Obi Cubana opens up on his mum's lavish funeral and his wealth
Obi Cubana discusses how he found money and why he isn't going to be cutting soap for anyone.
When businessman and socialite Obi Cubana, buried his mum, Lady Uche Iyiegbu, last weekend, he not only shut down the southeastern town of Oba and environs, he took the social and mainstream media with him.
The funeral was discussed and analysed for days on end, not least because of its capacity to shock and awe, but also because of just how much cash was splashed and how opulent and lavish it all turned out to be.
In an interview with BBC Pidgin, Cubana discusses his humble beginnings, wealth and the funeral.
The interview below has been condensed and simplified for clarity to fit our house style....
On what inspired the ostentatious funeral
My name is Obinna Iyiegbu also known as Obi Cubana or Okpataozuora.
My mum’s burial was like this because we promised her that when she turns 80 years, the kind of carnival we were going to stage for her, no one has ever done it in this world.
As it turned out, mum died before she clocked 80 years.
So, we put all the effort, all the planning, all the energy, everything we planned to do for her 80th birthday, we now put it into this burial.
It’s been 15 years since our dad died. So what we did was take the love for our dad and gave it to our mama because love is beautiful. Until her death, she was playing the role of mum and dad.
Before you leave the house, she prays for you. When you aren’t around, she prays for you. When she died, it was as though some of my energy had been taken away from me.
On the splashing of money and if it was right
How could I plan for people to throw money or bathe with money? It’s their money which they can use however and in whichever way they choose.
All the men you saw at the funeral are big men, who have made a name for themselves in business and in their chosen professions.
What I think happened was that these men wanted to show love to the family, mama and the Cubana group. I have been rolling with these people, long before I started making money.
Most of them are schoolmates, most are people I have rolled with for years. We have been hustling. We were not always like this. We weren’t born with riches. We have histories.
So when an occasion like this arrives, people see it as an opportunity to show you love, to show your town that you are not alone. That’s what I saw. Our business is show business. So, it was just all a part of it.
I was very happy. Why wouldn’t I? No one would say I was caught stealing or that I disrespected my country while burying my mum.
I wanted to put my town Oba and Anambra State on the world map and I think that was achieved.
On his education and early beginnings
I was born in Oba and enrolled in a primary school where my mum taught--Central School Oba--which lies just opposite where the funeral took place. From here, we were taken to a secondary school in Onitsha.
Secondary school was DMGS. From here, I gained admission into the University of Nigeria Nsukka. You’d be surprised to know that I studied political science.
But after searching and searching for a job until my shoe gave way, and after completing the mandatory NYSC in Abuja, we started doing small small ‘Mama Put’ (local eatery).
Afterwards, we ran a beer parlour at Garden in Abuja, before El-Rufai (former FCT Minister and current Kaduna Governor) arrived to demolish everything. At this point, we thought all was lost, but soon, we were opening Ibiza.
Ibiza soon gave birth to Cubana.
When we were at Garden, me, my brothers and friends, lived in one Zone 4 house in Abuja. The room was a 12 by 12 and we used to lay our mattress on the bare floor. We were six occupants in a room and managing our lives.
We were not suffering o! We were the biggest boys in Abuja and Abuja wasn’t as exposed as it is at the moment. So we were pushing it, anything we saw...basically turning sand into Garri.
From here, work took some of the lads to Port Harcourt, Czechoslovakia, Lagos. Some of us remained in Abuja and vowed to succeed and find what brought us to the city.
We dey manage dat time...we weren’t looking to be like anyone else. We just wanted to make our own money and promised ourselves that we wouldn’t die of hunger. That someday, we would get married and raise our children.
That life would get better for us and that our tomorrow was going to be greater than our yesterday.
On making his first million
Not everything worked out. Some didn’t work out. We lost some money. But you know people don’t like talking about their failures.
But I am saying here that some of the businesses we threw money and energy into, didn’t work out. When that happened, we went back to the drawing board to analyse and locate exactly what went wrong and what we didn’t do well.
Immediately after my Youth Service in Abuja, I made my first one million Naira. It was at a time when real estate and selling of land were the biggest businesses in Abuja.
If you found a house for someone, you got 5 percent. That was the first time I heard of 5 percent in my life.
We were just hustlers.
As youth corpers, we were paid N2,000 each at the National Assembly where I served. Our allowance as youth corpers was 100 and something Naira.
So you add that to the N2,000 to buy food for the house.
