Cosmas Omegoh, Ighomuaye Lucky (Benin), Emmanuel Adeyemi (Lokoja), Okey Sampson (Umuahia), Sola Ojo (Kaduna), Agwu Chijioke (Abakaliki), Laide Raheem, (Abeokuta), and Timothy Olarenwaju, (Maiduguri)
At the moment, humanity is firmly in the grips of the Coronavirus disease. The global community is convulsing with the disease’s ruthless kicks. It marches on, doing so with unbelievable gusts, taking down the mighty and the lowly. No nation – including Nigeria – is spared of this disease’s devastating influence which is amazingly altering lives.
But despite the glaring damage this pandemic is doing to the world, Nigerians are divided about its existence, with many maintaining everything about it is a hoax.
To find out where the people stand on this pandemic’s pace and impact, our correspondents went to town. Their findings are vast and varied.
Does COVID-19 exit?
In Maiduguri, 60-year- old Alhaji Umar Adamu, a retiree, is apprehensive. He is fully aware of the dangers of COVID-19 and its recent impact in the state.
“Coronavirus is real and we must be careful,” he warned. “In fact, I have seized meeting friends until this plague is over,” he declared to his friend, who was shocked at his stance. The latter tried to explain his doubt about COVID-19, but Adamu did not bulge.
This is the new life many people in Borno have adopted since COVID-19 hit the state, killing no fewer than 22 persons since April 18. But despite this alarming increase some people still insist the pandemic is a mirage.
Down South, Edo is one of the states with the highest number of Coronavirus cases. Our correspondent reports that the attitude of the people regarding the virus is mixed.
One of the residents, Dr. Bright Oniovokuko said: “When the virus first arrived, enormous seriousness was attached to it; everybody became conscious and started observing the procedures laid down for its prevention.
“But as time passed, people got familiar with the virus and the measures put in place; now the compliance level has dropped.”
He lamented that people no longer see the virus as real. “Now, doubts have started to set in; people want to see those who were infected. This gives cause for worry.”
Another Edo resident, Ufuoma Akpobi, said: “The perception that the ordinary people now have is that the pandemic is non-existent.
“You often hear people say the virus is not real, government is using it to make money. My feeling about this is that the government probably has not done enough; it has not really touched the hearts of the people to let them know that this pandemic is here with us.”
In Lagos, Dr Abayomi Ogubekun, chairman, Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN), Lagos State chapter, warned that “people should really be careful to avoid getting the disease. It is at the door. The number of daily infections tells it all.”
But Ojocheni Rufus from Dekina in Kogi State is unfazed, saying that he is in support of Governor Yahaya Bello’s stance that COVID-19 does not exist in the state.
“It is white man’s disease and a disease of the rich. Since the so-called outbreak, we have been moving around freely doing our thing as usual and nobody has died of the disease; so Coronavirus is a ruse,” he declared.
Haruna Mohammed from the same state believes that COVID-19 exists, but merely as “common fever that we normally have; there is no special thing about it; if you treat it with herbs it disappears.
“I believe it is the media that have unnecessarily hyped this virus, making it to appear frightening.”
He has the support of Mr Sunny Pat from Ebonyi State, who noted that “it’s real, but not actually in Africa. COVID-19 in Africa is a different business altogether; I feel that we are politiking and that’s the worst thing.”
That is the same way Prince Daniel Ajah also from Ebonyi sees the disease. “I know that COVID-19 exists in the Western countries, but not in Nigeria.
“We are playing politics with figures because I cannot understand why the number is high in some states while Kogi has just three cases and Cross River none.”
But Tope Ojo from Kogi State disagrees. “Those saying there is no Coronavirus are suffering from ignorance. Kogi State government is being economical with the truth.
“The family of the Chief Imam of Kabba, Sheikh Abubakar Ejibunu, who was the index case actually confirmed that the man was infected with the deadly disease, so what is the governor hiding?”
Similarly, Dada Joseph insists “there is no controversy, COVID-19 is real; its existence is as clear as daylight.”
Speaking to our correspondent, Abia State Commissioner for Information, John Okiyi Kalu, lamented that “it is disheartening that despite the number of persons infected on a daily basis, some people still believe the virus does not exist.
“The task force will continue to arrest and prosecute defaulters until they come to terms with the present realities,” he warned.
Gloria Kassang Bulus of Bridge That Gap, Kaduna, reinforced his views, saying “COVID-19 is real; the pandemic is ravaging the world with hundreds of lives already gone; the global economy is seriously affected by it.”
Her counterpart from the state, Hannatu Hauwan, an assistant director, Legal Awareness for Nigerian Women, said: “I am one of those who believe in the existence of COVID-19. Those who don’t believe possibly do not have close relationship with any of those who have been affected.”
How COVID-19 has affected life and businesses
“Everything is just in disarray. Nothing is moving in Nigeria and Ebonyi State in particular,” declared Prince Daniel Ajah.
Also Hauwan noted that the series of lockdowns to prevent the pandemic’s spread were a major drawback to the citizens and business activities.
Abdullahi Ibrahim, a public servant in Brono State told Sunday Sun that “the pandemic and lockdown that followed have actually changed my lifestyle. Before the advent of this crisis, I used to stay with my friends, chatting.”
He said that he now avoids gatherings and the popular evening rendezvous known among the locals as maijilis.
“COVID-19 is real, so I try to distance or isolate myself from the crowd. I no longer go to places where we meet to chat. I have abandoned those places,” he disclosed.
In Ogun State, Aramide Junaid, a civil servant, said her lifestyle and that of her family, had been altered by COVID-19. She added that the pandemic had greatly helped her to improve on her family hygiene.
