Tade sat down on the plastic party chair totally perplexed by the heavily bottomed woman who was swaying her hips in rhythm to the juju music being played by the band. The woman moved her body fluidly as though she had expertly trained for the choreography; her butt gyrated in perfect harmony to the vibrant sequence of talking-drum beats and percussions. Not even her rich and heavy traditional laced outfit of iro, buba, ipele, majestic gele and glittering display of jewelry could stall her movements.
Emma who sat beside Tade, slapped his arm.
‘Guy, na food you come chop or na nyansh you come watch?’
‘Eh? Me? Watch whaa?…haba, no nah.’
‘Then finish your Jollof rice and mineral make we vamoose before somebody come blow our cover.’
Tade got the message and faced the plate of steaming Jollof rice with two small pieces of meat that had been served him earlier by one of the serving girls.
Almost every weekend a party took place in the rowdy urban neighborhoods of Ebute Metta ; networked streets would be blocked and barricaded from vehicle traffic, canopies erected, plastic chairs arranged in array. Food, drinks and Juju or Fuji music would be served till late into early morning hours. The parties could be for a funeral, wedding or just random youth or street clubs needing to throw one to stay relevant.
Tade and Emma always seized any opportunity to gate crash any of these parties (popularly referred to as ‘Owambes’ because of their vain, extravagant and flamboyant nature) in order to get fed from the surplus menus that flowed at these events. All they had to do was dress well for any event and blend in with the surplus crowd that characterized these gatherings. They would be all smiles wishing relatives and friends of the celebrant well. They always sat under canopies for ‘friends of the family’ to avoid any easy detection.
Emma finished his own meal and quickly handed the empty plate to a server who was clearing used plates and disposing wasted food. He watched out for anybody giving out souvenirs which are usually just cheap merchandise carrying an imprint of the event. The more expensive and better quality merchandise were usually reserved for people who wore the correct ‘aso ebi’ – the official dress code that would have been sold for the event at almost twice its original price.
Nobody seemed to be sharing any souvenirs at this particular event. Emma took note quickly.
‘Guy do quick and finish your food make we go elsewhere. These people no get anything pass food.’
Tade was struggling with a piece of tough goat meat that was beginning to cause his jaw to ache. Exasperated, he threw the half chewed chunk back in his plate and picked up a serviette to clean his oily hand.
‘Next time, make sure say you collect plate wey get ‘ponmo’ instead of goat meat.’
‘As if ‘ponmo’ no dey get him own wahala too,’ Tade scoffed dropping the used serviette into the plate.
They got up and walked through seated guests, smiling and greeting family members and friends they came across as though they were of any relevance.
Once outside the crowded venue, they hi-fived each other at a successful outing.
‘So, make we go home now.’ Tade said belching and poking his dental gaps with a toothpick.
‘Dey go. I still get one other party I wan jam.’
Tade gave him a worried look.
‘Another party? After two plates and three bottles you never belleful? Emma you no need this oh.’
Emma adjusted his well starched guinea buba and sokoto and checked to ensure there were no food stains from the last party. He then looked at his friend, unperturbed.
‘You dey come? Or you wan tanda there dey run your mouth?’
‘Na only drink I go take. I no fit eat again sha.’
The targeted party was taking place in a partially secluded location in the outskirts of the town in an expensively decorated hall.
Tade stopped in his tracks and looked at Emma in alarm.
‘Emma! Na when we begin enter hall? You know say na only street runs be our thing now!’
‘Guy, this one no be like any of those ones wey no get correct money for correct food. Sunnepa talk am say na ‘serve yourself’ dem wan do there.’
Sunnepa was their special informant on parties happening about town. He had been crashing parties for years and knew how to blend in so well it was hard to detect he was a fake guest. He even went as far as acquiring the aso-ebi of the day. Sunnepa knew any owambe gig happening anywhere within the whole Ebute Metta radius.
Outside the hall, a lovely banner had been erected bearing the picture of a young unsmiling couple.
It was a wedding reception.
