Every few years, I would travel to Nigeria for Christmas. But 2019 was an exceptional year. It was the year that I took my children to Nigeria for Christmas. It was their first and only Christmas in Nigeria till now. So, when we arrived in Lagos on December 23, a wave of nostalgia swept me. But the nostalgia was even more intense when we arrived in my village two days later.
The first night in the village was the toughest for me. My children, tired out and jet lagged, went to sleep as soon as they hit the bed. As far as they are concerned, anything for a bed would have sufficed that night. But for me, it was my duty to stay awake, ready to reassure them that they were safe if they woke in the middle of the night.
The night, or should I say the morning, was calm until the “menacing” voice of the town crier woke my children. “Dad, what is that?” Of course, my youngest wanted to know what it was instead of who it was. It has been many years since I have heard the town crier. But I explained to them that he was the town crier and just announced that the youths were meeting very early in the morning.
After six weeks in the village, it was time to return to Lagos en route to the United States. Unfortunately, we missed our flight and spent another week in Lagos. But we were lucky to arrive in the United States two weeks before the borders closed for COVID-19. To cut a long story, we all agreed it was the best Christmas.
I am figuring out what it is. But there is something about the celebration of Christmas that makes it better among your people. Despite Nigeria’s insecurities, thousands of Nigerians travel home yearly for Christmas. It is proof that Nigerians are resilient and cherish their heritage. We love to celebrate in the company of family and friends.
However, the number of Nigerians traveling home for Christmas has dropped in the past few years. Nigerians are now expressing doubts about traveling due to insecurities and bad roads. In the South, road travel is routinely dangerous due to kidnapping, armed robbery, and banditry. In the South, roads are treacherous due to abductions and terrorism.
Recently, Reuters News reported that US and British intelligence has warned of a possible terrorist attack on Abuja. The report warns about specific attacks on Abuja shopping malls, law enforcement facilities, and international organizations’ offices. In an alert to US citizens in Nigeria, The US Embassy said it would offer reduced services until further notice. Yet, the Nigerian government still needs to reassure Nigerians of their safety.
Speaking of government, it is not news that Nigeria has not been fortunate enough to elect responsive leaders who genuinely care about Nigerians, the Nigerian Diaspora, and their children. As a result, once hopeful people are now discouraged and hopeless. Youth unemployment has driven many Nigerian youths into a life of crime. Nigerian roads have become death traps. Some areas in Nigeria do not have electricity for many consecutive months in a year.
But of all the things their actions have deprived us of as the Diaspora, I am deeply concerned that they have denied us the luxury of a peaceful Christmas celebration with our children in Nigeria. It is how we give them a direct experience of their heritage and connect them with their roots. For example, I hoped to take my children to Nigeria for Christmas every two years. But I am discouraged by the increased rate of kidnapping and robbery.
However, if you are one of those who still take the family to Nigeria for Christmas, I must admit that you are brave. So please, share with us your motivations. Also, share your experiences and your children’s thoughts about celebrating Christmas in Nigeria. Finally, please share your reasons for those who have paused on Christmas in Nigeria. We will understand.