CONGRATULATIONS, 2016 has gone away, 2017 is here, young and fresh and brimming with hope that it would burn off all the dross and ugliness of last year. As I settled behind my desk last Monday, Boxing Day, to write this column, I couldn’t pin my thoughts down to gather steam for what has almost become a routine every first week of January…Alternative Medicine products to watch out for in the New Year. I guess that will come later. Instead, I settled for random thoughts and experiences in the days which formed a bridge between 2016 and 2017, what some people may call the “cross-over” days. The first thought was about the Christmas 2016.
This Christmas must be about the most spoken about in the last decade or so because many people had no money to splash on revelry. The Asian businessmen, notably the Indians and the Chinese, who import children’s dresses and fire crackers for this season, must be an unsmiling lot now. By May and June every year, they stuff available warehouses with their wares and pay fabulous rent for warehousing, waiting for December to arrive. Stupidly, Nigerians burn hard-earned money firing tons and tonnes of fire crackers of all designs, irrespective of repetitive police warnings that fireworks had been banned since the 1960s. The ban was imposed during the political crises of the then Western Region (Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Edo, and Delta state) and has not been lifted. Irrespective of this, Asians find their ways around the customs and excise Department and around the police to make a mincemeat of the Nigerian economy every December. Every Christmas season, the police would repeat their warnings but would arrest or prosecute no one to make good the warnings. In this process, Nigeria was drained of foreign currencies, especially the Pound Sterling, the Euro and the U.S. Dollar. As the drain occurred, the value of the Naira against these currencies dropped significantly, fueling inflation and scarcities. The story changed in Christmas 2016. Recession had come to town. Every-one began to watch spending critically, eliminating unnecessary expenses. With one bag of 20 pieces of sachet (“pure”) water doubling in price to #150 at the shops, many people began to buy directly from the sales trucks at between #100 or #120 a bag. That meant bad business for the shops. I have taught many people how to add plantain or banana peel to rice or beans or rice and beans to increase bulk, provide enough food for every member of the family and save money on food. In Europe and in the United States, it has been discovered that banana peel, like plantain peel, is richer in some nutrients than the fruit it covers, and that, on it own, it is actually food. Infact, a campaign is going on in the United States to educate the public that these peels are not food wastes, so that, by 2035, no banana or plantain peel would be thrown away.
The Recession change the face of Christmas 2016 in ways far too many to mention here. It provided a saner environment to observe a Christmas. A Christmas is a reminder of the High Nation of the Lord Jesus to this sinful earth to light up the darkness which had enveloped it, so that some of the inhabitants longing to get out of the rot and return to their home in paradise as perfected spiritual beings may find their way out of the suffocating embrace of Lucifer and his minions. It is a time for sober reflections in which Christians ought to put themselves on the scale and see if they had lived their lives so far the way their Lord came to tell them they should. It is a time for everyone to lock himself or herself up in his inner room. But it became a time for wandering about, almost aimlessly in revelry because the pocket were filled with easy money. The scale of wining and dining decreased last Christmas. Traffic was down on the highways, suggesting many people were indoor. Deafening fireworks were not to be heard in the streets, and the Indians and the Chinese must have gone home, Sullen. Goodbye Christmas 2016.
ON this earth, wonders never end. On Christmas Day, I walked into my neighbour’s place in the evening to share with him the season’s greetings. He has a tradition of more than one decade behind him of welcoming his guests with meals and drinks. Beside me sat a gentleman who had been one of my acquaintances in the housing estate for many years. We often met at the relaxation center. He had a huge appetite for Stout beer. He never stopped drinking despite a bad cough which yielded no ground to self-help pharmaceutical or herbal medicines. Even prescription drugs were of no use. Often, I would tell him I suspected his heart was enlarged and he could come down with congestive heart failure, and even die. I suggested he go to hospital and check with his doctors. But all the suggestions sounded to him like “Greek”. He said Stout beer made him sleep soundly. I said it made him sleep only because it depressed his brain. In any case, the drink could be overworking his liver and kidneys, and these organs may be hardening, resisting blood flow and causing the heart to enlarge in a bid to pack more force to pump harder. An enlarging heart will get weaker in the course of its enlargement, and it may become so weak that it may not be able to pump blood out of the lungs. Blood overstaying its tenure in the lungs would irritate these organs as unwanted guests. To free themselves of the irritation, the lungs would try to expel the blood through the mechanism of a particular cough. This cough hardly responds to popular cough medications.
After a long debate which involved his children giving him an ultimatum, our friend went to hospital where his condition was diagnosed as enlargement of the heart. He would prove stubborn still by saying his doctor permitted him to knockoff with this beer provided he did it in moderation.
To cut a long story short as we say, his cough worsened, his energy began to sag and he could hardly walk. Last Sunday, I saw beside him not a bottle of Stout beer but a glass of water. “What happened”, I asked, shocked. He told me his doctors asked him to give up beer if he wanted to live longer. We joked about the human capacity to chase away killer old habits in the face of death. Then, I advised him the medications he was on would not necessarily reverse enlargement of his heart. They would only slow down the heart so it doesn’t kill itself with work overload thrust upon it by other misbehaving organs. He would have to heal his liver and kidneys of many years of needless punishment. These organs take a lot of bashing when we consume alcohol. Then, he would have to put more energy into his heart on a therapy of Ubiquinol, Hawthorn berries, Vitamin E, Vitamin B Complex, Essential fatty acids, Selenium, Magnesium, and the likes of them, including L-Arginine.
