Sunday Magazine

Economic downturn: Disappearing colours, thrills of Christmas

 As Christian faithful in Nigeria join the rest of the world to celebrate Christmas today, LADESOPE LADELOKUN, in the second part of this story reports on the disappearing spirit of Christmas and how economic hardship and insecurity are compelling a change in the culture of Christmas celebration

 

Little Shikemi Adu, 11, is heartbroken! Long before December, she had not just boasted among her friends about the certainty of a fun-filled Christmas, she had longed for another lavish Christmas celebration. She had hoped for one that would see her get elegantly dressed,visit fun spots and feed and play with her December pet- Chicken.

But her hopes have been dashed. Her mother, Eunice, has a different plan. For economic purposes, she’s opting for a Christmas devoid of the fun that characterised previous celebrations,which, she admits, would rob her daughter of the excitement and joy she derives from being around live chicken, travelling and Christmas shopping. “She has been pestering me to buy chicken but I told her we’re opting for frozen chicken this year.

 

Though I’ve heard stories about how unsafe it could be and all that, I won’t kill myself. If I spend what I would have spent of live chicken on frozen chicken, I may not need to buy any chicken for New Year. This year is just too different. The country is too hard. But it’s hard to get my daughter to see reason. She just wants to have the usual fun she’s used to during this period. But do you blame children?

 

That’s why they’re children. One should just just be careful so they won’t plunge one into needless debts. “Even if I have tΠhe resources to celebrate Christmas in our usual manner, I would channel such to areas that need my attention.”

 

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world today in celebrating the birth of Christ, a number of Christian faithful have lamented the disappearing spirit of Christmas. With available statistics pointing to gory tales of insecurity and extreme poverty, Christmas celebration,some observe, has lost its colours.

Though, findings revealed Christmas traditions vary from country to country, in Nigeria,while some believe all that is needed to celebrate Christmas is a heart and mind focused on Jesus Christ, a handful believe the celebration of the birth of Christ is not complete without the materialism and consumerism attached to it.

Inflation shrinking our profit, customer base – Tailors lament

In chat with Sunday Telegraph, a fashion designer, Elizabeth Akanni, in the Owodunni area of Ketu, said inflation had reduced the profit she hitherto enjoyed because her customers kick when they’re told materials are now expensive. They want to pay the same charge they paid last year.

 

According to Akanni, many tailors, who choose to charge patrons based on the present economic realities just sleep in their shops. “Look around, you’ll see them either idle  or sleeping.

Some of them believe it’s sheer waste of time for them to be seen as working when indeed they have little to show for the work they do. Last year,I could make as much as N2,000, N 2,500 on profit from a customer, but inflation has eaten up a huge chunk of the profit.

 

Some of us just don’t want to sit down here doing nothing. When you tell them the price that reflects the current realities, they just walk away.In order to get busy, I do a lot of bending backwards. At the end of the day, I might end up not making more than N500 profit. ”

 

Look at this material. Three months ago, I bought it for N500 per yard. I could even get it for N450. It’s not the same price again today. I now get same for N800 per yard. This thread used to be two for N50. It’s now N60 for just one. Though some customers understand, majority don’t. In fact, I called a couple of them that patronise me during this time and they said they had to take care of their stomach first,” she explained.

 

Another tailor in the same neighbourhood, Idowu Shonubi, said as of December 10 last year, he had stopped patrons from bringing him jobs because he had enough on his plate for the rest of the year. Idowu, however, has a different story this year. ”

 

It’s December 20 today. I can’t believe I’m still accepting jobs from people. It’s my evidence that things have gone very bad. Hardship has doubled for people.I find this really disturbing. I woke a few minutes ago. When my boy called me, I thought I had a customer waiting for me. Oga, that’s what we are battling,” he told Sunday Telegraph.

Are goats, cows now replacing chicken?

For many, Christmas celebration is incomplete without spilling the blood a chicken or more. Little wonder chickens flood Nigerian markets during Yuletide.

