Theresa, a 24-year-old graduate of Public administration, works as a professional usher due to the lack of jobs. Tessy, as she is fondly called makes ends meet by ushering people in and out at social events such as Birthday parties, seminars, wedding reception parties, burial processions and the likes. However with the global pandemic Covid 19 aka Corona virus distorting planet earth with almost all continents afraid in being victims of the pandemic, and various governments around the globe taking precautionary measures to avoid the spread of the pandemic via Social distancing, physical distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizing, wearing of nose mask when outdoors and a lockdown order as well as a curfew enforced by various security forces, Tessy was forced to suspend her only source of livelihood. When this reporter met her last month, she was a shadow of her old self.
By Micheal Oba-Joseph
It is no longer considered news that Covid 19 has ransacked the globe causing a distortion in worldwide norms when it comes to social life and gatherings. The world is said to have never experienced a virus as swift and life staking as the Covid 19 pandemic, hence, grave precautionary measures are being employed to avoid the wide spread of the virus.
Social distancing being one of the measures employed aimed at stifling physical contact stipulates that there should exist at least a 2-meter space between individuals, no body contact of any sort is encouraged whilst they are at it. This, according to researchers and scientists should help slow down the spread of the virus. A stay at home order including a curfew was further enforced to try keeping the virus in control.
Countries all over the world enforced these measures to the later to avoid the wide spread of the virus. These actions slowly and eventually ate up the fun associated with social gatherings around the world.
In Nigeria, Marriage ceremonies are considered one of the largest events in the country being that Nigeria is a nation full of socio-cultural values and norms, it is therefore celebrated with a large crowd of hundreds of people consisting most times of the entirety of the groom’s family as well as that of the bride not leaving the invited and uninvited friends and well-wishers including professional performers.
Weddings in Nigeria are celebrated as they would a festival, people meeting people, handshakes, hugs, pecks and so on are associated with it not excluding food and drinks. This was how wedding ceremonies were celebrated in Nigeria prior to the Pandemic; Covid 19. With the invasion of Covid 19, wedding ceremonies are now shadows of what they used to be as the Nigerian government decreed a not more than 50 persons per social gatherings.
Wedding ceremonies now consist of very close and handpicked family members including the priest. So was the case of newly wedded Mr and Mrs Clinton residing in Abeokuta Ogun state, according to them, they had to refrain other family members from coming, only both parents were invited alongside the best-man and maid of honor. This they said they did to avoid inciting the feeling that favoritism was involved amongst members of both families. The reception however, they said, did not hold as there was no audience to entertain. In some cases, like that of Sam Pedro and Omolola residing in Warri Delta state, their wedding had to be postponed further, hoping that by then the pandemic would have been put under some sort of control allowing for free gathering of individuals without restriction, thereby allowing for members of both families to attend the union. Some other couple went as far as postponing the wedding ceremony till further notice.
One of the three scenarios has been the order of things for couples ready to tie the nuptial knot across cities like Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Ife, Benin, Warri and most especially Lagos which has the highest number of infected persons so far in Nigeria.
Burial ceremonies however are considered the largest events in Nigeria depending on the caliber, status, influential pedigree and position associated with the deceased and family. Burial vary in Nigeria as it is a country comprising of diverse cultural norms and values. Burial ceremonies in Nigeria are known to go on for days in some societies with the influx of various individuals invited and uninvited guests, edibles in surplus, merriment heightened as they perform burial rites and pay last respects to their departed loved one.
Burial ceremonies have been known to present a rare opportunity for members of the host family to meet themselves after a long period of time due to personal family, distance amongst others. Family members and other relatives abroad travel back home to attend burial rites of their relations. Before now, burial rites usually gather thousands people depending on the status and prominence of the host family who on most occasions go ahead to wear matching attires to mark such celebration.
These and more were how a typical burial ceremony was marked in Nigeria prior to the Covid 19 Pandemic. However, activities surrounding burial ceremonies are now quite different with the arrival of the Covid 19 pandemic. Hitherto, burial ceremonies have become risky places to be, because one does not know the cause of the person’s death considering the Pandemic and the high risk of getting infected by the virus.
