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Published On: Wed, Dec 27th, 2017

The Ghost of Christmas

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WEDNESDAY Column by Israel A. Ebije |

Christmas celebration is more of a social activity aimed at keeping the memory of Jesus Christ than a doctrine enshrined in the Holy Bible. However, the instructive aspect about celebrating Christmas is the aspect of propagating the word of God by showing love to humanity through acts of kindness, sharing of gifts and compassion. Sadly, the beauty of Christmas has continued to decline in Africa, sounding more like a broken banjo with a single string as hunger, terror, poor leadership continue to be our own Grinch stealing the fun in the yuletide season. In Nigeria, the fiesta is no longer what it used to be. Social, political and economic factors have left nothing but ghost of Christmas celebration.
In the past, approximately two decades ago, major religious celebrations in many parts of the country are jointly celebrated. The Muslims, Christians support each other in their major festivities. It was always a feasting period especially for the younger ones who freely ate meals and collected gifts from family friends. As a child, we knew families where the best meals come from. We often waited anxiously to have a taste. We had neighbors we were always certain would give us cash gifts – interestingly, some were non Christians. Most radio and television stations competed among themselves on who played the best Christmas carols the most, a competition, which often starts in November every year. Today, it has been replaced with news about politicians, terrorism, and many more woes fast becoming part of our daily life in Nigeria.
The dearth of celebrating Christmas has indeed changed the way and manner we used to know it. It is now a ghostly celebration caused by ghastly accident of series of poor leadership, sore ethno-religious political campaigners. Many parents cannot afford new cloths or meals to commemorate the celebration. Neighbors are no longer friendly, as ethnicity, religious trenches have further broken down the core of unity that existed in the past. Children can no longer roam the streets over fear of kidnappers, people cannot travel over perennial fuel scarcity. A look at faces in churches during Christmas services across the country reflects gloom. Parents are desperate, children are disappointed and government in a constant state of confusion.
It is instructive to intimate that the way and manner Christmas is celebrated reflects the mood and probably the well being of Nigerians. The festivity coincides with every end of year occasion for all regardless of religious belief. Christmas is also celebrated at a time every employer of labor allow workers to enjoy a well deserved holiday which extends to the new year. The recent economic crunch has made it impossible for Nigerians to travel or be part of family or community based celebration. For many Nigerians, travelling every end of year is not only symbolic, but the only time of the year convenient to see their loved ones. A bitter Christmas holiday may translate to a rocky new year. In the 1980’s, civil servants in Nigeria used to smile home with bags of rice, cartons of milk, salt etc each time festivities of major magnitude like Christmas, Sallah are celebrated. Two decades afterwards, most of them do not have salaries for more than one year. They cannot even travel on account of excessive hike in fares as a result of end of year fuel scarcity. If an average Nigerian living in a civil part of the country celebrates physically and emotionally Christian/Muslims festivities, then a failed Christmas is indeed bad for all regardless of religious foundation.
Nigerians expected change in 2015. Nigerians are still expectant. The concept of change should begin within us, then it will percolate to government officials. Sadly, a hungry man is never an agent of change. Nigerians are no longer happy people. They cannot be guaranteed of their salaries, meaning their happiness is mortgaged. They watch helplessly as their children turn to armed robbery or prostitution to survive. They watch helplessly as old useless politicians continue to re-circle themselves while the younger ‘godfather propelled’ politicians display heights of foolishness in leadership. Nigerians are suffering but can always struggle to survive once government provides social amenities. Where there is no salary, no amenities, no respite for the overtly expensive food situation accompanied with hike in prices of staples, Christmas for all is simply a mess.

Ebije can be reached via; or @ebijeisrael

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