 

But, findings from markets in Lagos and  Ogun states reveal that, depending on the size, the price of chicken oscillates between N4,000 and N10,000 or more.

 

Meanwhile, findings further revealed that some Nigerians are looking the way of cows and goats as an alternative to chickens by buying in groups. Alhaji Abdulrashid Abdulaziz is a cow and goat dealer at the Kara Market, along the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. According to AbdulAziz, the rising price of chicken has compelled a number of Nigerians to creatively switch to goats and cows during yuletide.

“To get a big chicken now, you need to have N10,000 or more. But some Nigerians now prefer to contribute money to buy a goat after which they share the meat. With N27,000 or N30,000, you can get a goat. So, three or four people contribute money to buy one. Mark you, as the day passes during this season, the price increases.

The price I’m giving you now was the price before my friend travelled. He’s bringing another set of goats and I’m sure it won’t be cheaper. Those who understand how these things work had bought their goats earlier,” he said.

Abdulrashid explained further that, despite the fact that a number of his colleagues had travelled to the northern part of Nigeria for business, he stayed back because of the worrying state of the economy.

“If I’m to travel to Jigawa and Adamawa, I would need N1.1million and N1.3million respectively to transport my goats here. That excludes feeding. When my friend travelled before December 15 to Jigawa to bring goats, he paid N800,000 for transport. You can see the difference. And it would continue to increase till the end of the year. Those who bought goats for Christmas when he came then knew the price would increase. So, they bought very early.”

Why chicken is expensive – Stakeholders

In chat with Sunday Telegraph, Simbiat Adedeji had told how she displayed chickens two weeks to Christmas in front of her shop in 2021 for the purposes of advertising to passersby and customers. However, when Sunday Telegraph visited her Adesan, Mowe, shop in Ogun State on December 20, only chicken feeds could be seen as the  portion designated for chickens was empty.

Explaining the reason for her business decision, Adedeji said: “We are all in this country and you know how expensive everything is now. I’m too scared by buy chickens this year. Last year, I filled this place with them before the middle of December. I would be in serious debt if I tried that this year. Feeds are too expensive. I would spend all my profit to feed the chickens if I tried that this year.

 

But I’m considering buying less than the usual quantity by buying two days to Christmas.”

Baring his mind on the hue and cry about the rocketing price of chickens, a poultry owner and the Chief Executive Officer of Greenfield Nigeria Limited, Mr Gabriel Enoch, explained that a number of factors was responsible for the expensive price of chickens. According to him, a great number of companies in Nigeria that import foreign feeds into the country for sale are in difficulty over the falling value of the naira to the dollar. He said that would definitely have an impact on the price of chickens.

He added: “You know electricity is not stable in Nigeria. We need regular supply of it to produce heat. In the absence of it, the only alternative is to buy petrol to power our generators. Mark you, most of the raw materials are not produced in Nigeria here. We don’t rely on the corn from Nigeria alone. We get from Niger Republic and other neighbouring countries. It’s the same story for wheat. We import a huge chunk of it. We don’t produce enough corn; we don’t produce enough groundnut; we don’t produce enough wheat. So, the price of chickens is a reflection of our economic situations. Nigerians should be fair to us.”
Do they know it’s Christmas?

For civil servants, who allege non-payment of salary, it’s lamentations galore. In a statement seen by Sunday Telegraph, some aggrieved Ogun State workers had accused the Ogun State government ( as of the time of filing this report) of failing to pay workers’ November salaries.

According to the Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress,Ogun State, Emmanuel Bankole, it was unexplainable why the government would hold 21 months deductions, which, he said, implied that the government is owing Ogun State workers five months salary.

In a statement issued through the organised labour in the state, the workers bemoaned the recently introduced staggered salary payment model, which they alleged began with July salary earners.

