JESUS Christ was born over 2,000 years in a manger, a place reserved for animals in Bethlehem. The true origin of Christmas is filled with controversies and compromise. December 25 was originally the date pagans celebrated the birthday of the Sun-god called Mithra. It was not until 336 AD that Emperor Constantine officially converted this pagan holiday into the Christian holiday of Christmas. Many preachers have insisted that the date is immaterial. What matters, according to them, is that God sent his son into the world to save mankind from sin.
Traveling peaks: Aside the controversies, one thing that is certain about Christmas, especially in Nigeria, is the fact that it is a season when the challenges people are grappling with, naturally fizzle out, at least temporarily.
Both the rich and poor are usually carried along by this festive breeze that is expected to keep blowing for the next two weeks when many people would be tied to Christmas festivities.
The movement of people to the hinterlands peaked last week as commuters thronged the various bus terminals to board vehicles to their destinations.
Indeed, the manner Christmas is celebrated in this part of the world is so unique that some people go the extra mile to ensure that they have fun to the fullest.
It is not uncommon for some people to toil, beg, borrow or even steal in order not to be left out of the festive groove. In Nigeria, Christmas is celebrated as if the culture originated from Africa’s most populous nation.
Another thing that distinguishes this season is the fact that it is also a period of uncommon happenings. Interesting, peculiar and weird things are already happening in the buildup to this one-day celebration.
Period of uncommon happenings: In 2013 for instance, a nursing mother, Nike Ademola, was arraigned before an Osogbo Chief Magistrates’ Court for throwing fire-works, an act that was likely to cause a breach of the peace.
Police Prosecutor, Isiaka Ajadi told the court that the accused committed the offence at Orita Elelede area of Osogbo.
Ajadi said that the accused threw the fire-works at one Kehinde Elegbeleye with the aim of injuring her.
He said the act was punishable under Section 249 of the Criminal Code Cap 34 Vol. 11 Laws of Osun State 2003.
Many might wonder what led an adult into such an act. But the truth is that the festive mood cuts across ages, hence, she resorted to throwing bangers around.
Lagos Police command bans fire-works
Already, the Lagos State Police Command, has banned the use of fire works in the state during the yuletide season. The Force threatened to deal with any defaulter within the ambits of the law.
Consequently, the Police has called on parents and guardians to warn their children and wards to desist from the use of fireworks, especially banger.
The Command’s boss, Mr Cornelius Aderanti, in a statement signed by his spokesman, Kenneth Nwosu, explained that the ban was declared with a view to ensuring public safety and averting all manner of dangers associated with its use during the harmattan season.
“The state Command wishes to inform the general public that the use of fireworks is banned. Parents are therefore advised to warn their wards to desist from its use to avoid being caught on the wrong side of the law as defaulters will be punished”, he said.
While wishing Lagosians a warm Christmas celebration, Aderanti assured of his command’s commitment to ensure their safety during the season.
In spite of this ban, investigations by VF showed that fireworks are still being used across the state.
Effects of Naira devaluation
A major recurring feature of the season is the hike of the prices of goods and services. Checks by VF revealed that contrary to expectations, the prices of goods and services have remained relatively stable.
‘’We are surprised that prices have not gone high. I have not experienced such since I have been in this market. In the past, prices easily sky-rocket. We hear that the economy is not doing well, which has led to the rise in exchange rate. That could be responsible for the low patronage, we are experiencing,’’ Ebuka Okenwa, a transporter in Mazamaza bus terminal, told VF.
He explained that unlike what obtained in the previous years, there is low turnout of commuters. He alleged that this scenario might be responsible for the unusual price stability.
Last Saturday, travelers to Onitsha, Enugu and other states in the South East, paid between N3,000 and N3,500 unlike in the past when the fare rose to N5000 and above.
A similar experience was also shared by Mr. Ifeanyi Nwakasi, who runs a boutique in Lagos Island.
He bemoaned the low patronage being experienced by those in his line of business. According to him, the problem started before the Christmas season.
‘’Before I traveled to India to buy goods, people were complaining about poor sales. We thought that things would get better during the Christmas season but the situation has remained the same. I have so many unsold goods now in my warehouse. Even those I supplied goods to, have not been able to clear their debts,’’ he lamented.
Devaluation of currency
Continuing, he said: ‘’I was in India when our currency was devalued. It affected me so much because I had to spend beyond my budget. With such a situation, it is expected that we increase the prices so as to recoup our money. But we can’t do that in the face of the current low patronage. Under the present circumstances, we will be at loss because the propensity to spend is low now.’’
For sellers of food items, VF found out that it was a different scenario in view of the importance of the foodstuff in the celebrations. VF’s random survey in Agboju and Ijegun Markets in Festac and Satellite towns, showed that prices have also remained relatively stable.
‘’We don’t have reasons to increase the prices of our items. The local price of fuel, which often leads to price hike, is still the same. Increasing the prices would be unfair to buyers,’’ Abubakar Sani, who sells food items said.