…A Christmas Without The Usual Street Carnival

Calabar-CarnivalChristmas is here again and the frenzies of the season are being felt all around. From Ajose Adeogun Street in Victoria Island to Falomo roundabout in Ikoyi, which are beautifully decorated with various Christmas ornaments and lighting that helps create the mood for the season, and provide beautiful sight at night, when the decoration lights are on, the scent of Christmas smells across the city, as expectations are matched with lots of excitement and preparations that comes with intense shopping.

Arguably the most celebrated event in the world; Christmas comes with a lot of festivities, everybody celebrates it, which explains why both the young and old wear and decorate their surroundings with emblems of the season. Shops, malls and corporate buildings are adored in Christmas motifs and colours of the season — red, white and green, are visibly seen.

The decoration, however, is not restricted to commercial business districts; most residential areas and streets are lined with festive lights in the countdown to the carnival night, where residents, particular youths gather to dine, wine and dance in a convivial while enjoying either a live band or deejay, who dishes out music till the early hours of the morning.

For many years now, the festive season is not left to waste by the youths. At every turn of the corner on the streets, loud speakers blare out naija made tunes just as ear-piercing firecrackers constantly rattle the eardrums, while banners dot major streets announcing dates of respective carnivals.

Absolutely, street carnivals are the biggest activities of the season in Lagos, and it has become a normal practice during yuletide period (December to January). It is marked by the voyage of music, dance, and fun-loving youths from all parts of the cities and in desperate need of fun. Street carnivals have become a tradition in Lagos, as almost every street organises one.

From Mushin to Oshodi, Mafoluku, Ikorodu, Ikeja, Agege, Ejigbo, Iyana-Ipaja, Surulere, Itire, Lawanson, Okokomaiko, Iba, Badagry, Alaba Suru, Oyingbo, Ikosi-Agbowa, Ketu, Mile 12, Onipanu, Ajangbadi and Isolo, the party goes on as street carnivals rule the night during this season as it gives the feeling that life is fun in Lagos. Major streets literally get a makeover with colourful banners and balloons, light bulbs, and other paraphernalia used in decorating the streets to give an idea of what is to come.

With banners on full displays and hanging on street corners, the fancy decorations that help give feel of street carnivals is hard to deny. The huge lights that help illuminate the street, loud banging music, and ecstatic youths, particularly females who are usually decked in dresses that help them gyrate with ease to the live performances and the mixtapes played by the DJs are a permanent fixture.

While many choose to spend the night (Christmas and News Year Eve) at places of worship, many youths (young boys and girls) finds joy at the street carnivals as the DJs send them wild with both indigenous and foreign hip hop tunes that emanated from their supersonic speakers.

Roadblocks are often mounted by youths of various streets as avenue to raise funds for their carnivals. A large chunk of the money realised is usually devoted to the hiring of a DJ, a prominent musician, and stand-up comedian, while alcoholic beverages also make the budget considerations. Also, in order to make a little extra cash, envelopes, T-shirts, face caps, and other clothing accessories with inscriptions bearing the carnival details are printed and given to prominent persons in the street and around the neighbourhood.

Worryingly, street carnivals have always been rowdy and trouble-ridden in recent times and most carnivals in Lagos have now become a hallmark for violence. With many of the carnivals attended by touts and street urchins, they tend to turn bloody, sometimes attracting the wrath of law enforcement officers deployed for security. To ascertain how rowdy a carnivals was after it was held, piece of broken bottles usually liter the ground, vehicle windscreen are smash, public and private properties are destroyed and sometimes traces of blood line the streets.

Eyinogun Teams Hood Carnival is a popular carnival, perhaps one of the earliest street jamz in Mafoluku, Oshodi. Reputed for its orderliness and management, the carnival held consistently every December 24 for nine years, until tragedy struck on December 25, 2013, when there was a fight among some group of teenagers on the street that resulted to the death of one person.

Explaining the essence of street carnival, Mr. Femi Soneye, a resident of Eyinogun Street, said it is an avenue that brings the youths together to celebrate and thank God that for the year, adding that it is a way to enjoy and relax from work. He noted that most youths love carnivals, but suggested that it be managed properly to avoid fracas that usually ensued at the dance floor.
“It is all about entertainment, and enjoying yourself in a unique way, but it should adequately managed by organisers to avoid fracas, which to the best of my knowledge has often marred most street carnivals including that of my street. As a result, no carnival has been held in last two years,” he said.

Sometime last year, it was reported that some hoodlums from Akala community attacked residents of Railway line (Oju Irin) and New Balogun Street, Ido-Oro, all in Mushin and resulted to the death of two people, while many were injured. The incident which started around 1am, during a street carnival that held during Easter celebration, was marred by sounds of gunfire and broken bottles that flew around from the hoodlums.

With the current challenge of insecurity in the country, Lagos State government in effort to protect lives and property in the state and fight against terror attacks has banned street carnivals and public processions. The ban, according to the state Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, is also to prevent any act of lawlessness and violence during the yuletide.

Owoseni made this known after the state Security Council meeting held in Alausa. While reiterating the ban on bangers and other fireworks during and after the yuletide, he also allayed the fears that the state is under any security threat, stressing that the measures were to ensure security of lives and properties.

“We all know that Christmas and New Year are fast approaching. If we look at all we have on ground in terms of strategy and in terms of logistics, the council is convinced and we are reassuring the people of Lagos that yuletide would be celebrated without hindrance,” he said.

He added that “most importantly, we have also looked and considered some of the intelligence reports that are coming from different people. We feel that we should tell members of the public that with all the situations that are on ground now, carnivals and public processions would not be allowed. If anybody should hold a town hall meeting or whatever meeting, they should be limited to the venue or the enclosure in which the meeting is taking place.”

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