There is no doubt that the first eight months of the year 2020 has made the year like no other year in this generation. For many, it seems as if the year has not started. A few people feel they are still living in year 2019 hoping for a miracle that will nullify the experiences of the last eight months.
Needless to say that year 2020 has been dominated by the Covid 19 pandemic, apprehension, destabilising lockdowns, endless work-from-home weeks, loss of lives, untold hardships on the poor, and high level corruption. The effect of covid-19 has touched every one irrespective of age, gender, religion or race. It has created a high degree of uncertainty in all spheres of human lives across the globe and man’s faith in God and science heavily tested.
Today’s daily vocabulary has suddenly increased to include words and phrases like masks, sanitisers, face shield, physical distance, lockdown, social distance, self-isolation, quarantine etc. These are particularly not new words but they are words that hitherto meant nothing to many of us outside the health sector.
Our life styles and social values have been altered. We now have a clearer picture of what essential services are and who essential workers are. The global world picture of the future has been dramatically altered and a new norm instituted in all spheres of life.
It is important to note that you don’t have to contact the Covid 19 virus before you have a Covid 19 experience. I make bold to say that there are many Covid 19 asymptomatic patients across the globe. There is no statistic that can clearly capture the records.
My Covid 19 experience began in the last week of March 2020. I had packed my suitcase on Sunday night to return to work as usual (Though I reside in Kwara State, Nigeria, I work in another state about 4 hours’ drive away). The first sign of trouble was the announcement of a partial lockdown by the Federal Government of Nigeria. This was followed by another announcement by the Kwara State Government shutting down schools and MDAs. I had thought for Kwara State, why the hurry? We didn’t even have a patient. The government was being proactive or so I thought. However, this is not a discussion for here. Notwithstanding these announcements, I still requested that my driver picked me up the next day.
A few hours to take off the following day, I received a call that my office was shutting down for April in the light of the pandemic and only key staff were to be engaged to work from home. With this news, I suspended my trip and commenced work from home by remotely managing the activities of my office.
Work from home can be traumatic if you are not strategic about it. For me, I created a work station where I resumed by 9am daily and closed by 4pm. I drew up a schedule and tried to follow it through in the early months of lock down.
Shortly thereafter the Nation went on total lockdown, interstate travel was banned and things began to happen simultaneously.
The first change in the atmosphere was the wide spread of a deadlier than Covid 19 disease. I called this disease ‘fear’. It spread faster than the virus and was airborne. It jumped directly from the TV screen on its victims. You could pick it up from just discussing with your neighbour or via telephone conversation with friends and from all social media network. Believe it or not, more people died out fear of the virus. Its symptoms included anxiety, apprehension, nervousness, unease and worry. I am sure there must be a medical name for it. Today, 8 months after, many people have recovered from Covid 19 but quite a number are still nursing the effects of the fear created by the virus in the form high blood pressure, disillusionment, drug abuse etc.
It became a difficult task for me to leave my house even to my neighbour’s. Visitors were no longer entertained in our home. I remember once when my husband hosted a few of his friends, I insisted they stayed at the balcony and were not allowed into the house. I ensured sanitiser was placed at every entrance to our home. I read every literature on the pandemic and soon began making panic calls to my children that were away from home to stay safe.
‘’Stay safe’’ became a form of greeting as if we had the power to save ourselves. Religious centres that had the cure to the dreaded disease of fear were shut down. Social activities that could help reduce the tension grounded into a halt as a result of the lockdown. And as expected the spirit of fear had a free manifestation on the world.
By the first week of April, the Nigeria Law school where my daughter attended was closed and she had to return home. Also in April my friend lost her husband to Covid 19 and she was quarantined. My father who was hospitalised earlier had to return to the hospital in April for a procedure amidst fear and trepidation. The economy was hitting hard.
By May 2020, interstate movement was still banned so I could not resume at the office. However, by this time we recommenced skeletal work at my office with only about 30% of the staff strength. I continued to work from home. More people had died, a friend, a member of my fellowship whose test result came after her death, turned out positive. For two weeks thereafter, I lived in silent fear of having contacted the virus. Several times I had imaginary sore throat and cough.
