Christmas in Electioneering Season, By Dele Agekameh
The 2015 elections are here. About a fortnight ago, the political parties concluded their primaries for the election or ‘selection’ of candidates to run for different political offices. While some of the primaries were held on a level-playing field, others came under an atmosphere full of rancour and acrimony. The result is that while majority of the candidates have accepted their fate, many others are currently up in arms in protest against the outcome of the primaries. A few of the candidates have taken solace in the courts which they approached as the final arbiter. Many others and their supporters have resorted to massive protest marches to lodge complaints with their party hierarchy.
All these are taking place amidst the prevailing season when Christians around the world are celebrating Christmas, which marks the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. I am quite sure that politicians will naturally take advantage of this Christmas season to carry their messages to the people especially with the intent of influencing voters. So, this year’s Christmas celebration in Nigeria might just be a double barrel affair. As the Christians will be doing their own thing, so also will the politicians too be ubiquitous all over the place, wooing and cajoling voters, as the case may be, with mouth-watering offers including food, money and other exquisite and irresistible offers now popularly referred to as “stomach infrastructure”.
We all know that a lot of excitement is packed into Christmas festivities. From the homes to street corners, there must be something to remind you that Christmas is here again. If you happen not to have noticed anything in your neighbourhood, at least, you will notice the traffic snarl everywhere as people shop for their needs. Besides, the fireworks that are exploded now and again around you, in spite of the warnings against its use by the Police, can only occur during the Yuletide.
Christmas has always presented both a magical and spiritual season. It is magical with all of its window dressings of toys, decorations, lights, parties, food and music. It is spiritual because it is a time for reflection. Looking up at the starry, cold night sky, one feels a communion with God, his creator, in a reflection upon his wonderful gift at Christmas, when Jesus Christ was born more than 2,000 years ago. But honestly, many people also believe that Christmas is a time of some illusions and fantasy. For instance, you open a Christmas card and written therein is the phrase: “Peace on Earth, and Good Will to All Men.” As a matter of fact, when you think about a world that is now seriously hemorrhaging with killings and maiming everywhere, these are almost empty words.
Tune to any of the major television stations across the globe, you will be suffused with the horrible, heart rending, chilling and gory spectre of how many people die daily from car bombings, teenage suicide bombings, drone killings, beheadings, murders, air strikes and martial offensives. In those days, some of these heinous crimes were confined to some distant places until more than five years ago when the theatre of the absurd arrived at our shores in Nigeria, no thanks to the satanic Boko Haram hoodlums now on the rampage in the Northern parts of the country.
We cannot forget in a hurry, a series of bomb blasts and shootings that occurred during Christmas Day church services in Madalla, Jos, Gadaka, and Damaturu, all in northern Nigeria on December 25, 2011, which claimed the lives of no fewer than 41 people. Also as it happened quite recently, there is nothing more Australian than dropping in at the local cafe for a morning coffee, and it is tragic beyond words that people going about their everyday business should be caught up in a horrific incident in such a place as a cafe. That describes what happened barely a week ago, when a gunman, Man Haron Monis, who allegedly embraced radical Sunni theology, hurriedly dispatched two innocent Australians to their early graves after he held some people hostage in a local café in Sydney. This was closely followed last Tuesday by the horror which shocked the world to its foundation when 145 people, mostly children, were killed by Taliban gunmen at an Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan. With these scenarios, the question is: Will there ever be real peace on Earth?
Economic disparity in the nation and in the world – in far too many places exacerbated by political and terrorists activities – now pose a major threat not only to the health of men, women, children and infants, but the lives of whole populations, the plight of many of them, unfortunately, more easily ignored or more readily accepted than others. The world will continue to anguish over such conditions without anyone, any nation, willing to make suggestions on how to achieve global peace. Though, it is heart-warming to note the approach or thinking about a new rapprochement or détente between the United States of America and Cuba, sworn-enemies of more than 50 years, yet it is difficult to believe that peace could be achieved so easily with just a voice affirmation. Genuine peace will only come when those profiting, as it were, from all these confusion and crises all over the place, have a change of heart. We live in a world that is constantly evolving. We are constantly evolving.
Now back to the festivity. Christmas in Nigeria, as with the rest of the world, is a family event, a time when family members come together to celebrate as one and have fun. That is why most families that live in cities all year round, take the pain and discomfort to travel to their villages where their grandparents and older relatives live to celebrate with them. Many families will throw Christmas parties that will last all night long on Christmas Eve. Then in the morning of Christmas Day, they will go to church to give thanks to God for sparing their lives in the past year and still seek for God’s guidance and protection for the coming year. While this is done, homes and streets are adorned with beautiful flowers to herald the season of love. Most homes wear new looks complete with artificial Christmas trees and lightings.
In the light of this season and mounting security challenges in some parts of Nigeria, it is expedient for everybody to be vigilant. With increasing terrorist activities in the country, the Police should take all necessary precautions to ensure adequate security for travellers, worshippers, picnickers and all citizens across the country before, during, and after the season. This can only be achieved if all key and vulnerable points, including places of worship, recreation centres, motor parks, highways, and all places of public resort are adequately and effectively protected by officers and men of the Police Force and other security agencies, who will be out on duty during this period.
As we celebrate tomorrow, we should inevitably think of our families and loved ones. There is also the need to reflect on the misery confronting the growing numbers of Nigerians who have suddenly become refugees in neighbouring countries as well as those now classified as Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, within the country as a result of genocidal attacks in some parts of the country by terrorists. To this set of people, Christmas is as meaningless as their future is bleak at this point.
So, if you are asking me what this time of the year really means, I’d say it’s about community. It’s a time to appreciate those around us, not just our family. We need to appreciate our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues at work, our staff, the ordinary man in the street, our country and indeed, everyone. Sentiments may vary, but one thing that won’t change is the sense of humanity and community. And whether we celebrate through prayerful worship or feasting and drinking, the most important thing is that we are doing it together. Here is wishing you all a Merry Christmas!