By Adebayo-ige Omotolani
A typical day in my house starts with everyone praying at 6 AM and then preparing for their respective workplaces. This has changed: we now wake up by 6 AM, pray, go back to sleep, wake up by 8:30 AM and start the day’s job.
I live with my 3 siblings, my godfather (the lockdown caught up with him while he was visiting), my father and mother.
From 9 AM you find every one internalising, going about their daily jobs, my younger brother reading his school books, my sister on her sewing machine or on her sketch pad creating her masterpieces, as she likes to call them.
By 12 AM we all take break either to have our baths or eat or just chat.
By 3 PM work for that day has ended. My brother and I exchange social media funny videos and watch TV.
By 5 PM my father, godfather and people from the next building come together to discuss what they have read in the news—I like to call them the long bench journalists—they thrash every Nigerian issue in the news, proffer solutions to them and then round up by 7 PM to go to their various homes.
I once joked about filming them and putting it up on YouTube. I find their discussions often insightful and my brother and I sometimes join before it is time for the inner circle of myself, my brother, my godfather and my parents to start our own phase of the show. This aspect mostly kicks off when my mother comes back with sometimes good or bad news—my mum is a disease surveillance officer for WHO (she works in her community, often tracing case history of diseases and notifying WHO So she is actively working on the covid-19 cases in the community).
The most interesting part of this lockdown has to be when my mother comes home to ask us if we would like to volunteer for the house-to-house search for Lagos State to trace contact cases of covid-19.
I am an active volunteer for some NGOs, but the lockdown did not allow me help my NGO with the distribution of palliatives, so this was a way to help humanity.
Was I scared?
Did I think I was going to contract the virus?
Yes. The experience doing this job was mixed, It was exciting for me to go out to streets in my local government where I had not been in my 22 years of living there, and also it was sad to see the living conditions to which I had been oblivious.
I resorted to telling myself I lived in the elite part of my local government. I did not grow up around these kind of buildings and living conditions. Seeing these places, I often came home with one story or the other; the job gave me access to the other side of life, my level of empathy increased and I tried my best to give out in any way that I could.
Many families have posted videos of bonding with themselves on social media. This is not the way it is in my home. We barely have time to bond or have family discussions or jump on the challenges trending on social media. We only come together to listen to the news. It is like parents are wired to frustrate you, one minute I am in a zoom meeting, the other, my mother is screaming at me to come and blend pepper or increase the volume of the radio beside her. It can be exhausting at times.
The real truth is that I live in constant fear. I do not know about my siblings, but I would like to say we have found a way to mask our feelings. We barely talk about the future after the pandemic. My mother goes out everyday and I am scared she may come back one day testing positive. It is hard to voice out these fears considering how religious we are in Africa; I may end up getting baptized with anointing oil for even thinking of that but it lies in the deepest part of my thoughts. Laugh out loud.
I often wonder what life will be like if I lose my mother or anybody else to this pandemic. The only show of anything close to anxiety and fear of the virus is that we always sanitize the hands of visitors, thoroughly clean my mother’s gadgets and handbags when she comes in.
The lockdown has been eased and I cannot but live in constant fear that if someone in my family does not contract the virus, my neighbours may contract it from work or one of these visitors my parents keep allowing in may spread the virus.
Nevertheless, my brother and I have been adding to our skills and serially applying for remote jobs to add to our income since we do not know when this will blow over. The adverse effect on the economy and what the future holds is uncertain and I cannot help but think of the survival of humanity. The fear of the average Nigerian right now is job security for those who still have jobs and what the future holds.
ADEBAYO-IGE BARAKAT OMOTOLANI.