For Igbos of the South-East region of Nigeria, Christmas is a ritual that must be kept. It also serves as a homecoming for those in the Diaspora.
Most communities in the region organise fundraising for community projects, like hospitals, electricity and schools, among others. The people are known for embarking on self help projects and the Christmas period is often used for grand breaking of such projects or for fundraising.
Weddings, traditional events, and burials are mostly scheduled during the Christmas period, because the hosts believe that relations and well-wishers will all be around during the Yuletide to grace the occasion.
However, the 2023 Christmas may be different in the sense that recent events in the country and in the South-East region in particular, may discourage people from traveling for the festivity.
High cost of living, occasioned by the economic crunch in the country, withdrawal of petrol subsidy, which has increased cost of transportation and insecurity, particularly in the South-East zone, may discourage most families from traveling to the East for this year’s Christmas.
Julius Ndukuba, chief operating officer, SNL, a manufacturing firm, in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, said, “Surely, due to the security situation of the South-East, before and after the election. News coming out of the zone does not build confidence. Even the politicians do not trust each other.
“The number of police, and army check points within the South-East is pure evidence of an unsecured region. Unfortunately the government is not talking to the citizens, rather they are busy blaming it on politicians.
“Security is everybody’s business and the custodian of the village security is the Eze. You know how many of them have been killed”.
He also stated that high cost of transportation, may also discourage many families to travel for the Yuletide
Okey Ede, a public commentator, said that the outcome of the Supreme Court judgement on Nnamdi Kanu’s case is another factor that may discourage Southeasterns in the diaspora from coming home to celebrate this year’s Christmas.
He observed that insecurity will increase in the region, as a result of the alleged Federal Government’s refusal to release Kanu, who is seen as a liberator of his people.
“With the way the judgment went on the case of MNK at the Supreme Court, I don’t think I will want to spend the Yuletide in the East. Not because of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) or Eastern Security Network (ESN), but because of the menace of people masquerading as freedom fighters. They have been given another reason to unleash terror on the people.
For Obinna Nwagbara, human rights activist, people traveling to the South-East for Christmas will decline, as the cost of transportation is high and most people cannot afford it. So, also is the cost of living, generally.
However, the desire to see relations and to attend community meetings may drive people to come home for Christmas, despite the economic crunch and security situation, Ndukwe Ogbonna, a media practitioner observed.
According to him, the Christmas period in the South-East is like a frenzy and people look forward to it annually, as it provides them the opportunity to come home and mingle with their people.