“Baby push! Yes, you can do it! I love you baby, you can do it” those were Yeni’s words to his wife in the delivery room on 26th of March, 2020, few days before the Covid-19 lockdown. Yeni, lived with his wife in the Mainland area of Lagos State, one of the densely populated areas in the State. The couple got married in 2017 and they had waited for almost three years to see their first fruit, which came after months of fasting and prayers.
Prior to that moment, Yeni had thought that the night before was his most terrifying night or should I say the most fearful day of his life but little did he know that more was still in store for him. His wife had been in labour for more than fourteen hours and she was about to be transferred to the General Hospital in Gbagada. Yeni’s heart skipped at the thought of a Caesarean section.
“Ah! Where will I see 100k for CS” That’s all he could think of at that moment. With faith, he hoped for a miracle from above and at exactly 10:13 p.m, his prayer was answered. His wife put to bed. “Praise the Lord! It’s a bouncing baby boy”.
Lagos was then the hot bed for the new plague in town, the coronavirus. Koro, as it is popularly called in the State was spreading like wild fire and while some people are so dead scared of the disease, some don’t even believe it exists. Yeni was one of those that believed the disease truly existed and he was always very careful since its outbreak in the State. He never forgot to wash his hands at the slightest opportunity and never left his house without his pocket-size hand sanitizer. He immediately introduced facemask to his dressing the day the index case was announced in Nigeria and always tried to let people around him know how dangerous and how fast the virus could be transmitted. His careful attitude towards the virus outbreak earned him the nickname “Mr. Over-do” from some of his friends.
Few days after Yeni’s baby was brought home from the hospital, President Mohammadu Buhari declared a total lockdown in Lagos and two other states due to the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.
Did I mention that the densely populated area that Yeni lived in is Ketu? Okay, now you know. The majority of the people living in this area are from middle to low income families. The area is well known for its hustling and bustling due to the location of the popular Ketu market. The news of the lockdown was not really welcomed by most of the people there especially the market men and women.
To Yeni, the lockdown was actually a blessing in disguise because as a Yoruba man, a lot of people expected him to host an elaborate naming ceremony to celebrate the birth of his child but with the lockdown in place, the ceremony would have to be low key.
On the day of the naming ceremony, no family member was present due to the lockdown and Yeni was very happy that happened because he thought less guests made it easier for him to protect his wife and child from the deadly disease ravaging the State. He made sure that enough hand sanitizers were available for the few people that came, who were mostly his neighbours. But something unfortunate happened; two weeks after the ceremony, Yeni’s wife received the news of her father’s death. The old man died of Covid-19 he had contracted from his boss.
Yeni’s father-in-law was a driver before his death, the old man never believed in the virus. He had argued times without number with Yeni that the government was just using the disease to rake in money. He even tagged it “Ogo Koro ton k’owo wole” meaning “The glory of Coronavirus that brings in money”. His boss had arrived from London a day before the Nigerian Government placed a ban on international flights and the old man had gone to pick him up from the airport. A few days later, his boss was hospitalized but due to the fear of stigmatization, the old man fled to his village in Ijebu instead of making himself available to be quarantined and tested.
After the death of his father-in-law, Yeni’s determination to protect his family from the deadly disease grew even stronger. This determination led to his refusal to join the neighbourhood vigilante group set up by the Landlord’s Association of his street to prevent the notorious group called the One Million Boyz from gaining access to their street. The One Million Boyz is a notorious group that goes from one street or area to another to terrorize people.
“How far guy? How your side? Now that the lockdown has been eased, my Introduction is scheduled for July 11th, 2020. It’s going to be a gathering of few family members and friends. Make sure you’re available. My regards to madam”. That was the text message Yeni received from his friend, Dele. Dele is Yeni’s closest friend, he was his best man at his wedding. But with the virus still very much around, Yeni was confused about whether to honour the invitation or not.
After months of weighing his options, Yeni decided to attend his friend’s Introduction. He got there around 10:15 a.m, when the programme was about to start, but to his greatest surprise, it was an elaborate party with close to a hundred guests, there was no social distancing and only a few people wore facemasks. The Introduction came to an end around 4:30 p.m, Dele told Yeni that there would be an after party but he declined the invitation.
Dele said “See guy, this party is like a get together. You know it’s been long we did something like this and besides, you are too obsessed with this Coronavirus. Abeg, relax and enjoy yourself”.
Another friend cut-in by saying “Ogbeni, forget about this Koro jare, the government is just declaring cases in order to justify their looting. The virus is not in Nigeria”.
After deliberating for a few seconds, Yeni thought “But the party is just for today? Let me enjoy myself and besides, life is too short for someone to be over thinking”. So, he decided to stay back for the after party. He put a call through to his wife to inform her about the party and also to let her know that he would not be home until the following morning.
The after party was lit, there was plenty of food to eat, more than enough alcohol to drink and the DJ was blasting the music off the roof. They partied all night. The party did not end until 5 a.m.
Yeni was docile as he was being driven home by one of his friends, who was half drunk. When they got to his house, he scrambled out of his friend’s car and with his unbalanced legs, made his way clumsily to the front door of his apartment. He managed to fish out his spare key from his pocket, unlocked the door and without thinking, he collapsed on one of the sofas in the sitting room and dozed off.
“Yeni! Yeni!! Can you hear me? Please don’t do this to me” Yeni’s wife called out to him. She was crying profusely as he was taken in an Ambulance to the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba. He is suspected of having contracted Covid-19. It’s three weeks since Dele’s Introduction and he has felt unwell for some time. It started with a dry cough and catarrh then graduated into a fever. The sickness became worse when he started finding it difficult to breathe because of his asthma.
When they got to the hospital, he was immediately assigned to a bed and placed on a ventilator as his condition had become critical. They couldn’t stabilize him as his situation kept deteriorating and fifteen minutes later, he managed to open his eyes, staring at the ceiling his mind flashed back to how he had tried so hard from day one to prevent himself and his family from contracting the deadly virus. Through his dying breath, he said to himself “Just one little mistake” then he closed his eyes. Hot tears rolled down from the side of his eyes, as he gave out his last breath.