially to one’s friends.
Finally, people should leave Obi Cubana and his friends alone. The money is their own. How they got it is none of our business. They are not public officers so it should not really be our concern how they choose to spend or fling it around.
All we can do in the circumstances is to wish them well.
George Eze Emeghara is a Nigerian journalist, writer and public affairs commentator based in the southeastern city of Owerri. Money Palaver is his column for Nairaweb.ng