Every other weekend thousands of naira notes are ‘sprayed’ at social events and parties, especially weddings. This is one aspect of Nigerian culture that has refused to wane despite the current economic climate, writes Chineme Okafor
Social events or parties in Nigerian society differ greatly between urban and rural areas, across ethnic and religious borders, and with levels of financial means, but there is always a common factor that defines all of the celebrations you see across the country – ‘money spraying’.
‘Spraying’ of naira notes at social parties, usually with so much vibrancy and at intervals are often seen in few quarters as outward display of affluence at parties and widely acknowledged in most others as a necessary act that complements certain parties or social events.
No matter the level of education or economic circumstance, celebrants at social events in Nigeria will often go home with bags of naira notes sprayed on them by invitees and friends. This according to those who indulge in it is usually a sort of an attempt to help celebrants recover bits of their expenditure for hosting the parties.
And as a social norm that has lived for long now, it is almost impossible to attend wedding, burial, baby christening and even housewarming ceremonies in any part of Nigeria without seeing the dance floors littered with very clean and crisp naira notes.
These naira notes are monies sprayed to celebrants mostly as they dance to the entertainment and pleasure of their invited friends.
Also as a practice, there are select people to pick up the naira notes for keeps for the beneficiaries and to make it quite easier, they occasionally exchange lower denominations for higher denominations with invitees to allow them to go on with the spraying spree.
However, there are also real people who specialise in exchanging various naira denominations for people but usually at a slight premium. They are often called ‘money changers’ which if translated literally in the local Yoruba parlance, they could be called ‘ase owo’. These people also loiter around at parties waving their clean crispy naira notes to invite potential party sprayers.
THISDAY recently opted to check out the dynamism of this practice in this period of dire economic hardship in Nigeria, to discover that irrespective of the current economic conditions in the country, citizens still find it obligatory to spray the naira at parties.
“Most Nigerians still share a strong attachment to family and especially when families have reasons to celebrate,” Olajumoke told THISDAY in Abuja.
Clad in a traditional styled white lace blouse and wrapper, with a matching blue headgear, Olajumoke was attending a wedding party of a young couple in one of the highbrow event centres located in the central business area of Abuja, she made efforts to justify why she had to spray wades of naira notes to the newly wed irrespective of seeming complaints of hard times in the country.
“Clearly, we understand there is no money in the country, we also know that people are complaining that it is really tough these days but you can’t just attend a wedding party with no gift for the newly wed or even appreciate their efforts with few naira notes that you spray on them when they dance,” said Olajumoke.
She further stated: “When you spray the couple, you are not showing off or saying that you have excess money to waste, but you are telling them that you really appreciate their efforts at putting the party together.
“You are also in some way, trying to contribute something to make their first few days or months as a couple a little less difficult. Remember these people had spent money they saved to put up the wedding party, it is just in us to help them stand on their feet again as a new couple.”
Olajumoke noted that while social structures, and certain dominant factors like religion have helped shape the practice of spraying monies at social gathering or events in Nigeria, the fact remains that it is a societal practice that has gained diverse community supports.
She explained that social life in Nigeria has traditionally revolved around ceremonies such as weddings, christening and public performances, but added that they are all associated with the cultural practice of spraying monies irrespective of the economic condition.
“Forget the economy and the hardships, naira notes are still sprayed at parties,” Olajumoke quipped. “How can you come to a party and you look at the celebrant to tell him, ‘the country is hard, I don’t have money to spray you,’ you have to try no matter how small,” she added.
Similarly, in a friendly exchange with Bose who was seen at the same party that Olajumoke attended, though she was there for a different undertaking, it was realised that even though ‘money spraying’ at social events was still a very lively practice, the volume of monies found on dance floors these days has however dropped.
As a money changer who had come to do her business, Bose told THISDAY that she still made sales but on a very low scale now. She noted that her business is uniquely affected by both the country’s economic crunch, and shortage of social parties in Abuja.
According to her, she only relies on such social events like weddings and open birthday parties to make sales in the city but not burials.
“Nobody holds burial ceremonies where you can sell mint in Abuja here. Abuja is not a very socially exciting city. People here will only do their birthdays and weddings but not burials.
“They will take the burials to their hometowns to celebrate. That way, I rely mostly on just weddings to change monies. But now that the country is hard, the volume of sales has also dropped,” Bose said.
Notwithstanding the present economic hardship, further thoughts gathered on the status of this practice from Nigerians in Enugu, Lagos, Ibadan and Ago Iwoye indicated that naira notes still rain at parties across the country in defiance of the country’s present day condition.
So, when next you attend any social party, either wedding; burial ceremony or housewarming; maybe even the christening of a new baby, just look out on the dance floor, you may be able to observe how defiant ‘money spraying’ has become regardless of the difficult economic conditions in Nigeria. This longstanding cultural exercise has simply refused to be cowed off the social stage or arena.