The recent case of the attendees of the late former Chief of staff to the President, Abba Kyari who reportedly lost his life to the virus, is a perfect example, some of the attendees were quarantined in order to detect any development of the virus in any of them.
Also, the global lockdown restraining people from travelling contributed to scantiness of burial ceremonies as relatives of the deceased who are abroad have no viable means of coming to pay their last respects.
For instance, one Chief Steven who lives abroad, couldn’t attend his grandfather’s burial ceremony in Nigeria owing to the lockdown. According to him, he had to watch it live on a video call with a relative of his in Nigeria. The usual making of clothes for such occasions was equally not allowed. This may be why a relation of Steven noted that burial ceremonies are gradually losing colour and glamour in Nigeria.
Curiously, birthday celebrations are not left out, those who which to celebrate can now arrange for a small in-house party to an elaborate outdoor event depending on the status, prominence and age of the celebrant. Birthdays are merry events performed to mark the new age attained by the celebrant, therefore a lot of people are meant to be in attendance; family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and other general well-wishers. Before the outbreak of coronavirus, birthday celebrations were places to be because of the fun and interaction with people as well as the edibles. But with the covid 19 Pandemic birthdays are no more fun any more. Even, celebrities who we look forward to their birthdays celebration kept it low and quiet so as not to aggravate the government.
For instance, prominent Nigerian actress, Funke Akindele was arrested for hosting a birthday celebration in her Lagos mansion in honor of her husband Abdul Rasheed Bello known as JJC Skillz on his 43rd birthday. She was widely criticized online for hosting a party in her Lagos mansion with Naira Marley, Eniola Badmus and several other celebrities in attendance. She was later fined by the Lagos state government in collaboration with the NCDC as penalty for violation as well as given 14 days penalty of community service which stipulates that they both visit 10 important public places within Lagos state to educate the public on the consequences of not complying with restriction orders imposed by the government.
The Kardashians on the other hand, known for being unapologetically extra and loud when it comes to parties kept it low on Kourtney’s 41st birthday making sure they do not break any quarantine rules amidst celebration in a birthday parade organised to mark the birthday by close friends and family organized by her sister Kendall.
National celebrations were not left out of the saga as Kenyas’ Madaraka day; a national holiday celebrated on the 1st of June every year in the Republic of Kenya, which commemorates the day in 1963 that Kenya internal self-rule known as Independence came to pass after being a British colony since 1920, was celebrated virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Before now, Kenyans have their unique way of celebrating Madaraka day. They gather together in thousands in a venue that has been selected for the event, most times a stadium or a square. The military organizes their parade to showcase their proficiency. During the proceedings, there are usually so much fun as singers and dancers to entertain the crowd. The most crucial segment of the day is the delivery of the Madaraka day speech by the President. The speech addresses the struggle for freedom in the country and touches on other issues that are affecting the country, such as corruption.
This year however, the celebration was done observing social and physical distancing protocol. The military maintained physical distancing through the event while citizens watched the proceedings from their homes with the aid of audio/visual receptive devices all over the country.
In Nigeria and globally, night crawlers are also having their bit as regards the Covid 19 pandemic, with the curfew in place, night crawlers are forced to limit the hours they spend outdoors under the gaze of the stars. Pubs, night clubs, Beer parlors and other night functioning businesses are forced to limit their time frame to not farther than 9:00 pm. Some of them went as far as locking up indefinitely to avoid any problem with the government.
A club owner in Port Harcourt while speaking to the magazine noted that he has to close up his club till further notice to avoid going beyond the yardstick of the government and thereby ending up in the black book of the government. When asked why he wouldn’t just close early instead he said it was very difficult to control people especially when they were drunk. How can you tell people to leave when they start feeling euphoric under the influence of alcohol and music, it is pretty hard and they can go as far as fighting with the bouncers and causing a scene, he noted.
