In the whole of the 90s and early 2000s, Oba, a nine-village town in Anambra State, Nigeria, was a quiet settlement.
Shut down Oba: Inside the extravagant funeral of Obi Cubana's mum that has got Nigerians talking
More than 300 cows, over 50 private planes in two airports, blocks of money being sprayed and the details of an eight-day carnival.
Just five minutes from Onitsha, the popular commerce and economic hub, Oba's main attraction back in the day was the Rojenny Games Village which houses a stadium and a recreational centre with a zoo. The Rojenny Stadium was the home of the defunct Jasper United and Udoji United and hosted Nigerian league games in the 90s.
Since the late 2000s, Oba has experienced a massive influx of settlers due in part to its strategic positioning.
Just five minutes away from Onitsha and about 10 minutes from Nnewi, via the Oba Roundabout axis, Oba has become an annex to the two business hubs of eastern Nigeria.
Most of the traders from the popular spare parts market in Onitsha called Ngbunka now reside in Oba. Same for a lot of the wealthy spare parts and electronic traders with businesses in Nnewi.
The city itself is also gradually transforming into an international market city with three international markets being constructed.
Oba is hugely connected to wealth, but never in its history has it dominated nationwide conversations as it has done in the past week.
Tales of the almost obscene and flamboyant display of wealth at the funeral of Obi Cubana's mother in the sleepy town, have dominated Nigerian internet and household gossip chatter in recent days.
Born Obi Iyiegbu, Obi Cubana is a known Nigerian businessman who has become an internet personality. After the launch of his first hotel in 2006, Obi in 2009 expanded his business portfolio with an investment in a South African franchise, Cubana.
With hotels and nightclubs in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Owerri, Obi has firmly established himself as Nigeria's top hospitality entrepreneur.
He lost his mum Lady Uche Iyiegbu, who died in December 2020 at the age of 75. Seven months later, the show business and entertainment mogul pulled off the most extravagant funeral seen in the Nigerian internet era.
Shut down Oba
It was his boisterous mentee and former business associate, known as Cubana Chiefpriest on Instagram, that gave the funeral its first viral moment when he brought in a trailer load of 46 cows.
A close friend of the show promoter revealed that he made the order from Katsina.
Another friend donated over 90 cows, and it was said that Obi received almost 400 cows from friends and well-wishers.
That set the tone for what was to come in the eight-day funeral; Obi called it a carnival.
In the following days, Obi and his army of wealthy friends threw the events in Oba into the consciousness of Nigerians, excitedly sharing their display of opulence by the minute on social media, mainly Instagram.
From Obi's N50m pendant with his mum's photo to hordes of currency sprayed with wanton recklessness--it wasn't just the regular style of spraying single notes, they were throwing blocks of minted notes and several banks had bullion vans and security on standby to move cash to their branches.
Cases of Azul, a drink that costs more than N3m per bottle were shared in large quantities, guests arrived in long convoys of the most luxurious cars after private plane trips, the businessman and his peers stopped at nothing to put on a show.
"I'm sure a lot of money has left bank vaults in this part of the country for this funeral," an Operations Manager at a bank told Pulse that he sorted out some of his clients who attended the funeral in Oba, with millions of minted notes as far back as three months ago.
"We call these guys High Network Individuals (HNI) in banks; anything they want, we deliver to them. If they want mints for occasions like these, we can't say no."
Moneybags like Jowizaza, Ned Okonkwo, Henry Iyke, Justine Obiajunwa, Emeka Esomonu, Chima Desmond Anyaso, Nnamdi Chu Iyiegbu, Ugochukwu Harvey Igboanugo, Pretty Mike Of Lagos, Prophet Odumeje, Francis Nwaogwugwu, Quincy Okoh, Akin Alabi, Olakunle Churchill, Peter Obi, Escoba Smith, Andrea Williams of Betro Furniture, Emma Bishop Okonkwo, Shina Peller and so many others, took turns to visit Obi at his Villa in Oba and joined in the eager outpouring of wealth.
Celebrities also trooped in; BBNaija's Frodd was seen on Instagram spraying money, veteran actor Kanayo O. Kanayo gave us some funny moments on his Instagram page, he too joined in the act. Davido, Phyno, Patoranking, D'Banj and KCEE all performed in a concert in Oba on Saturday.
With no functional airport in Anambra State, guests flew private planes to Asaba and Owerri from where they rode in their convoys to Oba.
Oge, a staff at the Asaba International Airport, told Pulse that he counted about 41 private planes at the airport landing strip on Thursday, July 12.
"What I saw in Oba is something I have never seen before at an event. It was really amazing stuff," Raymond Iyieli, founder of Rayz TV, a society and celebrity platform who covered the event, said.
For the regular Oba residents, the extravagant funeral provided some opportunities.
Gerrard is an upcoming highlife musician from Oba but relocated to Enugu in 2016 in search of opportunities for his career.
He and his friends quickly formed a group of praise singers and spent the whole week in Oba welcoming guests with melodies from their gongs and drums.
"We are six in the group and every day for like three days, each of us made N400, 000," Gerrard told Pulse.
For context, there were almost a dozen of those groups at the venue and Gerrard and his crew didn't even have access to the entrance of the VIP area. Yet, they made that much money.
Most lavish funeral?
With the brazen display of wealth, the funeral of the septuagenarian which had the trappings of a festival, has gotten Nigerians talking.
Some have called it the 'Burial of the Year' while there have been debates about the most lavish funeral in Nigerian society settings.
During the debate, someone on Twitter mentioned the funeral of Madam Oyindamola Juliana Adenuga, the mother of Nigerian telecom mogul Mike Adenuga Jnr, the Chairman of Globacom.
Funsho Arogundade has covered celebrity and society in Nigeria for more than two decades and he saw in real-time the fanfare that event was in September 2005.
"It started in Lagos and then moved to Ijebu Igbo in Ogun State. It was quite a show that had the Lagos social establishment, captains of industries and several eminent Nigerians in attendance," Arogundade told Pulse.
"The reason why Cubana's event has been so loud is because of social media. If we had social media in 2005, we would still be talking about that event until this day.
"Just like you had a lot of musicians in Oba, it was like that in Ijebu Igbo too. The likes of King Sunny Ade and Wasiu Alabi Pasuma and so many others were performing every day."
"No matter the position it gets in the conversations about the most lavish funeral, Obi has raised the bar for people in that circle," Esther, an event planner in Lagos, told Pulse.
People close to Obi told Pulse that the event was made possible by his friends and business associates who wanted to show appreciation to him.
"He's very generous, and that's why these things are happening," a close associate of the wealthy businessman told Pulse.
"He sets people up to be rich themselves. People don't work for him for more than five years. He makes sure you become your own boss and gives you all the support you need. This is why people love him.
"He attends all important events of everyone who works for him, from weddings to burials.
"Just on Sunday, he promised to reward 300 Oba youths from 300 families with millions of Naira to start their respective businesses."
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