By Wole Mosadomi, Minna
The Eid-el-kabir is usually associated with prayers, sacrifice and exchange of gifts mostly from the rich to the less privileged in the society. This has always been the case in Niger State in the past years. People usually look forward to the celebration on account of the raw meat, cooked food and assorted drinks which usually change hands from house to house.
However, the current wind of change seem to have changed this common practice. Yet the dull Sallah was not entirely unexpected or unanticipated. Few days to the festival, our correspondent carried out a market survey which clearly showed that the high prices of rams and other foodstuffs would definitely scare intending buyers away. Indeed, few days to the Sallah, ram sellers and other food sellers were complaining bitterly of “very low” patronage even as they expressed hope that there would be last minute rush of buyers which never came to pass.
Vanguard Metro, VM, observed that soon after the prayers, only few people returned home as most of the traders returned back to their shops to carry on with their businesses, while others went back to their different homes to celebrate what many of them described as “very low key” Sallah.
This was evident in the almost non-exchange of the usual raw meat and cooked food as was the case in past years. Instead most families kept to themselves and celebrated indoors without the usual pomp and pageantry.
While ram sellers were counting their losses and lamenting due to poor patronage, sellers of chikens had reason to smile to the banks, thanks to the relative better patronage they enjoyed from buyers.
One of the visibly disappointed ram sellers who simply identified himself as Kabiru spoke thus in Hausa: ”I have been in this ram business for the past 16 years and Minna had always been my market. But I must tell you that I have never experienced this type of very poor sales in my life. Indeed, it is a great loss not only to me but to most of us who came from other states because transporting these rams back to our stations translates to further losses.
“Honestly, this period is bad for us and we don’t pray that such harsh economy should continue,” he concluded.
But the complaint about hardship unleashed by the economy is more pronounced among the physically challenged and other less-privileged individuals. For instance, when VM visited the Blind Settlement Centre which is the compound of the visually impaired people located at the stadium junction, most of the residents were visibly dejected as they sat waiting anxiously for alms and Sallah gifts that were not forthcoming. The usual good Samaritans were nowhere in sight.
All those interviewed described this year’s Sallah celebration as the worst and most disappointing compared with what obtained in the past few years.
In an interview with VM, the SARKIN MAIKAFO, or Chief of the Blind in Minna, the state capital, Alhaji Mohammed Rabiu, said the celebration was low-keyed in their compound because unlike in the past when life-cows, rams and food stuffs were donated to them by both government and well-to-do individuals in the society, no such gesture was made to them.
Lamenting in Hausa, the Chief said: ”We were even insulted by the state government this year as they only sent to us ten mudus (measures) of rice and raw meat packaged in one polythene bag. We have the photograghs taken during delivery in our custody as evidence. We are up to 370 living in this compound. For God’s sake, how do we share this amongst my people,” he asked with a frown.
Alhaji Rabiu said: ” We are part of the society. We have only found ourselves in this situation and we are not blaming God but we even thank Allah for his mercy over us. When it is time for vote, the politicians know how to reach out to us to campaign but desert us immediately after elections.
“What I am saying on behalf of my people is that if government has any message for us at all, government should dignify us by dealing with us directly and not through any intermediary”.
Our correspondent who also visited the Minna Leprosarium reports that the inmates felt totally neglected, there was no special Sallah gift made available for them. “We are aware that today is Sallah but it does not reflect in our lives as we can’t join our other numerous Muslim brothers at the praying ground. Again, there is no ram or special dish for us to celebrate the Eid-el kabir,” one of the patients, Malam Oro Mamman remarked.
Few of them interviewed called on government and individuals to always remember them, especially during festivities, to enable them also have a sense of belonging. “Except for some Christian Missionaries who visit us with gifts occasionally, no other group visit us again,” he declared.
Besides the cash crunch that greatly affected the Sallah celebration, most parts of Minna celebrated the Sallah in total darkness which worsened the already dull celebration.
However, many thanked God that at least it was generally devoid of any violence or tragedy.