Wednesday, January 13, 2016 2:48 pm
During church service last Sunday, my pastor, before delivering his message said the church had earlier invited people who were not sure of what to eat on Christmas day to come to the church the previous day for a gift. And then he said he wanted to show us pictures from the event. Immediately the pictures came on the screen and everyone went “Wow!” Some shouted “Jesus!” I was one of those who chose the latter as a way of expressing our shock. A simple invitation for a small gift looked like a miracle crusade with men, women and children everywhere. That brought to bare the reality of the situation in the country at the moment.
In a letter to the editor of Punch newspaper last Thursday, titled A most cheerless Christmas, Abiola Salaudeen opined, “…2015 celebrations will upstage 2013 by being the most cheerless Christmas we have witnessed in recent times; its bleakness takes the icing of the cake: No fuel, no money, no electricity, no salaries, no respite from pro-Biafran agitators, Boko Haram insurgents, armed bandits, yet there is a lingering expectation of an increase in the already exorbitant, estimated and over-priced electricity tariff, fuel pump price, medical bills, rent charges, food and virtually every basic necessity for commodious living.”
You would agree that Salaudeen captured areas of pain you and I are facing today. If you are not experiencing the terror in the North East, or you were not affected by the agitation in the South East, you would probably be affected by lack of electricity and the ‘over-priced tariff’, and fuel scarcity and the long queues, except if you don’t live in Nigeria.
I was at my customer’s shop before Christmas to buy some food stuffs and condiments, I asked how the season’s sales had been, he wouldn’t even let me finish my question. With a facial expression that said it all, he told me this season’s sales were the worst yet. He showed me how he had stocked his shop hoping to make good sales, but has been very disappointed. He counted on the tip of his fingers the remaining days to Christmas, lamenting how he had not been able to sell much.
It is the same story for a friend of mine who called to tell me about very nice wears she had for me and my daughter, and how she couldn’t wait to show them to me. How could I tell her that I had made purchases late November/ early December and the budget for wears was exhausted? We eventually met and truly the wears were absolutely gorgeous, but it took self-discipline to say no, even when she offered to sell them on credit. How could I, when second week of January would mean children going back to school and all the expenses that go with it, and then to add expenses for wears I can totally do without? Anyone who is not applying some basic knowledge of economics right now might be asking for trouble – you still remember ‘scale of presence’ and ‘opportunity cost’, don’t you?
I complimented my neighbour on her very nice hairdo, and she was so pleased. She told me the brand of weave, the salon she fixed it and how so many people had told her the hair was nice. Then I asked, “Are you fixing another one for Christmas?” She practically screamed, “Nooooo! This hair you are seeing is for Christmas o!” And that was just first week in December. I still remember how women (and their daughters) would spend hours in salons from the 23rd to 24th of December to have their hair, nails and eye lashes fixed, if you are lucky the salon is not over-booked, that is.
During Christmas period, I wondered how a hair stylist or barbing salon operator, and holiday makers like us would have enough fuel to keep our generators running, when fuel was no longer sold in jerry cans. Since we could not ‘drive’ our generators to the filling stations, we were forced to bring our generator tanks if we must buy fuel to power our houses and small businesses, but you must be ready to spend hours and maybe, get beaten up too. Perhaps cars not having enough fuel to get to the filling station would also require the fuel tank brought along too. A level of suffering before then could have been described simply as unimaginable!
Many (particularly the easterners), who see the Yuletide as an opportunity to travel and be with their loved ones, were also forced to rethink. I overheard a man at the bank telling someone I suspect to be a family member over the phone, “Please manage it o! That is what we can afford at this time. We will not be able to come home. Please…” I smiled. Who doesn’t understand that?
A friend was forced to travel with her children three weeks ago for her brother’s wedding. When I asked if she would stay for Christmas? She said, “We are coming back immediately after thanksgiving service on Sunday. Who has money to spend feeding everybody at home?”
Well, being who we are, always finding something to smile about even in most difficult situations, I dare say, Merry Christmas Nigeria -in undulating arrears!
You may reach Grace via email: [email protected] You can also follow her on twitter @GraceEssen and also follow her blog @Mum2MumAfrica.com.