…AS WEEKEND PARTIES SLUMP, SERVICES PROVIDERS GROIN.
Poor economy takes its toll on peoples’ social life.
Services providers cry of dwindling patronage and forced to cut down rates.
Quality of services drops.
Addons on services cut off or reduced.
The week, as usual, crawls towards the weekend. The hustling of the week quickly pale into the obscure part of the mind, so also is the shoving and pushing. It is time for merrymaking, time to display flamboyant lifestyles; trending clothing designs, hairdo and all that. Party time is no joke for Nigerians, especially in Lagos, the center of excellence. No matter the season, the time, the difficulties, no matter how they complain about the poor state of the economy, weekends are a special treat. All other issues, political differences, religion divides, cultural conflicts, are driven to the back burner: male, female, young, old, Christian, Muslims, tall or short, dark, yellow, shall all troop out to different directions, attending one social function or the other.
Be it on the Island or at the mainland axis of the Lagos metropolis. It could be in Ijebu Ode, Shagamu, or perhaps, Ibadan, Oshogbo, Akure, Ado Ekiti, Ilesha in the mainland of South West, Nigeria. The spectacle, the beats, the conviviality are always similar. The spectacle is practically the same in other flanks of the country in the Eastern and Northern areas. By Thursday, the mood is decipherable, rising activities around entertainment centres, all over the place. Gaily dressed men and women, heavy headgears, fanciful design multi-color Ankara uniforms, caps daintily placed on the heads. The wardrobes are virtually turned upside down. It is the weekend, and It’s party time. This is Lagos and it is the same all over the country, only with lesser flamboyancy.
For weddings, it is a thing of joy and from Thursday the program starts and you will see increased activities in and around with intending couples going to the Local Authority Marriage Registries for the legalization of their union, also funerals’ Wake Keep are often scheduled for this day. Fridays are mainly wedding introductions and traditional engagement ceremonies while Saturday is set aside for real Wedding Service and Reception. Also, final Funeral Services and reception held on this day, as well as other landmark events, such as Chieftaincy titles, birthdays, remembrances, housewarming and any other socials that catch their fancy. Why so? Because, from time immemorial, the weekend is set aside for events so that everyone will be able to attend. Also, in this part of the country, the weekend is synonymous with “FEFERITY” which is a coinage for everything joyous and “celebratable”.
Our Correspondent was in Ondo Town, Ondo State for a funeral engagement. He speaks with the operator of a popular Mama K African cuisine along Akure road, she said: ‘Ondo town here is a weekend town. By Thursday you see people coming in gradually, and by Friday, the whole town is full of one social activity or the other. We always enjoy good sales on weekends and by Monday, the town is empty again. No sales, no business. We have to wait until the following weekend’.
The same scenario was painted at the emerging town of Okemisi, Ekiti state, by a beer seller, Ms. Esther Tinuade. She told our correspondent that ‘between Monday and Thursday, you go to your farm since you know there won’t be any business patronage. It is from Thursday that business starts to pick up.
On most days approaching the weekend, traffic out of the city of Lagos towards, Ibadan, Benin, Asaba, Eastern, and far Northern states and other mainland Yoruba areas are usually heavy, and peaked fully by Friday and early Saturday morning is usually hectic. Maneuvering through these traffics to arrive at your destination would mean you leave home early enough to beat them.
Oh yes, it is the weekend. It is the period of heavy celebrations across the land. If some are not getting married, some would be taking, accepting and celebrating chieftaincy titles, some celebrating landmark birthdays, some are marking their retirements from Office, while some would be engaged in funerals for their late relations, some others would be remembering long-dead parents.
Among the sub-Sahara region of West Africa, Nigeria, stand distinguished by her expansive socio-cultural life. The people revel in loud celebrations of landmark events. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) at a point, in a report, adjudged Nigerians as the happiest people on Earth. Nigerians, most particularly, the Yoruba people of South West, are well noted for lavish celebrations of events. They revel in large gatherings on landmark birthdays, the bestowment of chieftaincy titles, weddings, funerals, remembrances, and sundry other events with various eye-catching dresses and other bodily adornments. Indeed, no event passes by without a lavish celebration. To some, it is an opportunity to show off. While others believe it a must to do it or be looked at in the community as a nonentity.
While these social parties last, the lists of local musicians grew. Many of them made it very big; they became very successful in life. The likes of King Sunny Ade, Chief Ebenezer Obey, late Dr, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Oliver De Coque, Dan Mayara, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, all rose to national and international prominence and made huge wealth out of music, all by singing at social parties. The Federal Government even went on to honor the first trio with the highly prestigious National Honors of “Members of Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (MFR)”. Such is the significance attached to social entertainment in the country. Mr. Goyega Akinola, an Ikeja-based legal practitioner while commenting said ‘this is the positive influence of the Yoruba culture of pure entertainment. These great men you see today would have been ‘Garage Boys’, nonentities, if not for their music and the heavy patronage by the people.’
However, this aspect of the people’s culture is more pronounced in the Western part of the country, with Lagos and some good part of Ogun State standing out, although other towns, cities and even villages in the zone are also deeply into it; while the Eastern and Northern flanks of the country are not lacking too far behind. The difference is only in elaborate plans, expenditures, conventional facilities and logistics deployed to make such an event grand.
