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Nigeria’s “Owambe” Culture By Fredrick Nwabufo

Babatunde Fashola, Former Governor of Lagos state
Gov. Fashola of Lagos state, South-West Nigeria

Gov. Fashola of Lagos state, South-West Nigeria

The “gob-smacking” revelation by the Lagos state governor, Babatunde Fashola as reported in  some Nigerian newspapers of 23 September, 2013 that Lagosians fritter away a whopping sum of thirty-six billion naira on parties and other pleasures yearly throws up trenchantly the inorganic culture of waste, frivolity, hedonism and epicureanism in Nigeria. The inordinate celebration of, and hankering for things carnal, sensual, mundane, artificial and corporeal is what I term the Owambe culture. The Owambe culture epitomizes brazen recklessness and wanton wastefulness.

Pointedly, if Lagosians can guzzle thirty-six billion yearly in a gross pleasure chase, I wonder how much the Abuja patrician will gourmandize yearly in the same needless carnal gratification.

As a matter of fact, the logical assumption is that the Owambe culture thrives congenitally on corruption. That is, the so much talked about putrefied and corrupt Nigerian system engenders and exacerbates the culture of Owambe. This tangent explains the careless and injudicious use of huge sums of money for frivolities such as partying, clubbing, “lazy lounging”, and the rest in the lineup of fleshly trivialities. Not that there is anything wrong about throwing parties, clubbing or “lazy lounging”, but the over the reasonable top in fleshly indulgence is what is wrong, most especially when the money used for such gratification is gotten through corrupt means.

In the same vein, it is circumspective to state that not all Nigerians who crave for satisfaction of their fleshly desires through different pleasure angles in the Owambe geometry are corrupt. Some who have made their money genuinely may want to show that they have “arrived” by throwing big rumbustious shindigs while some who have just moved up the social ladder, and buoyed by new money too may feel that clubbing and “lazy lounging” are the ways to socialise and meet celebrities. However, these rationales are pooh-poohed by the fact that excruciating poverty still ravages many people in Nigeria. And it is against moral credos to indulge in profligacy in the midst of a screamingly high number of dying, broken, starving and diseased people. It is a testament to uncharity to be so indulged. In other words, there is no justification for the Owambe culture that appears ossified in Nigeria owing to the fact that a huge population of Nigerians is living in unimaginable poverty.

Again, Nigerians always have good and ridiculous reasons for throwing parties. They throw parties when they buy new cars, they throw parties when they build new houses, they throw parties on their birthdays, they throw parties to name their babies, they throw parties to celebrate getting visas to travel abroad, they throw parties to celebrate buying new designer shoes, phones, clothes, power generating sets, and even flat screen television sets. It is laughable, but it is true. It is not uncommon to see Nigerians in bars or clubs “declare” bottles of alcoholic drinks for their friends and “well-wishers” over buying a new power generating set that will keep their neighbours awake all night. This too is part of the Owambe culture; a culture of unreasonable excesses.

I know the counter argument here will be Nigerians who have enough money can choose to spend their money whichever way they want to. And that they commit no crime to choose to throw parties, have fun or celebrate whatever it is that they want to celebrate. True as this argument may be, the point is that the Owambe culture is symptomatic of a fast eroding culture of money management, prudency, modesty, chivalry, discipline and spiritual values in Nigeria. It is also in contrast to the vaunted belief that Nigeria is a highly religious country.

The Owambe culture exposes Nigeria to be a highly religious country without principles, spiritual values, continence and restrain. It shows Nigerians as a people given to pleasure, extravagance and profligacy. It is instructive to state that some empires of old crumbled as a result of the unconscionable crave for carnal and material pleasures by their people. History has shown that where there is too much exposure to pleasure and bodily banalities, indiscipline sets in. In this case, the Roman Empire comes to mind. It is safe to state that, this view does not mean that Nigerians become monastic or ascetic; rather it trumpets the need for sensible average of all things in the orbit of Owambe.

Too much exposure to pleasure which the Owambe culture entails seems to be a contributory factor to the problem of indiscipline in Nigeria. In fact, it shows us to be an unserious people taken in by barbarous gyrations and vanity.

Let us get serious and do things with restrain and in moderation. This is to avoid making true the contemptible assertion by Lord Frederick Lugard in the “Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa” that Nigerians are thriftless, lacking in self control, discipline and foresight, full of personal vanity, fond of music and with little sense of veracity.

In truth, this Owambe culture will not get us anywhere.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and a poet. Email:fredricknwabufo@yahoo.com 08167992075



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