Give Thanks, For Harmattan Is Here



A young man in black, worn, pissed or exhausted, walks past while muttering to himself; “it is simple mathematics!”

If you are the sharp-tongued pedestrian who fancies a commentary, you could quip: “depending on what you are solving!” But then, consider the scene occurs on a hot, dry mid-morning in Lagos, on the last Sunday in November. What do you posit is a potential trigger for Mr Mathematician’s excited soliloquy?

“Ugulu abiawago” someone volunteers.

I better not be the only one feeling wretched about seeing “Winter Is Here” everywhere. It’s the announcement supposed to signify an adeptness with popular culture. On WhatsApp, family and friends are putting it up daring anyone to name a better TV series since sliced bread. Brands like Glo are re-using advertisements produced a year ago to key in to the vibe. For fellow Neanderthals who couldn’t care less, the frequent fuzzy reminders and updates when the thing eventually starts airing will be, again, tortuous.

But everybody loves Harmattan. Usually, but especially in the years before and after puberty, custom requires that you get a (preferably) new case of petroleum jelly in its least viscous state. Beside kerosene, ‘vaseline’ provides the average Nigerian’s most frequent contact with crude oil (probably second to plastic cups?). Cracking lips don’t look good in Christmas pictures, so you take the trouble to be vigilant and do the needful every morning. And even as an adult, thou shalt cream up (immediately) after every bath or be the closest living thing that can be approximated to a white witch.

Did the rains go early this year? Not before causing much havoc. Floods across ten states claimed about 100 lives. NEMA declared “a national disaster” based on the toll of heavy rains on residents in Kogi, Anambra, Delta and Niger states. While those mourning and displaced families are grappling with moving on, leaders in Abuja are playing peek-a-boo politics about whether Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has a case to answer with regard to circumstances behind the release of $5.6bn for relief. Expect that case to die a typical Nigerian death.

Many of those affected will only have tangible relief with this period of calm. It may not last more than a few weeks, thanks to the unpredictable nature of the weather. But they will be able to take time to put scattered pieces of their lives together. May they have hope for happier days.

The rest of us have no choice but be thankful. For the window of a bit more ease when considering the suitability of outdoor spaces for our events, bringing some relief from hall rental companies (though canopy hirers will still be lurking) and from umbrella vendors. More dust in the air? It is a sign that someone not far from our location is mixing sand with cement and soon it could be our turn!

In the coming weeks, western television shows will feature lots of snow and decorations bright and red. We may not have those here but still, we will give thanks for Harmattan is here.


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