Remembering this gentleman, reminded me of the book SUGAR BLUES in which the author narrates how he had to give up sugar and sugar foods after many point-of-death battles with unresolved hypoglycemia which masked itself in many other disease symptoms. When he got his health and life back, he would bump into sugar consumers unceremoniously, urge them to give up sugar and sugar foods, they would insult him, he would not give up at the risk of a fiasco and he would go home a sad man. Then, one day, an observer admonished him not to burn up his energy over recalcitrant people. One day, a thunderbolt would hit them. Only when the student is ready does the teacher emerge. Isn’t this the way it has been for many of us health repentant people?
In the last two weeks, Nigeria has granted workers six days public holidays. To worsen matters, the first work day in 2017, a Monday, (January 2) is a public holiday. The holiday on December 26, a Monday, was understandable. That was Boxing Day, traditionally a public holiday in many Christian countries when Christmas gift sent in boxes or in other packaging are unwrapped and acknowledged. Tuesday, December 27 need not have been a public holiday. But it was so declared to compensate Christians for the Christmas Day which fell on a Sunday, a work free day in the country. January 2, a Monday and a work day, was declared a public holiday for the same reason that New year’s Day fell on a Sunday, a work free day. The thinking has gained deep roots over many decades that if a holiday falls on a work free day, a compensation or a gift with a work day has a work-free day has to be made. This holiday, holiday, holiday mania is a disease of corporate Nigeria which, in many other ways, has eaten the nation deep into its marrows.
Many people think the season of Change laced with the season of Recession would have swept away this unproductive habit of corporate Nigeria. How many people go on these types of holiday in the informal sector, anyway?
A recession means backsliding or retrogression. To move from Recession to Ascension, the energy for upthrust or upward propulsion must first be generated. A car driven into a ditch isn’t gotten out of there without some work. Moving Nigeria out of recession cannot be easily achieved, if it will be attained at all, through pleasure seeking and irresponsible holidays. If an investor who is to create jobs need 60 days to repay, say, a #100million bank loan, robbing him of six days work in two weeks isn’t going to be fun to him. If he thinks he can make mincemeat out of the country and get by, his first option may be to inflate his price to make up for the holidays. In other words, some of the pangs of Change many people are complaining about may very well be the price they are paying for the irresponsible holidays they are enjoying. Irresponsible holidays are rare in Japan and China. Often, the Japanese and the Chinese have cultural links to their own holidays. In the Western world, holidays are not frivolous matters.
That said, there is some sense on the other side of the road, or of the other side of the coin presented by a devil’s advocate. The informal sector, not the corporate sector, may have become the bedrock of the economy, the driver and stabilizer. Here, workers work their hearts out from sunrise to mid-night, taking no organised vacation except when the government declares a public holiday. But this isn’t a fool-proof argument? Do not many of us in this sector troop to work on public holidays which have no religious rings to them?
There are many thing in Nigeria crying for Change which haven’t changed. The culture of too many needless holiday is one of them.
Former governor Ibori may surface in Nigeria to a tumultuous welcome, having completed his jail term for money laundering in England. His reception in England is an indicator in this regard. In the video, Ibori proudly boasts that, while he was in jail in England, he masterminded the election of some governors in Nigeria. What I can deduce from this is that he would be a major player or king maker in the 2019 Presidential election.
Gone are the days when only success had many fathers and failure had none. The crowd which milled around Ibori at the reception suggested it is no longer taboo to be seen in public hobnobbing with a former prisoner.
In the days long gone by, it would be appropriate to tell these people SHOW ME YOUR FRIEND AND I WILL TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE or BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER.
One of my friends reminds me that, in human history, only the FORM ever changes, the CONTENT never changes. The FORM is we human actors or the circumstance in which we act. The CONTENT is what we like to do. Over 2,000 years ago, we sang Hossanah after Jesus Christ on a Friday and shouted CRUCIFY HIM on a Sunday. Pontius Pilate was warned by his wife to protect Jesus. She had been warned in her dreams Jesus was blameless and she should guide her husband to let Him go. The mob threatened Pilate, colonial Roman governor of Judea, he would be reported to the Emperor, Herod, as an enemy of the emperor if he did that, claiming Jesus was seditious in acclaiming Himself as KING OF THE JEWS. Pilate feared that Herod may sack him or even imprison him. He lacked courage, thought of Self and let go. On the part of the mob they preferred that the life of a common criminal be spared while a blameless person should be murdered simply because the leaders of Jewish religion thought His influence over the people would rob them of power and influence.
Today, we worship criminalism and other vices in this country as the Jewish synagogue leadership and mob. Like Pilate who lack courage to confront evil, we, too, lack courage to confront evil and crime, and this is why our land is filled with criminals and nothing that is right seems to work in it. The officers who man and run our public institutions lack courage, noble human character and candour. Who, today, in this country, can look the king straight in the eyes and say his mother is a witch? who can tell Ibori and people like him to take a bow from the public theatre and retreat to the back stage, nay, the shadows? Once he was appointed a Public Prosecutor irrespect of the Monica Lewinsky affair, Mr Ken Starr pounded President Bill Clinton in the dock as if the President were an ordinary strict man. Who, today, can face a Governor, let alone a President in Nigeria? In my days as a University student in the 1970s, students would have become so irritated about the huge sums of money being recovered from corrupt Nigerian leaders of yesterday that they would have surrounded the homes of this people and the National Assembly in support of the government. Such students of those days are no longer anywhere to be found today. The system may have absorbed them. And so we may discover that President Mohammadu Buhari as a lone tree, may not make a forest in 2019, and Ibori and Co. may call the shots.