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Hit By Hard Times, Nigerians Abandon Elaborate Parties; Caterers, Decorators Groan | Punch


Dolapo Bolade, 34, surprised many of his friends and family members recently when his wife, Adebisi, was delivered of their first baby. A highly sociable young man who regularly attended parties and kept a network of revellers as buddies, there were expectations of a big gig from almost every quarter immediately the business man’s daughter, Ifeoluwa, arrived. Men, women, young and old – all who knew him had their eyes fixed on August 31, 2016. But when the day finally arrived, Bolade shocked everyone.

“Immediately people heard that my wife had been delivered of a baby, a lot of them started calling me, asking how big the naming ceremony was going to be, whether there would be aso ebi and which musician I was hiring to perform at the event. There was too much expectation but inside of me, I just laughed because a lot of these people don’t seem to understand what I am passing through at the moment,” Bolade said during a friendly chat with one of our correspondents earlier in the week.

“On the eve of the naming ceremony, some friends called and even came to my house to find out how I was preparing for the next day,” he continued. “But they were all surprised when I revealed that there was not going to be any elaborate ceremony. What we simply did on that Tuesday morning was to give the baby a name, no ceremony whatsoever followed,” he added.

A general contractor mostly dealing in the supplies of building materials and house-fitting items like electrical cables and fancy lightings, business has been terrible for the 34-year-old in recent months especially following the economic crisis in the country that has seen to the shutting down of scores of investments, thereby resulting in dozens of job losses across most parts of Nigeria. Apart from affecting his once bubbling social life, the Oyo State native has struggled to take care of himself and small family as a result of the current situation.

“If it were before, the naming ceremony of my daughter would have been a big party,” Bolade said with a voice laced with frustration. “I have never been a lavish person but I spend money when I need to especially for things that directly concern me. But with the poor state of business in recent months, there is no way I can afford to throw a party now. In fact, we had to just give the baby a name without any form of noise, it was a simple and quiet one,” he said.

Also affected by the harsh economic situation in the country, Mr. Remi Akinpelumi is another person who has embraced a low-keyed celebration in recent times. A barbing salon operator, his income has plummeted significantly in recent times; forcing him to abandon certain traditions he kept before now. Two weeks ago during the christening of his fourth child, a boy, there was no form of celebration or merriment like he usually did in the past. The 38-year-old pointed to one of our correspondents that his action was necessitated by the time.

Toriola, who blamed his low-profiled wedding ceremony on the bad economy, said he and his then fiancée chose a weekday because they knew many family and friends, especially those in Lagos, would go to work and would not be able to attend.

He said, “We didn’t wish to have a low-key wedding ceremony because all my life, I had always wanted to have an elaborate wedding. I am of the school of thought that wedding is the only event out of the three main events in life that you have control over. The other two are naming and burial ceremonies. For instance, I couldn’t decide what I wanted at my naming ceremony. I also cannot dictate what will happen when I die. I thought I would be able to do what I wanted at my wedding, but it was unfortunate.

“We had been planning to have a big party since about eight months ago when we chose our wedding date. Even though I got a job at an accounting firm just six months ago, some family members had promised to support me financially. I was hopeful, but suddenly the economy crumbled. They too had their own financial obligations and they started complaining. They even begged me to postpone the wedding, but I said no. I decided to go ahead with the little money I had.

“I had to quickly re-draw my budget and remove what was not necessary. I didn’t use men in suit. My wife too did not use bridal train. We also did not hire any caterer. Some women in the church volunteered to cook the little food we shared on the day. We also did not hire any musical band to play at the reception, which was done in the church hall.”

Toriola and his wife are not alone on this lane, they have dozens of company on this route. For example, in June 2016, Lola and Sesan Akinjide, who married in Osogbo, Osun State, also left out any form of elaborate celebration on their big day.

The husband, a medical laboratory scientist at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Teaching Hospital, Osun State, told Saturday PUNCH that if he were to insist on having an elaborate wedding, he would have waited for quite a long time before taking a wife.

