A Christmas without ponmo
TODAY is Christmas. The big question is how many Nigerians can really merry and embrace in merriment, a season’s embrace wrapped with peals of laughter. Given the palpable suffering of most of the population in long-lasting struggle to eke out a living and its compounding by a bunch of reckless state actors, the hilarity of Christmas is at least gone for today. In pains, the suffering masses would continue their existential drudgery in search of what to eat. This undermines hope, a panacea of sort. From the beginning of the year, in their toil for what to eat, a hardly fruitful endeavour in this clime, hope is always there like a shadow trailing its owner.
Christmas is a season for new clothes, eating and wining. Some culinary finesse is brought to bear on our diet. Beef, chicken, fish, crayfish, prawns and ponmo. The latter is known by many names such as kanda and okhian. Its value lies in being affordable and also mouthful. Medicine men says it’s cholesterol full, others say it is wholesome for the liver, yet there is the view that it has no nutritious value. Also, an indolent ruling class is even considering tapping into an estimated 75 billion dollar global leather industry where cow skin or ponmo ought to be. Fears of chemicals and contamination are even being invoked to dissuade the poor from his/ her preference. Whatever the views, they are the reason while it is the refuge of the poor and always tops a sense of a wholesome meal. It is an easy complement in the combination called in the southwest, orisirisi (assorted meat.)
Irrespective of their faiths, poor Nigerians often look forward to Christmas; not really for its religious essence but for the leisure it offers, the vent it provides for a momentary mirth of life in which we are at one with the creator; inspired by his work of creation, we would exclaim: life is beautiful. Today, hope is driven away, or shall we say smashed, not a lick of the lips and the crunching of ponmo, the choice of the impoverished Nigerians which by some ironic and weird force of attraction is also patronised by those responsible for their misery.
In spite of the masses impoverishment, already hemmed in the margins of bare existence and uncertainty of a season, our tomorrow, if there may be one is already being overshadowed by our tormentors, mouthpieces of IMIFIJUJU, known as Bretton Woods institutions, and a man who promised ‘change’ is telling them to prepare for pains over obvious economic downturn that they did not engender, others demented are clamouring for the removal of oil subsidy, an imaginary specie, you and I know, does not exist but a fraudulent carbuncle inflicted on the people by the thieving elite.
Others are projecting tolls for unpassable roads while the naira is racing towards Golgotha. Agencies that provide power and energy have upped their tariff blatantly without improvement on their services. Aforesaid, hope is a panacea. Where is hope? It is being attacked by our tormentors in ways that made good old John Keats say that pain abides forever with us while happiness is a rare visitor. As Shakespeare’s Cassius in Julius Caesar puts it, oppressed people when burdened never lack the means to dismiss the fetters of oppression. Casca envisages suicide or revolt. The option for our people maybe the latter.
The toiling people of this country would perhaps invoke the general will to damn their traducers and oppressors. This could take on different social expressions. The country is already contending with Boko Haram insurgents in the north east, Indigenous People of Biafra, Niger- Delta militants of the Delta, one of the most impoverished enclave in the world, Odua revivalism is lurking at the corner and who knows, very soon, Ogiso brigade would emerge from the mid-west. These processes are irreversible for a people beaten to the wall. History is there for us. The Americans took on the British tax masters in 1760S, the Cuban people triumphed over Batista and his gangs in 1959 and the Bolsheviks took on the reactionary forces and the Czar scums in Russia in 1917.
The suffering of our people today reminds me of the signature tune of Hotel de Jordan, a drama series in NTA Benin written and produced by the inimitable Comrade Jonathan Ihonde, in the early seventies which goes as follows: “God save us make we no see trouble; who see one no dey know whether na white or yellow; poor man dey suffer, monkey dey work, baboon dey chop.” As toiling Nigerians cannot merry today, eat their ponmo, let it be known that their days of ‘suffering and smiling’ will be over (apologies to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti). They shall claim their day, they shall have their laugh, and they shall merry again with shouts of victory over their oppressors.
• Dr. Akhaine is visiting member of The Guardian Editorial Board.