While many of our idle rich people have for long stopped celebrating their birthdays in Nigeria, preferring to transport their friends and associates to some choice destinations abroad, the new craze in town is that the wedding ceremonies of their children and wards also no longer hold in our country: It is now a Dubai affair!
Ordinarily, wedding ceremonies are religious cum traditional affairs between two individuals and two families who would invite their relations and well-wishers to share in the joy of the day. And it is usually held, in most cultures in our country, at the location where the parents of the bride reside or the community they hail from. But because of the corruption of our values and all that we once held dear, wedding ceremonies are now being exported to countries that have nothing to do with the family of either the bride or the groom.
The latest of such happened recently between the son of one of our subsidy billionaires and the daughter of a top civil servant. Even when the parents on both sides are Nigerians who have done well for themselves here, they did not consider our country good enough for their children to tie the nuptial knot. The father of the groom had to spend a scandalous amount of money ferrying no fewer than 20 senators, numerous House of Representatives members, many bankers and politicians of all hues to Dubai in the United Arab Emirate for the obscene wedding that has now put the career of the bride’s father in serious jeopardy.
For sure, there is no law that prevents anybody from taking the wedding of his children to the moon. But there is something immoral about Nigerians who make cheap money here and would not even allow our people to share in the crumbs. Because by their offshore wedding ceremonies, they are cutting off the local event planners, the caterers, the musicians, the photographers and the poor people who ordinarily mill around such events to take home reception leftovers. Beyond all these is the image problems they create for our country.
When people associate Nigeria with corruption, it is not that other countries are immune from such sordid practices but rather because here, people flaunt ill-gotten wealth. And with no tax man after them, they can afford to advertise their debauchery since the money they spend is not worked for and no one is putting them to task on how they come about such humongous wealth. Yet we are talking about people who don’t employ beyond drivers, cooks, gardeners, stewards etc.--domestic staff who only minister to their personal indulgences. For instance, I cannot imagine that Alhaji Aliko Dangote will buy flight tickets for about a thousand people to go to Dubai, just for the wedding of any of his children. He won’t do that because he knows the value of every kobo which he works for while he is also conscious of the fact that thousands of families depend on him. But when you can get billions of Naira without sweat, you can as well decide to hold burial ceremonies in Alaska to feed your vanity!
Interestingly, President Goodluck Jonathan last week alluded to the debasement of values in our society. Represented by the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms. Amal Pepple at the official kick-off of the National Christian Campaign on Social Transformation, the president said, “The whole society has failed, that is one reason we have incidents of cultism, armed robbery, murder, ritual killing, drugs, sale of babies, kidnapping and sexual immorality. Indeed, we have lost our moral values and principle; so much has gone wrong in our family life, schools, churches and society in general.”
Such is the level of decay that when someone recently gave me details of the private jets owners, I just could not place many of the names. When I sought to know what many of them do for a living, the standard response was, “he is into oil”, which essentially means they are mostly rent seekers who prey on the lack of transparency in our oil and gas industry. It is therefore understandable that they will be taking their birthdays, wedding celebrations and even the naming ceremonies of their children to Dubai. But no society can develop when you have, as Nigeria evidently does, a preponderance of people with such warped values in critical positions in both the private and public sectors.
• This piece was first published in THISDAY in 20th June, 2013