The 2018 Christmas and New Year celebration may have come and gone but the fact remains that in most places it was devoid of the traditional frenzies and zest associated with the celebration, GEORGE OKOJIE, BUKOLA IDOWU, ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH (Lagos) and Nnamdi Mbawike (Enugu) write.
hristmas is celebrated yearly on the 25th of December, to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.
When Elise Belisario, who, like many Venezuelans, could not afford to hang decorations or make a traditional holiday meal few years back said, “Christmas is dead,” she merely stated the obvious.
As it were, Belisario who lived in the sprawling slum of Petare, on the outskirts of Caracas suffered shortages and triple-digit inflation that gripped Venezuela, a once high-flying economy.
The country where past Christmases brought exuberant decorations and balconies drenched in lights, saw Petare’s streets drab and dark.
To this end, Belisario a 28-year-old with two kids who also had lost her job simply concluded, “There’s just not enough money. We’ve switched off Christmas,”
The above scenario is not different from what most Nigerians, especially those living in Lagos experienced during the last Christmas celebration.
The roundabout in highbrow parts of Lagos and major roads which are usually beautifully decorated with various Christmas ornaments and lighting that helps create the mood for the season, and provide beautiful sight at night, when the decoration lights are on, were not decorated.
This kind of robbed the city of aquatic splendour, the scent of Christmas smells that ought to have triggered lots of excitement and preparations that comes with intense shopping.
To the chagrin of most residents, street carnivals which used to be the biggest activities and a normal practice during yuletide period (December to January) was not experienced in the past Christmas celebration.
The one Lagos Fiesta show yearly organised by the Lagos State government this year recorded low turnout. Before now street carnivals were marked by the voyage of music, dance, and fun-loving youths from all parts of the cities and in desperate need of fun. It had since become a tradition in Lagos, as almost every street organises one.
From Mushin to Oshodi, Mafoluku, Ikorodu, Ikeja, Agege, Ejigbo, Iyana-Ipaja, Surulere, Itire, Lawanson, Okokomaiko, Iba, Badagry, Alaba Suru, Oyingbo, Ikosi-Agbowa, Ketu, Mile 12, Onipanu, Ajangbadi and Isolo, the party goes on as street carnivals rule the night during this season as it gives the feeling that life is fun in Lagos but not in the last Christmas .
Prior to the celebration major streets are literally festooned with colourful banners and balloons, light bulbs, and other paraphernalia used in decorating the streets to give an idea of what is to come.
It was not also unusual to see banners on full display, hanging on street corners, the fancy decorations that help give feel of street carnivals.
The huge lights that help illuminate the street, loud music, and ecstatic youths, usually decked in dresses that help them gyrate with ease to the live performances played by the DJs are a permanent fixture.
As it turned out during the last celebration many residents choose to spend the night (Christmas and News Year Eve) at places of worship.
Many people who were on their way out of Lagos to other states were seen in Berger part of the town, waiting until Christmas day in order to get cheap buses as compared to the transport fare on the Christmas Day Eve.
Stephen Agaji , a Lagos resident told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, “Before now that people find it difficult to make ends meet Christmas comes with a lot of festivities, everybody celebrates it, which explains why both the young and old wear and decorate their surroundings with emblems of the season. Shops, malls and corporate buildings are adorned in Christmas motifs and colours of the season — red, white and green, are visibly seen but you can see yourself that the reverse is the case.
‘’Even if you see any decoration it is restricted to commercial business districts; like banks and some churches like Household Of God not in residential again, unlike in the past when most residential areas and streets are lined with festive lights in the countdown to the Christmas. Honestly what you have is low celebration as most people stayed in-door s after church services.”
SUNDAY Leadership observed that the popular second hand market ‘Katankowa’ near Abule -Egba recorded high patronage with people purchasing cloths and shoes from shops that opened to customers since they could not afford new clothes.
When it comes to sharing gifts, hamper is the first thing that comes to mind. The reason is not far-fetched because it satisfies the whole family. With hamper, there is a gift for everybody; gift for children, females, males, both old and young, so one does not have to think too hard for the kind of gift to get for each member of his family.
In Nigeria, the hamper business has revolutionised into a lucrative business, in that people now have to undergo special training in the making of hamper.
When LEADERSHIP Sunday visited Maryland-Ojota under bridge in Lagos before Christmas and New Year it observed that a lot of Lagosians both young and old were busy weaving different types of hampers. Yet, there are few buyers patronising them.
According to the assistant secretary, Lagos state Cane Weavers Association, Mr. Moses Eruware, this year is the worst of all the years he has been weaving and selling hampers under the bridge. He said, the last time they had a boom in the business was 2013.
As at August 2013, Eruware said people had started trooping in, booking for thousands of hampers. “Then, we had to distribute the job among ourselves so that everybody can benefit. But things have changed.
“Since the 2016 recession, the hamper business has started dropping. This year is even the worst. This is December and we haven’t gotten quarter of the customers we used to have. The job you see us doing was given to one of us. He had to share it among us, so that he can meet up deadline.”
