Hard Times, Children’s School Fees Beat Love To Relegation
• Why Campus Romance Blooms On Lovers’ Day
• The Real Profiteers When Parties End
VALENTINE celebrations are hyped in university campuses because of the antics of aggressive advertising, need to relieve academic stress and the desire to bond with loved ones.
A sociologist, Dr. Soji Oni, who made this submission in an interview with The Guardian, however, urged students to refrain from eccentric acts that debase the essence of Valentine’s Day celebrations, even as he lamented that some youths misinterpret the occasion as a day to engage in sexual activities.
Some residents of Port Harcourt, meanwhile, were not keen about this year’s Lovers Day. They reasoned that with the current economic situation in the country, priority must be given to pressing family needs, like payment of children’s schools fees and feeding.
This group, notwithstanding, Port Harcourt remained true to its merry disposition, economic crisis or not. The people like to enjoy themselves, with the term ‘Port Harcourt Boy/Girl’ coming to mean anyone who knows how to swing to the oil city’s groove.
As the Day inched closer, hotels, relaxation centres and even churches intensified their preparations. Banners flew across the city with inscriptions, like ‘Love In The Air’, ‘Night Of Roses’, ‘Beauty Of Love’, ‘Time To Show Love’. Retailers and restaurants also stocked up for Sunday, hoping to feed lovebirds with exquisite dishes. Many people stepped up shopping in the Mile Three and Mile One markets and shopping malls. Red coloured items were on display in many shops, as jewelries, flowers, greeting cards, perfumes and watches enjoyed patronage. Automated Teller Machines (ATM) in several banks along Ikwere road witnessed long queues, as people sought to make withdrawals.
“I am preparing for Valentine’s Day but I will try to minimise costs during this year’s celebration because there is still a tomorrow coming. One shouldn’t put all his eggs in one basket and spend all he has laboured for in one day, said Micheal Nnodi, who stressed that people in hospitals, the elderly, prisoners, the poor and orphans should also benefit from the show of love, as well as the traditional husband and wife or girlfriend and boyfriend.
A Port Harcourt-based accountant, Mr. Bari, said: “Money would be involved in the celebration. Everyone is aware that the economy is biting currently. So, I am giving priority to other things. I didn’t even remember that Sunday is Lovers’ Day; you just reminded me.”
Married with two children, Mr. Tony Ndubusi, said: “Those things are not essential. Times are hard; Lovers’ Day is not in my budget right now.” Mrs. Loveth Friday shared Ndubusi’s view, adding: “The Day is not necessary, this year, because things are very hard. Business is dull.” But for Favour Emmanuel, a pretty young lady at an ATM along Ikwere road, the countdown had truly begun. “I am preparing for it; no matter the situation. It is necessary to show and share love,” she said.
Some traders in Mile One market, especially sellers of fabrics, decried low patronage and prayed the situation would improve before Sunday. Hairdressers and people in the make-up business, however, experienced a boom, as ladies took turns to boost their looks.
Dr. Soji Oni, sociologist at the University of Lagos, (UNILAG), Akoka, said: “Valentine’s Day is the celebration of romantic love, which is commemorated every February 14. It is a western construct, which spread with globalisation and has now garnered immense following across the world. It has also now taken a commercial slant. But it is unfortunate that many youths have abused the noble virtues of the celebration. They see it as an opportunity to make new friends, go out with the opposite sex, and engage in sexual activities.”
Admitting that some youths use the opportunity to make good memories and be together with loved ones, he said there has been an increase in crime during Valentine celebrations in many university campuses.
“A lot of rape cases, cult clashes and other vices are recorded on the day. The celebration has changed from what it used to be to the sorry state of affairs, as a result of bastardisation of the concept of love,” he said.