The hall was large and air conditioned. Expensive vehicles littered the car park surrounding the venue as well as outside along the perimeter of the hall. Guest with distinguished air that reeked of opulence and importance colorfully flocked the venue. There was even a red carpet location where people stood to express their wishes and reminisce about the times they had encountered with the couple before a number of reporters and cameramen. Flashes kept going off and on as photographers thronged well dressed guests to get a good snap at them.
Tade felt a weird sense of unease overwhelm him.
‘Emma, I no too feel comfortable for this place. Them fit catch us oh!’
Emma gave his friend a confident smile.
‘Guy, chill, just follow my lead. ’
They managed to get past the red carpet section and into the hall after Emma produced fake IVs as requested at the door.
Tade looked at his friend in surprise, Emma winked back at him.
The event required only guests by special invitation and Emma had it covered. Sunnepa had done his homework well.
The cool air inside the hall was a soothing and comforting contrast to the hot one outside. The hall had a stage area where a romantically decorated settee for the newlywed couple was positioned under a colorful arc among lovely decors. They walked past the exquisitely decorated tables staying clear of reserved seats and the ones that already had a guest or two seated. Eventually they found a totally empty table far back and sat down.
Throughout the razzmatazz of the event, Emma and Tade maintained pretentious air of arrogance like most of the guests. Emma was more convincing; his smoothness made him look like some wealthy arrogant yuppie. A couple of young ladies with celebrated mien even stole a look or two in his direction. Tade on the other hand looked a tad bit timid despite his good looking Atiku outfit which sat very well on his medium built frame.
Time progressed with the arrival of the couple and special guests of honor. A band played to usher them in amidst cheers. Tade noticed a number of celebrities in attendance. It was a high profile wedding.
Soon an announcement was made to guests to proceed to the buffet tables to serve themselves. Distinguished guests and celebrant family members were positioned closer to the serving tables and as a result were opportune to get served before all other guests. Emma and Tade found themselves at the far end of a long queue.
‘Why you let us siddon for this side eh? See where we come dey!’ Tade retorted at Emma. It felt good to be on the ‘I told you this wasn’t worth it’ side for once. Emma ignored him and kept looking as important and arrogant as he could; everything to avoid looking like a desperate party crasher.
They soon took their turn to serve themselves.
Seven uniformed stewards stood behind the buffet tables in case anybody needed any assistance. Tade noticed that they were all men and they looked very stern. For a moment he felt a twinge of fear that one of them might see through him that he was a fake guest.
Two of them kept looking at their wrist watches. Tade wondered what they were impatient about.
Why on earth do they have only men waiting on the guests? Couldn’t they have gotten women too?
Emma had picked a plate and gone about picking his selection of meal. He was cautious not to overdo it so as not to raise suspicion. Tade followed closely behind and picked only a pair of chicken laps and a small helping of coleslaw.
‘Is that all you want? Have more sir.’ He heard one of the stewards say; he was a broad-chested fellow in white uniform jacket.
Tade felt uncomfortable and refused to heed the steward’s encouragement. Instead he reduced his helping of the coleslaw. It seemed as though the man was leading him on into a trap to blow his cover.
Back at their seats, they both placed the food on the table and continued to watch the happenings around them. They were observing one of the key rules of crashing a party – never eat served food immediately; delay for a while to stall suspicion of your desperation to eat.
Tade’s eyes kept going to the stewards behind the buffet table; well built fellows with hardened looks.
There was something awkward and off about them. They seem to move with martial precision as though every move was calculated and rehearsed.
And some of them kept looking at their wristwatches.
By now the MC of the occasion, an obvious friend of the groom was telling a fabricated funny story on how the couple met. Emma noticed it was deliberate as the couple in question looked indifferent to each other.
Definitely an arranged marriage, he thought and picked up his fork to begin eating but was quickly halted by Tade.
‘What now?’ Emma grunted, irritably. He hated being interrupted when about to eat.
‘Don’t eat the food yet. I don’t like how those guys are looking at us.’ Tade spoke in hushed tone signaling with his eyes to one side to point to a certain direction.
Emma spun round systematically to comprehend what was going on at the buffet table.
One of them – the one who had chided Tade to take more helpings – was looking towards their table and there was a slight scowl on his face.
To be continued….