Last year the build up to Christmas was the dullest I’d ever seen in Lagos. There were all the usual antics of course: Some shop owners hiring breakdancing clowns (complete with the colourful make-up and the ridiculous jumpsuits) and strategically placing them right outside their shops in order to lure in/annoy customers (I don’t know); Street hawkers in the scorching sun wearing red & white santa hats and selling the same to drivers stuck in traffic (as if seeing ‘red’ would help in that heat); A few live rams and goats seen stuffed into (but still hanging out of) half-opened car boots on their way to being slaughtered (Animal Cruelty laws don’t apply in Nigeria); Battle of the Banks as each compete to put up the most blinding Christmas light display on their respective bank branches (more glare for night drivers means possibly more accidents); Christmas hampers including such items as Non-alcoholic wine, Digestives, St.Louis Sugar and a bottle of groundnuts all packaged for N20,000/$133/80GBP (rip off!!!) etc. Like I said, just the usual antics you’d expect to see in Lagos around this time.
Well if you’re not in Lagos you’d probably be curious to know how things are faring so far this year. For starters, the public’s attention has been diverted to the upcoming National Elections in March 2011. Campaigns are being aired on TV 24/7, usually featuring some Nigerian artists or actors singing some cheesy jingle e.g. “No vote for Bad Luck, vote for GoodLuck!” (N.B- that’s the last name of our current president). As a matter of fact, I can’t recall hearing any Christmas song on the local TV stations till now.
And in the race to extinction I don’t know who will make it first – Koala bears or Christmas cards. I’m not talking about cards online (more commonly referred to as ‘E-cards’) but the old-fashioned, cardboard/paper-based ones. I remember when I still lived with my parents we’d get up to 200 Christmas cards, 3 gigantic hampers and a live turkey. A few years later the turkey dropped off. A few years after that the hampers stopped coming and then the Christmas cards being issued dropped gradually – as at last year my parents got about 20 cards between them. It seems the new trend is the use of impersonal text messages to send Christmas greetings/prayers. I say ‘impersonal’ because the message is usually a forwarded message from another contact (and your name is usually not included in the message so that proves my point). Last year I got more Christmas text messages than I got cards and phone calls combined. Besides that, most homes didn’t bother to put up Christmas decorations or trees. What is this city coming to???
Don’t even get me started on Christmas presents! I once heard a wise man say, ‘You have to give in order to receive’. My take however is that the wise man is probably not respected in Lagos because I didn’t see a lot of giving last year. Truth is, I saw a bit of rationing. One of my past employers, as a Christmas bonus, would give employees bags of rice. In my first year of employment I got a full bag of rice. In the second year I got half a bag. Last year nobody was given rice. What was to blame? The recession? That excuse is getting pretty lame.
Thank God I’m an optimist. It’s been a great year for me – more good news than there has been bad news (knocks wood). I think I’ve been a good boy too this year so Santa might just send me a few prezzies this season (crosses fingers). But unless I don’t see a drastic change in the Christmas spirit in Lagos which appears to be fast fading into oblivion, then I’m afraid I’d have to go to Ghana or something (at least there will be constant power supply, Woo-hoo!)