Elombah
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My COVID19 Diaries

212

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of inventions. This Corona virus pandemic has forced me to do things I should have done before now. I had never put on a hair clipper before not to talk of using one. When I plugged it on the electric wall socket and it didn’t work I thought the wall socket was bad until I looked again at the tool and discovered I had not turned the damn thing on. I shaved my hair for the first time in my life and I did a good job at it with proof. I also had not done any sewing of whatever kind but watching videos of how to make a simple homemade face mask fascinated me. I remembered the handheld sewing machine in the house, got to work and worked my way graciously to my first hand made face mask in life. While I was at it discovering other talents of mine, my daughter was discovering her culinary skills in making doughnuts! These discoveries may seem trivial but that is part of building blocks to nationhood; looking inwards to ensure self-sufficiency.

The good side of social media and watching TV for me is that it got me so paranoia about the corona virus pandemic as far back as late January when the news was awash with the deadly impact in Europe, specifically Italy. By 10th of February I had already started shouting on Facebook that Nigeria’s boarders be closed to save us from the deadly virus. So I was surprised and disappointed that senior officials of the Nigerian government did not feel that way. Some even travelled out of the country by late February and early March and were even suspected to have brought the virus and infected a number of other senior officials they came into contact with. The Nigerian government was not alone in the nonchalant attitude. The American government led by Donald Trump was also in denial of the existence of such, having had a bitter battle with opposition leading to even an impeachment in the lower house late in 2019. That attitude has cost over a hundred thousand American lives and still counting as I write. History had it that a similar pandemic called Spanish flu killed millions of people around the world in 1918 but the lessons of that event were lost on most people around the world and in Nigeria. These were not children of history. The worst was the quick call to reopen the society shortly after lockdowns were imposed by various governments to curtail the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, these calls were against the advice of medical and health officials. It was mainly championed by politicians, economist and bureaucrats that were worried about economy rather than human lives. The pressure also came from the citizens who were hungry, and it was bad for Nigeria because unlike the western worlds the Nigerian government could not afford enough palliatives for its people and was left with no choice than to ease the lockdown. History reported this same scenario and attributed it to the cause of more deaths from a second wave of the pandemic that ravaged people in the 1918 event.

With the planned lockdowns, preparation was key. All over Europe and America, the TV was awash with stampedes as people rushed to grab and stock whatever supplies they could. A video was shown were two women fought for toilet paper in a shopping mall. It was that bad. I even advised people to do same down here in Nigeria expecting that it will eventually come to our turn. No stampede happened and it was explainable because Nigerians do not have the financial capacity to stock up anything. The high number of deaths experienced in Western countries did not also happen here and that one baffled all scientists all over the world. The world health organization (WHO) predicted deaths in Africa to the tune of three hundred thousand, nothing in that region of body count materialized as I write. There were unexplained deaths in Kano and some other states in the North which were highly suspected to be as a result of COVID19 as it was called but still nothing near the dooms day prediction of the Western world. Possible explanations from friends was that the people alive in Nigeria and Africa that are 60 years and above are healthy and can withstand the trauma of the virus which affects the respiratory system. This is unlike the developed world were their better health care system enable a longer life for people that ordinarily would have died if they lived in Nigeria or Africa due to poor health system.

My preparations were basically in power and food grains. With no generator in the house, no movement and not trusting PHCN to behave, grains were the way to go. With beans you could grind it and make akara or moimoi in place of bread. My sister in-law in Enugu tuned in to that. And if you have flour you could make your own bread. A lot of families did that. I saw one sample from another of my sister that lives in Enugu. These were normal ways of life in the days of Yoo! But the busy life styles in the cities have taken them away. Few of us that like food have complained about missing out in soup made at home during the weekdays because we don’t like eating garri in the night. We had an opportunity to catch up. The lockdown meant variety of dishes as the women showed what they are made of while some had to cut down so we don’t grow so big when it was time to get back to the office. In fact I restricted myself to eating only in the morning and afternoon. Some stakeholders thought I should balance the timing but I insisted that most of my work is done during my chosen meal period. There is some other heavy duty work in the night but I won’t tell you about that one. I rely on the residual energy to accomplish that task. PHCN like I anticipated disgraced themselves the first day of my work from home (WFH) on Monday, March 25th. It was a real near miss! The power was out since Saturday, so by Sunday evening the inverter batteries had gone down and the inverter was beeping to warn us. For some unexplainable reason, my thoughts didn’t go to put off the dam thing to conserve the little energy remaining to work with in the morning, and by about 5am it went down completely. It took the batteries in the laptop and mifi router to start work that morning as I prayed the sun would rise to charge the batteries via the solar panels. As God would have it, the sun was up at the expected time and we worked seamlessly that day without interruption. To be fair, PHCN redeemed themselves because our cooking gas cylinder leaked; of all times but now! Ekwensu di egwu (the devil is wonderful) It took dependence on the electric burners to cook until the easing of the lockdown. That also implied cooking whenever there was light and storing the cooked food in coolers until it was time to eat! By the Monday morning of the WFH, I had made a mental note to convert my normal work commute time to extra sleep, but the thought and hope that PHCN should save me from power embarrassment did not let me enjoy the extras that particular morning.

Extra sleep meant lazying in bed and that came with its own problems. WFH was not holiday and one was still expected to deliver even more. I adopted a strategy that saw me get up from bed after my extras, shower and dress up as if I was going to work; only that I do not put on shoes. This motivated me to be formal in the house and face the day’s work schedule as usual. I made fun out of it by taking my normal breaks and enjoying a photo shoot session every lunch break. After work hours is time for Zumba dance though that one is so tedious that I opted for walking whenever the lockdown is relaxed. The Zumba felt good though with the fun that comes with the family bonding.

The virus has killed so many prominent people around the world. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson survived the virus attack. After his recovery he was shown in a video wearing his house casual dress as he offered men of the press some tea outside his private house. There was no visible security cordon and it showed how equalized the security system is in the UK unlike in Nigeria where the elite take a larger percentage of the security men to guard themselves.

Currently, Nigeria’s testing capacity is increasing and with that is also the increase in the recorded number of positive cases. God so kind, we have still not seen a corresponding geometrical increase in the death rates as we saw in the western countries. We pray it remains that way as we improve in the education of our people on the dangers and need to adhere to all protocols around the use of face masks and social distancing. We pray the Nigerian elite will learn a lesson from this pandemic, make policies that will ensure healthcare, education and security are equalized for all Nigerians.

Obidike Peter wrote from www.peterobidike.com and p_obidike@yahoo.com

25th May, 2020.

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