Nigeria: How Coronavirus Is Erasing Events That Matter To Life
This Sunday morning is so quiet as I get up with the rising sun in the rural town of Shasha located in the state of Lagos, Nigeria. Before the onslaught of Coronavirus, these morning hours would be filled with a cacophony of loud exhaust-spewing generators draining themselves minute by minute of petrol because church services would be starting and no one can depend on the scare electricity to last all during the worship prayers.
There is electricity here in Shasha, but it is limited by unknown people in the electric company to allocate the hours given of precious light every single day. Not having electricity means no TV, no refrigeration, no air conditioning… All normal creature comforts taken for granted in the ‘civilized’ world.
Does this mean that Nigeria is not civilized? Certainly not as we have telecommunications, cell phones, cars and mass transit… And now we have Coronavirus.
We are currently on lockdown and for many Nigerians, this has totally changed their lives. They cannot take public transportation to work and must pay for private cars if they are allowed to go to work as an essential worker. Everyone I know lives from paycheck to paycheck, so the cessation of income due to Coronavirus precautions has become devastating to our daily lives.
The statewide lockdown has provoked many honest conversations of how Nigeria is doing. Why has Nigeria suffered from lack of light for so many years? No electricity means no refrigeration resulting in wasted food and possible food poisoning. I was told things were better 10 years ago, but due to political corruption, nepotism and greed, the infrastructure has deteriorated and the electric company plays the petrol-electricity game every day at the expense of local residents who can barely afford their monthly electric bill.
Here in Shasha we get light from about 7AM until 11AM and then no light, no refrigeration, no TV or newscasts until 4PM. Hopefully the light will remain until about 6PM, right at the update of daily news and then shuts off abruptly leaving us in the dark physically and emotionally. Immediately all neighbors turn their loud generators on, drowning the sunset in air pollution, heat and noise pollution.
Cooking aromas slowly fill the air as Nigerian dinners are prepared of jollof rice or tomato pasta, boiled eggs, amala and Egusi soup. Local Titus fish, chicken or goatmeat is added for protein as Nigerians enjoy their national food. Magically the light will return around 8PM until 11 PM, just in time for the worldwide broadcast of Coronavirus and its terrible infection slithering unseen and bringing death into every country on earth… A first-time global pandemic.
The nightly TV broadcasts update those who can afford the luxury of modern electronics in their own home or apartment with American, European and Chinese news. I watch CNN and BBC for worldwide news and Arise Africa and TVC for news of Nigeria, as two of my close friends work there. In Africa, the Coronavirus is spreading slowly because of mandated social distancing, lockdowns and facemasks. But this crucial information is gleaned from several national health resources and not from a national single source directive.
Every night I see President Trump and Governor Cuomo discussing the terrible health plight of New York and the United States. I can’t imagine the stress of daily broadcasts of doom and politicians trying to figure out how to save their constituents who are still alive. In the middle of all this up-to-the-minute information I must ask, “Where is our President Buhari? Why isn’t he doing a nightly broadcast to update Nigerians and give them the hope of strong leadership that he promised upon election?”
Before Coronavirus, Nigerians lived under the attitude of ‘Me first, maybe you.’ This attitude was seen in daily traffic where drivers turn in front of other drivers without consideration of the ensuing traffic jam made by stupid driving decisions. In January, there was a decree that motorcycles and three-wheeled small taxis (Kekes) were banned from the larger cities of Lagos the day before a new internet car service (InDriver) was introduced, giving more competition to the internet car services of Uber and Bolt. So, I wonder who put their interest first of paving the future income stream for InDriver by eliminating cheaper public transportation of motorcycles and Kekes? Hmmm… Me first, maybe you…
Now Coronavirus has changed all that because tragedy erases events that matter little. Many years ago, Nigeria was known as the proud jewel of Western Africa, but that is no longer true. Pride of being a Nigerian has disappeared under the constant corruption of an ineffective government gaining wealth daily at the expense of poverty-stricken Nigerians. Maybe this global event will unite Nigeria in some way that we can have light 24/7 and stop the noise pollution and air pollution of ubiquitous generators and allow people to consider their neighbour’s well-being before their own…
Is this possible? Why don’t we all ask President Buhari that question?
Russ, American is an author and publisher currently lives in Nigeria. She can be contacted at PAMRRRS@gmail.com.