I had crashed a party with another Nigerian friend I met at Davos and we weren’t even sure who the organizer was at that point. We just heard good music and saw people holding glasses of alcohol and that was our cue to walk in. While the party went on, some guy standing behind me kept stepping on my shoes. In my head I said “Chai, if dis na Lagos now, person for don collect slap.” I moved my leg forward but he kept stepping on it. I eventually turned with a scowl, tapped the dude and just as I was about to tell him to give me some space, I looked at his name tag and it read, ‘Lakshmi Mittal’. Yes, it was the Indian steel magnate, CEO of ArcelorMittal and majority shareholder of Queens Park Rangers with a personal net worth of $16billion dollars. Of course at that point, I simply gave him a handshake and almost asked him to keep stepping on me. That is a typical example of how random Davos can be.
There are at least 20 parties every night after sessions during the Annual Meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Most are by invitation only and others are open to all comers. For some reason, the ones you crash are usually the most fun, while some others are simply ‘uncrashable’. Some parties are a constant feature every year and have grown a reputation for being the best and most fun. The Google party, Japan Night, Price Waterhouse Coopers and the Yahoo! Party, are some of the most sought after. Sometimes, so sought after that you don’t even know the venue until the party has literally started or is about to end.
Nigeria decided to join the party (no pun) this year so as to give people a taste of what to expect when Abuja hosts the World Economic Forum for Africa in May 2014. We were first timers so you can imagine my fear when I found out we had picked the same night as both the Google party and Japan Night. Worse still was the fact that the Nigerian party and the Google party were to both hold in different halls at the same Intercontinental Hotel, Davos. Truth is, I was just really looking forward to having pepper-soup and any hot meal after days of feeding on cold salads and dry sandwiches. I’d heard about food coming in from the famous Yellow Chilli and Transcorp Hilton so I was excited and a half.
The Nigerian in me still hoped the party wouldn’t fail. But everything was pointing to the contrary. Word had come in that Mary J. Blige would be performing at the Google party while Idris Elba who had come in earlier for a private screening of his Mandela movie to forum delegates, would be DJing. How do you top that? All we had were Omawumi and Timi Dakolo and Cobhams and Kakadu, with a possible presidential sighting. We had to just keep being as noisy as we could be (that comes naturally after all) while hoping we got the numbers.
The party started with Omawumi’s amazing rendition of the national anthem, then a few speeches by Mr. President and the Nigerian Ambassador to Switzerland and the Founder of the World Economic Forum. At this point, one of my American friends gave me that look that said; ‘Ol boy, I don cut out o!” Nobody was ready for speeches when we could hear what sounded like Mary J’s voice not too far away. A lot of my other friends would have left if they hadn’t seen how much food there was to eat. Everyone wanted a hot meal and patience was the key to that.
Then the Kakadu crew gave a performance of their life. And Timi gave his now famous performance holding the Nigerian flag. Then Omawumi took over with the live band. I ate as much as I could, boozed a little and took to the dance floor. The live band was crazy as they kept switching from Wizkid to Tina Turner to Dbanj to Madonna. It was insane. I looked back about 20 minutes later and Lord-have-mercy; the hall was packed and everyone was going crazy. Most of the people, who had run to the Google party, had run back. I was getting Whatsapp messages from people asking where the Nigerian party was holding. Word was spreading fast.
Nigerian Ministers were dancing like they just got their ministerial appointments. Mayors of other African cities were taking off their jackets and singing along to Flavour’s songs. Business leaders, both Nigerian and International, were ready to invest all of their companies’ FDI budgets in Nigeria if anyone had asked them at that point. The wife of a former British Prime Minister was even attempting to Skelewu. I simply marveled at the fact that for once, everyone in a room, majority of whom were not Nigerians, was excited to be part of something Nigerian. I also was aware enough to know that most of what happens in Davos parties stays in Davos…
Two days later, I was on a shuttle (which everyone gets on, regardless of your status) wearing the green white green scarf which the Nigerian government had given out to delegates as souvenirs, when one of the men sitting in the shuttle with me asked if I was Nigerian and I said yes. I looked at his nametag and it said he was the Deputy Minister of Finance for Mauritius. He then replied; “Wow, you guys definitely know how to throw a party. Best gig I’ve been to in years.”
I’ve always been a believer in using your strongest point to your advantage. While some may think that only people without ambition tend to party, I think there’s something to say for the fact that we as Nigerians, know how to throw a good party. What I think we must now find, is how to turn this talent into a major asset, not just for ourselves but also possibly for the economy. Most Caribbean economies run on parties and continue to do so. We have to find a way of doing the same here. You are really only good at what you know and some of the happiest people in the world are those who make a living doing what they love, and I believe that’s our cue to walk into the party.