The Eid-el-Kabir holidays started in Port Harcourt and in other parts of the country last Thursday and ended Friday. After the holidays, came Saturday, and then, Sunday.
To several residents of the Port Harcourt metropolis and its environs, Saturdays and Sundays are resting days. Hence, such resting days for last week, actually started on Thursday and rolled through Saturday and Sunday. This is particularly for workers, civil and public servants in government offices and large companies in the city including banks.
As was expected, since the Eid-el-Kabir holidays and celebrations afforded workers the ample opportunity to observe work-free days, in addition to Saturday and resting on Sunday, most of them travelled out of Port Harcourt to spend valuable time with friends and loved ones.
While some of the residents took trips to the countryside, the villages and communities, others who could not travel actually had a swell time at home with their children, relations, friends and loved ones. This in a way affected the hustle and bustle often associated with Port Harcourt, one of the greatest cities in the East of the Niger.
For one, the number of people and vehicles on major roads were drastically reduced. On several major roads, during the Sallah holidays, the ubiquitous traffic jams were hardly noticed, as most roads experienced free flow of traffic.
It is on record that Port Harcourt roads witness the highest number of cars on a daily basis basically because of its dense population. On major roads, in a typical busy day, car owners and other motorists scramble for space to move their automobiles. It is also on record that it is in Port Harcourt that you find the most reckless drivers. This is because it is always assumed that if one can drive safely in Port Harcourt, one can equally drive in any part of the country.
But for sure, the holidays forced down the number of cars on major roads in the city.
Where this was practically noticeable was along the busy Aba Express Road as it was observed that the vehicles which normally cause traffic jams along it had thinned down during the holidays. Traffic at such flash points as Rumuola, Garrison, Bori Camp, First Bank, Artillery, Rumukrushe and Elelenwo was not heavy as it used to be on a normal day.
There is also no doubt that the Sallah holidays afforded some grassroots politicians who often spend their work days in the city an opportunity to travel down to their communities to finetune strategies for the 2011 general elections. As elections’ year approaches fast, there is always the need for these politicians to align and re-align their political forces in order to make hay when the chips are really down.
Again, some of these politicians including chairmen and officials of local government councils, commissioners and Special Advisers among othersare the ones who normally paint roads in Port Harcourt red with their wonders on wheel, their exotic cars. For sure, the holidays made them change base, thereby giving the roads a breather.
The situation at Aba Express Road, to be frank, was not the same with the situation along the busy Ikwerre Road during the Sallah holidays.
If Aba Road was free of traffic, the same thing could bot be said of Ikwerre Road as traffic along the road was chaotic as it used to be. The reason is not far-feteched. Majority of vehicles that ply Ikwerre Road are commercial buses. These buses are operated by young people who struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet.This set of people did not abandon their lucrative business of commuting residents across the city to celebrate the Sallah holidays. They were always on the roads. last Thursday and Friday. They did not stop to drive in their traditional reckless manner though it was Sallah.
And Ikwerre Road was chaotic as usual. Poor artisans, market women and other petty traders equally made the Diobu axis tick during the holidays. School children who opted to help their parents and guardians to hawk fruits and other items were usually seen within this axis of the city. Their counterparts from well-to-do homes either stayed indoors or travelled with their parents to reduce the hustle and bustle of the city.
Even though life in the city was no longer the same due to the Sallah holidays which forced most offices to close down, Port Harcourt had a dose of the rumour of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s death on Thursday afternoon. Frantic phone calls were being made by some residents who wanted to confirm the rumour. The rumour indeed spread like a wild fire during harmattan as it was virtually in every household. Those who put calls across did that as a way of confirming it.
But on Friday, it was clear as crystal that the President, though seriously ill, was alive. The rumour was, indeed, Sallah blues that hung in the horizon and it faded away with the holidays on Friday.
It is, however, believed that Port Harcourt will return to its natural state tomorrow after everything that had to those who travelled with the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations and the resting days of Saturday and Sunday must have come and gone out of the city was stint returning in the evening of today.
It is only then that those who are thrilled by the hustle and bustle of the city would heave a huge sigh of relief. Because, from then on, it will be work and more work.
There will no longer be any dull moment because Port Harcourt must have roared back to life, enslaving and holding many captive with its captivating mien particularly now that sunlight is often seen across the horizon.
You can not believe this. Most workers of constructing firms in the city handling various road projects were equally on holidays for those two days including on Saturday and Sunday when in actual fact they were supposed to work round the clock to deliver on record time, to beat the rains again to their game. Afterall, the holidays were not bad entirely, Port Harcourt had a relief.