Returning home from parties with souvenirs of diverse description is a common feature in Nigeria. The souvenirs often range from plastic to edible items. The practice is widespread among many tribes in Nigeria but appears to have gained popularity among party organisers in the South-West. The gift items are used by party hosts to appreciate the attendees who not only bought aso-ebi but also graced the events and spent money.
From one weekend to the other, there is always a party in one street corner or magnificent halls. Little wonder the popular saying that weekends are for Owanbes (parties) filled with pomp and circumstance.
Dwelling on the issue, an entrepreneur and partygoer, Miss Ayomide Lateef, said she loved parties and was often teased as a party rocker.
She said, “Call me the party rocker. I love parties and there is almost no weekend I don’t attend parties. I am usually the life of any party; I enjoy parties. I enjoy parties and the dances. I love dancing.
“I have travelled all over the country from Lagos, Oyo and Enugu states even to the Federal Capital Territory. We get souvenirs from parties and I have many souvenirs to show for attending parties. They are lovely souvenirs.’’
Party organisers also try to make their parties sophisticated through the choice of aso-ebi to classic venue arrangement. Also, in the past, souvenirs were mostly plastic items and some rich hosts gifted attendees expensive gifts.
Now, party hosts appeared to have stepped up their game by handing partygoers rechargeable lamps, medium-sized wall mirrors and blankets. They usually get the items branded with the images of the hosts or couple of the event is a wedding.
In 2017, a Lagos-based interior designer, Ehizogie Ogbebor, and millionaire ex-husband Kenneth Bramor, left several tongues wagging in the ancient city of Benin City, Edo State, when they took souvenir sharing to a new level during their wedding tagged Ehiken2017.
Apart from the iPhone X and other expensive gift items that were distributed to guests at the event; two lucky guests reportedly got brand new cars. The winners emerged through a raffle draw held at the wedding venue. There were also 200 pieces of clothing material worth N150, 000 each given out freely at the ceremony.
In 2014, guests converged on Otuoke, Bayelsa State and Abuja for the two-legged wedding of the then President Goodluck Jonathan’s daughter, Faith Osakwe and her beau, Prince of Osimotu Kingdom, Godswill Osim from Abi, Cross River State.
The second leg of the wedding held at the National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja was breathtaking. The venue played host to movers and the shakers in Nigeria and beyond. At the event, expensive gift items were also handed out to guests. The talk-of-the-town event, which brought together some of Nigeria’s biggest and most powerful public figures, saw attendees reportedly going home with customised gold-plated iPhones.
Reports noted that the expensive mobile gadgets were among other valuable gift items guests got from the colourful event.
In recent times, souvenirs have taken different forms from the splendid to the ridiculous.
Another partygoer, Mrs Abiola Ojiekwu, told our correspondent that she had received several souvenirs at parties. She named the gifts to include kitchen utensils, bathroom equipment and foodstuffs.
She said, “Parties are fun places to get souvenirs of many kinds. I have received many gifts from parties such as buckets, cooking spoons, pots, foot mats, shopping bags and toothpaste.
“Most times souvenirs are determined by the amount paid for the aso-ebi. The quality of the aso-ebi would determine what one gets as souvenirs. If one buys an ankara as aso-ebi, one may likely get cheap souvenirs.
“Things such as spaghetti, noodles, toothpaste, toothpick, salt, sugar and others are usually shared by family members and well-wishers to make the hosts’ parties worthwhile.’’
Ojiekwu, however, said that sometime in 2016 she received some herbs in a container as a souvenir.
She stated, “In 2016 at a wedding in Ibadan, Oyo State, one of the souvenirs we received was herb for pile in a container. We laughed when the kegs were handed over to us. We eventually took it home, with the belief that it was meant to flush out the system after the several foods taken at the event.”
Besides, Nollywood actress, Toyin Abraham, distributed pepper as a souvenir at the first remembrance of her colleague, Iyabo Ojo’s mother.
As souvenirs for the event, Abraham packaged fresh peppers into customised bags to be shared among the guests and attendees.
The actress shared a video showing the small bags of pepper and bigger sacks that had yet to be shared into the smaller bags. Each bag, almost filled with red, fresh peppers, was embossed with the Ojo mother’s picture, courtesy of Abraham and her husband, Kolalwale Ajeyemi, presented as ‘Daddy and Mummy Ire.’
In 2022, another socialite party went viral on the internet.
A Nollywood actor, Alesh Sanni, was the one who share a video of the party where guests were given live chickens. The party which was also attended by other Nollywood actors drew attention as some Nigerians commented online that they wished to be among the attendees. In a video, each of the live chickens was tied at one of its legs with a pink ribbon.
The actor wrote, “I love Lagos party abeg, na so I collect chicken o …. (Please, I love Lagos party that was how I collected chicken oh).’’
