That famous passage in Isaiah 9:6 in which Isaiah foretold the birth of Jesus Christ reads: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
This Christmas season may be a season of goodwill but the period preceding this has been anything but goodwill.
Older folks would probably yearn for the good old days when Christmas was a time of gaiety with masked devils, lanterns, carol singing- the whole works. Christmas was a period in which inebriated folks, after consuming “omole” would shout – “Happy Christmas we nor die O,” falling down occasionally but still not die, and picking themselves up the next day – continuing with life as usual.
My early recollection of Christmas in my village when my dad would take my siblings and I along was our ‘kaka debul” group with my younger brother donning the “debul” attire and with the rest of us clanking the musical instruments-which is anything that made noise! Our compensation from relatives we visited was simple – a mixture of oranges, bananas and the occasional biscuits and sweets from our uncle who owned the corner shop. We made one big mistake -We tried to consume part of our booty as we went along, with the “kaka debul” doing the heavy lifting with his dancing. Worried that the goodies were disappearing fast, he blurted out loudly in mende -“A bor gugoi ji gbua nya wumba nya be gu me,” meaning, “take this smelly stuff off my head, so I can also partake in the eating.” He took his garment off in full view of the onlookers and helped himself to some bananas. And so ended the mystique around our “kaka debul”! A little postscript – The “kaka debul” is now a respectable “big man” in Sierra Leone and he will remain unnamed!
This year, in particular, has been a tumultuous year, marked by intense national division. The last two months have seen frantic activities that indicate the extent of our division. There is no doubt that politics has dominated the year, perhaps understandably. The economic situation has probably put a damper on our Christmas celebrations. Social media has worsened the political divide situation. Fake news, the preponderance of self-styled social media audio commentators and trigger-happy android phone photographers abound. Most of these have done irreparable damage to unwitting victims.
With money in short supply and prices rocketing for basic goods by the day, the enthusiasm generated for the yuletide period appears to have evaporated-or has it? The recent spate of fuel shortages has been a constant feature and last week’s shortage seemed even more baffling. It would seem the Petroleum Regulatory Agency’s ambitious plans to ensure a steady supply of fuel are still a long way from being realized. To compound our problems, it would also seem that there is a shortage of cash in the Banks, some of which are restricting withdrawals during this yuletide period.
On the political front, opposition political parties have had intra-party problems throughout the year, casting doubts about whether they would participate as viable players in the June 2023 elections. Thankfully, things seem to be slightly better at year’s end, with the APC impasse somehow relieved and lower level elections taking off. The NGC has also had a successful convention. Notwithstanding these, there are still serious concerns, six months to the General elections related to the eligibility of voters, court cases for potential candidates, the type of electoral system to be used and a whole host of issues.
There is little doubt that the political, social and economic landscapes do not lend themselves amenable to a joyous period this Christmas.
But, let not your heart be troubled. The overwhelming message of Christmas is still triumphant and joyful. We should be comforted by the fact that even the first Christmas was not joyful. Mary felt terrified and lonely when she was told she would have a baby. Joseph would have felt betrayed when he knew his betrothed was to have a baby. They were both disappointed when they were told there was no room at the inn.
The message of the real Christmas is not that everything is great. But also the message is that in the midst of the difficult circumstances of life, there is real hope. God is not blind to our circumstances; Jesus is born as the light of the world that shines in the darkness. This could equally apply to us in Sierra Leone today.
Let us also congratulate all of our compatriots who are celebrating over this yuletide period, especially those getting married-the wedding den boku oh! May you live in peace forever. We also welcome our brothers and sisters in the diaspora who have come on holidays to the motherland. Your luggage may have got misplaced as there seem to be so many reports about lost luggage, but you can thank God that you are at least home and joining us in the many parties planned-You can always pick up some “ready-made” clothing from “junks”!
Some people are enjoying themselves, despite the hardship. I was so thrilled last week when a choir from the mosque in my locality visited me for carol singing – says a lot about our religious tolerance and may I say, ingenuity as well. Never mind that their rendition of the first Noel sounded like “No weere no weere” and “silent night” was symptomatic of their hunger and desperation in the current economic circumstances. I was only too glad to part with the money, which in the interest of transparency, they immediately counted in the presence of everyone before leaving, with remarks of- “D Pa perform O!”.
For us as Sierra Leoneans, whatever our circumstances this Christmas, peace in our country should be our watchword. Let us make this Christmas a season of peace. Meanwhile, whilst we ponder these thoughts, let us remember that this is a season of goodwill. May peace reign in Sierra Leone. Let us hope that we can start saying as Isaiah did- “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
Unto us, a child is born!
Merry Christmas to all.
Ponder my thoughts.