He said, “To be honest, things are tight economically. We are being owed many months’ salaries and there is no hope that we are going to be paid. Meanwhile, one of my vows in life was never to borrow money or rely too much on the support of family and friends to do my wedding.

“In fact, when Lola and I started planning for our marriage in January, I had just N50,000 in my bank account. But I was not going to let that bother us. I am happy she understood the situation of things. She encouraged me that we should not be deterred by the economy.

“We didn’t hire any band to play at the reception. Immediately after the ceremony, the ushers quickly helped us turn the church auditorium into a reception hall, they re-arranged the seats. We didn’t buy plenty souvenirs. We invited only a few friends and family members and everything went smoothly.”

Rosemary, a marketing executive in a micro-finance bank in Ibadan, Oyo State, lamented to Saturday PUNCH that her wedding had now been postponed till February 2017 from November 2016 due to the bad economy.

The 27-year-old lady said if she were to have her way, she would have loved to do it at the former date, but for her fiancé who is insisting they should wait till next year.

She said, “I wouldn’t have minded having a low-key wedding, but for my partner who is adamant on doing it big. I am 27, he is 29. We have shifted our wedding twice now because of the poor state of things in the country. He is a medical doctor in a state hospital and as you know, Oyo State workers are being owed salaries. But as for me, we don’t need to kill ourselves over a one-day event, but since that is his wish, I have chosen to show some level of understanding.”

When Iyioluwa Ilesanmi clocked five last Tuesday, her parents did not organise a birthday party for her – a departure from the ‘norm’ anytime she is a year older.

The little girl’s mother, Mrs. Bola, who works in a commercial bank on Victoria Island, Lagos, said, “Times are hard and you have to manage whatever you have with wisdom. School is resuming very soon, we are saving money to pay her tuition. She should bear with us. The economy is bad, everybody is aware of that. Inflation has climbed up. The prices of things have gone high.

“When we celebrated her fourth birthday, we invited her friends from school and church to our house; they all partied and enjoyed themselves. There were enough food and drinks to go round. However, we cannot afford such spending at this time; it is a very terrible period for everyone.”

Yusuf Balogun, an electrical engineer based in Ogun, who recently moved to his own house in the Ogijo area of the state, told Saturday PUNCH that he could not afford to throw a party or host guests well on the occasion as income had not been flowing in the way it used to before now.

According to him, the three-bedroomed bungalow apartment, which he shares with his wife and two children, was completed through the grace of God and the little amount he managed to save over the months.

“My initial plan was to have a big party by the time I would be moving into the house but with the present situation of things in the country, it became practically impossible to do so,” he said. “For the past four months, I have not done more than five jobs unlike before when throughout the month, I would have been fully booked.

“As a result of this, meeting up with daily responsibilities has become very tough. In fact, if not for the grace of God, I wouldn’t have completed and moved into my house yet. On the day we opened the place, the people who came to rejoice with us were not more than 10. We had to keep it that simple because there was no money to host a large number of guests,” he said.

Tunde Mayegun, a building contractor and landlord in the Ikorodu area of Lagos said most of the persons he had seen move into their own houses in the locality did so without throwing any party or elaborate celebration unlike in the past when such were usually greeted with a lot of fanfare in the community.

According to the 56-year-old, most of those in this category that he knows personally attribute the development to the present economic situation in the country.

“House-warming used to be big ceremonies in most parts of Ikorodu in the past but these days, you’ll just see people move quietly into their buildings.

“In fact, a lot of the people whose houses I supervised also did not do any elaborate celebration. When I asked them why they chose to do that after what God had blessed them with, they told me things were not as easy as they used to be some months back. Since I have been in this part of Lagos over 20 years ago, these past few weeks would be the first time I would be witnessing such, otherwise it used to be big celebrations almost every weekend for us here,” he said.

Following the latest development, major service providers during big and medium-sized social events have also been affected. For example, some caterers, cake designers and events hall managers who spoke with Saturday PUNCH all expressed frustration, revealing that the present economic situation is keeping customers away from them.

