BY CLEMENT UDEGBE
THE christmas season, is a season of forgiveness, love, rejoicing, and thanks giving to God, for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who died on the cross, that the whole world may be saved,with the salvation of their Souls.
In Igbo land, there are two major religions, the traditional African religion, which involves the worship of gods, ancestral spirits, and idols, and Christianity.
Most communities in the South East like other African communities,practised the worship of a specie of the python, known as Python Regius.A harmless and beautiful snake, which used to roam about the villages. Now in this part of the world, Pastors and indigenes biker whether to kill or not to kill the snake, due largely to the Biafran war, when people ate the snake without repercautions. Unfortunately,this reptile must be facing extintion in the South East today.
Christianity,is the next major religion of the Igbo land, as introduced by early missionaries, mostly the Catholic Church, the Church Mission Service (CMS), protestants as they were called in those good old days.The Catholic church is of serious prevailence in Igbo Land. Most adults have at one time or the other served mass in the Catholic church, or worked in the CMS, until now when we have pentecostals too.
In those days, most christian Igbo families,as early as the month of August of the year, the tailor would be invited to take measurements for christmas clothes, shoes will be bought, the small hand guns for the boys, and assorted christmas gifts, arranged and kept away by September. The girls would form a group, and one Auntie will be rehearsing one kind of dance or the other for christmas. We all would continue to live with high expectations for the Christmas rice, clothes, shoes and dances.
From 15th December, we would be moved to the village, to remain there till about 15th January, when schools would reopen.
It was a lot of fun, for us as kids.We met with all our relations, played, went to the river, swam, went into the bushes around to hunt small creatures, doing what young kids do. We would arrange how to spread our breakfast from one house to the other. It still happens today,
Christmas is beyond going to church, exchange of goods, and gifts, for the Igbo man. It goes beyond sewing clothes, buying new cars and property. It offers opportunity for reunion, marriages, friendship, resolution of family matters, community meetings, town hall meetings, conferment of titles, development plans for the people, and their society.
It is also a time for conscious, and serious assessment of an idividual’s life achievements in the year, enabling people to plan for the new year.When you meet your mates and age grades, you see for yourself, and know if you need to catch up some where in your affairs.
This is why the Igbo man must pay special attention to the condition of roads, airports, because they will constitute the majority of commutters from all parts of the country to the Igbo land during christmas, given our presence all over Nigeria.
Year in year out for the past 20 years, I have seen huge traffic gridlocks on all roads towards the South East during this period.Benin Ore road, has remained a source of pain,danger and anguish, for travelling Easterners during Christmas for the past over 20 years. If the past Federal Governments have failed to address this perrenial problem, should the South East Governments not do something about it? I think the South South and South East Governors should create a Task Force, empowered and equiped to augument the efforts of the FRSC and the Police to keep the roads free and safe during the months of December and January every year.
The Task Force should have Giant Hiabs and Tow vehicles located at strategic locations along Benin-Ore Road, Benin-Onitsha Road, Helicopters, and Patrol vehicles to cover the road during this period.The Major Road Transport Companies, like, ABC, De Young, Ifesinachi,Ekene,GUO, God is Good, Agofure, Edegbe, Peace Mass, ITC, Tracas, Entraco,Abia Teansport, and many more should be made to partner with government in funding the Task Force. The idea is to ensure that 2014 December does not visit us with same hardships again.
Our transporters must as a matter of dignity, and honour, stop the exploitation of their own, during the Christmas period. While it is true, that airfares increase during christmas and peak travel seasons in other countries, those airlines have christmas packages for their patrons/customers. In Igbo land, nothing special is offered to commuters during, in and out of the seasons. All we get is arbitrary change in fares during Christmas, except ABC that maintains a dignified constant fare in and out of seasons. The, ABC is a great team, a winning team, and should be emulated by others in keeping the discipline of stable fare during Christamas, and other festive seasons.
This year’s Christmass appears likely to be less boisterious and humble, generally, beause of sheer economic hardship.
The rate of poverty has increased in the last 10 years. Some say it is a period of sacrifice for a better tomorow, but many of our leaders, senators, members of Houses, political office holders and their cronies are having house warming parties, launching news cars, with many thanks giving services. That is the country we are ending up with; Their own Nigeria, and Our own Nigeria.God help the common man in Nigeria, especially the Igbo Man.
Ndigbo should begin to delevelop solutions, and structures to address their own perculiar problems, and challenges in this great nation.
*Mr. Udegbe, a legal practitioner, wrote from Lagos.