Samuel Bello; Okwe Obi
Valentine’s Day is one phenomenon that defies religious inclinations, as people from different religions and denominations see it as a time to express love.
Ordinarily referred to as Lovers’ Day, this year’s event coincided with the Ash Wednesday, a very remarkable day in the Christian liturgical calendar, especially for Catholics, signifying the first day of 40 days of fasting, repentance, prayer and self-control required during Lent.
Even though Valentine’s Day fell on a work day and the beginning of Lent, residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Christians inclusive, still took out time to mark the occasion.
From Garki to Lokogoma, down to Kabusa, the landscape was decorated with red. In suburbs like Nyanya, Dei-Dei and Bwari, almost everyone had a touch of red colour on their dress, cars and gifts had a hint of red, too. Not even tricycle riders could parry the day as their source of income keyed into the mood with musical devises in some of them thunderously blaring old school music.
Gardens and lounges seized the day by adding flavour to their normal routines. Drinks and foods were sold at a discount, while many places introduced live bands that belted out love music.
In many places, couples were seduced into playing games. They were separated and asked questions about their spouses, like their best food, colou, and so on.
Uncommon love for the handicapped
Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also extended love to the less privileged in orphanages, old people’s homes, homes for the destitute and hospitals.
One of such groups that took the milk of kindness to the less privileged was the Ahamefule Rochas Okorocha (ARO) Foundation, promoted by the son of the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
The ARO Foundation engaged nursery school pupils in the FCT, who made cards, which were distributed to orphanages and hospitals as a mark of love in the spirirt of the season.
The foundation also donated various items to the facilities it visited. Its visit to the school for the handicapped in Kuje was very remarkable, having brought to the fore the plight of the 210 inmates.
The government-owned school was practically handicapped, as everything there depicted abandonment, obsolete wheelchairs with worn-out tyres, epileptic electricity supply with scores of burnt-out light bulbs, and water being far from adequate.
To compound their woes, the college was short of staff. The administrative officer, Yahaya Mohammed, who disclosed this to the Daily Sun, said efforts to get the attention of government had yielded little or no fruit.
According to him, “It has not been easy for us taking care of these children. The Federal Government should do more. If not for the goodwill we receive, I doubt the effective running of the school.
“We need at least N10 million per child, yearly. It is more difficult to take care of a sick child than a normal person.
“We know that the Federal Government cannot provide for normal people not to talk of the sick, but it needs to do more.”
Project manager of the ARO Foundation, Adeola Adewumi, said they were touched by fellow human beings knocked down by poverty and so decided to reach out to schools as one of their projects.
Adewumi said, “We kicked off the programme by starting with disenfranchised bright minds in the internally displayed persons camps. A child needs to be loved, nurtured and protected in a non-violent and stimulating environment to develop invaluable skills and recover from adversity.
“Over 45 per cent of children in conflict zones don’t get the love, nurture and motivation they need.”
The visit heralded scholarships for four inmates as a Good Samaritan on the entourage offered to bear the cost of their upkeep.
Upscale celebrations at The Dome
Elsewhere in the city centre, couples had a lovely time celebrating the festival at Abuja’s iconic entertainment centre, The Dome.
The Dome, which re-opened to the public after some renovation recently that saw the repackaging of the centre and introduction of more options for fun and entertainment, celebrated the day in grand style.
The evening was lit to create an atmosphere of romance. Couples, including diplomats and business leaders, came dressed in white to celebrate the festival and re-ignite passion for one another.
Though a romantic evening, it came alive with music from Yemi Sax, one of Nigeria’s best saxophonists. He entertained the crowd with lyrics from popular saxophonist, Kenny G. He was assisted on the night by DJ Yin, a female disc jockey making waves in Abuja’s entertainment circles.
The ambience was superb and the couples had the best from chefs at The Dome, led by Chris Lategan, an executive chef who is also a master of the art. The Dome’s Twin Café & Bakery also provided the couples with lovely cakes, pastries and ice creams to complement what was easily a memorable evening.
Proprietor of entertainment arena, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, was also on hand to welcome couples. The Dome is his brainchild; he first launched it in 2005 as the prime entertainment centre in the nation’s capital.
With music blaring from the sound system, couples danced into the night in a cosy and secure setting. The Valentine’s Day white party was aptly used to announce the return of The Dome to shake the Abuja entertainment circuit once again.
Speaking on the night, Okonkwo said, “The Dome is back and better for good.”
He disclosed that more of such packages would be promoted to ensure that couples and fun-seekers make the most of their time.
One of the visitors at the party, Dr. Chuks Muokwey, said he had a good time with his wife and looked forward to another time-out at The Dome.
Meanwhile, for many others, the day was not quite rosy. A student of Veritas University, Elvis Mbachu, related how the economic crunch in the country stopped him from celebrating Valentine’s Day.
“I couldn’t go to church and I didn’t fast. I was in my brother’s shop striving to make ends meet, because my pocket is not as nourishing as it should be, from economic problems down to personal issues,” he said.
Resident pastor of Good Tidings Church, Lugbe, Chima Onokala, said the coincidence of the two events was ordained by God.
“The two events weren’t an ordinary clash, it was designed and ordained by God to call back the mind of people to show love in a Christ-like way.
“Nigerians have turned Valentine to something else, it was a day to remind everybody that, whatever you are doing, you must remember that you will go back to dust. I believe it was a test for Nigerians and God has taken attendance of those who picked the things of the world over Him,” the cleric said.
Evelyn Efosa, 32, who sells electronics, dismissed all such sentiments about why the day fell on Ash Wednesday.
Her words: “I had no problem contemplating how to properly utilise 24 hours for God and my lover. I don’t think there should be sentiments because both events are clashing, it shouldn’t be a problem, you are not spending the whole day in church, for crying out loud, Nigerians just like enjoyment, there’s no excuse.”
From the business aspect, chief executive officer of Switch Club, Wuse 2, Kehinde Adegbite, said the clash of events did not affect his customer base, instead it produced major turnouts.
“My business wasn’t affected, it was even better than last year, it is reasonable for majority of Nigerians to pick Valentine over church or mix both events. Not even the hardship could stall the day because food and drinks were in surplus.
“The day wasn’t meant for church alone, but a day for both celebrations,” he said.