By Francis Ewherido

In six days’ time, it will be another Christmas. I have peeped out of my window severally and I did not see the usual atmosphere of Christmas. I went through the streets and I could not see the usual hustle and bustle associated with Christmas festivities. I still see the crippling Lagos traffic, but it has more to do with the closure of Third Mainland Bridge than pre-Christmas activities.

Lagos Island is busy alright, but it is always so; no heightened activities as a result of Christmas activities. The day Lagos Island goes quiet, we can all go home and prepare the funeral dirge. It means Lagos, nay Nigeria, is finished.

Do people, especially children, still worry about Christmas clothes? I did in the 70s. Do my children worry about Christmas clothes? No they do not, because they were never wired that way. Will I eat rice this Christmas? I am not even sure. My eldest daughter has perfected the politics of fried rice and various types of delicious sauces.

She has been making me to fall into temptation. Will I be tempted to eat rice and sauce this Christmas? May be. But I know I will eat unripe plantain and blended oat. These two are part of my natural therapies to keep drugs away. Some people will, however, not eat rice this Christmas, not by choice, but because it is out of their reach. I saw that over thirty years ago and it is still happening, in fact the people are more now. That is sad.

Will I eat chicken this Christmas? I do not really care. If I do, will it be fresh chicken? I still do not care. In the 70s, I was my mother’s chief butcher. I butchered chickens, especially on Sundays. But I have grown soft; I cannot slit the throat of a chicken anymore. I do not even want to see it being done. Just give me the cooked one, let me eat. But now, I do not eat the chicken skin?

A friend once described the skin as the “sweetest” part of the chicken. I agree with him, but sadly I had to let go of it for the past 28 years. I started taking precautions early. My boss then suffered a mild stroke. Moving forward, one of the food items his doctor told him to forgo was chicken skin.

Experts say chicken skin is loaded with cholesterol and not good for people with (or prone to) high blood pressure. My friend, who said chicken skin was too “sweet” to abandon, has abandoned it too. He also had a stroke and one of the items his doctors told him to flee from was chicken skin.

As you grow older, you find out that nothing is too important to trade off for good health. Good health is priceless. Another friend told me that he has stopped taking salt and his taste buds have adapted to foods without salt. That is an extreme sacrifice, but he is very healthy and that is all that matters. I tried it, I stopped putting salt in my unripe plantain.

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My taste buds have gotten used to it. But na there the matter for now, after all, I am not the one that doctors told to stop taking salt, na one oga like that. But I take salt with wisdom. I need the iodine, but I also know that too much of it is bad for people with high blood pressure. I told my eldest daughter to take it easy with salt. If she puts too much salt in her fried rice this Christmas, that will be a good reason to avoid it. Temptation get limit.

I will be in church on Christmas day. I love the Christmas carols; I also love the rich traditions of the church. They give me heavenly feelings. The church has become a refuge. It always was and even more now. But it is a large gathering and I will follow COVID-19 prevention protocols. The second wave of COVID-19 is here, but the second wave of awakening and precautions are not here yet. The rules are not being vigorously followed and enforced as we did earlier.

But I have enough incentives to follow them. I have suffered ill health and I have enjoyed good health. I know the difference. I choose good health. I have abandoned many fetishes with which I used to delight myself: dodo (friend plantain), champagne and my “wocked” combination of Ewhu garri, sardine, groundnut, sugar and milk, all soaked in very cold water.

Blended oat has displaced my all-time favourite, eba, and banga soup and owho soup are now occasional; vegetable soup has displaced them. But do not try me with fresh fish banga soup. I will clean the plate any day and the heavens will not fall. I thank God I still eat and enjoy my snails.

Bring on the snails – fried, in sauce, in stew, in ukodo, in banga soup, etc – I am all for it. Some Urhobo men do not eat snails. E get why, but no ask me. I wish more men will stay away from snails so that the demand will go down and the prices will follow.

On the 26th of December, I will watch Arsenal at home to Chelsea. Those boys have become something else, sha. It looks like they have taken an oath to inflict pains on Arsenal fans worldwide, but I choose the life lessons I get from this patchy period and reject the pains. In life, things are never going to be always rosy. It is so with family, marriage, business and relationships. The current Arsenal form helps me to appreciate life as it truly is, but God, it is enough. Arsenal fans don suffer reach.

I will spend the rest of the year bonding with my children. We shall go out when necessary. I will have more time for my soccer-loving son. He is always craving for my time to discuss soccer, but sometimes the time is not there to give him. I will rest, reflect on 2020 and prepare for 2021. I will add a few chapters to my new book…what is the title again?

I will give thanks to God. I will thank Him for life. I will thank Him because even though business was disrupted this year, the business is still there and we shall continue 2021 from where we stopped in 2020. I will thank Him because of an incident I survived, which killed a prominent Nigerian two weeks later.

I will thank Him because a raging inferno that could have snuffed the life out of my eldest son only left him first degree burns, just six weeks after his uncle passed on. My wife lost the younger brother on September 27.

That was painful, but I choose to thank God. I will thank God because though some of my projections were not realised and some of my dreams were dashed, I am better a person in December 2020 than I was in December 2019. The birth of Christ restored hope to humankind, in hope and thanksgiving will I celebrate his birthday. I wish you a Merry Christmas.

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