Philomena Emani, a caterer based in the Shomolu area of Lagos, said a lot of clients who ordinarily should engage their services during their parties and other social events have opted to cook meals for very few guests themselves while in some extreme cases, food is not even included in the line-up of things these days.

She said most clients do not contact them again after they must have submitted the amount required to provide everything needed for such occasions, including their service fee.

“Most clients don’t call us again after submitting the cost of providing food for their guests including the fee for our services,” Emina said. “They think we are the ones that have deliberately jacked up the budget but they forget that prices of food items are no longer what they used to be in the market. Many of my colleagues in the business are also facing similar challenge. The situation is really affecting us because patronage is drying up,” she said.

A visit to a handful of popular halls where big social events are staged across the Lagos metropolis by one of our correspondents revealed how poor business has been for them in recent times, too.

For example, a worker at one of such facilities located on Aladelola Street, Ikosi, Lagos, said that unlike in the past where the 800-capacity hall could be fully booked for the entire weekends of three months, they hardly get reservation orders for two weekends at a stretch these days.

According to him, the few customers who approach them also ask for significant discount below what they usually could give.

“Patronage has been very low these days. It is as if people are no longer doing events. Our hall used to be fully booked for all the weekends for three straight months in the past, but now even if customers use the place this week, you might not get another client until maybe three weeks later. Even the ones that are coming, the type of discount they are looking for is crazy. We are not the only ones experiencing this type of problem, if you move round Ikosi, Shangisha, Ketu and Alapere, it is almost the same thing, I know this because we have colleagues in those places. It is a very serious problem for us,” he said.

An events planner in the Yaba area of Lagos, Mrs. Favour Adah, said sales had dropped by almost 60 per cent in her shop within nine months.

“Up till January this year, I got up to six engagements in a month. But last month, I got only two and the clients have not even paid up the balance. So, I too owe my employees — my cooks and ushers. The two clients are my friends, so I didn’t want to turn them down. If not, I wouldn’t have managed their events,” she said.

A souvenir shop owner at Maryland, Lagos, Mercy Usman, said she was getting up to 10 requests in a month to package souvenirs for her clients. However, this has changed.

“I packaged souvenirs for only three clients last month. I’ve got only one request so far this month for a couple who are wedding and they are even opting for low quality items. Everyone is complaining about the economy and it has affected sales,” she said.

In the other places visited, the responses were the same – the prevailing economic situation in the country has badly tainted the colour of most social events across Nigeria in recent times, leaving owners of private halls and event centres to reel in pains.

A Lagos-based economist, Dr. Abraham Babatunde, said it would be “foolish” to spend lavishly on any social function during this period of economic recession.

He said, “I think many people are just being wise. Nobody wants to spend all their savings or income on a party and then go broke afterwards. It doesn’t make economic sense. With inflation up to 19 per cent, job losses, among others, it is not wise for anyone to spend lavishly.

“People will forget about whatever event you have few hours after it is done, so why spend all your money on it? The problem is that the money is not even there. So the trend of opting for low-profile events is a good response to the economic situation in the country.”

Sociologist, Keji Ayorinde, sees the development as not only a threat to businesses dependent on social events but also for a significant part of the Nigerian and African culture.

She told Saturday PUNCH that treating guests to sumptuous meals, drinks and good music under a lively atmosphere was a core part of most indigenous cultures across Nigeria – one that bonds people together in a special way.

“When you look beyond the amount of money spent at wedding, naming and other forms of social ceremonies we have in Nigeria, you’ll discover that there is an underlying significance of such gatherings. Even though I am against frivolous or unnecessary spending, social ceremonies bring people from diverse backgrounds and places together while also fostering a spirit of brotherliness among such individuals. It creates an atmosphere for loved ones to rejoice under a relaxed atmosphere while also encouraging people to extend financial, material and moral support to friends and relatives. It also creates jobs for a lot of people.

“But these days as a result of where we have found ourselves, a lot is changing in this regard. This could lead to the loss of some vital elements of our tradition and culture as a people,” she said.

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