Obi Cubana is not an idol


By Ejike Anyaduba

The Nation newspaper of August 9, 2021 had a story by Sam Omatseye titled Three Idols. In the piece, the writer made effort to lump three otherwise different people in an indiscriminate mass as ‘Idols’. But he did a poor job of it as anyone who is quick on the uptake would see through his contrivance.

Ramon Abass (Hushpuppi), Abba Kyari and Obi Cubana do not belong together. They are differently constituted and have different career pursuits in life. They might have provoked attention in the Nigerian media space within a given period, but it is wrong to mix apple with orange. But for a mischievous attempt by the writer to possibly balance the Nigerian tripod and give the crime a federal character appeal, the piece subserves no other purpose.

As a veteran columnist and editorial board chairman of the Nation newspaper Omatseye is expected to know better. But does he?

He has a pen, no doubt. He also has the language. He compares with very few on this score. And when his pen is provoked to action, it does with not just uncommon artistry, but also with a venomous drip. 

He is among the very few people I like reading. I find his writings which are often about national issues highly edifying and poetical. But I can’t recall reading him on a number of national issues like the bullion vans on Bourdillon. He wrote no didactic poetic on the subject. The story of the unusual money movement, deemed to have violated Nigeria’s anti-money laundering laws should have a natural appeal to him. So also, the unconvincing defense by the owner of the contents of the vans that he was not a government official. But they did not.   

But Obi Cubana was not as lucky. The burial of his mother has the appeal. It offended the sensibilities of the columnist. His interest according to him was not the source of Cubana’s wealth, but how he spent it. He didn’t think he observed the necessary protocol in money spending. Because of this he must share the status of an idol with two other Nigerians (Hushpuppi and Kyari) who are facing charges in the United States of America for international fraud and accessory to the crime respectively.

Omatseye was so embittered with how Cubana buried his mother that he called what happened at Oba (Cubana’s home town) a “subversion of merit”. He was too sure that “those who have many times more money are not seen in other climes to descend to such vanities”. Perhaps so!

But first let us look at this. Flamboyance as evident in Oba has been with us and is common among a particular tribe in Nigeria. Omatseye lives among this tribe. Flamboyance has no degree. Agreed that the social media escalated the Oba experience, but it was not for nothing. Cubana is in show business and what he did is still in line with those on that runway. Besides, it has a precedent. Omatseye ought to know this and as a historian should have read about it. But assuming he never did, may he be reminded that Nigeria had a flamboyant first minister of finance. Even when the minister had no reason to abuse money, he literally walked on it. Again, I do not think I read Omatseye’s moralizing piece on the matter. 

Although there is nothing to write in defense of flamboyance even for someone whose wheel of fortune always stops at the right number, yet there is no justification for comparing three disparate personalities. Let it be understood that splurging does not approximate crime. Cubana is a self-made man who works hard for his money. He is a brand ambassador for many quality products, including the exotic single malts scotch whisky, Glenfiddich. He is also plies his trade in hospitality business, estate management and general importation. It is important to state that what happened in Oba was a show of gratitude. Those whose lives he touched in positive ways were handy to identify with him in his moment of grief. They might be accused of splurging, but not enough to idolize Cubana alongside a fraudster. 

Omatseye claimed that those with deeper pockets in other clime do not descend to such vanities. How right? He probably has forgotten Adnan Kashoggi – the Saudi Arabian businessman. The sybaritic Kashoggi was the wealthiest man in the whole world in the early 1980s. His flamboyance was next to none and lived a lavish lifestyle. He was not alone. They are also in Nigeria, including those Omatseye genuinely idolize. Cubana does not have to suffer the indignity of a comparative analysis with Hushpuppi just because he buried his mother in a way many a Nigerian has done in the past. They might not have been reported because of near absence of the social media, but it was there regardless.

It smacks of mischief to compare Cubana with Hushpuppi and Kyari for any reason. Apart from the fact that he has a history of progressive rise to riches, he also has touched lives. He has mentored many to success, and shortly after the burial, offered three hundred million Naira to about three hundred youths to start off business. He has done so before. Like I stated above some of those who splurged at the burial were only showing gratitude the way they know best. The story of Obinna Iyiegbu is one told with a tinge of perseverance in the face of overwhelming odd. Until the burial many had mistaken Cubana High Priest for Cubana himself simply because the latter is self-effacing.

May it be known that Cubana did not pick money from abusing appointive/elective office like some of those we deify today. He did not pluck it off the net like many an internet fraudster. He worked hard to be where he is today. He started from a one room apartment after his NYSC in Abuja, operated an eatery before opening Ibiza restaurant and the Cubana brand. It is a measure of his disciplined life and managerial acumen that no case of robbery, missing or killing was reported at Oba during the burial. He managed the crowd like no other. Cubana is a brand and not an idol.

Ejike Anyaduba




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