For many in most cities, nightlife provides opportunities to unwind after the day’s work, especially as the average Nigerian can ill afford the yearly luxury of vacations. OKUNGBOWA AIWERIE captures the essence of nightlife in Asaba, the Delta State capital and the residents’ insatiable appetite for fun
Asaba, the Delta State capital, is a picturesque city overlooking the River Niger.
Though it bears the appellation of a civil service town, there is more to the modest city than meets the eye.
True, it lacks the mercantile verve of its more illustrious eastern neighbor, Onitsha or the ostentation of faraway oil-rich Warri, Asaba compensates with a vibrant social life that expresses the hedonistic credentials of the average local.
For the first timer, nightlife is an enthralling kaleidoscope of experience, as fun spots abound ranging from an assortment of simple out-door drinking pubs and eateries to the exclusive and prestigious highbrow hotels that dot its landscape.
Green House, located on the popular Nnebisi Road, is typical of such out-door entertainment spots. It is a cramped, haphazardly constructed corrugated zinc and wooden affair, built to serve a utilitarian purpose than any ambitious aestheticism.
Littering the available space are plastic chairs and tables adorned with a variety of alcoholic beverages. Fun seekers sit in groups of varying sizes enjoying themselves.
Perched on huge wooden supports, two giant loudspeakers blare music at elevated decibels to the delight of revelers.
To the right, half a dozen habitués sway rhythmically to raunchy music, egged on by a bare-chested disc jockey. The attention of other guests is riveted on a huge screen showing English premiers-ship soccer. Yet others sit in darkened corners in compromising positions or simply watch the unfolding spectacle before them.
Outdoor entertainment in the city, especially bars on Nnebisi Road has been boosted with the recently installed neon street lighting, thus creating a carnival atmosphere of some sort at nights.
In the vicinity of Green House, as well as at other locations, outdoor bars have mushroomed with the resultant attraction to these spots of commercial sex workers from far and near.
Determined to outdo each other, the biggest names in the brewing industry have cashed in on the thriving nightlife with promotional offerings that encourages drinking sprees amongst revelers.
Linda Ekwy, a dazzling buxomly beauty, is the brain behind this pub. She explains that the idea of the pub was originally her mothers`. According to her; Green House started over two decades ago with only two plastic tables and eight chairs.
Linda maintains that the biggest selling point of her business is the home-made fish and dried bush meat pepper-soup recipe on offer, adding that customers visits from far off Lagos and neighboring states to savor this delicacy.
Pressed to reveal the recipe, she promptly reels out a list of items, but cautions that success depends on the technical expertise of the cook.
She added that beyond the delicacies on offer, an unbroken bond of interpersonal relations with customers, such as a genuine interest in the welfare of customers has ensured a steady stream of clients to Green House.
Asked to comment on the activities of commercial sex workers in the neighborhood, she notes that since her clientele includes responsible folks out for a night outing, prostitutes are denied admittance except accompanied by a male guest.
“Call girls are not allowed in here, except they come here with a man. We do not allow then to sit here because they are usually the cause of fights,” she submits.
Notwithstanding the spate of robbery incidents in the metropolis lately, business has not been negatively impacted.
According to Linda, “we share a common fence with the “A” divisional police station. Asaba, so as long as you are at Green House security is not a problem”.
Further down Nnebisi road and directly opposite the prestigious Grand Hotel is a cluster of outdoor joints. Although not so well organised, it still commands a hefty crowd due to its lenient rules on commercial sex workers.
Emeka`s place, the most visible amongst the quartet of bars replicates the self-same services provided at Green House.
It goes a notch further by engaging the services of a two-man dance act that could pass as contortionists due to their uncanny ability to twist their bodies into strange and unnatural positions.
This duo, known as “two-star show”, though an aside, keeps the audience spellbound with their sheer energy and intricate dance routines.
Because Emeka`s Place admits all-comers, it has the dubious image of the red light district on Nnebisi Road. Real business for commercial sex workers commences as form 8.00pm till the wee hours.
Emeka, an affable chap, is proprietor of the bar. He confesses that his business has experienced a boom these past few years, due mainly to patronage from the ladies of easy virtue that throng his bar.
He admits to have abandoned his cloth retailing business in Lagos many years back to stake a claim in the more lucrative entertainment business in Asaba, a decision he claims he does not regret.
Ameachi, 28 years, is an artisan in aluminum roofing business, and claims to be a regular visitor to the bar. For him, he swears his interest is confined solely to booze and not in the unholy pastime of soliciting sex. But as if to give lie to his duplicitous comment, a coquettish cheeky tug by a young lady promptly sends him chasing after her, leaving this reporter nonplussed.
In stark contrast to the boisterous and rowdy sessions at Green House and Emeka`s place is “De Grill,” “De Grill” is owned by Ann Okafor, an Anglo- Nigeria lady.
The main attraction of the joint is its grilled fish menu. Guests are allowed to choose live fish from a pond within its premises and then grilled by a chef. “De Grill” comes across as an elitist joint with cool background music serenading guests in a relaxed atmosphere.
Mr. Mike Nwabuzor, a regular visitor to the joint, surmises that a combination of healthy fishmeal coupled with soft music has therapeutic value.
A further attraction to guests who visit “De Grill” must be its zero tolerance for commercial sex workers and the very young but often obstreperous customers.
As a matter of deliberate policy, prices of alcoholic beverages are a bit steep and television is not allowed at “De Grill”, thus discouraging patronage from unwanted guests.
Uptown, a group of outdoor bars have sprung up. These new bars are classier and purpose built with every bit of comfort for revelers.
Since these upscale bars offer competitive pricing in alcoholic beverages and food, many low income earners throng them.
Amongst these group includes Tunja Bar, Opera Lounge, Westpoint, Sun city,One Side, Y2K and a host of others.