In November 2021 when plantain was expensive, a socialite, Hajia Wazeela with the Instagram name, Poshgbemmy, shared online her excitement as she and some other guests at a party were given plantain, yam and vegetable oil as souvenirs.
The excited guest wrote on Instagram page, “It is souvenirs that you cannot comprehend that they share (sic) at Lagos parties now.”
“Very sure breakfast! I forgot to add vegetable oil, some people shared yam too but it didn’t get to my table. What Lagos people won’t share as souvenirs does not exist.’’
Our correspondent observed that wedding souvenirs in particular were meant to thank guests and leave them with a lasting memory of the special day.
A marketing professional, Mrs Tomi Bright, who attended a wedding where a travel box was shared as a souvenir, said she was excited at the gift.
She said, “I am glad I got the souvenir because it came in handy for us. My husband and I plan to relocate and the bag is essential for us to pack some of our items. I was invited to the party by one of my clients who has become a friend.
”There is more to wedding souvenirs than just the prints; it’s more of a favour to the guests. It’s a good thing to make a wedding memorable for the guests too.
“At the same time, one doesn’t need to spend so much because a wedding is only for some hours and commitments will knock at one’s door after the event. One can share what would be valuable without one breaking a bank. For our wedding, we shared mugs, trays and shopping bags.”
Not long ago, an event in Lagos stirred panic when petrol in kegs was shared as a souvenir. The event took place amid shortage of the commodity in many parts of the country.
In a viral video, 10-litre kegs with petrol were seen being distributed to the guests at the party. The video also captured a fuji musician, Alao Adekunle, popularly called Malaika, who performed at the event, as he expressed surprise upon noticing the odd souvenir.
He sang in Yoruba, “Where is my fuel? I thought it was oil because it’s common to see oil at parties.”
The souvenir irked many people who expressed concerns over the risk involved in sharing petrol as a souvenir at a party.
However, the party organiser, Ms Chidinma Ogbulu, went online to apologise to Nigerians after the backlash.
She explained, “I want to use this medium to apologise for the momentary indiscretion of bringing petrol souvenirs into the hall.
“My intent was just to show appreciation to my guests for turning up at my event at these hard times. I have paused to reflect and truly apologise and I thank you all for your understanding and criticisms.”
Also, Opeyemi Arinola, an event planner, and the Chief Executive Officer of EventsbyAarinola, described party souvenirs as gifts to appreciate guests so they wouldn’t leave events empty-handed.
She said, “One of the ideas behind party souvenirs especially in Nigeria is for guests not to go return home empty-handed. It’s a show of love to the attendees. On the other hand, some people gift souvenirs regarding any fabric sold to intending attendees for an event.
“Amount or fabric sold, the calibre of people attending the function, season when the party or function was held. For example, some share umbrellas during the rainy season.
She said, “Souvenirs should be shared among everyone who attends the function, not just those who bought fabric or those who gift the celebrant a gift. Souvenirs should be worthwhile. It should be tangible.”
Arinola further said that souvenir sharing was a means for party organisers to show off affluence.
She added, “It should be something that will be able to serve a purpose regardless. Going as far as sharing petrol and those funny items are not so reasonable. Personally, I feel it’s just to show off.”
Responding to sharing of petrol as a souvenir, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu said it’s regrettable that despite a series of warnings and sensitisation carried out by the police and other relevant government agencies, some individuals could be handling such combustible substance in a public place in total disregard for the safety of lives and property.
He said, “Still concerned about the safety, and protection of lives and property of citizens, the Lagos State Police Command once again appeals to citizens to avoid this kind of condemnable act in the name of generosity.
“Although the event centre where the distribution of the souvenirs took place has been located and subsequently sealed, the Commissioner of Police, CP Abiodun Alabi, has, in addition, ordered the arrest of all persons involved in this regrettable and reprehensible act.”
On his part, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, noted that sharing of fuel as a souvenir was dangerous and could lead to loss of lives and property.
Omotoso said, “It is blatantly against all safety measures in such places. The Lagos State Government through the Safety Commission is investigating this matter and will ensure that all parties to this reprehensible action are made to account for it.
“The safety of lives and properties of Lagosians and visitors remains a top priority to the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration. We, therefore, advise that actions that can lead to loss of lives and properties be avoided.”
Last month, a Lagos State Special Offences (Mobile) Court sitting at Oshodi sentenced Ogbulu, to two years in prison for distributing petrol as a souvenir during a party.
Chief Magistrate Kehinde Ogundare convicted and sentenced the socialite following her guilty plea and evidence by the prosecution.
Ogundare held that prosecution proved its case against Ogbulu beyond any reasonable doubt. A statement by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice indicated this.
Ogbulu was first arraigned on March 14 for distributing petrol as a souvenir during her installation party on March 5 at an event centre in Lagos.
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