It all began with the government announcement of total lockdown for a month and it was hard to believe until reality set in - we were really going to stop working. Everybody started running helter-skelter to stock up food, toiletries and other essentials. They bought perishable and non-perishable food.
So many things ran through my mind, given the state of our country, how will people survive? I mean both the rich and the poor, we all depend on the outside world for survival. Apart from luxurious goods, rich people also depend on medical facilities abroad, even though we have some private hospitals in the country that are a bit okay, will they not be overstretched, given the number of people that will be demanding their services. Poor people, on the other hand, will feel the impact severely, since most of them depend on a daily income. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) that operate with very little profit margin working usually on a tightrope in normal times and the salary earner without much savings, who just survives on a monthly wage will also be impacted severely.
Away from my thoughts. On the first week of the lockdown, the main reality started to set in, with the ‘One Million Gang’ (OMG) invading people’s houses, carting away their belongings especially money and food. Some of them used that opportunity to carry out condemnable acts like rape, this came to us as a rumor initially which was denied by our longtime friend, the police, before it made its way to the news media. OMG are young men - the commercial bus, popularly called Danfo, driver, the National Union of Road Transport Workers tax collector, who we generally refer to as ‘Agbero’ and the passenger administrator locally known as Bus Conductor, all of whom are part of daily income earners. They stand apart from other daily income earners such as petty traders and artisans like plumbers, electricians etc.
It got to a point, when there was pressure on everybody and the government, the number of people infected with Covid-19 kept increasing, and some people attributed the increase to corruption aimed at keeping Nigerians in fear, so that the Presidential Taskforce on Infectious Diseases and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control could exploit Nigerians. 5G in relation to Coronavirus conspiracy theory spread like a fire in the forest during the dry season, palliative measures distribution became a saga in line with the usual allegations of corruption meted on the people in charge. The interstate travel ban notwithstanding, some people still traveled at unbelievably high transport fares and went as far as packing themselves in as food would be packed. Mystery deaths in the Northern parts of Nigeria, the return of Almajiri children to their states of origin, the death of Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President, hospitals refusing to admit patients because they could not differentiate Covid-19 symptoms from that of malaria and the list goes on.
Gradually as food stocks finished, there was another pressure on government to ease the lockdown as palliative measures went only to the poorest of the poor. Then come the mandatory requirement to wear a facemask, social distancing, washing of hands, using of hand sanitizers, people’s movement being regulated, transport fares automatically went up as social distancing was applied in Danfos’ sitting arrangements. SMEs and Airlines asked for bailout, companies paid half salaries or sacked their staff, employee and employer bargained for furlough, people started to make efforts to accept the reality of the new normal.
In all of these, I was not disturbed, as my work can be done from home. I have been working from home since 2015 so the idea was not testing for me, it has been part of me for a very long time. I work and even work more since I can sit forever at my desk without worrying about the hustle and bustle of commuting from office to home and vice versa, which has saved four hours for me every day especially as one does not have a car, one’s fate depends on commercial buses and when in them you are forced to relate with people who think only of the present. You are denied the solitude you seek to evaluate your environment and possibly come up with solutions to make life better.
The lockdown has given me the opportunity to look inward and see the bigger picture of the future in a calm manner. I am seeped in the ideal life I have dreamed of, a life where you can partake in any event, anywhere in the world and at any time from the comfort of your home. I have had the good fortune of attending webinars that would have carted away thousands of one’s Naira in past times.
The Covid-19 lockdown was a sad reality for us as Nigerians and our government. It showed that we have nothing to offer the world or ourselves, no short- or long-term plan, nothing is working, we have been deceiving ourselves all these years. It is high time we start to look at globalization from the perspective of self-investment and creativity as against that of the consumption economy, a time for Nigerians and Nigerian Companies to embrace technology.
IT IS TIME TO ACCEPT THE NEW NORMAL, TIME FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT, TIME FOR ACCOUNTABILTY, TIME FOR CREATIVITY, TIME TO FAIL FAST AND LEAP INTO SUCCESS, TIME FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, NOT THE DEVELOPMENT TO WIN AN ELECTION, TIME TO EMBRACE INDUSTRIAL 4.0 LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD.