By CHARLES ADINGUPU
…As traders groan under low patronage
As the Christmas draws close, Nigerians cry out with a mighty voice from the abyss of their miseries to God over their dwindling fortune. CHARLES ADINGUPU writes, that a bleak Christmas celebration stares the people in the face.
In the struggle of this life, man is not discouraged because he clings to the hope the Lord has in store for him at the end of his conflict – a trust without limit. But that is not the case with Godwin Nwaoboshi, who has tasted despair, broken by sorrow and weighed down by humiliation.
Until recently, Nwaoboshi was an Accountant working in a manufacturing firm domiciled in Lagos. He manages his meagre income with his proportionate family of four. But just one day, he was kicked out of his job in a questionable circumstances. Two years afterwards, he’s yet to get another job.
All his efforts to secure another job came to naught. But as the Christmas bell jingles, Godwin now remains awake to his enormous family responsibilities starring at him, moaning like a lonely bird on a house top as his days vanish as a shadow at night.
“This is the second time in a row I will celebrate Christmas with my family, begging for their understanding over my jobless state. I can’t even afford to provide decent meal for them on Christmas day talkless of buying them good clothes so that they too, can look like their peers; he lamented to Saturday Vanguard.
But the story of Efe Goodnews who resides in Warri, Delta State, said he lost his bank job during the Mallam Sanusi Lamido’s endless reform. Unfortunately for him, no entitlement was paid to him and his contemporaries booted out of job. For him, Christmas day may just be like any other.
“I mange with some casual jobs here and there just to eke a living with my family members. But how long will this be, is what I can’t say. My elder brother assisted me by providing some good and decent clothes for my kids. As for the rice which is the ritual meal on Christmas day, God will provide,” he said.
Again, Dotun Banjo said Christmas in Nigeria today has lost all the splendour that accompanies it. He lamented that since his motorcycle, otherwise known as Okada was impounded and eventually smashed by the Lagos State Government, life has become unbearable for him and his entire household.
“I don’t no where to begin now. I’m a National Diploma (NND) holder in Estate Management. Since I can’t secure a job, my elder brother assisted with motorcycle to use for commercial purpose. But suddenly, the Lagos State Government cut short our joy, only means of livelihood without alternative. I don’t know how to celebrate the Christmas with my family except God intervenes,” he said.
For Edwin Nwabudike, the vagaries life has dealt a serious blow on him. First, he lost all his belongings to the insurgence of terrorism in Jos, Plateau State where he lived with his family before they relocated to Lagos. The proceed he realises from his makeshift provision store is barely enough to sustain his family.
“Business is dull. There is nothing in the air to suggest that Christmas is around the corner. But we should thank God we are alive to witness it as Christmas is not all about buying of new clothes for the children and feasting on rice and chicken,” he said.
David Metu believes that the general atmosphere suggests that Nigerians will celebrate a low key Christmas due mainly to the poor economy. “It is only federal and state government workers who will celebrate this year’s Christmas with funfair. Most of them if not all have been paid one bonus or the other for yuletide. But for self-employed who relied mainly on the patronage of other Nigerians, it will not be easy at all.
About two years ago, by this time, people will be preparing to travel to the village with their family members to celebrate the Christmas with their relatives. But this is not the case today. Since schools vacated, the traffic on the highways has not recorded any appreciable difference. For me, I don’t have the money to travel alone talkless of doing so with my family members,” he said.
Also for Phillip Ugbomah who has been jobless three years after he graduated as a Geologist, his only dependent, the elder brother was recently thrown out of job. This has further compounded his plight. “At least by now I should be of help to my elder brother and his family. He saw me through the university. Today, he’s jobless, and I’m yet to secure a job three solid years after graduation, all because I don’t have a godfather up there. For us, the Christmas is a sad reminder of our hapless state, he lamented.
“Is there anything like Christmas? Just look around you will know that people are less perturbed about Christmas. Even most of these firms as well. In the past, you will find banks and other corporate organisations spending lavishly on decorations of their office buildings. But today, the story is different. Companies which attempt to do so only did light decorations just to fill the vacuum of nothingness, enthused Tayo Wasiu who works in the Island.
Madam Augusta Wamiko, a single parent who runs a hair saloon at Ketu, Lagos, said the poor state of the economy has made most Nigerians to forget about the Christmas.
According to her, the government has failed to encourage artisans and other self-employed Nigerians in their various trades. “For almost three weeks in a stretch, electricity supply in this neighbourhood has been at its low ebb. How can I operate my saloon if not to rely on a generator set which guzzles fuel that is not even available at the moment except in the black market. I think most Nigerians are suffering similar fate as well.
“The barbing saloon operator needs electricity, wielder, business centre and many others. But what has the government done? I’ve spoken to my children, and I know they understand. No new clothes and shoes this Christmas, but we can manage to prepare the regular meal for the Christmas – rice, even if it may not be as sumptuous as it used to be in the past,” she said.
