The morning after Christmas

The morning after Christmas

By Reuben Abati

“How was your Christmas Day?”

“Comme ci, comme ca”

“What’s that?”

“I am speaking French. You mean you don’t even understand elementary French?”

“No, I don’t. Speak English. How was Christmas?”

“Low-key. Like this, like that”.

“For me, it was a dead-end Christmas”

“God forbid. May we never have a dead-end Christmas. I reject it in Jesus name.”

“If you like, summon the Holy Ghost. We have never had a Christmas like this one. On Christmas eve in Lagos, come and see people just going about, many of them aimlessly. The kind of shopping that heralds Christmas was absent. For the first time, I could see the real colour of sadness, frustration and regret on the people’s faces.”

“It depends on what part of Lagos you are talking about.  If you had been in Lekki or Victoria Island, you would have seen a different colour.”

“I know. There are two countries in one: the real Nigeria and the other Nigeria, where people live in a bubble. But the bubble is beginning to burst everywhere. With the Naira now N500 to the dollar, and businesses failing everyday, the pain is spreading. It was an unusual Christmas.”

“Everywhere jus’ dry. I know some people who used to hold Christmas parties every December 25.  They just decided to postpone it till next year. But did you at least manage to eat rice and chicken?”

“Anybody that eats rice these days is very lucky indeed, with a bag of rice now N20, 000. And you can’t even be sure it is real rice. I learnt the market was flooded with plastic rice.”

“Plastic rice? What does that taste like?”

“I guess like plastic. “

“Never heard of that. Plastic rice?”

“To be on the safe side, these days, I only eat Ofada rice. Local rice.”

“All kinds of things happen during recession. Plastic rice.  Empty pockets.”

“I know something about empty pockets, my brother. Imagine what I went through trying to get money from the ATM, two days to Christmas.  I went to about five banks, you’d think people were queuing for fuel, with everyone looking anxious.”

“I know.”

“One queue covered an entire street. When I eventually found an ATM and it was my turn, the machine just started blinking. I didn’t know when I started shouting Blood of Jesus, Blood of Jesus.”

“You should have planned ahead. I don’t know why people have to wait till the last minute before withdrawing money. Nigerians should learn to plan ahead.”

“I did. The ATMs misbehave a lot these days and they are always crowded.”

“There is no money in circulation. I hear the Central Bank is broke. The banks are just managing.”

“You have started, hen? How can the Central Bank of Nigeria be broke? For the past three weeks now, the spot price of crude oil has been over $50 per barrel. That’s some good revenue.”

“May be it is the banks that are broke then.  I just hope nobody has taken depositors’ funds to go and invest in the MMM.”

“What nonsense!”

“MMM was giving people better returns on their investments. Even bankers invested in the scheme. And now that the scheme has been frozen till January ending, there is panic everywhere. You would be surprised the kind of revelations that would come up if the profile of investors in the scheme is investigated.”

“Nigerians are always looking for quick profit, but I don’t believe that a bank will invest in MMM”

“Dey there. Look at the way special prayers, night vigils and deliverance sessions are being held over this MMM thing. Some churches are holding get-your-MMM-money-back prayer sessions, and when you attend those sessions, come and see crowd!  If that Ponzi scheme should crash eh, a lot of people will commit suicide.”

“One man sold his only car and invested the money in MMM.”

“I know. Some people sold their houses too.”

“The MMM scheme is a comment on the Nigerian banking system. Obviously, Nigerians don’t trust the banks and their miserable deposit interest rates.”

“Tell me, did you invest in the MMM?”

“No. But I almost did. I know some people who made huge profits from it. I was still contemplating putting some money down to test the waters when the alarm blew.”

“You are lucky, then.”

“I guess every investment is a risk.”

“I tried to make fun of some of my friends who invested in the MMM the other day. January 2017 has suddenly become the most important month in their lives.  The way they reacted, hen. I was accused of being insensitive and sadistic. I quickly shut up”.

“So, what are your plans for the new year?”

“I have no plans yet. But I have been following what the prophets are predicting.”

“You believe those predictions?  I just read them for fun. But this December, I have only read the predictions by Prophet Ayo Fayose”

“Prophet Ayo Fayose. Never heard of him. Which Christian Ministry does he lead?”

“The Ayo Fayose Evangelical Church of Yahweh, Iyana Jogunomi, Ori oke Ekiti-Kete.”

“You are joking!”

“Yes, I am. But you mean you don’t know that the Governor of Ekiti State is a prophet?. Every year, he also makes predictions about the coming year.  He has released his 2017 predictions”

“Seriously, is he also among the Prophets?”

“Uhn hun.  In his latest predictions, he talks about how the Holy Spirit directed him.”

