Owambe is a Yoruba word which slowly crept into the sociology of most urbanised Nigerians. The Ijebus are especially known for their love for wanting to celebrate every single thing with a party. At owambe-type events, it is typical to see guests who don’t mind dancing like crazy to music by rare and expensive local bands as they spray Naira notes on the dancing celebrants while others just nod their heads to the sweet rhythm of the music.
Before high profile and tightly controlled events became the usual partying model, there were parties which any passerby who is well dressed could stop at, celebrate with the celebrants and have a fill of the food and drinks served. Many people who are either bored at home in the weekends or just seeking a thrill would dress up nicely and head to an event happening in town without even having to know the celebrants. Yes, there are tag-along friends too who would accompany invitees for events; knowing a celebrant indirectly is enough to guarantee a gate pass in many instances, especially in local areas.
The celebrants, in turn, prepare enough for this financially, of course, else a lot of people will go home deeply disappointed because there was no food and drinks to cater for the lot.
It, however, happened also that, as the economy got worse, the free-for-all pattern of owambe parties tightened more because celebrants now run their parties on a slimmer financial budget. This syndrome of attending to uninvited guests was a sport until it became abused and turned into free food fests. High profile socialites could afford the freebies but not the embarrassment of their parties being littered with nuisances who despite feasting to the brim, still beg for alms at events. They began to employ bouncers, police and security men to bar unwanted guests and scrutinize each entrant by an invitation card.
Nevertheless, despite the separation by societal class, this spirit of hospitality never died off totally. Drummers still beat their loud drums in praise of sophisticated and gorgeous guests so as to earn a big tip. Praise singers still eulogize the panegyrics of well-known names at these parties. Clowns and acrobats also are not left out of the post-ceremonial displays as they showcase their skills to audiences who don’t mind being wowed this one rare time. And while some guests return such gestures in Naira notes, others simply appreciate the effort with a short round of applause.
Nobody leaves these sort of parties the way they came. It is also an unwinding therapy for the attendees, even while celebrating with the celebrants. Owambe is often a no-holds-barred rendezvous where everyone dances away in public glare. It is often an achievement in celebration for both the organisers, celebrants, swingers and passersby.
Next to owambe parties in magnanimity are the regular Sunday services which Christians attend to unburden their hearts to God and fill up their souls in spiritual wining and dining among other things. But owambe parties are freer, less controlled, and open; this gives it more edge as a natural way for society to relax.
Weekends were created on calendars so that we could rest and catch up with other parts of our life; else we would all just be walking zombies who work in endless cycles. Owambe parties have thus been so useful not only in upholding the tenets of African communalism but also as a happy-go-lucky diversion serving to detoxify our souls of all the disappointment that haunt our lives day in day out.
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