For Mathias Borisade and his wife, their immediate preoccupations at this season are how to settle their two years overdue house rent and consider payment of their children’s school fees within the next three weeks from now and plan to survive the beginning of the year.
Almost three and half years her husband lost his job, life has never been the same for Mrs. Alice Njukama. Their plight however, peaked when their properties were thrown out of their house at Owode by the landlord who insisted in collecting the accumulated three years rent owed him.
“Christmas is not in the least of our priorities right now,” she lamented. I’m glad schools have vacated and I’ve sent my children to join my mother in Benin, Edo State. It’s obvious we can’t cope anymore here. Since my husband lost his job, life has become unbearable. My business crumbled like a pack of card. Too many people indebted to me, and worse of all, my landlord has thrown our properties out of his house mainly due to our inability to pay our rent. I’m looking for a place to store my properties and thereafter join my children in Benin till further notice.
Mummy please remember my new shoes
For a while, Mrs. Victoria Nwaboshi was transfixed on how to manage the little resources in her disposal to make her three little children feel the pulse of the Christmas without invoking pain in the mind of her jobless husband. Though, she had assured the children of a wonderful Christmas.
Therefore, when her little girl of four, Nneka heard that her mother was going for Christmas shopping, on that ill-fated day, she dashed out of the bedroom and shouted at the mum who was already a the middle of the compound, “mummy, please don’t forget my new shoes.” That innocent request almost drew tears from Mrs. Nwaboshi’s innocent eyes not necessarily because she could not afford it at the moment but because, she and her husband have failed in their family responsibilities.
“I almost wept when Nneka asked for Christmas shoes. They (children) know we always buy them new clothes and shoes but not this time. Can you imagine that my elder brother who use to render assistance to us in moments as this just lost his job? I just manage to put together little proceeds I realised from my petty trading business to buy few things us to eat for the Christmas,” she said.
Though for children, Christmas means wearing of new clothes and shoes. But Dotun Banjo says this may not be the case with his children this Christmas because the money is not there for such luxuries. “They have been wearing new shoes and clothes every year, so, if this Christmas is an exception, therefore, there is nothing wrong with it. This is an opportunity to make the children understand the vicissitude of life,” he said.
Bend down boutique to the rescue
Most spots where fairly used clothes otherwise known as okirika are sold in Lagos, witnessed a beehive of activities as buyers besieged them in preparation for the Christmas. At the popular Tejuosho Market along the railway, which houses many makeshift stores where fairly used clothes and second hand shoes are sold, business booms unhindered as parents scout for near quality stuff for their children.
These days nobody talks about quality. Whether China or America, new clothe is new clothe. At least the child has never worn it before,” said Mrs. Madubueze. Mrs. Borisade who had bought clothes for her children two months before now, was at the Yaba market to search for fitted shoes for her two children. However, success attained her efforts as she got two different pairs of China made shoes at N1,200 and N800 respectively.
At Balogun Market
The general atmosphere at the popular Balogun market in the Island does not convey a true picture of the Christmas seasons. The usual heavy human traffic at the market was conspicuously absent. Traders who usually display their wares at the street corners and along Broad Street were not there, no thanks to the hired tugs by the Lagos State Government to chase them out.
From the beginning of Broad Street to the extreme towards the Great Nigerian Insurance building, was empty, except some women who paid dearly to display hot drinks on their makeshift stalls. A second clothes dealer at the market who gave his name simply as Nnadi, told the Vanguard that the little profit he realised after mid-day sales was forcefully taken away from him by an emergency patrol task force raised by the Lagos State Government to chase traders along the road.
“They are area boys, alayes, tugs who pound the streets of Balogun market to harass and intimidate traders. Many traders goods were seized. They go on a danfo commercial bus. My wares were impounded by these faceless Lagos State Government officials. But I’ve to pay N1,500 to them to secure the release of my goods,” he told the Vanguard.
Mrs. Essien Ufot though hailed the Lagos State Government for chasing the traders off the street, but lamented that the development has created more difficulties for buyers as well.
“I’ve to move from one extreme to another before I can get what I wanted to buy. In fact, it’s not a pleasurable experience but the government should also know that not everybody can pay for rent in Balogun market. Therefore, they (government) should exercise caution in the implementations of some of these laws particularly in a season like this where everybody struggles to meet up with one pressing need or the other,” she said.
Santaclaus is dead
Little Nneka was bursting with excitement as Christmas is just barely three days away; she thought of merriments that herald the Christmas celebration. But the most of them all is the family regular visit to Santaclaus. At the early evening on that fateful day, she reminds the Daddy, Borisade of their usual visit to Sanctaclaus. The father looks at his little daughter intently, and said “Santaclaus is dead.” Nneka who was transfixed, requested to know who killed Santaclaus. “One Mr. Money, a wicked man killed Santaclaus,” the dad replied convincingly. She left the Dad without a word.
