Almost everyone is familiar with the cliché that health is wealth. This naturally implies that the safeguarding of our health should be a primary concern at all times, as the smooth-running of every other aspect of our lives depends on it. However, as reports and observations have shown, people sometimes deliberately ignore health and safety rules to their own detriment. And no time is this more rampant than festive periods.The yearly Valentine celebration is a classic example of this.
At about 5pm, few days before the last Valentine’s Day, I drove into the AP filling station at Maryland, Lagos, to refuel my car. As soon as I parked, waiting for the car in front of me to refuel, one of the itinerant malam traders that have become ubiquitous in most parts of Lagos approached me. He showed me a product in a small pack and said: “Oga, buy for Valentine.” I laughed, partly because I knew what he was offering me was a supposed aphrodisiac product but also because that was not the first time people like him would approach me with their dubious wares.
Out of curiosity, I decided to engage him in a little conversation, just to pick his brains. I asked him what the product was for and why he wanted me to buy it for Valentine. He replied, “This go make you do very well and make Valentine good.” I asked him how many people had bought it from him for Valentine and he said, “Many people buy. This thing is strong and good, Oga.”
Thinking he had gained my attention by my pretended curiosity, he went ahead to bring another product out of his bag, saying, “This is good, too.” He explained that while the first one he showed me was good, the second one was even more special. He gave the price of the first as 500 naira, but said I could pay 300. The second, he said, was 1,000 naira but I could pay 700.
By this time, the car before me had finished refuelling and was leaving; so I moved mine closer to the pump and came out to open my fuel tank for the petrol attendant. The malam quickly seized the opportunity to run after me. Trying to persuade me, he asked: “Oga, how much you wan pay?” Of course, I told him clearly that I was not interested in his products.
As I drove out of the filling station a few minutes later, I saw him already in conversation with another motorist, obviously seeking to make him one of his dupes for the day.
Driving towards Ikeja, I began to reflect on my encounter with the malam. I knew that even though he was selling a questionable product, there were people patronising him. It also seemed funny to me that an illiterate trader like him would choose to link his product with the Valentine celebration. This got me thinking about the essence of Valentine’s Day and the ways it is celebrated in this clime.
The origin of Valentine’s Day celebration can be traced to about three different legendary stories that have, through the ages, developed even more bizarre features. However, what has remained constant is that it is a day that is celebrated worldwide as Lovers’ Day. On Valentine’s Day, people are expected to show how much they care for their partners or family members, in different ways.
In this part of the world, the hype and fanfare surrounding Valentine celebration seems to be getting bigger each year and some smart entrepreneurs and businessmen are using the opportunity to do brisk business and make good money. In the weeks leading to this year’s celebration, the social media was agog– not only with stories and perspectives on Valentine but also offers of all sorts of products, as Valentine gifts. Calculative traders and even manipulative ones, like my aphrodisiac peddler, were not left out in the Valentine frenzy.
On the main day, Friday, 14 February, all the eateries in Lagos selling all sorts of junk food were massively besieged by people,who trooped out with their loved ones, to eat and drink in celebration. I left the office late that day and vehicular traffic at the Maryland Bus Stop was still so heavy at about 8pm, as a result of people driving in and out of the eateries and fun spots located there.The volume of unhealthy foods consumed that day is better imagined.
But aside from the consumption of unhealthy food, as part of Valentine celebration, there is also the rampant and rapidly increasing incidence of sexual recklessness among young people on this so-called day of love. I was told by a doctor friend that there are usually more cases of unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions in the months following the Valentine celebration. He added that complications arising from such illegal and improperly done abortions are sometimes brought to his hospital. He lamented that some young girls and women have ended up being scarred for life in the process.
Now, while I don’t see anything wrong in celebrating Lovers’ Day– even though I think people should show how much they care for their loved ones everyday – still, people must learn to refrain from endangering their health and lives in the name of festivity. Eating junk food and engaging in sexual recklessness because of Valentine have attendant negative effects on the body. These practices must be avoided always,Valentine or no Valentine.