According to him, “During Valentine’s Day, a lot of businesses look for ways to attract the attention of youths, so that they can record more sales. And we have over 100 universities, polytechnics and colleges in the country, including missionary-run higher institutions of learning, where students mark the day. It is an opportunity for marketers and promoters to organise competitions to attract students.
“This is one of the most pressing pull for youths. Parties are thrown, and we realise, at the end of the day, it is the companies that benefit. In doing that, it is regrettable that there is no emphasis on values and morals. It doesn’t even provide room for scholarship. The only gain one can attribute to the celebration is that it allows for students to relieve academic stress and enjoy themselves.”
An undergraduate at UNILAG, Afolabi Dayo, said she would spend the season with friends after having attended a Valentine-themed church programme, as this year’s celebration falls on a Sunday.
According to her, “I am going to enjoy the day with my friends, as we have already made plans to hang out after church. I think youths are drawn to the celebrations because it affords us the opportunity to bond with the people closet to us.”
For Prisca Anyanwu, an undergraduate student at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), the celebration ought to revolve around the personality of St. Valentine, after whom the day is dedicated.
“This is going to be a normal Valentine. By this, I mean it is going to be an opportunity to reflect on the virtues professed by St. Valentine, a practice I believe is lost on youths nowadays. It is even better that the celebration is on a Sunday, as this would give needed aura to celebrate the virtues of the saint in the church.”
At Kofo Abayomi Street, Lagos, pretty bouquets were on display. One seller of gift items, Mrs. Kafayat Oke, said there was more to the day than romance. According to her, it provided much-needed sale, especially following the post-Christmas lull.
She said: “The Valentine season gives businesses an opportunity to engage with customers and find new trading partners. This year, Valentine’s Day is even more in the spotlight; many people will host programmes, like launch of music albums, films, birthday parties and weddings. We hope many of these fun seekers will patronise us.
“The Day is a great opportunity to acquaint people with new brands. At this time of the year, people are open to trying new things. We have wines, here. So, we need to catch people’s attention. We will be spending time with potentially new customers, telling them about the importance of Valentine’s Day, so that they can buy our goods.”
Another trader, Mr. Mike Nnamdi, said he never gave thought to the sale of Valentine’s Day gifts until he discovered the rush by people to buy things for their loved ones.
“We sell so many bouquets during this season. People are more interested in love in Lagos than in any other part of the country. We are making good business. People have discovered that having a booth during this period pays off. Consumers do business until the last minute. Valentine’s Day has also given business people a better chance to promote what they have to offer.”
Some analysts, however, say that the festival of love, more than any other day of the year, predisposes people to contracting Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), and for which the Chief Matron at Heals Specialist Hospital, Isolo, Mrs. Edom Jacinta, advised:
“At this period, boys and girls are in a light mood; they want to relax. And they are very loose; even those who are naturally tight get loose a bit. The chance of spreading STDs is very high. In two to three month’s time, we expect girls to walk in, telling us they have missed their period. HIV is one of the diseases that can be contracted at this period. People don’t know that syphilis is still around, and then there is also Staphylococcus.”
Dr. Oluwagbemiga Ibitoye, on his part, said: “If safe sex is practised, there will not be any increase in the spread of STD’s; only increase in sex and in the sale of condoms. But sadly, some people would say, ‘using condom on that particular day hinders the connection and the essence of the Day’. There is pressure just to be with someone, with abandonment of values, and since alcohol and other drugs might be involved, which can make people loose themselves, safe sex is impossible.
“But for people to stay safe during this period, they can follow the ABCs of STD prevention: Abstinence; Being faithful to a partner; and using Condom. And also contain their alcohol and drug consumption on the day or stay away completely.”
And lest we forget, as lovers burrow in their nests, the Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, Ahmed Muhammadu, promised NOTHING would happen to disturb their tango.
“Residents should be rest assured that the police are up and doing, to ensure that people have a smooth celebration, free of crime. For this year’s Valentine’s Day, measures have been put in place to ensure that lives and properties are protected,” he said.