“I hear, though, that he has been anointed by Daddy G.O. Pastor Adeboye.”

“Anointment comes from God. What happened is that Pastor Adeboye commended Fayose publicly for leading his people courageously and defending their interests.”

“The APC won’t like that”

“Daddy G.O is not a politician.”

“But have you not heard that the Ekiti Chapter of the APC issued a statement to say that Fayose bribed Pastor Adeboye?”

“May the Holy Ghost slap the mouth of anybody who utters that blasphemy. The Bible says touch not my anointed. The Bible also says He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world.  The word of God is greater than politics. “

“The way you are carrying on, the APC in Ekiti will issue another statement to say you have also been bribed by Fayose.  Anyway don’t worry, they have denied the statement. But the PDP in Ekiti has also issued a statement saying the denial is an after-thought.  Too much politics in that their Ekiti.”

“Forget about them. But what did the Governor predict, if I may ask? You mean, he has so much free time on his hands; he is busy making predictions. In any case, many of these predictions are somehow. Anybody can predict Nigeria’s future at anytime. It is always something like: I foresee a crisis in the Niger Delta. I foresee a change of cabinet. I foresee deaths in Nollywood. I foresee changes at the Central Bank. I foresee the emergence of a new political party…I foresee Donald Trump creating tension in the world.  Three prominent traditional rulers should pray against sickness and bereavement…. Common sense.”

“Oh, oh.”

“But how come no prophet predicted that Nigerian soldiers will capture Sambisa forest and drive out the Boko Haram or that a day after, there will be suicide bombing at a cattle market in Maiduguri? “

“Suicide bombing at a cattle market? What is the target?”

“No prophet foresaw the killings in Southern Kaduna and the waste of human lives or that a white man will be arrested inside Sambisa forest. You don’t have to be a prophet to know tomorrow

“Whatever.”

“We should thank God for everything and for the joy of surviving Christmas in a season of recession. We should also thank God we are not in Saudi Arabia, but in our country, Nigeria.”

“What has Saudi Arabia got to do with Christmas? I don’t get it.”

“It is a crime to celebrate Christmas in Saudi Arabia. This year, seven Africans – 4 Nigerians, 2 Ghanaians, and one Kenyan were arrested in Saudi Arabia for playing Christmas Carols, they could be sent to jail for 10 years.”

“What? For playing Christmas songs?”

“I understand there is even an Islamic cleric in India, Zakir Abdul Karim Naik who told Muslim brothers and sisters not to wish Christians Merry Christmas, because it is a “big sin, worst evil, worse than fornication or murder.” What is the world turning into: A world of hate, bigotry and intolerance. Tell me it is not true. ”

“It is true.”

“Sad.”

“Sorry about the fire accident at Nigerian Breweries in Lagos. I know you drink beer.”

“If you want to talk about something else, do so”

“I am just concerned that there are too many fire accidents taking place these days.  When petrol tankers are not exploding on the highways, markets are being gutted by fire, companies and houses are going up in flames.  The Lagos State Fire Service reported for example that 45 markets in Lagos had fire accidents between January and September 2016 alone.”

“The Fire Service should not moan. They need to do a lot more to educate the people about safety precautions and ensure that buildings respect the Fire Code. They also need to be better organized to deal with emergencies.”

“The Fire Service in Nigeria is poorly funded.”

“Harmattan. Dry season. The possibility of more fire accidents is high. The public should be sensitized all the same.”

“Most of the fire accidents are due to electrical faults, either faulty connections or power surge. We need a national safety programme to prevent fire outbreaks. Every market and major company should have a fire station. There should be fire hydrants across every major city.”

“I’d just say that prevention is better than cure.”

“Who is your Man of the Year, 2016?”

“Man of the Year. Who is yours?”

“Yours first”

“Let me see. I’ll choose the Nigerian Soldier.  The Nigerian soldier is practically holding Nigeria together. He is underpaid, over-used, overstretched, denied access to equipment, and money and often subjected to the harshest possible conditions. Our soldiers are involved in one operation or the other across the country, protecting the country and even doing police work.  Operation Crocodile Tears, Operation Harmony, Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Delta Safe, Operation Gama Aiki, Operation MESA, Operation Awatse, Operation Sharan Daji, Operation Maximum Security. From one region to the other, the Nigerian soldier is busy keeping Nigeria safe from kidnappers, terrorists, secessionists, oil bunkerers, cattle rustlers and extremists.”

“Our soldiers have even been sent abroad to learn cattle rearing because their next assignment includes the management of cattle ranches. I agree with you. I salute their courage.”

“And who is your own man of the year?”

“I’ll choose the average Nigerian for the resilience, the capacity and the courage to suffer and smile at the same time”.
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