Clubbers and strippers who happen to patronize night clubs and place associated with night life are agitated over the curfew measure put in place as they are u able to live what they refer to as a “normal life” since the emergence of the virus. Dare devil clubbers were reported to have hired an ambulance vehicle to attend a clubbing event in Kenya. A lot of them were arrested and arraigned in mobile courts. Some of them got fined and imprisoned when they were unable to pay the fine.
Commercial sex workers known as prostitutes and locally called Ashawo are not left out. Those in the business told this reporter in lament about their inability to meet up with clients anymore. Sarah, a commercial sex worker who operates in Abuja and Lagos with high class people as her clients expressed her disappointment towards the Covid 19 pandemic and the precautionary measures now put in place, she lamented that the lockdown and curfew have disabled movements across states for her to satisfy well-paying clients of hers in Abuja, Lagos and other states across the country.
According to her, even her close by clients within the states are no longer willing to patronize her as venues use for service have been closed for a while, owing to the pronouncement of government that only essential services businesses such as food, food items and pharmaceutical products are allowed to function and also the fear of contracting the virus is very much in place. According to her, “Dem no dey write the virus for face” expressing the apparent fear in clients to patronize her.
Road side beggars are not smiling either about the situation as they get their daily bread from asking for alms from passersby on the road side. Some beggars even go ahead to await worshippers of the Islamic religion outside the mosque on the day of the Jumat service taking place every Friday afternoon, because Islams are known to be very generous on Jumat service days. Most of them are lucky enough to have their daily needs met at the spot and on Sundays they are seen at the gates of large churches waiting on Christian worshippers to bestow their Sunday generosity on them.
Some of them are also seen at open social events begging or asking for leftovers to satisfy their imminent hunger or at school gates awaiting the arrival of parents who come to pick up their kids from schools to put something in their ever eager hands. They are now prohibited from this act owing to the recent pandemic Covid 19 ravaging the country. As exchange of items including money could promote the spread of the coronavirus.
The closure of Schools, social gatherings, Churches and Mosques across the continent has limited their nutrition to only what can be provided them and what they can muster up from their road side hustles. However, the lockdown put in place by governments all over the world is the daily nutrition of road side beggars. It is a known fact that they exist only because of the alms they are able to daily collect from people passing by them. The lockdown restricts free movements of people and beggars survive based on benevolence and generosity of freely moving people in their environs. The coronavirus therefore has succeeded in taking bread off the tables of roadside beggars.
Street traders and hawkers on the other hand told this reporter that they now experience low patronage from their customers who are expected to ply the roads on which they sell their goods. People are forced to stay at home to avoid the spread of the virus, hence, street traders / hawkers are handicapped because of the scarcity and absence of people on the roads where they expect to meet their customers.
Funmi, a roadside trader who happens to sell local snacks by the roadside around Oshodi in Lagos state claimed that sales are not as prosperous as before, according to her she was always done with sales before the sun hits its peak and then she goes home to prepare for the next day sales but she now records a regression in sales unlike before when before noon she was done. Even then, she complains of loses sometimes.
Rasheed, a street hawker who sells soft drinks in traffic jams in the same area as Funmi in Lagos state says he’s totally out of business now as the environment is no longer conducive for him to conduct sales of his soft drinks. Rasheed gets his customer base from thirsty commuters stuck in traffic plying the roads daily looking for cold portable fluid to calm or quench their thirst whilst on their journeys.
Commercial trade in Alaba international market, one of the largest electronics market in West Africa and one of the largest in Africa known for its busy feature and influx of crowd wanting to purchase or sell, has also been affected. The market deals with imported electronic products put up for sale to either retailers or final consumers. Everyday people troop in and out of the market creating a highly busy scenario. But insiders Covid 19 has made the market a shadow of its old self.. People no longer come in large numbers as they used to in order to avoid contact with people. The market now closes earlier than its usual time of 5pm. This certainly may be why Chidi Okoro noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has change social life globally and even affecting commerce.