How Zenith Bank dulled the Lagos Christmas vibe
Christmas in Lagos, Nigeria is a little bit legendary. There’s this mood, this spirit, this vibe… it’s infectious, undeniable, sexy even. All of the city’s problems - the isolation, the exhaustion from the unending hustle and bustle of Africa’s most populous city, the stress of the country’s absolute ineptitude, fade into the background, leaving you free to notice the things about life here that you actually enjoy. The beauty of the coastline and the beaches, the magic of family, and the comfort of friendship all come to the forefront of your Lagos experience. And the food (for some) flows like a fountain. There’s too much of it all of the time. Things are a bit different with Covid in town (restaurants, bars and night clubs have been ordered to close, parties are limited to 50 guests) but the feeling of this year’s Christmas in Lagos is largely the same as those before. There is adventure in the air!
You have a dinner party and your guests bring their own tupperware for take away- that’s Christmas in Lagos.
People you know are drunk by 1pm on a Tuesday - that’s Christmas in Lagos.
You're cruising down the Lekki Express Way at 3am, a car zips past you with drunken speed, you hear screeching tyres and then a very loud bang. There's been an accident - That's Christmas in Lagos.
You go out for a groove in Lekki Phase 1 at 6pm and at 5am you're on the beach with no clear idea how you got there - That's Christmas in Lagos.
You’re driving down a street in Victoria Island - Ajose Adeogun, and there are no Christmas lights?
That’s not Christmas in Lagos.
You get to the round about at the end of that street - the Ademola Adetokunbo round about, and there is no big confection of christmas lights? No giant Santa Claus? Nothing but the Zenith Bank digital billboard? And even that doesn’t say Merry Christmas? That's not Christmas in Lagos!
What’s going on?
Zenith Bank, is a financial services provider in Lagos. They’re largest banking group by profit after tax in the country. Last year, the bank made N 208 billion in profit after tax. They’re first bank in Nigeria to achieve this. Word on the street says the only reason why they were able to achieve this is the bank’s close relationship to Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele. He used to be the CEO of Zenith bank.
For as long as I can remember Zenith Bank’s been responsible for lighting up the street that houses its Headquarters, Ajose Adeogun. They’ve done a fantastic job at this, bringing Christmas joy, light and happiness to the residents of the city. Free pleasures in Lagos are few and far between. There are no parks, public beaches are unsafe, and many of them double as drug dens. The Zenith Bank Christmas Roundabout filled that void a bit.
It always filled me with joy, seeing regular Lagosians taking part in something that didn’t cost an arm and a leg, like a Burnaboy concert. They took their families there, they took photographs, and they enjoyed themselves. In a year where spirits are lower than ever, when times are tougher than ever, it’s a missed opportunity.
I called the bank to find out why they didn’t do the lights this year, but they kept me on hold for 20 minutes, and then hung up. I dropped them a tweet as well, but it’s gone unanswered so far.
It’s such a shame. The Christmas night in Lagos is incomplete without those lights and I think we deserve to know why.