My private euphoria to spend my first Xmas in Ibadan could not be contained. The Yuletide activities may probably help to demist the cloudy pall of harmattan that greets my December mornings. Thankfully, the scorching noonday sun offers relief from the round of cold nights blanketing my rural retreat. I had never spent Xmas alone. To me Xmas celebration is incomplete without wife, children and the extended family. Xmas is a yearly fix on chicken, turkey rice and chilled palm wine. Two Xmases now, I have broken the iron-clad orthodoxy of family-centred Xmas celebration to celebrate it far from family and friends.
The twenty one Xmases I had enjoyed and experienced in London had been exciting, brilliant and exhausting. It was always a merry waltz of paying homage to the secret grove of shopping malls and the inner, commercial sanctuary of Oxford Street. Never has Christmas commercialization been so bewitching yet surreptitious in its captivating power. It was always a season of seasonal mayhem in those wintry December month in London. Coiffed up in winter jackets and other cold emblems, the tradition was to ship out with the kids to bargain hunt until the legs go wobbly. There was no restraining god to caution us that powerful pound sterling was being spent on ephemeral goods that will soon be buried in the loft. How can the falcon hear the falconer where an average, managing Nigerian family strove hard to be like the next door Joneses?
My kids know me to be a meticulous Xmas planner. At home, I am the Father Xmas to watch, free of charge. Prior to the D-day, I would have climbed the loft to fetch down the family Xmas tree and the decorative light. I will then set it up at the centre of the living room and with the tiny strobe light sparkling in their colourful arrays. The ground beneath the Xmas tree will be heaving with glittering collection of wrapped gifts for wife and children from different UK boroughs. Xmas day is always an unforgettable day when most families are cut away from the norm of reality. That is the day we all embrace the unspoilt loveliness of life and exude in the exuberant simplicity of Christ birth and the full impact of its meaning. If there is one cow more sacred, one tradition more revered, one taboo more respected than another in a Christian home, it’s that Xmas must be welcomed with rice, chicken, turkey and sent packing with beverages. It will be ungallant and near blasphemy to blaspheme Christ by not sanctifying his birth with rice, chicken and turkey.
Back in the days in UK, we celebrated Xmas with rice, chicken, turkey, roast potatoes, apple crumble, ice cream, mixed vegetable and ASDA’s celebratory wine. It was always a thrilling day of abundance and also a jolly day for the confirmed egotist to showcase this hidden character fault. Today, home alone in Ibadan, I rummaged on how best to spend the Xmas celebration. My tortured mind is divided was divided between time out in Lagos and time in, in Ibadan—–all alone. To stay in Ibadan, I decided to make it more socially expressive and epochal, at least, for future private brag before my children in London. On Thursday morning, a mob of idle youth landed in my house. There is no ambiguity about their mission. They are the old, rusty, reliable and resilient boys who offer me periodic straw of comfort around my house. They had come to mow my grass and carry out other odd jobs. In between energetic exertion of cutlasses on the grass, I engaged Labi, the leader of the mob on my troubling indecision—the indecision of where to spend my Xmas. Labi, in a shallow rush of excitement, was in favour of Ibadan. Others joined and chorused the city of Oluyole. Their human radar has caught me pants down. I heaved a sigh of relief at the sight of light in my darkening Yuletide crossroad.
The rarefied illumination of our youth can be spiritually unnerving. A bewildering assortment of eccentrics from Labi, Quadri, Samson, Ahmed and Farooq could offer light to my darkened tunnel? They even overwhelmed me with powerful spirit of support to dispel any adult notion of their eccentricity. I bought a rather large white-feathered chicken, affectionately called ‘Obama’. Labi tied a small plank on one of the legs to enable it roam free in the compound. They all took turn to play with ‘Obama’ on this Thursday before its execution the next day. On Friday, ‘Obama’ finite life came to an end. Labi had sharpened the killing knife. We all gathered around ‘Obama’ with sober look tinged with a secret nihilist delight. I had never killed a chicken in my life. A shameful throwback to my old timidity and belief in Buddhist injunction never to take life if it could not be replaced. Labi butchered the chicken into smaller manageable parts. And ‘Obama’ died, just like that!
On Xmas day, I play host to Labi, Quadri, Samson, Ahmed and Farooq. Each sailed away from my kitchen to the dining table with a steaming plate of rice, chicken and a glass of chilled palm wine. If given to the poor and needy is the cardinal agenda of Xmas, a dead ‘Obama’, rice, chicken and a glass of ‘pamy’ have given me mileage in my Christian race.