She noted that out of the safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the disease, regular hand washing and application of sanitisers remain her best.
She lamented that social distancing is difficult to practise in Nigerian, stressing that adherence to good hygiene and use of face mask in the public are better measures.
On his part, Dr Oniovokuko believes that the pandemic has tremendously affected the people. “Just imagine the lockdown, it hit the business sector hardest. Although some new businesses are springing up, many have gone down.
“On the other hand, people no longer relate as much as they used to, but that is for those who believe that the virus is real; for those who don’t believe, it is business as usual.”
Akpobi also believes that “some people’s social lives have been changed,” just as Bulus said that the pandemic had affected his lifestyle positively. “It has helped me to adjust my personal hygiene culture and value for good health,” the latter disclosed. “It has made me more health conscious. It has also helped us to understand that our personal protection depends on us,” he added.
In Kaduna, Ibrahim Yushau, a businessman, lamented that “there is now no serious contracts anymore all because of the lockdown.”
Lessons learnt from COVID-19 crises
Yushau maintained that COVID-19 had helped him to focus on helping people with the little he has. “Now, I know how it feels to lack food and other basic needs.
“I have learnt the need to save for the rainy day; indeed, what we are passing through at the moment has opened many eyes.”
And Ibrahim, “I learnt that a man must always make preparations for emergencies. Get more food at home especially those ones that can’t get spoilt easily because one might wake up one day to see the untoward happening.”
He added that he had also learnt that nothing is indispensable. “We all maintain we like our work, money, business, family members, friends, social and political gathering even mosques, but we lived without all these for about three weeks in Borno. We lived with only our immediate families and almighty God. So there is nothing we can’t live without except God,” he stated.
He equally noted that the pandemic had taught him and his household to sustain their personal hygiene. “Even my three-year-old girl knows that it is important to wash her hands regularly; we will maintain this lifestyle even after COVID-19 era,” he promised.
His kinsman, 45-year-old petty trader, Habib Saleh, said that he believes COVID-19 is real having heard about those who died from the pandemic.
“Since I heard that Alhaji Abba Kyari (President Buhari Chief of Staff), an emir and some big men died of COVID-19, I stopped attending burials ceremonies.
“The great lesson I learnt from this is to always keep my shop clean.
“I have built iron barricade in its front so that I won’t have close contact with my customers. For real, things have changed and I pray we don’t have another plague in future again,” he said.
For Dr Oniovokuko, the lesson so far learnt is that “at every turn we need to be prepared. If this country had prepared the right way, we might not be having these challenges.
“But now, we have alternative ways of doing businesses. People have now thought about alternative ways of even rendering services to their customers, thanks to COVID-19.
“And what about learning? Earlier, some people never knew that teaching and learning could be conducted outside the classroom, but now, they are happening. Now, virtual learning is possible.”
Joseph Ojo from Kogi State said that the pandemic has made him and his household more conscious of their health. “We now wear our nose masks, wash our hands regularly and use hand sanitisers; most importantly, we pray more aggressively because I believe prayers solve all problems.”
Dr Oniovokuko also said that COVID-19 has helped many Nigerians to improve on their personal hygiene.
“Some people who have not been taking hand washing seriously, now do. It has sustained a very high level of personal hygiene because nobody actually wants to die or go to any hospital now as they would be tagged potential Coronavirus patients; so people are now being more careful.
“Sneezing in the elbow? Many people have not learnt that. Before, when you sneezed, people would say ‘bless you,’ but I think now when you sneeze, people will flee.”
Akobi said that part of the lessons people have learnt is to improve on their personal hygiene. “The idea of being hygiene conscious had been there long before we had the Ebola challenge.
“During that period, all sorts of personal hygiene protocols were introduced. But immediately after Ebola, many jettisoned the idea and went back to their old ways; they felt it was just okay for them, but now with this virus here, personal hygiene has been resuscitated.
“I believe people are observing various recommendations regarding sneezing into their elbows because we have seen them doing so.”
Equally, Bulus believes that COVID-19 has helped Nigerians “to be more conscious of their health safety. I have always been very careful when it comes to personal hygiene, but now I am more conscious,’ she said.
Perception of govt’s response
In Ogun State, Afeez Akindele, an engine oil and lubricant dealer, believes that both the state and Federal Government had done their level best in the fight against COVID-19. “They should not relent in their efforts to end the global pandemic in the country, so that the economy will be fully reopened,” he charged.
Bulus in Kaduna observed that governments were trying to manage the COVID-19 crisis pretty well, saying: “First, the taskforce team has been able to centralise the flow of COVID-19 data. I believe it is doing what it can, but I think it can do better by improving on its testing capacity and use of accurate technology for diagnosis and management of positive cases.”
However, Hauwan noted that COVID-19 is somewhat “politicized,” adding that “government also needs to roll out targeted strategy for the health sector to make us proactive and ever ready to tackle health emergencies in the future.”
According to Dr Oniovokuko, “in Edo State, I will tell you that some people are seeing COVID-19 as a business opportunity for some persons.”
But Akpobi contradicted him, saying that “perhaps it was because people just lost faith in the government. But I believe that the government has handled the virus outbreak well with all of the stay-at-home measures, social distancing protocol and all that.
“Those precautions have made our own situation not to be as bad as those in some other countries. But who is the government by the way? It is all of us. So, expecting the government to bring food to our doorsteps when the means is not there, is out of the way. We are in an emergency situation to which government has responded well, especially to the most vulnerable people in our society; maybe that is why some people are feeling that the virus is not real and insinuating that government is making money from the situation.”