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Michael Afenfia: When Christmas Rice Became Chrismas Fuel



There’s really so much going on in the country right now. All the controversies about the wearing of hijabs and the Nigerian legal system sparked off by Miss Firdaus Amasa, and the arrest of the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Innoson Nigeria Limited, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma have got people reaching out for all sorts of ideological, political, ethnic and religious cards. It doesn’t take much really to have us scampering into camps and designing memes and GIFs for social medial campaigns.

These are very serious issues no doubt, and trust me, Nigerians have a lot of serious issues we contend with on a daily basis. As if we didn’t have enough problems harassing and hounding us already, or things to worry about even in our sleep, another Christmas suddenly creeps in upon us.

It really beats my imagination how this happens every year. It wasn’t like this some years ago. Even as children and young men growing up in Lagos and Port Harcourt, we kind of saw Christmas coming, many months ahead. Even though my parents had to fend for tens of us kids, it seemed like they were always prepared for each of us and our unique fashion and culinary tastes. From August, my mother would start taking us to Balogun Market in turns for shopping, and definitely by the end of November, we all knew what we would be wearing on December 25th and 26th and January 1. They were meticulous like that.

My folks were really about the Christmas spirit and good cheer, and till this day, it is still a mystery to me how my father, mother, five sisters and four brothers and I, all drove to Bar beach in a Peugeot 504.

Now, as a grown man with a family of my own, I try to emulate what I learnt from my parents, hoping to ignite in my sons, the same love of the yuletide – complete with a tree, cards, carols and decorations my parents instilled in me and my siblings as little boys and girls.

As I write this, it’s two days to Christmas. I should be busy planning to entertain friends and family, but not this year. Instead, I am spending the night in a queue at the NNPC mega filling station in Yenagoa that is already a kilometre long as at 9pm with no guarantee that I won’t be told, “oga, fuel don finish,” just as it gets to my turn.

I don’t know how they do it, but it seems the government at the centre has made the very same mistakes they accused past governments of making, and then fifty-five more. I know it is fashionable, and almost expected, to blame sitting governments for everything wrong in the system, including when the sun gets too hot, or when the rain falls too hard or not at all, but on this issue of making petrol available for sustenance and transportation during the Christmas and new year festivities, the blame falls squarely on the man in charge. For those who don’t remember, we do have a Minister of Petroleum who also happens to double as President.

So as we prepare for another Christmas, it looks like the most important thing this year is not Christmas rice and chicken, but Christmas fuel. Let me know if you agree, or disagree.

A proud son of the Ijaw nation and lover of Nigeria, Michael Afenfia associates with everything good and exciting about Nigeria. His ongoing work, the Mechanics of Yenagoa, is published on his blog every fortnight. So far, he has authored three critically acclaimed novels and a number of nonfiction writing, including a biography. He is @MichaelAfenfia on social media and can be reached via [email protected]


  1. Weezy

    December 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Breath of fresh air. Well written!

  2. Cee

    December 24, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    It’s a sore shame honestly. Every year the same story. And not one person has figured out a solution or a prevention.

  3. Okolie C

    December 24, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Indeed Christmas fuel, this year is worst than last year. May God help us.

  4. Biby Yinkere

    December 24, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    Quite right my brother! It’s sad the government has a way of dampening the spirit of people in a season such as this when inspite of all odds Nigerians are determined to catch some fun.

  5. Siloko Oyintari Ben

    December 24, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    What a terrible situation. The author clearly stated what we are experiencing currently. I also wish to commend his efforts for going through the stress of queuing up to get fuel, to enable him cruise his family and have a fun-filled day.
    I just hope you got the fuel you went for.
    I guess the 504 Peugeot drive to the bar beach was fun.

    No worry, “Oga fuel still plenty” nai you go hear.
    Nice write up sir. Keep it up.

  6. Emeka

    December 24, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    This question begs for an answer- Are these marketers bigger than govt that they find it difficult to prosecute at least one person to serve as deterrent to others? Or is it just a case of govt I ncompetency hence the blame game?


    December 26, 2017 at 8:15 am

    We can never get it right as long as we don’t ‘re-evaluate’ past actions. It is like being on a long hold up and when you finally get to T-junction, traffic opens up. So, this queue at filling stations will suddenly disappear and what do we do? Sighs of relieve of course, make bland jokes and wait for next calamity. We should hold PMB responsible, yes, accountable. Fuel dumps are not emptied by fairies or ghosts. Some people are fattening pockets on rest of us. The percentage is very minimal and they can be fingered. Can PMB be bold to name the sabouteurs or as usual throw up his hands after all this is over to say another ‘Thank God, it is Allah’s ways?’, forgetting that even Allah hates drudgery and corruption?

  8. Emma Thomas Afaye

    December 26, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Can we ever get a real solution to issues like this in Nigeria? I feel like no matter how hard Nigerians try to change the system, we are still harassed and controlled by it. Like a toy train moving round cycleway. All actions an effort towards stopping and changing the system through the Media still remains dormant. When are we ever going to outgrow the system. I feel locked up…

  9. Smoothbuddy

    December 28, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    I just like this author’s flow even when talking about this persistent disease of fuel scarcity in Nigeria during Christmas. I’m working on a material that would clearly give cogent reasons why Nigeria would never change., any time soon. I can’t wait to share it. Mike, sorry o! Hope you got the fuel sha.

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