July 24, 2021

The Oba funeral and the moral Police

By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

A young man chose lavishness for the funeral of his 75-year-old mother. He waited eight months to find ambiance and rhythm. At some rough patch in his life, he must have sworn to stuff sand into the mouth of poverty.

Perhaps he has never begrudged ostentation. Unfettered by hypocrisy, therefore, his friends came energetically to support his exhibitionism. They revelled in their exuberance of youth and dismantled a few boundaries.

In their hearts, there was neither malice nor mischief. While viewpoints define boundaries, the consensus soon was that they left a celebration of life for a festival of money and hedonism. Carnival is revelry, a riotous mix of things. A carnival for a funeral is not anathema in Africa.

With a perfect mix of money, revelry and personality cultism, a thunderstorm hit sedate Oba and left the rural folks gawking and telling tales. In the aftermath of the lockdown and social distancing, a jamboree by the healthy for the dead could be restorative. So why all the fuss?

The lights were too bright. Transparency which is naturally scarce in the country, engulfed Oba town. The casket was costed and published. Burial contributions were collated, and figures circulated. Condolence cows were numbered and counted.

The price tags of exotic drinks were announced. The poor were admonished to eschew envy and find wealth. The crates of monies to be splashed, sprayed and thrown around were advertised days in advance. Those who didn’t attend were supposed to feel bereaved, at least unfortunate. Vulgarity had been suspended.

It was said that happenings in Oba were sufficient to entice women out of their marriages into a weekend of whoredom. People screamed obscenities. Those who said these things were role models who had surrendered courage and scruples momentarily to primal instincts of the id. We can thump our noses but nothing more. 

After the burial, some emerging philosophers began describing Oba as the centre of the rottenness of a country that started stinking before 1960. Oba became where sybaritism and get-rich-quick malaise frolicked with hyperactive social media that runs on vanity turbines.

Oba was redefined as the normalization of the money-worship that had lived like a refugee in churches, in banks, in politics, in every facet of society. Overnight Oba was saddled with the cross of a sleazy country as it became the realization of all the debauchery that had stalked a religious country.

Some remembered the CBN and the prohibition on the mistreatment of currency notes. They said naira notes, especially new notes, needed protection. The very notes that are sold at the fringes of every  owambe  party. Oba was also accused of promoting the objectification of women as money and fun-seeking sluts. Soon Oba would be blamed for and mass failure of students in their next School cert exams.

Times are truly hard. And many hardworking Nigerians scratch to eat. So any conspicuous picture of youngsters treating money with disdain would excite many emotions, including envy and righteous indignation. Money ought to be respected. Because money is toil, sweat and blood. So Oba should and did grate nerves.

The rich flaunt wealth sometimes for same reason. Money is precious. It fetches accolades, respect and status, which are the rewards of hard work. Besides milking accolades, Obi Cubana and his friends might have believed a carnival would help the poor. Yes, entice the lazy to work hard. You know the rich think like that sometimes. So why the fuss?

ALSO READ: I’ll vote Obi Cubana!

If Oba was anything, it was where the truth was told. And all pretensions were cast off. Money talked. Bullshit walked. Nothing was hidden. Saints relished the video clips, branded them obscene, and watched some more.

Things routinely done at nightclubs and indoor parties were done in the open. Those who have enjoyed being sprayed naira notes complained about bundles of naira being thrown at Obi Cubana. Fortunately, monies that were spent and sprayed didn’t come directly from government coffers. So let’s contain ourselves.

Oba wasn’t the venue of a political gathering. Political party delegates didn’t come for a jamboree called a convention where their agbada pockets would be stuffed with brand new foreign currency notes in exchange for their votes. The crowd in Oba wasn’t rented. Obi Cubana said the crowd couldn’t have been bought with money.

It was bought by many years of goodwill and friendship. Isn’t that virtue? Many of the other ladies came voluntarily, perhaps in the furtherance of women liberties and empowerment. They weren’t  bussed  there to be served as refreshment for some party delegates.

Some poor folks weren’t asked to donate to service the posh lives of their bishops. Obi Cubana and his friends did not depend on any brown envelopes from government officials to fete the crowd. So why the fuss? 

A young boy who came out of poverty to own over ten nightclubs buried his mother. He decided to spare neither money nor scruples. A grounded young man born into a culture where the burial of aged parents is designed to be loud and could confer bragging rights and honour. He didn’t create that funeral culture.

A young nightclub proprietor and his billions. Nightclubbing thrives on razzmatazz and glitz. Though Nightclubbing likes gender equality, it’s nothing without women and their magnetism. Nightclubbing isn’t prodigal, but it recognizes that sometimes ostentation should supersede frugality for the momentary excitation of the hypothalamus and for the acquisition of certain kinds of self-esteem.

Those who know the man attest to his industry and generosity. In Oba that weekend, he espoused a lifestyle, a showbiz lifestyle. He didn’t set out to patch the tattered moral fabric of society. He is not the missing-in-action head of the National Orientation Agency. Yet he took time to advise the youths to work hard if they wanted to play loud like him. So why the fuss? 

A bank’s chief executive or a university professor won’t be expected to relish the conversion of naira notes into confetti by friends for the acquisition of bragging rights or social recognition. They might love the revelry but won’t allow a public display of it. That might urge their friends to build a modern library which every city in Nigeria currently lacks.

But that constrained appetite cant be forced on a musician, a boxer or nightclub proprietor. Okay, they drank bottles of wines that cost N3.5M a bottle in a developing country like Nigeria. Tastes differ. They could fund their appetite. 

By our remarkable standards of greed, Obi Cubana is tame. A bit loud but tame. He is not an illiterate head of a road transport union who rides a Rolls Royce. He has a UNN degree in political science. Money was thrown at him obscenely. But he let even passers-by pick up some of the money. He didn’t take the glory and take the money.

He enjoyed the pride of gifts of cows and gave out the cows. Folks who contributed money for the funeral published the funds, but he has asked that 300 million naira be distributed to unemployed youths of Oba. 

Let’s save the contempt we have for yahoo-yahoo and drug dealers for those criminals. Let’s condemn the worship of money everywhere. Let’s discourage obscenity and exhibitionism. They are no virtues. But let’s not foist our moral choices on others. And let’s not judge like those villagers who think every wealth comes from money ritual.

Let’s resist the temptation to become that pastor who criticized Obi Cubana for not paving all Oba roads with the cows he received at the funeral. Don’t see Obi Cubana and Friends and start castigating tax collectors. Go and pay your tax.  Let’s not go for the speck in the eye of Oba and forget the logs in our eyes and the eyes of our country. 

Vanguard News Nigeria