As I write this on 15/1/24, I still wonder how to evaluate the last Christmas Season (2023 Christmas and 2024 New Year). Sure, December 25 2023 and January 1 2024 had come and gone. People, especially nd’Igbo engaged in their usual reverse-migration, with acute holdup and mad driving imported to the land of the rising sun; prices of everything hit the roofs, especially given this era of TINUBUlation, with transportation winning the gold medal.
Indeed the cost of domestic travels compared favourably with some foreign trips and while the consumers were bleeding financially, the operators provided economic, demand & supply justifications. My birthday was also celebrated as usual on 1/1/24 but with minimal fanfare.
The social-media was awash with Christmas and New Year messages (as the good old greeting-cards had disappeared totally); many kids were decked in the new seasonal attires while many churches down east had successful harvest-thanksgiving Masses and services, The cross-over night celebrations were held with deafening noise from imported and hand-made ‘knockouts’( banga) and the youths started the year with no-gree for anybody, which the police has declared as the greatest security threat to this country; more threatening than the deadly BBUK consortium(Boko-Haram, (Known) Bandits, Un-known GunMen and Kidnapers).
People have already returned to their default mode, which is ‘hustling’, with my brothers who almost emptied their bank accounts for Christmas at the forefront. The Abuja crowd is also ‘killing dead-body’( igbu-Ozu, hammer) in the high-seas as mysterious millions and billions are afloat everywhere, with our womenfolk not doing badly at all. However, despite all these, I have to ask myself if it was actually a Christmas season for some of us or for ALL of us.
Given this era of tribulation, which has been domesticated as TINUBUlation, some people sponsored a motion of urgent national importance in the Nigerian Peoples Assembly that the Christmas be cancelled outrightly or rescheduled. This is because of the unbelievable cost of everything caused by the quantum leaps in fuel prices and massive official bloodletting against the naira. All this saw inflation at almost 29% and food-inflation at 35% with the price of rice, the seasonal staple rising by x3, year on year. Their motion received a boost when Bethlehem, the host of the first Christmas, cancelled the 2023 Christmas celebrations due to the ugly experience during their earlier religious festival and the ongoing police-action in Gaza.
It is right and proper to ask if it was Christmas for people of Plateau communities where savage bandits slaughtered 200 of our compatriots and applied a scorched earth model of warfare on 27th December and even audaciously gave them notice of another attack on 29th December. And the soldiers sent to restore order were arresting the victims instead of the terrorists, which led to a Plateau version of Aba-womens’ riot( 1929) and the scorching of the palace of the Traditional Ruler of Bokkos.
Was it Christmas for Niger state communities where Bandits have carved out their territories, imposing taxes on residents and IDPs, restricting movement of people and goods or Zamfara where the terrorists murdered 10 for failing to pay N20m levy or the families of four who died and the 39 kidnapped as bandits invaded FCT communities? What of the bride and family of the groom kidnapped on his wedding day with a ransom demand of N250m or the families of the 30 compatriots kidnapped on Kaduna-Abuja route? (This route again?) or those affected by the murderous rage at Uga Roundabout, Anambra State, on 28/12/23?
I wonder what type of Christmas it was for my cousin, Ncheta Umeojiaku who buried her 18 year old son, who died at the height of the season! What kind of Christmas was it for the Anambra fellow who requested for 16 soldiers, 20 policemen and 12 DSS operatives for his security? Was he not celebrating the season in prison? How about the family whose father and 6 daughters were kidnapped, one already killed and ransom being hiked to almost N200m, which witnessed the first crowdfunding for criminal entrepreneurs in Nigeria, with Isa Pantami as the ‘Chief Launcher’?
And these are happening when the president had assured us that security had improved under his watch and when Sheik Gumi advised us to prepare for more mass-burials of Christians unless we provided schools and hospitals for bandits!
However, it was not all gruesome news. The magnanimous president offered a 50% discount on rail transportation (there is none in the South East and South South) and road transportation, over which he has no control, between December 21 and January 4. I tried to identify those who benefitted from the ‘palliatief’ but I did not see any. The president also showered the people of Lagos with some form of Christmas air while meandering within the densely populated suburbs with his intimidating convoy of 4 coaster buses, 16 military jeeps, 6 outriders and so on. Luckily, we will not experience this again as the number of convoys has been reduced by 60%. I don’t know whether this policy affected drivers, security details and other hangers on because they have to be provided for! Wike and Fubara kept on entertaining us with their own version of ‘battle in the creeks’ while our beautiful ladies in Abuja showed us through body language that what a man can do, a woman can do even better.
At home, where I am now an acting village man, it was as busy and groovy as ever. The Igbo-Ukwu Development Union had its Cultural Day on 29/12/23, Walk-for-Unity with emphasis on environmental sustainability on 30/12, and AGM and election on 30/12/23, which saw the emergence of Sir MCK Ubah as the new PG. The Ihuowelle community had its 2023/24 Mass return which culminated in the Ihuowelle Day on 4/1/24.
Even though things were tough, our harvest for 2023 was amongst the most successful in recent times and while the bogey of insecurity was marketed before the season, there was a massive turnout of ‘nataad’ people( returnees), showing of the latest cloths, cars and houses all over the place. The light situation was also near excellent even though the network was horrible and we were luckier than those who bought fuel at N1200 during the season.
A new Christmas song titled ‘on your mandate we stand’, was introduced by the National Assembly while some people obtained the Christmas chicken through the ‘snatch and run’ tactics. Students have returned to school but nothing has been heard of the Students Loan, on which some of them hoped .
I am also glad to announce that I received a ‘balablu’ Xmas gift from the Lagos State Government on 26/12/23. It was delivered through HPESEinfo, http://payvis.ng directing my family to pay for traffic violation by car number xxx. They sent a reminder on 28/12/23 advising that the payment should be made ASAP to avoid impoundment. The most interesting aspect of the story was that the car had not been in Lagos for the past 2 years, that it was then and as today parked somewhere in Abia State and the owner was and is still in Anambra State.
How can a car that has not been in Lagos for the past two years and parked in Aba as at then and as of today, commit a traffic offence in Lagos? That is why I believe that it is pure BALABLU
Anyway, compliments of the season to all men of goodwill and joy to the world to those whose circumstances permit them to be joyful.
By Ik Muo PhD. Dept of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye. 08033026625