While the price of the materials they are using to make the hampers have gone up, Eruware said, “We still did not add to the price of hamper because of fear that it will discourage people from buying.
“Some of us who have loyal customers are the ones enjoying this period. We just pray that by next week, market would start booming.”
Eruware however urged Nigerians to patronise them because they have put in more effort by being innovative in the making of hampers, adding that they have good, quality and affordable hampers that would meet their taste.
LEADERSHIP Sunday also visited big shops like Shoprite and supermarkets and noticed that the prices of hampers have gone up. As at the time of filing in the report, hampers are sold at prices ranging from N18,000, N10,000 to N6000. The gifts in the hampers also varies according to the prices.
According to a regular buyer of hampers, Mr. Akin Adebayo, “Hampers were sold last year at N14,000, N8,000 and you can even see the one as cheap as N4,000. The one that they are selling for N18,000 was sold at N14,000 last year. I have moved around and the prices are the same. I will still have to buy because I can’t think of any other gifts to share this festive period.”
As to why the increase in the prices of hampers, one miss Yetunde Akande who sells hampers at Shoprite, Ikeja said the prices of goods have gone up. She said, “We had to add money to it because the prices of household foodstuffs have gone up.
Responding to the patronage when compared to last year, Akande said, “Last year was a bit better than this year, but we are optimistic that business would boom as from next week. We are very hopeful.”
As for Obinna Chibuzo at G-Time Supermarket, they had to strategise by going to various companies and shops to market their hampers.
He said, “While few people are coming to buy one or two hampers from us, we had to look for alternative ways to sell them.
“We started since October, visiting corporate offices and business people who may want to thank their customers. That is how we have been able to sell our hampers.”
A visit to Apongbon market shows that the high price which has affected the level of patronage has discouraged some traders from joining the seasonal hamper trade.
Compared to previous years, the road leading from Broad Street down to Apongbon market which used to be lined with colourful hampers, had only a few displayed.
One of the traders, Madam Ajoke told Leadership that sales had dropped over the years causing a loss for some of those who were involved in the seasonal trade.
She explained that the rise in cost of wares had led to the higher cost of Hampers. The prices of the hampers surveyed on the Island ranged from N7,000 to N50,000. The cheaper hampers had only consumables while the more expensive ones had household utensils.
Unlike in the past where majority of the hampers had woven basket, many of the baskets on display were plastic. According to one of the traders this is to further cut back on the price of the hamper as the price of woven baskets have further risen.
A salesperson at Justrite, a shopping mall in Abule Egba area of Lagos state noted that the store had displayed two types of Hampers, alcoholic and non alcoholic to attract customers.
Some customers who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday complained of the high price of the hampers while some said they are considering skipping the purchase of hamper. “I am thinking of buying something that is worthwhile and wrapping it nicely for my brother-in-law rather than buy a hamper that I see as over- priced.
Celebrations of Christmas in the south east was not any different as some still struggled with payment of transport fares and other expenses during the period.
In Enugu, speaking to Leadership Sunday, a resident of the densely populated Obiagu area in Ogui Layout of Enugu, Mr Ikechukwu Edozie lamented that hardship prevented him from travelling to his village for the Christmas celebrations.
Also speaking, a businessman, Obinna Anuyua lamented that he has not travelled home for many years because of hardship, saying he could not make enough sales despite his efforts.
“I tried my best to make enough sales to enable me realise enough money to cover my travelling expenses. I am married with kids so traveling with them would be expensive.”
He noted that most of the people that used to patronise his business disappointed them. “It is unfortunate that I have been celebrating the New Year in a foreign place for some time now” he said.
Nonetheless, Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has continued to sustain his efforts to make sure that workers and indigenes of the state participate in Christmas celebrations.
The governor approved the 13th month salary for workers in the state as bonus, all in the spirit of Christmas. Confirming the payment, the Chairman of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, Enugu State Council, Comrade Igbokwe Chukwuma Igbokwe disclosed that “some workers started calling me that they have received alert for the 13th month salary”.
The governor did not stop at that but has also continued to offer free transportation for indigenes of the state residing in other parts of Nigeria, who intend to return home to celebrate the festive season with their loved ones.
Announcing the provision of the free transportation in 2017, the Managing Director, Enugu State Transport Company, ENTRACO, Mr. Bob Itanyi, stated that the gesture was borne out of Gov. Ugwuanyi’s magnanimity and enduring resolve to ameliorate the sufferings of the people of the state as well as give them a sense of belonging as the true heroes of democracy.
The free transportation in 2017 was carried out in states of the federation that are far from the state, such as, Abuja, Lagos, Jos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano, Minna, Gombe, Ilorin, Sokoto, Jalingo, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Port Harcourt, among others.
He disclosed then that the returnees on arrival will be formally received by the State Commissioner for Transport, Hon. Vitus Okechi, the MD of ENTRACO, and others, at the former main depot of the company, opposite the state headquarters of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Enugu.
In 2018 once again free transportation was announced for indigenes of the state living in other parts of the country, who intend to return home to celebrate the festive season with their loved ones.