COVID-19 and new ways of life

Indeed, like President Muhammadu Buhari said, COVID-19 is a matter of life and death. People must adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic, reshape their ways of life or be shipped out of the face of the earth by the excruciating pain and punishment of the pandemic.

Like the president, through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Boss Mustapha, ahead of lockdown relaxation next week, equally called on people to strictly adhere to measures issued by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and stay safe.

“The relaxation of the lockdown is to enable us gradually return to our daily lives but in a moderated manner,” he said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently altered our ways of life and we must begin to learn how to adjust to this new reality. This relaxation does not in any way imply that the danger has passed. The virus is still potent, virulent and dangerous. We must remain very vigilant and careful. We must take responsibility for our actions.”

And, yes, we must. COVID-19 has, no doubt, come along with it the necessity to adjust to new realities of life. For a start, the comfort of being in the presence of others has been replaced by a greater comfort with absence, especially with those we don’t know intimately.

Instead of asking ourselves, “Is there a reason to communicate or do this online?” we now ask, “Is there any good reason to do this in person?”— and we quickly reminded and convinced that there is. Unfortunately, because it is unintended, those without easy access to internet will be further disadvantaged.

This method of communication creates more distance, yes, but also more connection, as we communicate more often with people who are physically farther and farther away — and who feel safer to us because of that distance.

Additionally, the world has long equated patriotism with the armed forces. But, now, that is changing with the advent of COVID-19. You can’t shoot a virus, could you? Those on the frontlines against coronavirus aren’t conscripts, mercenaries or enlisted men.

They are our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, caregivers, store clerks, utility workers, small-business owners and employees. Like the Director-General of National Centre for Disease Control Dr Chike Ihekweazu and the doctors at the treatment centres across the country, many are suddenly saddled with unfathomable tasks, compounded by an increased risk of contamination and death they never signed up for.

When all is said and done, perhaps, we will recognise their sacrifice as true patriotism, saluting our doctors and nurses, genuflecting and saying, “Thank you for your service,” as we now do for military veterans. We may build statues and have holidays for this new class of people who sacrifice their health and their lives for ours.

Perhaps, too, Nigerians, especially criminals and insurgents like Boko Haram members, will finally start to understand patriotism more as cultivating the health and life of our community, rather than blowing up someone else’s community.

Prayerfully, the de-militarisation of patriotism and love of country and community will be one of the benefits to come out of this pandemic.

No doubt, the extraordinary shocks to our system that the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing has the potential to break Nigeria out of its current pattern of escalating ethnic, religious, political and cultural polarisation and help us to change the course towards greater national solidarity and peace.

Gladly, people begin to look past their differences when faced with a shared external threat. COVID-19 pandemic represents a formidable enemy that does not distinguish between the rich and the poor or Muslims and Christians or Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), and might provide the masses with a fusion-like energy and singularity of purpose to help them reset, rethink and embrace values of peace and national development.

Societal shocks can break different ways, making things better or worse. But given Nigeria’s current levels of tension, this scenario suggests that now is the time for the Buhari-led administration and political leaders to begin to promote more constructive dialogues and patterns in our cultural and political discourse. The time for change is clearly ripening and the government must seize the moment for nation-building.

Nigeria, maybe rightly so, before the coming of this administration, has been described as an unserious country, where things do not work as they ought to and local expertise is neglected in favour of foreign.

An example of this neglect can be seen in how claims of cure for COVID-19 made by some Nigerian experts and production of some pandemic-related aid devices made by some Nigerians are easily overlooked by the authorities.

However, it is the opposite of this neglect that happens in another African country – Madagascar, where the president publicly comes out to promote use of a locally manufactured treatment for COVID-19.

Thankfully, the COVID-19 pandemic could change this in Nigeria in two ways. First, it has already forced people back to accepting that expertise matters. It was easy to sneer at experts until a pandemic arrived, and then people wanted to hear from medical professionals on COVID-19.

Second, it may, hopefully, force Nigerian politicians to a new seriousness or, at least, move them to appreciate the idea that government is a matter for serious people, like Buhari, whose handling of the COVID-19 crisis has attracted acclaim from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Another change regarding peoples’ way of life can be seen in how the rich in the country are reaching out to the less-priviledged in this era of lockdown occasioned by the pandemic. Hopefully, the coronavirus pandemic marks the end of romance with hyper-individualism.

When this pandemic crisis ends, political and public office holders would have to think politics differently and make substantial new investments in public goods such as the neglected health sector, education and public services.

The political actors will be better able to see where their previous and present actions and inactions have landed Nigeria. Their eyes will be open to the widening gap between the rich and the poor, level of unemployment, particularly among youths, illiteracy and poor state of infrastructure.

They will understand that the country, its economy and the social order it helps support cannot continue on the current trajectory and something quick should be done to guarantee income for the millions of workers who may lose their jobs as a result of COVID-19 and the unemployed.

No doubt, as several leaders and experts have warned, the coronavirus pandemic is going to cause immense changes in the way we live, it will cause pains and sufferings. But, in the end, Nigerians, especially our leaders, will be forced to reconsider who we are and what we value, and, prayerfully, COVID-19 would help us rediscover the better version of ourselves, discard extremism and redirect our country to a sustainable path of development.

Protecting informal sector businesses

The consequences of Coronavirus will be monumental. Many lives will be lost and jobs and businesses will collapse unless deliberate and adequate measures are taken to protect them.

Thus, when the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, said government would support the informal sector to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 disease on businesses in the country, his statement came with relief for particularly small business owners and, indeed, other Nigerians.

Osinbajo said so during a virtual conference, entitled: “How Africa’s Informal Sector Reacts to COVID-19,” organised by

Others who spoke at the event were President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Professor of Economics at Yale University, Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak; and Senior Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Co, Amandla Ooko-Ombaka.

A Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer of Business Administration, Mr. Hakeem Bello-Osagie; and the CEO of, Teresa Clarke moderated the discussions.

Osinbajo said providing support to small businesses in the informal sector, shut by the government because of COVID-19, should be a priority for all countries to lessen adverse effects of the pandemic.

No doubt, for small businesses, without the cash reserves, there is no such thing as taking a break or pause in production. Yet, the government has asked business owners to shut down for several weeks while doctors get the coronavirus under control.

So far, experts say that the number of days small businesses remain shut is longer than they ordinarily can bear to stay out of operation. Currently, small business owners are burning their savings to survive, often reaching into their personal pockets to keep up with payments. But that won’t last long. Therefore, analysts say that without a major rescue effort from the government, countries should expect a wave of permanent closures in the very near future, when the pandemic is dealt with.

However, while the intention of the federal government is noble, the need to work in tandem with the state governments cannot be overemphasised.

In fact, like Osinbajo said, by the very nature of this pandemic, the country runs the risk of everything going south if states don’t do what they are supposed to do.

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