As we searched for these little contracts, I met a client who said he wanted his house furnished. We did the job very well and the client was so happy that he gifted me N500,000. Add that to the over N600,000 profit I made and my first million had arrived!
I bagged a little contract at PPMC (Pipelines and Product Marketing Company), made some money and bought my V-boot automobile. It was this money we invested in the Garden business before opening Cubana.
On people who question the source of his wealth
I have no time to respond to anyone who wants to tell me how to spend the money I make. I made the money. Your own job is to watch. Whatever I want to do with that money is my business.
To respond to people who want to tell me how to spend my money, is a waste of my time. I’d rather channel that energy into how to make more money and achieve my goals. Let that person go and make his own money.
All these people who write these things on Instagram or on the internet, if you look at their legs, you won’t allow them access into your sitting room. They haven’t even had a bath!
These are people who don’t want good things.
And to these people, everything you do must be illegitimate or crooked.
But they will be surprised because all the time they are using to lie down and write whatever, use it to find some work to do and as long as God has given you a leg, hands and a brain...you’d be surprised at the many opportunities that abound in this our country Nigeria.
So, to respond to these people or join issues with them, would reduce me to their level. Ain't nobody got time for that.
On living large and rubbing it in people's faces
I have always been a quiet and private person. But my line of business....I didn’t know it would be this way.
This particular funeral, nobody--neither the attendees nor the planners--nobody knew it was going to turn out this way. Not even the town of Oba saw this coming.
But what makes you a man is to hold your own in whatever situation you find yourself. Don’t run away.
When we saw the crowd...most of my friends who are big men weren’t even around because they were hard at work during the funeral.
Everything was working as though we pre-planned it all. Well, we didn’t.
We didn’t plan for ⅕ of that crowd. We just made plans for a basic funeral, but here we are.
On the role of native doctors in wealth creation
My life is one kind. I pray. Because before you leave the house, you gotta pray.
If you don’t pray, it’s as though you left the house naked, leaving your body open to different attacks.
Miracles don't give money, because that pastor needs the money even more.
Native doctor cannot give you money because his children are the ones fetching water from the stream. If the native doctor doesn’t have money, how would he give it to you?
Work hard, work hard, work hard. Don’t cheat your fellow man. Keep your hands straight, as much as you can. It’s a natural door opener. You don’t need to do all of those things.
Fasting and prayers? Yes, for spirituality. I’m a Christian as well. But to tell me that if you fast and pray money would come, you are on your own there.
All that killing of fowl, sacrifices, carrying pad up and down to make money, is nonsense.
Whatever you find to do, keep your hand straight. This solves 90 percent of the problem. The other part you need is the grace of God. Don’t look at another man’s wealth. If you do, it should be to clap for them.
Not to wish and say how do I take what belongs to another. Even the bible preaches that do not covet another’s property. Once you do all these, you won’t even know most of the people who would fight for your cause.
Things are really happening in this world. Anyone who says anything to the contrary isn’t telling the truth. But if you live right and do the right things, even angels and the majority of the people would fight your cause.
People say Obi Cubana has money, that Obi Cubana is rich. Which money? Have you not seen people who have more money in Anambra or in this country? It’s not about money. It’s goodwill.
On his takeaway from the funeral
I think the most important highlight for me is that other people who have money long before we were born, and others still trying to acquire money, should know that money isn’t everything.
Because money can’t buy what transpired on that day.
Money can’t rent that crowd you saw on the day. It’s not possible.
You look at that crowd and no one died, no one was raped, no car was stolen, no house was broken into. We didn’t pay for that crowd. But these people felt that this man has tried.
The biggest takeaway here is that whatever money you make in this world, you won’t take any to the great beyond. It all ends here on earth.
As you enjoy yourself, remember those around you.
Because as evil as man is, there is an amount of love you’d show him, he’d look at you and say let this one be and attack someone else.
Always try to reconnect with your people and schoolmates, family members, brothers, folks you meet as you go along in life, because las las, all of us go die.
His advice to young people
Just keep working. If you are in your 20s now...me I am 46 years o...that means I have done my first half, left with second now.
So I don’t understand why someone in his 20s should feel dejected and say he hasn’t yet made it, when you have many more years ahead of you.
There is no soap to cut in this thing. Soap nor dey anywhere. Work, pray, be good. You don make your own soap, carry am baff. Dem nor dey cut soap for anybody for dis world.
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