There might never be a movie titled My Big Fat Nigerian Wedding, but the reportedly lavish wedding of Folarin, son Nigeria’s richest woman, Folorunso Alakija, and his Iranian wife, Nazanin Jafarian Ghaissarifa, just over a week ago personified the stuff that blockbuster movies are made of.
Still, when I throw my toys, let the record show: it’s not as a diva feeling left out of the cast of an award- winning film.
For starters, the venue was Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England; not Nigeria.
Premium Times reported that this regular film location, the Blenheim Palace, is also the ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill. It featured in movies such as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Rogue Nation and Cinderella.
It is not the wedding that I am envious about, but the lost economic activity that should have been in Nigeria – not England.
Nigerian wedding planners, make-up artists and singers should have pocketed the £5 million (R82m) spent on this wedding, not the Brits.
Africa once again lost out as its crème de la crème prefer North American or European venues for lavish celebrations, or as their residence.
The numbers from the wedding are horrifying. Jeff Leatham, whose previous clients include singers Madonna and Tina Turner, media mogul Oprah and basketball ace Tony Parker, is not shy to bill £250000, especially when the wedding is said to have burned a million roses.
The cake clocked £2400 on the bill. How about up to £150000 for the crooner, Robin Thicke, to serenade the guests!
When a Nigerian tycoon hosts a matrimonial bash for her son, we are talking what a report in The Guardian once described as part of a “multimillion-dollar industry that is growing incredibly fast”, featuring weddings that are “loud, flamboyant with their own hashtag”.
The long list of African gems kept scrolling its way across my mind, as I pondered the cost of our poor governance and neglect of the basics.
Mo Ibrahim, originally Sudanese, is now a British citizen. This mobile communications entrepreneur who founded Celtel is worth $1.1 billion according to Forbes’ Rich List.
Strive Masiyiwa, a Zimbabwean philanthropist behind the multi-national Econet Wireless Group, is a resident of the UK. His net worth? About $600 million.
Elon Musk, born and raised in Pretoria until he was about 18, is worth about $17 billion. Yes, that talented and visionary founder and chief executive of SpaceX is now called a Canadian-American businessman.
Although Alakija still resides in Lagos, Ibrahim is working hard to improve governance in Africa through his foundation and Masiyiwa spends a lot of time in South Africa and channels some of his fortune towards Africa’s underprivileged, other countries enjoy the cream of their talent, enterprise and big budget events, like this wedding.
It is not only the multimillionaires of African descent who are exporting their skills or listing their business empires far from their home countries.
Nurses, teachers, software engineers and other professionals – even waiters – are plying their trade away from home. They do so because their countries are poorly managed by leaders who do not mind crippling crucial institutions with petty politics and short-sighted self-enrichment scams.
It turns out, these professionals and other workers from emerging countries of Africa, South America and Asia, sent $445bn home in 2016 – from the US, Europe and Australia. Africans probably account for close to $150bn of this, in remittances to their families. However, they spend the better part of the year riding in taxis, buying groceries, eating out in places other than those in their own towns and villages.
They pay rent, rates and taxes to foreign landlords and contribute to VAT receipts that boost the fiscal reserves of non-African countries. They do so with the skills we would have paid for. But, when payback time comes, we cannot hoard them; and they vanish to celebrate their weddings in venues reserved for cinema productions with a happy ending.
The African movie we live in, though, remains a tragedy, until we – the people – flip the script.