The July lavish burial of the mother of the Chairman of Cubana Group, Obinna Iyiegbu alias Obi Cubana in Oba, Anambra State, literally broke the internet and dominated the mainstream media for weeks for obvious reasons. Before the burial of Ezinne Uche Iyiegbu, the social media was awash with list of cow and donations put at over 300 cows and N300 million. The event was so much publicized and attended by the high and mighty in the nation’s entertainment industry.
It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that Cubana painted Oba and Anambra red with the burial carnival. Without doubt, it would rank as the highest burial ceremony in the country so far. It witnessed naira and dollar rains. Pictures of big girls and others diving for the naira spraying were common at the event as well as lavish consumption of costly wines. Everything about the burial was classy and grand, including the N30 million casket and other aspects of the burial that lasted for eight days.
Agreed that some of the reportage of the event was so much exaggerated in the social media, some critics have lampooned Cubana for the astounding burial and decried the desecration of the nation’s currency and other unnecessary things they said on how a burial ought to be. Without necessarily joining issues with such critics, who I feel are entitled to their views, let me start by saying that it is immoral for a critic, no matter his position in the society, to recommend how another person should bury his mama or how he should spend his hard-earned money.
Besides, wealth is celebrated in every culture. What may differ is the approach. What some people miss is that Cubana has been silently attending to the needs of many people including his friends and business associates. It is not a surprise that they reciprocated such good gestures at his mama’s burial.
It is also inelegant to question the deceased life and whether or not she is qualified for such a burial. It is also nauseating to compare one burial with another. It is even tragic to start questioning someone’s source of wealth based on how he buried his mother. Those castigating Cubana for burying her mum in grand style never seen before may not be aware of the Igbo burial rites. Because of their ignorance, they should not be attacked for holding contrary views on the burial, especially the showmanship aspect of the burial and the flaunting of wealth.
Again, burial system differs from one culture to another and from one class of individual to another. Some burials attract great and lavish spending while others do not. Burial pattern is therefore a function of those bankrolling it. The burial of a wealthy person cannot be the same with that of a pauper. From the part of Igbo land where I come from, burial ceremony of an aged parent is likened to a celebration of life, especially if the person is ogaranya (wealthy person) or his or her children are wealthy.
That is why such burials are planned ahead of time so that the dead will be accorded elaborate celebration for rites of passage. In our culture, it is believed that the more elaborate the ceremony is, the quicker and joyful the passage to the spirit world or eternity. That is why titled elders, including the Ozo and Lolo title holders, the aged and the wealthy are given flamboyant burials so that their spirits will journey pleasantly to eternity or the world of the dead.
It is also believed that the spirits of dead people not properly buried will haunt the living and demand that they be accorded befitting burials. And the spirits of these dead people not buried with dignity will be restless until they are appeased. These facts are embedded in Igbo religious philosophy. Even the advent of Christianity and Western education has not obliterated these cultural beliefs which some people regard as superstition because of their affiliation to the dominant received religions.
Based on what I have said so far, the Oba narrative must be properly situated and some useful lessons learnt from the event instead of narrating it from the prejudiced and stereotyped perspective. There are always two or more sides to a story. It appears the dominant tale of the Oba event is taken from one perspective, the negative and forgetting the positive. Those dishing the jaundiced perspective are mostly outside the culture of the event. My thesis is that narrating the Oba event should go beyond the extravagant burial, the show of opulence and ostentation as well as its razzmatazz and capture the positive sides as well.
Cubana mama’s burial offers an opportunity to many Nigerians to smile and laugh in a country riddled with tragic news of human suffering and misery occasioned by poverty, insecurity and mis-governance. The Oba event is a great relief in a polity filled with tales of ethnic hatred and jealousy, killings, abductions and selective administration of justice as well as nepotism of a kind never seen anywhere in the world. In a country where the wealthy political class has excluded the rest of the people from politics, a generation of self-made entrepreneurs and business moguls such as Obi Cubana, Cubana Chief Priest and others offers an alternative. Obi Cubana represents the spirit of new generation of hard working and enterprising Nigerian youths. They deserve our praise and encouragement.
How many Nigerian youths can afford the millions of naira paid for nomination forms to even contest the post of a State House of Assembly or the National Assembly election? How many of them can even buy the form for governorship or the presidential seat of the dominant political parties? I don’t want to mention the approved campaign funds for these posts which are outrageous and obscene. With the monetization of our politics, only the billionaires will aspire for political positions in the country. That is why women and young people are naturally excluded from our violent politics. These should worry the critics and not the burial in Oba.
Beyond the carnival of Cubana mama’s burial, there is need to focus attention on how Cubana and other young men who Nigeria did not give any job or chance of survival were able to make it in life through entrepreneurship, despite the harsh business climate in the country. The Cubanas of this world should be celebrated and not be vilified on account of one isolated incident, the burial of his mum and the contributions of his friends and associates. Cubana has demonstrated that politics is not the only means to be wealthy and famous.
One can succeed in life through hard work and entrepreneurship which Cubana’s life story has illustrated. Who says that spraying of money is a crime? What of the ones done in many owambe parties in Lagos and other parts of the country. Spraying of money at parties, be they wedding or burial ceremonies, is part of our culture and no laws can effectively stop or criminalize it.
With the emerging tribe of Cubanas, it will not be so difficult to lift more Nigerians out of poverty through entrepreneurship system if government can take time to study their business philosophy which is an improvement in Igbo business apprenticeship, a carryover from Igbo extended family system. While criticizing someone on one event, let’s try to see the positive side of the person and the event being discussed. If because of one man, all Nigerians became too conscious of Oba, there is something great about the man. I don’t know Cubana but I admire his spirit of enterprise and philanthropy.