My childhood friend got married penultimate Saturday, and I was there to celebrate with her. Prior to her wedding, it had been a while since I last attended an “Owambe”- the local parlance for parties which literally means “it’s happening there.” I had almost lost touch with all the flamboyance and paraphernalia that usually accompanies such celebrations like weddings, birthdays and burial ceremonies, but once again was reminded that nobody throws and knows how to “work” a party like the Nigerian. As the latter part of the year when parties will most likely be thrown in quick succession approaches, it is important to know how to thoroughly enjoy a Nigerian party. Let’s get right into those things you have to consider to leave a party satisfied and glad that you attended;
Buy Aso-ebi: Before attending a Nigerian party, you need to find out if the celebrant would be picking a uniform fabric for would-be attendees of the occasion. It is a prerequisite for attendance. You see, this ritual of buying aso-ebi is extremely important as it is the major factor that differentiates the duly invited from the gate crasher. Furthermore, it is your ticket to being received and served properly at the party which gave birth to the slang: O wo Ankara o je semo, meaning if you don’t buy the Ankara, then you are not entitled to eat semovita. You may not be allowed to sit with the elites, not to talk of getting even the smallest of souvenirs if you go there looking out of place. Buy, sew and wear the aso ebi even if you have to borrow to do so. Do not say you were not told!
Pack up a pair of flat slippers or sandals: This is for the ladies who more often than not would wear a pair of high heels to a party. By all means, put on your stilettos at first, we all know the lift and graceful carriage it gives us, particularly the “vertically challenged ones” but we also know that only very few have mastered the art of carrying those those six inch heels elegantly for so long. So, to avoid stumbling all over the place when those feet start to ache or being confined to a sitting position because you absolutely cannot walk around anymore, do take along a pair of slippers or sandals that matches the colour code of the party. You can ditch your heels for them as the party progresses into the later hours. Remember the goal is not just to attend but to enjoy the party.
Take a friend along: You want to step into that venue with as much effect as you can muster and what better way to achieve that than coming along with a friend who’s just as well dressed as you, besides you will need a gossip buddy to dissect all the happenings at the party and have a good laugh. If you’re single, your friend can also help you spot a potential partner. Hey, you never know where you’ll find love! Did you say the invite admits only one person? Don’t mind those stingy hosts; more often than not they include that caveat only to deter people from coming along with their entire clan. You are taking just one person along. By the Nigerian owambe standards you haven’t erred.
Arrive fashionably late: Ever heard “African time?,” now this is where it applies the most. No one and I mean no one gets to the venue of an event at the stated time, not even the host(s). It is almost a crime to do so. If the scheduled time for the event is 12 noon, the earliest time you should arrive is 2pm. Getting there too early may mean waiting outside while the orgainsers are still inflating the balloons to be used for decorations. As a matter of fact you might be mistaken for the janitor if you arrive too early. This is Nigeria, it is fashionable to be late.
Befriend the caterers/servers: There’s nothing that can ruin your entire day and leave you in a foul mood like not being served at a party, especially if you left home on an empty stomach. Ten years down the line people still talk bitterly about that party where they weren’t fed. Let’s face it, the food is one of the reasons why many of us absolutely love an Owambe. The party jollof rice is like no other, therefore it is important that you don’t miss out on the fine cuisine. Besides you spent your hard earned money to buy that ridiculously overpriced aso-ebi. The only way you can compensate yourself for dolling out that amount of cash is to eat as many times as your stomach would permit, and if possible get some take away. Identify one of the servers and with your best smile pretend that you recognize them from a past event or just tip them, and you can be sure your table would be well catered to.
Sit strategically: Another party downer is making the mistake of sitting with the wrong set of people. If you’re in your twenties or thirties and you end up at the table of people who are old enough to be your parents, then you might be in for a long, boring time. Sit among your ilk, where you can mingle freely and network. This is a no-brainer!
Hustle for souvenirs: It really doesn’t matter if they are giving out pencils or trays that you absolutely have no use for. By all means, ensure none of those mementos pass you by even if you have to struggle or scheme to obtain them. You need solid proof to show your folks that you attended the occasion when you get home. Never mind that that mug or hand fan may end up in the dustbin after constituting a nuisance in your store for a long time.
Dance! Dance! Dance: If like me you love to dance, the Nigerian party is the perfect occasion to let down your hair and break it down. The flat slippers will also come in handy at this point.
The next time you are invited to a party, do remember to take all these factors into consideration and you’ll be glad you did. Attend and kill that owambe guys!