With fear always comes torment. Oh! how we often torment ourselves with things that have not happened and may never happened. I began drinking hot water with ginger and lemon.
Often times when my daughter saw me drinking the hot ginger she would ask “mummy are you Okay?” with this funny look. And my response was always “I don’t have Covid 19, stop looking at me like that”
My daughter’s fears were not unfounded. This was because I was actively involved in a palliative program organised by my church. It was a 7-man task force with a mandate to identify the vulnerable in our community and church. We distributed welfare materials to members. At first we would take the materials to their houses because of the lockdown and ban on movement but later we found other convenient methods that reduced our risk of exposure.
In June 2020, I decided to take a step of faith and return to my office in Akure, Ondo State. Precisely on 1st of June 2020, my driver and I left Ilorin not minding that there was still a ban on interstate movement. It was a journey I will remember for long. The roads were deserted except for the checkpoints along the road. It reminded me of the stories I had read about on the Nigeria Civil war. I spent one week in Akure in my accommodation which was by now deserted as a result of the pandemic. When I left Akure on Thursday 4th June, I knew I was not going to be back for a while.
My trip indeed confirmed my earlier submission that Covid 19 was a war. Along the road were checkpoints of various kinds. At some points we had police check points, military check points with the Nigeria soldiers on guard, vigilantes as well as the Federal Road Safety Corps. The sad thing however was that each of these check points had their cost of passage and drivers were made to pay illegal toll. This made a mockery of the whole lockdown measure as the virus travelled with ease across the states of the country.
Back home in June, I lost another friend, and then a friend of a friend to Covid 19. It was no longer a faceless pandemic. More people died in June. The great and the not so great, people in and out of government.
Many other people died to other sickness following the delay in medical attention by our public hospitals. I know of a sister who was left in the hospital ward unattended to until her test result turned out negative. Our health workers cannot be blame for these as many of the hospitals lacked adequate protective equipment for health personnel. If anything , health workers in Nigeria deserve great respect. They are the heroes of this generation.
By the end of June it was obvious that lockdown was no longer a desirable solution, the lockdown was eased but not the virus as eventually the casualties began to increase. This was expected until the curve is flattened.
Now we are in August. Although the world is not completely free of Covid 19, we are all learning fast to live again. While the isolation centres fills up faster than the earlier months, government across the world including Nigeria now ask patients to isolate at home. Without throwing caution to the wind, we all are confronting our fears with an understanding that Covid 19 like all pandemic will also pass.
I must confess that the pandemic is not all negative. God’s promise; “And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His Plan and purpose” (Romans 8:28 Amp Version) remained very apt since the year 2020.
My focus in this story is that in-spite of all, I urge us to see some great things that has happened and many more that will still happen as we march through the last quarter of 2020. Many new children came in the midst of the pandemic, marriages were solemnised, homes were restored, many recovered from the virus, some changed jobs, buildings were erected, businesses were born, some great decisions were taken and many other beautiful things. God’s miracles never stopped.
The period of lockdown was a reflective period for many, an incubation of some sort that led to the birth of great ideas in people, reawakening of latent potentials. Unfinished projects such as research works, books were completed. upskilling and reskilling of employees by organisations became the in thing.
The year has not ended. Year 2020 though has been a challenging year for many, there are still many things loaded in the year. For those who have lost anything, let me say like my mentor Bishop David Oyedepo would “ God is the reason we have not lost all”
In conclusion, the last 8 months have been most challenging for many. Many of us have had the test done several times and are still negative. My daughter had to be tested twice in a week in August. Many have lost friends, close associates, family members. Many were sick and somehow by God’s grace recovered. Many Jobs were lost, investments went down the drain, promises failed, businesses stagnated and families broken. Many have had to go hungry for days. In all of these, one thing stands out, we are still here. God’s mercy kept us and we are still here because He is not through with us.
Therefore, keep faith and do not despair because “the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry , wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakuk 2:3).
This is my Covid 19 story. What is yours?
Adenike Babajamu (August 2020)