The Christmas trees are being lit. The red and green garlands and beginning to appear at the entrance of buildings. Phones are now blaring melodious carol when they ring. And yes, even the harmattan is here. We are all winding up activities in preparation for that all important annual festival, the worlds most celebrated; Christmas.
The question really is. Would you be going home this Christmas?
Christmas comes with its peculiar ritual. We make that our once in a year trip home from the ends of the earth. The things that drag us home are usually both diverse and sometimes absurd. They range from House warming, marriages, Family meetings, match making or very simply to show off what the Lord has “blessed” us with in the last year. This year however, we likely might not be seeing that mass exodus?
One new phenomenon is responsible for my hypothesis; Hostage taking.
Now, that’s one phenomenon that would go down as the most outstanding for the year 2009. From a once in a while exploit of criminal minded youths who were having a tough time differentiating between militancy and criminality, it has grown to become a million dollar spinning business, one that we collectively as a nation have failed to find an answer for.
It has now assumed a very domestic form with brothers arranging to pick up brothers or an Uncle or their children especially those that live and work outside home, with the aim of squeezing out some extra cash which they wouldn’t ordinarily part with on request. Only last week, I watched the police in Enugu parade a gang that kidnapped an octogenarian. The leader of the gang (who as is with most police stories was still at large) is a step son of the granny and had whisked her away with the aim of squeezing out juicy amounts from his step brother who he claimed was rather stingy. A while ago I read of a young man who had kidnapped another old lady because her son who he served in Lagos refused to settle him.
With Hostage taking becoming the option for settling domestic disputes and for getting rather stingy relatives to part with some of their hard earned wealth, it becomes a major concern and indeed a threat to all those who usually flock back home by this time of the year. Already it is changing the way we do things.
A cousin of mine recently decided to make his Traditional marriage ceremony a quiet one (just an indoor interaction between the bride and grooms family) because of the fear that hostage takers were sure to come around as soon as you set up canopies and got a record man to play sunny Bobo or Rex Lawson in large loud speakers as is normal of us.
Perhaps an added concern for those from Anambra state is the heightened political tension in the state due to the Campaigns for Gubernatorial elections. Guess there is no need reiterating here what that means to the state of security in the state especially with the many money bags the state has been ‘blessed’ with funding and equipping thugs to protect their interests.
With all these and more in mind, you might really wish to ask yourself again if you will be home for Christmas this year. Though it is said that the fact that people die in war has not stopped countries from going to war, you might really wish to look again to see if you are generous enough to give out a million naira to a group of boys who chanced upon your lovely daughter or your aged mother.
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo