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How I Experienced Nigeria’s National Lockdown

By Raimi Joseph Abidemi

Raimi Joseph Abidemi (on the right) lives in Nigeria

All over the world, we are faced with many difficulties and problems in light of the Coronavirus pandemic which have made us reflect on our lives and on the world around us. The novel coronavirus, which emerged in late 2019, has affected millions of people around the globe and cause thousands of deaths. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) it belongs to a family of viruses that cause various illnesses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The novel coronavirus can lead to various symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, respiratory or breathing problems and even multiple organ failure.

In response to the rapid spread of the virus, governments around the world have urged their citizens to avoid large gatherings, shaking hands, hugging, eating in public and a variety of other activities and behaviours. Many countries – including the government of my country Nigeria – have declared a national lockdown and taken drastic measures to reduce and contain the spread of the virus.  

So how has this lockdown affected me? What were my experiences during this pandemic?

According to medical professionals, staying indoors and being unable to carry on with your usual social activities can cause boredom and negatively affect people’s mental health. In addition, most educational institutions were shut down in order to curb the spread of the virus. In the second week of March it was declared that all schools and universities in Nigeria would be closed until further notice.

My university was closed as well, but the plans of switching to distance learning have failed to materialize. While I was expecting a closure of perhaps a month at first, the government then extended the lockdown by another two weeks. In addition, students were ordered to leave student accommodation and to return to their families.

I have now spent over two months at home without being able to continue my studies online. I am sure many students across Nigeria are caught in the same dilemma which highlights the shortcomings of our educational system. I find it hard to read or study because the thought that the lockdown might not end anytime soon weighs heavily on my mind.

It is well known that being out of school for a longer period of time affects students’ motivation and makes it difficult for them to complete their academic work. Many students are sitting at home, hoping and waiting for this pandemic to stop. I am also at home and while I still see this unexpected holiday as an opportunity to get some rest, I am also worried because it caused me to miss my exams.

The major problems I am experiencing now are loneliness, as well as the economic and social impact of business shutdown, resulting in poverty and hunger.

In line with the government’s instructions, my family and I are trying our best to protect ourselves from this pandemic. I practically avoid shaking hands with or hugging anyone, no matter who that person is. My family and I ensure that we make use of hand gloves, face masks and handkerchiefs. We use hand sanitizer and soap and avoid eating food cooked outside our home. We also consume a prescribed dose of vitamin C to boost our immune system.

We ensure that we stay in touch with our loved ones by calling family members and friends on a regular basis, while distancing ourselves when greeting. We also make use of our social media networks to receive news about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the world.

However, should trying to prevent myself and my family from contracting this deadly virus mean that we have to lead a lonely life in isolation? I don’t think so!

In order to keep life moving and to try and enjoy this unexpected holiday, I try to make life enjoyable by doing various activities, such as reading, writing, singing, listening to music, dancing, and assisting with chores around the house. All of these have helped me reduce my boredom and I am trying my best to make this unexpected holiday a fun and successful one.

Initially, I sometimes felt angry or even weak about the government’s decision that forced us to stay at home. But now I feel better and relieved, in spite of the hunger, because I am supporting the government in its efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Despite being advised to avoid social gatherings and practice social distancing, many still do not follow the advice, causing an increase in the spread of the virus. Staying at home is not easy, but not doing so will lead to even worse outcomes.

Me and my family have found our own way of dealing with our difficulties. We saved a lot of food, managed what we had as best as we could, and were very careful with our savings.  And if we can do this, so can others!

I mentioned earlier how I am trying to deal with the loneliness. There is no doubt that you will eventually get lonely, especially since our national power supplier NEPA has not restored electricity as promised. But even when there is no electricity, you can still read, sing, play games, listen to music, dance… and if you are able to receive the normal routine of ‘off and on’ you can turn on your TV or your radio to find out what is happening around the world. Don’t let yourself down, try to make your holiday a fun and successful one!

In conclusion, let’s all try our best to stay safe, avoid large gatherings, wash our hands, do not shake hands or hug and use hand sanitizer. Remember, prevention is better than cure! Together we can stop the spread of this virus and at the end of it, we will all have great stories to tell about our experiences during this pandemic.

Raimi Joseph Abidemi is a student at the University of Lagos and represents Africademics as a University Ambassador. The views expressed in this article are his own.