TIME TO SPRAY DOLLARS AND POUNDS
Janet, my little cousin does not like Prof. Soludo right now. She has not met the man. She doesn’t even live in Nigeria, so she’s very unfamiliar with his economic policies and how he’s turning the banking sector around.
But her wedding is coming up in May. And, because the CBN governor has now banned spraying of Naira notes, Janet is upset, disappointed that she may never get the heaps of Naira notes she’s sure her uncles and aunties and dad’s colleagues would have sprayed her on her wedding day. It’s not that she out-rightly has anything against the ban. But, as she told me on phone this morning, ‘why couldn’t the ‘guy’ just wait for me to finish my wedding before the ban’? Like D’Banj, she’s asking ‘why me’?
And I understand her plight. Janet’s elder brother got married in 2005. And it was the proceeds from ‘spraying’ that the newly wedded couple used to furnish their apartment, get a fridge and a Persian rug. At a time when people have become averse to giving quality wedding gifts (I remember having to give out almost all my wedding gifts : most of them were the same things: pots, coolers, buckets, cutlery, and other boring kitchen ware – what happened to the car keys, laptops, iPods, and a return ticket to the Bahamas?), most new couples are making do with returns from spraying. See that bride dancing away wildly? It’s not the music she enjoys that much. She’s most likely been schooled by brides before her: ‘The longer you stay on the dance floor, the more you dance, the more money you make. Okay?’. So when she remembers how much the wedding has gulped, when she remembers that she’s not finished paying for some items, unlike of the groom that’ll just stand there and be consumed by gloom, the bride will bend down and dance. Standing right beside her will be her best friend (for best, read: most trusted) whose job description is: make sure all the money is complete and in order.
Now, how do you expect all upcoming brides to forgive Soludo? The man has dashed their hopes. He says we should put money in envelopes and give to celebrants. How will anyone know I gave the couple N1Million? How will the bride know when to stop dancing, when she has no idea how much has been made. What if they get back home, open the envelopes and discover that most are filled with N20 bundles that are not even enough to pay the balance of the groom’s tuxedo…?
And how do you expect the musicians, the drummers and singers who make the music the bride dances to, to ever forgive Soludo? You see, the longer the bride stays on the dance floor, the longer the musicians stay too. Meaning? The more money both bride and musician will make. In fact, it has been proven that the bigger the musician and the more gifted he/she is at praise-singing, the more likely it is for him/her to make more money than the celebrant.
So it’s not surprising that KSA, one of the all -time greatest beneficiaries of spraying has come out to condemn Soludo’s ban on spraying. The brides and other celebrants can devise a new way of getting money out of their guests (for example selling gele and fabrics, or taking gate fees!). But what will a musician do? Especially if you’re not a pop star like D’Banj or Psquare- who are the favourite of concert promoters. Since the late nineties, sales and concert patronage have continued to dwindle for juju, highlife and Fuji artistes. But guess what? They’ve not had cause to complain until now. Because, these are the folks that occupy the party scene.
From the high and mighty, to the latest ‘money-miss-road- around the corner, everyone likes to have KSA, Sir Shina Peters, KWAM 1 or Oliver De Coque on the bandstand when they’re having anything that looks like party. And it’s a win-win situation for the musicians. They get paid a couple of millions, and they make a couple of millions more, after praise-singing the top guests at the shindig. Over the years, this has become an art form, with particular musicians noted for being better praise singers than others; and moneybags devising individual styles of spraying. Everyone’s happy: the individual gets recognition, the musician gets sprayed money. Everyone’s happy.
Except Soludo. In fairness, the CBN Governor is just concerned about the naira. The highly cerebral economist is not happy with how we ‘abuse’, maltreat and devalue what should otherwise have been a national identity. How many of us can squeeze a 10 pound note in our pocket? How many women will keep pounds or dollars in their brassieres? We don’t respect what’s ours- that’s exactly what Prof Soludo is trying to say. The only thing he needs to know, perhaps, is that moneybags don’t squeeze money. Infact, they only spray crisp notes, usually taken from their expensive wallets. And musicians (or brides) have a way of keeping the money neat and in mint condition. Most times, it is the butchers and market women and conductors – and policemen! – Who have cause to squeeze and ‘rough-handle’ the naira.
I think those are the people Soludo and his team should go after. Let’s continue this culture of spraying. An art that has turned many (including KSA and KWAM 1) into millionaires. An art that has saved many brides from going hungry after their wedding extravaganza. An art that some professors from Harvard are already considering doing a dissertation on. An art that can help my cousin Janet make some money during her upcoming wedding. We need to beg Soludo. Appeal to him and let him understand why he should go after market women, butchers, conductors, Policemen and Okada riders – instead of poor musicians who are just propagating a culture laid down by our ancestral fathers…see, we need to let him understand that praise-singing has been proven as one of the most effective ways of orally preserving family histories, idiosyncrasies and tradition. And spraying is an integral part of praise-singing. What more? Both spraying and praise-singing rely on that indispensable tool called music! Music is so important that even the CBN commercial highlighting the consequences of spraying has Victor Uwaifo’s all-time classic ‘Joromi’ as soundtrack… so?
So if musicians must sing on, then they should be free to recognise the VIPs amongst us. They should sing their praises to high heavens; pour encomiums and adulations on them and their wives, and their next door neighbours. And the VIPs, whose heads would by now, have swollen beyond limits, should be able to appreciate the recognition by spraying some crisp naira notes on the musicians…
Like KSA has said, Let Soludo amend the ban. Let him ban throwing naia notes in the air. Let him ban stepping on it. Let him ban squeezing, and whatever. But please, let the culture of spraying on the forehead remain. Let. It. Remain! But if he refuses to amend the ban. I won’t be surprised if the musicians and their glory-seeking patrons find a way out. I won’t be surprised if after all that’s been said, the art of spraying still refuses to die. I have this feeling that people’ll still go ahead and spray. Only, this time, it may be pounds and dollars. Simply bring your naira to the party, and agents will convert them into the pounds or dollar denomination you desire. That way, we can eat our cake and have it: preserve the naira, (which is what Soludo wants) and still spray-and-be-sprayed (which is what we want). That way, anyone can spray, without the fear of Soludo’s six months jail term or fine of N50, 000…