Many Nigerians have certainly drunk the wine of sorrow brewed by COVID-19 to the dreg. Aside from those who got infected and died or recovered from the pandemic, everyone has their own COVID-19 story to tell. Not minding whether they were in remote slums or upmarket communities.
When Sunday Sun recently sought the experience of a cross section of Nigerians regarding COVID-19 more than six months after it berthed on the country’s shores, their responses were startling.
They were happy that COVID-19 is gradually waning as shown by the low infection numbers being reported by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), but not with what they have gone through over the past months.
Everyone still bears weight of COVID-19, like a heavy burden and might continue to do so in time to come. Besides, the lessons the disease has brought in its wake are there for all to learn from, as well as prepare for eventualities as no one knows tomorrow.
Impact of COVID-19
Looking back, Rev Robert Tombrokai, a pastor with Lutheran Church based in Adamawa State said he never had it easy with COVID-19.
“As a pastor, it was the first time in history that church services never held; the much we could do was to hold gatherings in various homes. Somehow, attendance at such gathering in some communities improved. Those who could not go to church were able to attend fellowships at various cells near to them.
“But on the other hand, we had people who believed it was not scriptural to attend such gathering; so they failed to attend. Because of the absence of many worshippers, church collections were affected; yes, there was improvement in attendance, but people did not see such meetings as a church per see. So, collections were affected.
“Besides, during that time, we had a growing number of people coming around to ask for money and food because their means of livelihood were terribly affected. Because of that, we were compelled to render help much more than we ever did in the past when things were okay,” he said.
Prof Didiacus John Njoku, a lecturer at the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), lamented the huge burden COVID-19 placed on people’s lives.
“It is like climate change. Both are like a double-edged sword. Either ways one is cut.
“As an individual, most of the things I wanted to do got bottled up inside COVID-19. I could not make any headway.
“As an academic, offices that were to receive my papers were all closed. I simply could not publish any of my papers.
“For me, the disease generated a kind of heat; it forced everyone to go virtual in all we did. But how many of those virtual exercises could I really involve in? The funds were not there for me to engage in as many as those virtual exercises as possible that I would have loved to – I mean virtual conferences and meetings.
“I was further handicapped by the epileptic power supply we have in the country. So, there were lots of restrictions around those of us in this sector.
“There were further restrictions on going into the field to obtain data for certain categories of research. I could not do all that; I could not analyse what I had. I was like transfixed; I was hardly useful to myself.
“So COVID-19 made me – perhaps a lot of people too – less useful to myself; it made me dormant. And you know that such dormancy can affect the brain; it affected mine. I was bored.
“Truth be told, at some point, I was even unable to reply to certain mails bordering on my publications. It was that bad.
“Then, salaries were not coming. Everything around me became offensive; I wanted to engage in certain works, but the heat of the day would not allow me. At some point, I began to have this high sense of insecurity all around me; of course, I could not do any work while I was hungry.
“At home, I was massively affected because my spending profile had to be reduced because there was less money available; we had to focus more on activities that we couldn’t do without.
“The children were at home, most of the expenses were largely on things that affected them directly, particularly their health.
“Because of the COVID-19, most of the hospitals were closed; they could not admit anyone. The private ones still open had to charge highly to sustain their services.
“In some instances, food was hardly available because the government mandated sales and non-sales. Food was not there, medication was not there; movement too was restricted,” he said.
For Femi Monday Irawo, a carpenter, based in Lagos, COVID-19 is one sickness from the pit of hell.
“COVID-19 is such a terrible disease. I have never seen such a challenging disease before. Everything about me and around me was affected particularly during the lockdown. I could not move.
“As an artisan, I depend on my daily activities to survive. When everything was shut down, you can imagine my plight. There was no work and no money. Help was not coming from anywhere. It was tough!
“At some point, I resorted to visiting my clients to see if I could do minor jobs to survive,” he said.
Mrs Olajumoke Orebiyi, a private school teacher, told our reporter that COVID-19 dealt her such a deadly blow too hard to forget.
“It was like a joke when our school was shut down early in March, 2020. Days dragged to months, no salaries.
“The little money we have in bank got exhausted within a month. From then there was nowhere to go to. Life became too hard.
“I wanted to start home lesson to see if I could raise some money to survive, but neigbours warned that I might go into trouble with the government.
“When I could no longer cope with the situation, I resorted to begging. Things were that bad,” she said.
In the same vein, Mr Chikere Onyema, a commercial tricycle rider, told our reporter that the lock down days were simply terrible.
“We depended on my daily runs to feed, but the moment the economy was shut down, I began to see hell.
“For the first time in years, N1,000 meant a million naira to me. It is hard to believe.
“At some point, my family and I were surviving on charity.
“Even after the economy was reopened, it took a long time for things to gradually begin to pick up.
“COVID-19 brought tough times indeed. I pray it goes away the way it came.”
Similarly, Mr Uchenna Ekemezie, a trader, lamented the hardship brought by COVID-19. According to him, “Coronavirus touched on virtually everything.
“We couldn’t go to the market during the lockdown era. That meant huge loss of revenue. Even after the economy was reopened, the Lagos State government insisted we had to open our shops thrice weekly.
“All this while it was the little saving I had in the bank that we depended on. Even as we have reopened our shops, how much are we making? People have not recovered from the loss of COVID-19, so things have not started moving yet.”
Mr Wilson Omokaro who works with a private firm lamented that he was still being paid 50 per cent of his salary.
“We have being at home for many months since our office was shut. We were asked to work from home because of the nature of our job.
“But apart from earning 50 per cent less than my actual pay, the restrictions brought about by COVID-19 is enormous.
“This fear of contracting the virus is potent because if one does, how are we sure government will be there for us?”
What we did to survive COVID-19
On the major things people did to survive COVID-19, Pastor Tombrokai said that the moment the lockdown was over, he urged his parishioners to work harder than they did in the past, adding “we urged our people to return to their farms as soon as possible.”
As an individual, he said: “I have other businesses. I had some savings and investments too which I made before then; so I had to fall back on them.
“I was only giving out much more than I had because many people who were really in dire need were coming around.
“Our salaries were slashed because our collections were no long coming like it used to.”
Irawo said for him to survive the hard COVID-19 times, he almost depended on charity.
“Since there was no job for me to do especially during the lockdown, I kept visiting my clients within the neigbourhood to see if there were minor jobs I could do for them.
“When there was nothing for me to do, I asked them for food and support. In some instances, some people gave me N1,000. It was such big money to me. Sometimes my family and I had to depend on the money for days.”
Lesson learnt from COVID-19
Speaking on the lessons learnt from COVID-19, Pastor Tombrokai noted that “one should prepare for every eventuality because you never can tell what happens in the next hour. The second lesson is that at all times, one has to plan for what they would eat.
“Many people who didn’t have such plans couldn’t find food to eat. They were living on daily bread. After their means of daily bread were shut down for weeks, they had nothing to fall back on.
“We also realised that what we read in the Bible about times of famine and hardship could be possible in our own time,“ he said.
Irawo told our reporter that COVID-19 taught him the value of saving money for the rainy say.
“Before now, I didn’t know what it meant to save money no matter how small.
“Right now, I have gone to activate my dormant bank account. I have begun to save money no matter how little. Should we have this COVID-19 experience again, at least, I will have some cash to spend for some days.”
For Prof Njoku, perhaps, one of the biggest lessons of COVID-19 “is the attention it has drawn to the time-hallowed dictum that tomorrow is uncertain; no one except God knows what tomorrow holds for everyone.”