Earlier, Borisade explained to his other children that the money is not there for them to visit Santaclaus. “Though, it’s true we visit Santaclaus every year but this one must be an exception,” he said.
Metu, another parent said that most primary schools organize Christmas parties for their pupils where Santaclaus visits the children for a token fee.
At least, this has assisted some of us who cannot afford to pay the spurious fee charged by corporate and other individual private concerns whose main preoccupation during this Christmas season is to organise Santaclaus for children,” he said.
However, investigations revealed that the ritual is gradually fading away, mainly due to low patronage. Although, some broadcast media houses still arrange Santaclaus for kids at a fee.
One of the organizers of Santaclaus and Christmas party is one of the private broadcast houses who will not want his names in print, lamented that this year’s Christmas party suffers abysmally low patronage.
According to her, despite the good packages lined up and advertised severally on their medium, most parents still shun Santaclaus. “It is obvious there is no money. The state of the nation’s economy says it all,” she said.
Where are the hampers?
Yet another ritual of the Christmas that is going into near extinction, is the exchange of hamper packages. The Saturday Vanguard investigations revealed that sales and distribution of hampers this Christmas is at its lowest ebb. In the past, hampers adorn every nooks and crannies in most popular markets in Lagos. But today, the story is different.
At the popular Balogun market starting from Akpogbon down to Broad Street, Martins Streets Isah Williams and stretching to the extreme of Great Nigeria Insurance building, not much hampers were on display for sales. However, those who made bold to venture into the once lucrative seasonal business lamented poor patronage as most people look the other way for goods of pressing needs.
Lady Titilayo is one of those trading on hampers at the Balogun market. She puts her story this way: “Since last year, the sales of hampers has reduced drastically. This year is the worst. Though, I was cautious not to include perishable items among them, so that I can eventually disposed the items one by one if the hampers fail to attract ‘potential buyers,’ she said.
But Biola whose shop is located at Isah Williams Street blamed the poor sales of hampers on the deplorable state of the economy.
“Despite the reduction in prices, customers still won’t come, not everybody seems to be interested in the business anymore. In the past, it was almost an all comers’ affair.
Today, the smallest of them goes for a token of N2,500, the medium seize and giant one go for N7,500 and N12,000 respectively,” Biola said.
At the popular Yaba market, the story is almost the same. At the Tejuosho road which displays many Christmas items, hampers were scantily displayed by some traders.
A shop owner who proffers to be anonymous, said people are no more interested in buying hampers anymore but just to keep the business going, hence, some of us just arranged about three to four packages of hampers for display,” he said.
At Ketu, the numbers of shops with hampers displayed can be counted with the fingers. Available survey reports by Saturday Vanguard, showed that most corporate organizations seemed to have jettison the idea of using hampers as corporate gifts to their clients and well wishers.
Traders groan under low patronage
A visit to most markets, shows that traders still have large quantity of their wares. Most of them who spoke to Saturday Vanguard lamented the low patronage. Apart from onions, the prices of other good items did not experience any noticeable increase.
Mile 12 Market
A bag of rice, brand elephant gold otherwise called Amino sells for N9,500 while Super Eagle and Agric rice, a bag goes for N7,500. A bucket of ofada rice sells for N1,500.
5 litre of groundnut oil goes for N1,400, while sealed up Gino, 5 litres is N1,900. 25 litres Gino King size is N6,600. Turkey brand 5 litres is N1,700; Sonola brand sells for N1,400 1.5 litres.
A bag of beans sells for N20,000 while Oloye brand of beans is N11,200. A bag of garri is now N8,500, previously it was sold for (garri) N6,500. 25 litres of palm oil is now N8,500,it was previously sold for N6,500.
Fresh tomatoes and pepper
A big basket of tomatoes sells from N3,500 to N6,500. The prices are determined by the freshness and seizes of the tomatoes. They are readily available as trucks load of tomatoes keep trooping into the Mile 12 market to offload their wares. The medium seize baskets are sold for N4,500.
Also, a bag of pepper goes for between N5,000 to N6,500.
A trader, Mrs. Patience Nwabudike who deals on bags of rice, garri and other food condiments lamented that sales during this year’s Christmas has been very poor.
“We complained that last year’s sale was poor. This year is worse. I can’t remember having my shop stocked with many bags of rice at this time of the year when the Christmas is just three days away,” she said.
But Mr. Chiama Samson who owns a poultry lamented poor sales of chicken this year. “Despite the low prices fixed for these chickens, people still prefer frozen chicken to life ones because they are cheaper.
The prices range from N1,500 smallest, N2,500 and N3,500 for the medium and large seizes respectively,” Mr. Chiama disclosed to the Vanguard.
Transporters Hike Fare
Apart from the lingering fuel crisis, transporters in the spirit of the yuletide hiked transport fare to various towns and villages across Nigeria.