Of late, the need for regular security and private bouncers (bodyguards), are fast becoming a necessity in Lagos and its environs. This is necessary to check the increasing influx of uninvited guests and miscreants, popularly called ‘Area Boys’ into the event’s hall.
While the costs of throwing a celebration keep skyrocketing, the purchasing powers of the people at the same time is becoming weaker and weaker. The economic crunch in the country is not giving many rooms for frivolous spending. Therefore, most celebrations are becoming muted.
Cutting down costs, drawing a harsh scale of preference, and abject reduction in numbers of invitations sent out are part of the measures being taken to reduce costs of marking a landmark event.
Hosting an event does not really come cheap, especially in the metropolitan Lagos and other major cities. From the printing of the invites, brochures, memorabilia, hiring of a decent hall (Events’ Centre), getting it decorated by an expert, getting a litany of caterers, from foods to small chops, roasted meat, fried meat, et al, assorted drinks, music band, and several other inanities.
In the metropolitan areas of Lagos, and her suburbs, social parties have been restricted to Halls and Events’ Centres. Even in the Ogun State area, where no such law exists, the people have adopted the Lagos style of taking their events to Halls and Events’ Centres.
In Lagos State, the use of open spaces in the neighborhoods and blocking off streets is not allowed. These facilities are now available in the nooks and crannies of Lagos State and the border towns, between Lagos and Ogun States. Even the areas considered generally as sub-urban or rural, such as Epe, Ikorodu, Ibeju, Badagry, Alimosho, are not left out.
Before the boom of these Events’ Centres, the people make use of open spaces in the neighborhoods, block streets, and the open fields in public schools, but late in the year 2007, the Lagos State Government, under former Governor, Mr. Raji Babatunde Fashola (SAN) enacted the edict banning the use of such open spaces for social events. Public schools’ open fields also came under the hammer for what an Official at the State Ministry of Education told Feferity Magazine ‘gross abuse of the facilities and embezzlement of the funds realized from the patrons across the State’.
Since the edict was promulgated by the State Government, rich individuals, corporate bodies, religious organizations started the massive building of Event Centres. Comatose warehouses, factories, and uncompleted buildings were swiftly converted to Event Centres.
The bookings logbook is always filled up. The patronage is high, very encouraging and the money is rolling in. The economy was booming, and the people were celebrating all manner of events. Many more Centres open. Now such facilities dot every corner in the State.
Then came the big bang in 2012. The Crude Oil prices plummeted across the World. While some countries boycotted the Nation’s crude oil due to political or other reasons, some simply cut their orders. OPEC also cut production quota of the country in early 2013. Crude Oil sales thus suffer towards the end of 2013 and by 2014 the spiral effects of this on the micro economy of Nigerians were already becoming excruciating. Later in 2014, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration came in and declared frugality in all spending. He first set up a compact government and stopped several frivolous spending by the government. He changed the system of governments having many accounts in several banks, by introducing the single account policy whereby it made it illegal for any ministry or government parastatals to open a separate bank account. Hitherto, the practice of different accounts for different purposes was rampant and it is used to siphon government funds to private pockets.
This government’s policy reverberated all down to the grassroots. It practically affected virtually every aspect of national life. Even State Governments found it tough meeting statutory financial obligations, including payments of salaries. This directly impacted on the purse and financial strength of the people. Celebrations, under whatever guise started suffering. Many expenditures were cut or abandoned outrightly.
The impact of the downturn in the country’s economy on the social life of the people was harsh and huge. The people still celebrate though but have since scaled down spending seriously. All aspects of the people’s social life were affected, elaborate planning took back seat, leaving only the necessary facilities and logistics. This led to a big hole in the economy of caterers, entertainment providers, and operators of Event Centres.
The operators of Event Centres, in need to stay afloat, in spite of the harsh reality of dwindling patronage, or no patronage at all, have started adopting various tactics to stay afloat and remain in business, hoping that better times would soon smile on them.
FEFERITY MAGAZINE correspondent went around sampling some facilities, their rates and services provided. We also spoke to some service providers. The reactions from them are distressing.
At most of the Event Centres visited, operators we spoke to complained bitterly about dwindling patronages and other sundry problems being faced by them.
These Centres mostly are powered by diesel generating sets. The current price of diesel now is about #250 naira per litre. Aside from this, the costs of maintenance are rising daily. This has led some operators to embark on drastic steps to remain in business. Some of them have scaled down their staff strength, retaining only skeletal staff. Some are placed on a part-time basis, while some are called only when needed, “0” zero-hour contract.
Also, most of the Centres visited by our correspondent have drastically reviewed their rates down and cut off some services. In some, where ten high capacity air conditioners were installed, four would be put on during events, while large capacity standing fans would be used to augment the air conditioners. Lightning has also been greatly reduced. This we learned is to save costs of power bills and diesel.
The caterers are not fearing any better. Aside from the high costs of food items, increasing costs of operations, there is also a reduction in quantities of foods ordered for.
(To be continued next week)
Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria
Feferity (c) 2020