Having grown up in Nigeria, I believe the Nigerian culture that has an unmistaken flamboyance regardless of the tribe. Nigerians tend to be extravagant, dramatic and love to have a good time. Nigerians have been named one of the happiest people in the world, ranking 6th happiest and 95th happiest in Africa and the world respectively, according to the World Happiness Report (WHR). Not that we are without our many challenges but we always find a way to make ourselves happy just as Fela Kuti put it, Nigerians have a culture of suffering and smiling.
This reality is obvious at our ceremonies and functions. In Nigeria, we don’t play with our occasions especially weddings popularly called “owanbe” in Yoruba language. If you have ever been to a Nigerian wedding, you will attest to the fact that we have traditions that if absent, it will feel like something is missing.
Some of these traditions are wearing identical colours and fabrics at an event to identify ourselves called “Aso ebi” in Yoruba language. Having the aso ebi sometimes means you get a special seat and you will most likely not miss the party-jollof rice, which we all love. I attended a wedding once and the food finished before it got to me, I remember going home feeling sad even though my mum had prepared the same jollof rice at home. My mum is a great cook but then, the rice does not have the party jollof rice smell.
If you have been to a Nigerian wedding, you know the live band or DJ better be someone supplying good music because Nigerians love to dance. If you are bold enough to get to the dance floor, you know that’s the fun part, after the food of course. Don’t be surprised when you see you see a group of people dancing to what seems to be choreographed steps, it is either they have practiced from home or it is a trending dance step.
So, the dancing begins and you start seeing money flying, freshly minted notes of five hundred naira, one thousand naira and some denominations of dollars and pounds being pressed on the heads of the bride and groom. This is when the dancing gets intense, people dancing vigorously trying to outshine each other, the “hypers” (people who can’t dance but will hype those dancing to dance more) shouting the names of those dancing well. Also, there are also the money pickers, picking the crisp notes of money from the floor and putting them inside multi-coloured polythene bags.
I hate to spoil the fun, if you have ever been in any of the categories described above, guess what, you broke the law and should be in jail either as the culprit or the accomplice. Okay maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but spraying is punishable by law. Some people call it a “money rain,” and others simply call it “throwing money away.”
According to Section 21(3) of the CBN Bill, it states, “For the avoidance of doubt, spraying of, dancing or marching on the Naira or any note issued by the Bank during social occasions or otherwise howsoever shall constitute an abuse and defacing of the Naira or such note and shall be punishable under Sub-section (1) of this section.” If convicted the person risked six months in jail or a fine of N50, 000.
But guess what, spraying does not only happen in Nigerians. In Poland, the male guests at the wedding form a queue and take turns to dance with the bride while the female guest dances with the groom during which money is pinned on the bride’s wedding gown or put it directly in a purse. In Ukraine, the bride’s veil is detached and given to the maid of honour, then an apron is placed on the bride which is employed to receive money sprayed during the dance. Some other countries that practice money spraying are Cuba, Mexico and the Philippines.
Even though this is one of the fun parts in a wedding or function for us as Nigerians, we must remember that there are strict rules against throwing money away or abusing the Naira. It could be legal in other parts of the world, but it is not legal in Nigeria.
Recently, a heated debate was created by Nigerians on social media as a viral video showing the President’s daughter, Hanan Buhari dancing with her bridegroom being sprayed with money at her wedding as she danced happily. Nigerians took to social media to make various comments regarding this event, stressing why the law was being violated at the presidential villa though the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been campaigning against the abuse of the Naira, with penalties for anyone found culpable of this offense.
No one would want to be in jail or be paying a fine on a happy day. So, while we keep up the tradition of wearing our aso ebi, the dance and the party jollof, we must also remember the law and respect the Naira.