Early this morning I woke up and threw a few stuff into a bag I'd packed the night before, and headed to the airport. It wasn't until I'd boarded that I allowed myself to remember that I'd forgotten, on purpose, to tell my parents I was skipping town for the weekend. Being the good daughter of a good mother that I am, I called mummy but then I began to stutter. I mean, we spoke late last night and when she asked if I would be able to come to collect some afang soup on Saturday I immediately screamed yes! You see, I can never turn down afang, secondly I was still forgetting to tell her I had no intention of being in Lagos.
I wasnt expecting a pat on the back but the reaction I got still came as a surprise. I'd expected anger and reprehension. Instead I got fear and apprehension; "you have to slow down on traveling oh, you know we've entered ember period".
Any Nigerian who grew up in Nigeria was taught to peek at Ember months behind a curtain of fear and uncertainty. But years ago I began to wonder; what exactly is the source of this fear? Religious folk would have you believe that it's that time of the year when the devourer is most hungry and restless, prowling for blood to quench his suddenly heightened thirst. And so as those months approach you see (us) intensify prayers and fasting.
Actually, I was one of those fervently, feverishly muttering heaven bound prayers a few days ago, regarding these last four months...
But is there truly any real cause for alarm? Any empirical evidence that the last four months of the year should be approached and lived out with caution?
Here's what I think. The 'ember months are the busiest in a year because businesses are winding down for that year. The air is filled with hurry-hurry as there's this December deadline to be met. This naturally extends to our transportation system; people are rushing to round things up, people are preparing for Christmas, there's a boom in sales in those months, especially November and December and any sensible business person takes advantage of this, easterners particularly are running around to put things in place for Christmas, so many occasions are planned during this season; weddings, festivals, burials, coronations, parties etc. The result of all this 'excitement' is extremely busy roads. And what happens on extremely busy not-so-good roads where everyone is in a hurry and some drivers are less sane than others? There's naturally bound to be mishaps. Normally there are auto accidents and loss of life. Increase in activity on these roads would probably see increase in accidents.
This reason(ing) might be simplistic to you, but that's that as far as I'm concerned.
A minute after I got into town I had a chat with my friend on the phone and she says to me; "But Nwando you need to stop all this flying around. You know Christmas is near". Aaaaarghhh! I then ask what about people whose jobs take them in and out of town every other day? Those who have to board one or two planes a day, several days a week, for work? We all know such people. Will you ask them not to do their jobs?
"But Nwando you know it's risky? You heard that people going from lagos to Abuja or Abuja to Lagos now fly to jand then back to Nigeria, all because they want to avoid our crappy domestic planes? Because people fear for their lives!"
I call BS! I read this somewhere days ago and I didn't believe it then and I still don't believe it now. But hey, you may know someone who does this, or perhaps you yourself do. So please tell me if you do, and then tell me what it's all about. I need to know, just one person, who flies outside the country for over six hours, then boards another flight for another six hours, back into the country, for a flight that takes about 50 minutes. And oh, there's the cost factor but let's not talk about that, we know money is the least of problems, for some.
And while we talk about that, tell me what you think about Ember months. Are you fearful of them or are you indifferent? Where do you reckon the myth/fear/apprehension stems from? Are these months just intrinsically 'terrible' or is the increase in hustle and bustle in those months responsible for increase of accidents encountered? And is this apprehension limited to travel alone or are there other areas to be concerned about???
Whatever the case, I strongly believe that me, mine and ours, are and will be fine, all year round.