In a related development, a source and Local Government worker in the Bassa Local Government Area of Kogi State, who craved anonymity, lamented how workers under the local government had not been paid their November salary, let alone December.

“To say we are suffering is an understatement. The best we can do now is to just pretend like there’s no Christmas. These people don’t know if we exist,” he lamented.

Rising fares amid insecurity

Asked if she would travel to the Southeast for Christmas,Mary Njoku, told Sunday Telegraph how it’s increasingly unsafe to travel to any part of Nigeria. But that is not her only worry. To travel to her Anambra home state, she said, she would spend , nothing less than N17,000; something she described as prohibitive.

“What am I picking there that will make me spend N17,000 for only my fare to my village. And I won’t travel alone. When I travelled in April, I only paid N8,000.”

However, a visit by Sunday Telegraph to Biode park and EFEX office in the Ojota area of Lagos on December 22, 2022 revealed the following adjustments in fares:

Lagos to Ikare – N4,100(old) – N5,100(new)

Lagos to Ilorin- N4,000(old)-N4,5000(new)

Lagos to Abuja, Okene N10,000(old)- N15,200(new)

Lagos to Onitsha N10,600(old) – N11,600(new)

Speaking to Sunday Telegraph on the cause of the hike, a driver,who gave his name as Fred, said the fares would continue to climb in the days ahead. “You can’t blame drivers for doing their job. By the time we begin this journey (Lagos to Okene, Abuja), we would get to places where we would depend solely on the black market for fuel, coupled with the fact that this is Christmas season. We also buy from the same market you people go to.”

Time for forgiveness, love, sharing

For a lawyer and cleric in the Celestial Church of Christ, Evangelist Emmanuel Cole, apart from being the most wonderful time of the year when everyone smells joy in the air and celebrate with friends and family, the spirit behind Christmas is that of giving and sharing.

“Some may have planned to buy a new car or to move into their new apartment.

But alas, all those are now but a pipe dream. Thus, we should count ourselves lucky to be alive to see this Christmas. This should therefore be a period of gratitude to God for sparing our lives and counting us among the living. It should equally be an opportunity for us to mend our ways with God, so that we will not be found wanting. The spirit behind Christmas is that of giving and sharing.

“The three wise men, on learning about the newly born child, came calling with gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide-open heart that gives thought of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for over two thousand years, “he said

He further stated that while some Christians focus on giving gifts, food preparation, decorating trees, attending events, sending out Christmas cards, Christmas is a time to reflect on the love of Christ, even when there is nothing wrong with the aforementioned Christmas traditions.

“He gave up His crown, comfort and endured the pain of the cross for us. This unquantifiable love is summed up in the popular bible verse John 3: 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him will not perish but have eternal life.” “When we ponder on God’s love for us, we too are encouraged to share love with others, to embrace peace and be our brother’s keeper. When we are imbued with this love of God, we will always be willing to give a helping hand to those in need, to give succour and comfort to the vulnerable ones amongst us.

“At Christmas, we are expected to spare time to contemplate on things eternal.

That is, we must remind ourselves that we are strangers here on earth; that our real home is in heaven. And that no matter how long we live, we shall surely die one day. So many people, who started the year 2022 with us are not around to finish it. Like us, they commenced the New Year with high hopes and aspirations,” he explained.

According to Cole, Christians should seek to follow the path of love, sacrifice and forgiveness that Christ exudes.

“How many times have we felt agitated then people instigate against us? How many times have we felt unhappy and jealous when someone supersedes us? We feel agitated when people unfairly target us with their unpleasant acts. But then, Christmas comes to us this season with the message of hope and forgiveness. Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for us on the Cross of Calvary as the ultimate sacrifice for mankind.

“He did not feel agitated that the people crucified him, pierced his hands and legs with large nails, speared him in the chest; put a crown of thorns on his head. But Jesus simply said to God, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” That is the true message of forgiveness.”

Cole submitted that Christians should celebrate Christmas with fun-filled carols and merrymaking.

 

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