Anti bomb police on the street of Abuja
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration and police authority in Abuja are getting themselves ready to safeguard Christmas celebrations as well as provide atmosphere for the mood of the season with decoration of the city and first ever national Christmas tree, Senator Iroegbu writes
Christmas season, which is a period that Christians across the globe celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ has always been an unusual one. Perhaps no other festive period equals it as it heralds the coming of the New Year. It thus, creates frenzy atmosphere, and exciting anticipation in major cities, towns and villages of the world including. Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria is no different, but since 2010 bomb blast in which many lost their lives and the continued insurgent activities of Boko Haram, Christmas celebration in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has been in low key with most residents staying indoors, and occasionally venturing out because of security situation.
However, things are beginning to look brighter with FCT Administration set to re-invigorate the frenzy mood of the season this December.
This year’s event will be highlighted by the lightening of first ever national Christmas tree in Abuja by no other person than the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.
In time past, Abuja has ever had a different characteristic in its Christmas celebration mood, just traditions and styles differ from one city to another; from New York to Sydney; and London to Rome; and Lagos to Johannesburg.
Abuja as a city adopts more laid back and formal approach to celebration of Christmas when compared to the hyper-thrilling atmosphere of Lagos or the frenzy known with the Eastern Nigerian communities and towns.
FCT is unlike the East with its buzz of returnee diasporas, where indigenes often travel from wherever they reside in different parts of the world to return home to re-unite and celebrate with family members, while lubricating the economy of their respective towns.
It is also not like Lagos where most events are celebrated on the streets, beaches, churches and public centres with colourful carols and carnivals.
Abuja however shares with Lagos and other Nigerian towns and major cities of the world its fair share of devoted Christians and conservatives that views Christmas as a time for sober reflection of their place in Christ.
Notwithstanding, the Nation’s Capital posses its own unique blend of liberal tendencies in a largely atmosphere of conservatism and this year is not left out with the look of things.
But in Abuja, Yuletide season has not always been on the quiet side really, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) made efforts to enhance the Cities tourism potentials in 2009 when it illuminated the Federal Capital City (FCC) with Christmas lights and that single act has become a propelling force for Christmas celebration..
The trend had continued untill 2011 New Year eve when the dare devil Boko Haram sect unleashed terrorism antidote to the celebration when it bombed the popular Mammy Market, Mogadishu Military Cantonment (Abacha Barracks) Abuja.
Consequently, the shock and awe that ran through the spine of Christian faithful, some of whom have to cancel their passover night prayers because of the unfortunate incident characterised the cautionary and sombre approach of the 2011 festive season, which was later worsened by the fuel subsidy crises.
It was quite unfortunate that in as much as people will like to enjoy lives to the fullest in celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ, the fear of safety and security measures adopted across the capital territory conspired to constrained their plans and movement.
With the mounting security concern, some of the popular places like the Millennium Park, Wonderland, Abuja Amusement Park got less patronage as people resort to enclosed celebration within their homes, hotels, churches and visiting friends, colleagues and relatives.
Being the seat of power and administrative hub of the nation, prominent government officials and corporate personalities also use the opportunity to pay homage to bosses, superiors and colleagues prominent among them being the visit to President Jonathan at the Villa.
Many also recognised the fact that majority of Abuja residents are not indigenous to the territory and travel to their various local communities to celebrate the season with their kits-and-kins and as well attend numerous family and communal development meetings.
Although, the situation has not changed much but people are beginning to loosen up and the city is beginning to come back to life with hotels, worship centres, offices, especially banks taking the lead with Christmas decorations.
To highlight this changing trend that accentuate the rising confidence of the people, who like the children of Israel who rebuilt their temple with one hand and another hand with arrow and eyes on the watch for the enemies, residents across Abuja are overcoming the odds as they prepare for the season.
Accordingly, the First Lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan, will this Saturday light the first ever Nigerian National Christmas Tree, which is an initiative of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).
The Minister of State for FCT, Chief Olajumoke Akinjide, described it as an historic event which is part of the efforts to showcase Nigeria and the FCT to the world as a tourism brand and preferred tourism destination similar to what Otunba Olusegun Runsewe led NTDC did in 2009-2010.
Akinjide explained that the Christmas Tree, which is 20.9 meter high, is strategically located at the Unity Fountain Park, besides the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja and adorned in the national colours of green, white and green.
She disclosed that among the dignitaries expected at the lighting ceremony are members of the National Assembly, wives of governors, members of the Federal Executive Council, chairmen of Area Councils in the FCT and their wives, heads of ministries, departments and agencies of government, heads of secretariats, departments and agencies of the FCTA, diplomatic corps, and the media, among others.
“The Christmas time is traditionally recognised and celebrated as a season of peace, goodwill and hope across national boundaries. It also offers us a unique opportunity to reinforce this same message of love, unity, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence”, she said.
“It is consequently our anticipation that an annual lighting of the Nigerian National Christmas Tree will play a similar unifying role for our people,” the minister noted.
She explained further: “Christmas trees displayed publicly and illuminated with electric lights became popular in the early 20th century. By the mid-20th century, it became customary to display strings of electric lights as Christmas decoration detached from the Christmas tree itself, along streets and buildings.
“By the late 20th century, the custom had also been adopted in non-western countries, notably in Japan”.
In spite of the preparation of FCT administration, THISDAY went to town to ascertain from the residents of the FCT how they are going to observe and celebrate the yuletide season.
Speaking to THISDAY, Ms Yemi Daniels expressed confident of the security situation in the capital city and insisted that she will visit relaxation centres with her family and as well visit relatives and friends apart from the church programmes.
“Well I know Abuja to be peaceful, and will therefore spend mine (christmas) in here with my family. So I will visit a lot of places with the kids due to the nature of my job .It is also a time to bond and give to the needy and be a blessing to others”, Daniel said.
In the same vein, Mr. Wale Elekolusi said he will celebrate his Christmas starting from the church before visiting public places with the family.
“My Christmas will be celebrated, first by going to church on that day in the morning, then I will hold a feast with my immediate and extended family”, Elekolusi explained.
“ I will also stay with friends who have no one to look after them; the less privileged and be a blessing to them. I may also visit other places like millennium park and Maitama Amusement park”, he added.
Meanwhile, Mr. Emmanuel Ulayi, a Journalist and Executive Director, Civic Duties Awareness Initiative (CIDAI) still express concern for the security situation in the Nation’s Centre of Unity.
“I will be relaxing with my family and also use that period to do a lot of reading. l have some quality books l need to read that period. It is going to be a quiet Christmas for me and my family. The security situation has not helped matter”, Ulayi noted.
More humorously put was the Advert Manager, THISDAY, Abuja Ms Bawo Golde who will spend most of the day either sleeping or in front of her television screen.
“I will pray and thank God and then sit in front of my flat screen (Television) watching movie,” she said.
And despite the fact that the security situation has not improved as much, there is a general consensus by both the authorities and the residents of the FCT that the Christmas celebration will be a different.