Nigerian songwriter and social activist, Onyeka Owenu has condemned the lavish display at the funeral of Obi Cubana’s mother, saying it was obscene and insensitive.
She noted that it was not right since it came at a time when most Nigerians were going through severe poverty and lack.
While writing for Premium Times, the singer wrote: “I told a friend just days before the most outrageous burial of Innyom Ezinne Uche Iyiegbu in Oba, Anambra State in July that I had given my family instructions on how to bury me when my time comes. Do it quickly, quietly and privately. Celebrate me with prayers, lunch or dinner afterwards. Share some jokes about me and laugh. Mourn, yes, but not excessively. Make merriment and then go about your business. If my friends want to celebrate me, they should do so while I am alive, so that I can enjoy it with them, not when I am gone and have no idea about this. That is me Onyeka Onwenu.
“My mother, on the other hand, wanted a different burial and I promised to give her want she wanted. On her hospital bed, just three days before she passed away, I reinforced that promise – it was important to her and she died knowing that I would keep my word. Hope Onwenu’s burial was nothing like what took place in Oba recently but it was elaborate and pretty expensive. Still I had the satisfaction that I kept my promise.
“The point I make here is that there are different strokes for different folks, even within a family. I do not condemn anyone for how they mourn, with their hard-earned money but I am very uncomfortable with lavish display of wealth on any occasion, especially in a time of hardship and lack for most others. The burial of Obi Cubana’s mother was not only lavish, it was obscene and insensitive. It sent all the wrong signals at a time when Nigeria is wracked with widespread poverty and lack.
“But so long as he and his supportive friends stole nobody’s money to do what they did, my outrage has abated. I will not call for them to be hanged on the stake as some have done. These reactions have been extreme and just as mindless as the conspicuous display of wealth we witnessed at the burial ceremony. Obi Cubana and his friends did not invent the art of spraying, neither are they the first to show off stupendous wealth in a wild celebration of any kind. But in an age of invasive social media, our senses are instantly bombarded with images of sheer madness, where caution is thrown to the wind and we are regaled with images of sheer debauchery. We ask: Is this all necessary?
“I condemn it all. It does not reflect the Igbo culture that I grew up in. Ndigbo would not condone the conspicuous display of wealth. If you were found doing that, your close and extended family, your community would send a delegation to you, to ask about the source of the wealth you are throwing about. You would be ostracised if you have no convincing evidence of legitimate work. All that changed at the end of the Nigeria/Biafra conflict. Ndigbo were deprived of their money, their oil wells and towns excised from Imo and Abia States, their properties termed ‘abandoned’ and taken from them. They were forced to rebuild with no help and no compensation. It therefore became every person to themselves. Having money meant that you could get things done and like every other Nigeria society, our priorities were turned upside down. People no longer asked how and where you got your money. The point was that you had it. Our values may have been eroded but we have to fight back to regain them, to ensure our survival as the decent and hardworking people that we truly are.”
She added: “However, what I find equally deplorable in this whole debate, is the strenuous effort to tag the people of the South-East, Ndigbo, with all manner of negative attributes because Obi Cubana is Igbo. This is not surprising. It has always been the case. When there is unexplainable hatred, some people are bound to give a dog a bad name, so that they can justify hanging it.
“As a performing artiste, I am familiar with ‘spraying’; the practice of pasting money on or around a singer, to show appreciation for their performance. I also know that when singing in church, we ask anyone who is moved by the performance to give money to the Lord for ministry. When things are done in moderation they are more acceptable and their meaning understood. The reverse is true when excessive displays are made and a good gesture is obscured by garishness and thoughtless exhibitionism.
“There are, however, a few takeaways from this obscene exercise that played itself out in Oba. Let us give some credit to Obinna Iyiegbu for some of the positive things about his success story that have now come to light. We hardly knew him before his mother’s burial. It turns out that he has raised and continued to raise up so many others, even as he himself made it up the rungs of success. Such reckless generosity is rare but I can draw comparisons with people like M.K.O Abiola of blessed memory. We need more philanthropy in every part of Nigeria. Let those who can afford it, go round and lift others up from poverty and lack. Nigeria is blessed, her people have no business with hunger and depravity.
“To Nigerians for whom Igbo hating has become a sport, I say this: Stop wasting your time tagging and castigating Ndigbo for whatever reasons. The dislike and hatred of Ndigbo seems to be a uniting factor for the rest of the country, we know. But let us be fair to one another. As we see the bad, let us also see the good. They both reside side by side in any group of people in Nigeria.”
Source: Linda Ikeji
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