The word transformation took the centre stage in Akwa Ibom State during the tenure of Sen. Godswill Akpabio as Governor. When he placed the adjective ‘uncommon’ in front, the transformation of the word transform became complete. Whether uncommon transformation referred to painting Uyo red and white in December or the mirage of developing life sustaining socioeconomic projects did not matter. Akwa Ibom has not been the same since Akpabio.

My piece is about Xmas. I don’t have access to CNN, so I don’t know how COVID-19 and the variants have affected the world’s most celebrated event. It was last night when I went through several POS centres in Uyo and then toured ATMs at the banking layout to raise 1,000 Naira for a friend that the impact of Xmas struck me. I could not raise common N1,000! As usual, banks failed to manage the outsized demand for cash during the week of Xmas. We believe only government fails. The rest of us are efficient.

The Xmas Village on Udo Udoma Avenue in Uyo remained scanty throughout the month. I would be surprised if any subscriber to the colourful kiosks recovered cost. It tells the story of the current state of the economy. Folks simply stayed home.

The pleasant surprise was the weather. Rain refused to go but after it did by mid-December harmattan took over. For years harmattan did not exhibit its skills in December. This morning the weather is balmy.

A few churches pinned palm fronds on their compounds. I’m not sure even 20-year-olds saw the beauty of expertly woven palm fronds with flowers at the entrance to family compounds. Youths used to compete on which decoration would be most attractive. Unfortunately, there were no mobile phones with cameras then.

Food and drinks? Those ones only families will tell the stories. I’m not sure I saw stock fish in any supermarket this year. With one goat today the price of 30 cows of yesteryears and one chicken the price of five goats of a bygone age, I think tasteless frozen fish will do the deed. The upward journey of prices can be regarded as transformation.

Christmas clothes? The high point for me came when someone told me a 14-year-old girl said money should be saved for her school fees. She has no interest in Christmas dress. Thanks, Huoma for representing the new breed of realists in the youth camp. I hope older girls think the way you think. Just ten years ago a mother of a brood would have taken issues with her husband if he failed to provide Xmas dress for her. The children? Not negotiable. Today old clothes will be ‘managed.’ In my village of Oboyo some parents could not avoid white and red dresses for their children who participated in the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (wrongly called Carol of Nine Lessons by many). The event took place at Royal Family Basic School.

The one I remember with a wry smile is Christmas cards. It used to define status – the more the cards, the ‘bigger’ the person. Mobile phones saved the day with SMS and social media posts, but printers have lost business. Knockouts have been very few and thankfully, knockouts following bouts of excess drinking and brawls have thinned towards zero.

For me I remember with nostalgia “Akpambe” at my mother’s village of Afia Nsit II. It confirmed the position that carnival float originated in Africa. Those things appear to have been gone for ever. White people transform old things and make business out of them. We throw ours away. With Uyo to Calabar longer than Uyo to Dubai because of the bad road, I wonder how many people travelled there for the imported (though originally local) carnival. Most Ibo shops remained open. I guess they did not make enough to travel with. Which is bad for we don’t have holidays in Nigeria. Xmas has been the one period of rest we have.

Transformation continues, common or uncommon. If your family cannot afford pounded yam, transform with a plate of rice and ‘stew.’ Interestingly the price of rice did not go up by one kobo although the promise of the Minister of Finance to bring down its price before Xmas did not materialize. Thank God government did not hike the price of gasoline (petrol) as envisaged.

Irrespective of your religious persuasion visit friends even if you don’t have gifts to share. Reconcile and heal old wounds. Pain is not worth holding when hunger circles the system.

Merry Xmas and a better New Year everyone.

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