Southeasterners love Christmas and they love to celebrate it at home, the land of their ancestors. In the past, it would seem like whoever of the Igbo stock missed celebrating Christmas in the East missed out on life’s pleasures, at least for that year.
Indeed, Christmas in the East is a time for family reunions and catching up with old friends. It’s also the normal time for members of communities to discuss development projects for their communities.
Uche Muokwudo, a serial Christmas traveller told Nairametrics that it’s the perfect time to discuss moving communities forward – a time to discuss projects like building schools, hospitals, churches, etc.
Also, ceremonies such as weddings, burials, and the like are fixed around this time. And, it is pertinent to note that many young men and women use the time to seek prospective life partners.
No doubt, this is the time of the year that Southeasterners display their wealth at home. And infusing so much into the economy of the Southeast just between December and January only gives an idea of how much the regional economy booms at this time.
Citing an example of an economic boom, Muokwudo said virtually every hotel in his state capital, Awka, is booked to capacity from December 20.
The fashion industry booms as people buy new clothes; restaurants and eateries are filled; transport services become most profitable during the Christmas period. Farmers reap the most during the period as food, local cuisine is in high demand. Hardly is there any industry that is not profitable at this time of the year.
However, staying away from celebrating Christmas for a growing number of Southeasterners has become necessary, and the trend may become difficult to reverse if not nipped in the bud now.
Benjamin Eze, who spoke with Nairametrics from Owerri, the capital of Imo state said there is a marked difference between 10 years ago and now. He said fewer people are travelling home than before, and economic activities, as well as social life, were becoming muted.
Dr. Emeka Okengwu, the chief executive of Anthill Concepts has cited that the continued security concern in the east is scaring easterners away from home, especially during this season of celebration. He said the growing insecurity in the region is taking away the joy of Christmas.
He said the ‘sit-at-home’ orders, be it the Monday ‘sit-at-home’ or the five-day ‘sit-at-home’ orders from faceless elements sparking fear in people who want to spend their Christmas at home, stressing that there have been security consequences in the past.
Dr. Okengwu also said the security situation was dampening economic activities in the region, especially during the festive season.
A lecturer in the Department of Banking and Finance, Nassarawa State University, Paul Ekumagha, who is currently vacationing in the East, said it is a given that economic activities do not thrive when security is in doubt. He stated that it is becoming evident that insecurity is beginning to affect Christmas celebrations.
Uche Muokwudo said during this time in the east, some of the things people enjoy are going out to visit friends and being able to return home at any time of the night. He said especially wealthy men who fear being targeted by unknown gunmen avoid such situations now. He said some Igbo men who come from abroad choose to stay in Lagos or Abuja, see their family and travel back abroad without visiting the region due to fear of being targeted by unknown persons and kidnappers.
Dr. Steve Okafor, a social affairs analyst says the development is affecting the economy badly. He said, “People who spend real money are staying away from the east, except for very important appointments, where they fly in, do their business, and fly out, usually the same day.”
However, visits to Maza-Maza, Jibowu, Ujuelegba, and Ojota by Nairametrics reveal that Easterners are still trooping to the East for the holidays. A one-way fare to the east by bus now costs more than N20,000, more than 100% more than it was three months ago, evidence of mass movement to the East for the holidays. Okafor says it is a beacon of hope that the tradition of spending Christmas in the ancestral land is far from dying, only a threat to businesses and wealthy people.
Sadly, all of the above persons interviewed by Nairametrics doubt when this spate of senseless violence will abate.
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