Anthrow Circus

View From a Pandemic: Weathering the Storm in Nigeria

A Nigerian teenager hawking masks in traffic. Mask hawkers have become a common sight in Nigeria. Since the mandatory wearing of the face cover was announced by the government, many Nigerians survive by selling masks.

TEXT BY SARATU O. SAMANDE, ESQ.
STREET PHOTOGRAPHS AND CAPTIONS BY DESMOND OKON


“It is only during a storm that a tree knows how strong it is.”

~Matshona Dhliwayo

The new coronavirus hit the world as a storm in the first quarter of 2020. In order to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, first announced a lockdown on March 29 in three key states, namely, Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and Ogun State. The remaining states in Nigeria also imposed lockdowns to prevent community spread of the virus. Citizens were encouraged to stay at home, except for those who provided essential goods and services. Movement within the states and interstate travel was prohibited during the lockdown. Those who tested positive for COVID-19 were isolated in hospitals and designated treatment centers throughout the nation.

When the lockdown was first announced, I was excited to have extra time to tackle some uncompleted projects. I set goals for the lockdown season, such as decluttering my house to enable me to give out unwanted items; completing my continuing legal education courses online; improving my brand and skill as a saxophonist; promoting my debut album, In His Time by TaSara; personal development; weight loss; and finishing some books I started reading in the past. I had a daily schedule to keep me busy, and I was very productive during the first two weeks of the lockdown.

Then the lockdown was extended, as the number of infected persons continued to rise daily and the virus continued to spread to other states. At this point, people started to get tired of staying at home. The news and social media became saturated with information on COVID-19, and this negative information became overwhelming. As the number of infections and deaths worldwide continued to rise and people began to feel imprisoned in their homes, the atmosphere became filled with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

I too felt overwhelmed by all the negative information, and at a point, I stopped reading WhatsApp messages and anything related to COVID-19, except for watching the daily news to keep informed of happenings globally. I noticed that people were depressed because they couldn’t go to work, earn a living, carry on their normal activities, or socialize, and because they had to put their plans or projects on hold indefinitely. Nigerian citizens were starting to live in despair. I decided to be a voice of hope by posting videos of myself playing the saxophone on social media with a message of encouragement, right from my home. I began to receive positive feedback on these posts, and I found fulfillment in encouraging others to keep hope alive and look up to God, since religion plays a huge role in Nigerian and African culture. 

I started this article with a quote by Matshona Dhliwayo: “It is only during a storm that a tree knows how strong it is.” In fact, the coronovairus pandemic has revealed that the Nigerian health sector is not very strong. Compared to other countries, our capacity to test, manage, and treat the coronavirus is grossly inadequate. For many years, the Nigerian government neglected to develop the health sector because of the option of travelling abroad for medical treatment. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, this option has been unavailable, forcing the government to realize that developing the health sector is a priority.


A group of children while away time playing ludo as schools remain shut down in Nigeria.
Youths engage themselves in street football amid lockdown during the early stage of the outbreak in Nigeria.
Men take to board games to cope with lockdown restrictions.
Residents engage in outdoor games, like table tennis during the lockdown.
Passengers at a ferry terminal in Apapa, Lagos State. Due to traffic logjams usually experienced in the state, the goverment began to explore its waterways as an alternative means for intra-state movement.
Solomon, a roadside baker (left), attends to his customer.
Commuting in Lagos State is one of the most difficult things Nigerians experience daily. But the BRT, a government-owned bus system, is easing the pains, although it has its setbacks.
COVID-19 fears pushed the government to prohibit passengers from standing. Prior to the pandemic, this was not the case.
A group of children pose for a photo maintaining social distance.
Face masks have become commonplace globally. But in Nigeria, the compulsory wearing of masks has created an opportunity for local tailors.
A passenger takes a quick nap during a 40-kilometer trip to work via the BRT bus.
A group of women resume begging. In Lagos, street begging is a business and is most undertaken by people with disabilities.

Author profile
Saratu Samande

Saratu Samande is a lawyer licensed to practice law in Nigeria (West Africa) and the United States. She is passionate about promoting human and disability rights in Nigeria. Saratu is also a dynamic saxophonist who has distinguished herself over the years with her unique sound. She learned to play the saxophone at an early age, and has performed at religious and corporate events in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Nigeria. Saratu, also known as TaSara in the music industry, released her debut album, In His Time by TaSara, in April 2017. The album was produced by Sir Abdulkass and is available on all digital platforms. In her free time, Saratu enjoys reading, poetry, crochet, and traveling.

Author profile
Desmond Okon

Desmond Okon is a journalist with BusinessDay Media and a freelance documentary photographer based in Nigeria. He’s an all-round storyteller and has devoted himself to storytelling through documentary photography and journalism. He is also the lead photographer at Leadout Education Foundation and a member of the cohort of Photography for Social Good, an initiative of Social Good Lagos.

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