The festive season is already heading into fifth gear all over the world.
And the atmosphere of love, giving, and sharing that characterizes the season is being felt all around.
Everywhere it seems… except here, in Nigeria.
Nigerians appear to see Festive seasons, not as a time for giving, sharing, and showing love to one another, but as a time to extort, plunder, and take advantage of others.
This is more evident in the southern parts of the country that are supposedly more “Christian dominated.” There is a widespread trend of extortion at varying levels, from the lowest to the highest levels of society.
I am in Lagos right now and what I see is an obvious collaborative attempt by bus drivers to extort passengers.
They have deliberately doubled (and sometimes tripled) the fares for every route.
They claim the increase in vehicular traffic is their reason.
Yeah, right, like Lagos never had crazy traffic before.
And this happens every year.
More annoying is the impunity with which they are doing this.
I remember time ago, just before Christmas, I boarded a bus at CMS on my way to Lekki.
The fare was supposed to be N150.
When the time came for the conductor to collect money from the passengers, he asked for Two Hundred and Fifty instead.
All the passengers, including myself, protested.
But the driver and conductor were unmoved.
They insisted on the N250.
Mind you, the bus that had just loaded and moved ahead of our vehicle had taken the regular N150.
So you can imagine the outrage we all felt when the silly driver was demanding an additional Hundred Naira to it.
Everyone paid the N250 with great reluctance, however.
When the bus finally moved, the driver put a call through to his associates back at the park.
He told them he had just hiked his fare rate to N250, and so they should all do the same.
There was a loud roar of outrage on account of the blatant extortion, manipulation, and impunity we were witnessing.
Insults and curses were hurled from all angles at the driver and conductor.
But they were not moved.
Shortly afterwards, one of the most annoying and disgusting, and outrageous things I have ever seen happened.
The driver played a collection of Gospel songs on his phone and was singing and humming along.
And the conductor also joined in.
The share incongruity and hypocrisy of it all made me boil with anger.
They had just extorted us, and now they were singing praises and lifting “Holy hands!” I could barely suppress my anger and disgust.
All this was for one reason.
Christmas was coming, and they wanted to gather more money and prepare themselves for the season at the expense of their passengers.
It happens every year and is still happening until today.
It is not just the bus drivers that are doing it.
Even the Keke (Tricycle drivers) and Taxi drivers do it too.
In fact, it goes beyond the transportation system.
It also touches the marketplaces.
Sellers of all kinds of goods just hike the prices to outrageous proportions all in the name of the Yuletide season.
When you ask them why, they would say “Ah, Christmas dey come na” as if that justifies everything.
There is a higher rate of armed robbery and ritual killings.
Because Christmas is coming!
There is a higher rate of extortion and suffering.
Because Christmas is coming!
The Yuletide season is no longer a season of Love, joy, peace, communion, and tranquillity.
It is now a season of Unrest, anxiety, desperation, fear, unmasked greed and avarice, extortion, wickedness and destruction of human lives and property.
A season when the worst variety of evil is perpetrated.
Most people, especially the poor, have little or no reason to celebrate Christmas.
Nothing really inspires the feeling and mood anymore, because all one sees around is a deep desperation, greed, and fear.
Most of the rich and privileged are more concerned about showing how much they have “arrived,” and also lording it over the poor.
The poor or less privileged ones feel that, because they are less privileged, they, therefore, may terrorize those that are better off with requests or demands for Christmas.
The whole idea of Christmas as a time of sharing, of giving and receiving love is being defeated.
There is a need for us to change our orientation.
Let us go back to the basics.
Christmas is much more than eating and drinking and showing everyone you have “Arrived.” Neither is it a time to take advantage of others or play the “hungry beggar” card.
Again, I repeat, it is a time for showing love and compassion for each other in the spirit of Jesus Christ whose birth we are celebrating.
Let us adopt this same spirit, especially this Yuletide season, and be more like Christ whom we profess to follow.