© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
How Ile-ife residents are coping with the lockdown against all odds
By, Peter OYEBANJI
ORLANDO, “the modern tailor” as he calls himself, violated the Osun state government directive when he opened his shop to sew a cloth for a customer he described as ‘promising’.
Orlando, who has his shop located in front of his home in Sabo, one of the noisy areas in Ile-Ife – was very observant while making the cloth, just in case a law enforcement agent shows up.
He spotted this reporter from afar and became quite uneasy when this reporter got close to his shop. But after a few minutes of friendly banter, he revealed how he has been coping and how he is hoping he survives the 14-day lockdown imposed by the Osun state government.
“Everything is hard. They told us to stock up but is it not someone that has money that will stock up. The foodstuffs I have at home are almost finished and customers are not coming to pick up completed cloths,” Mr. Orlando lamented.
Mr. Orlando planned to deliver the cloth he was making to the ‘promising’ owner the next day even if he hasn’t been told to.
Osun state government announced a total lockdown that will span for 14 days on the 29th of March in order to fight the novel Coronavirus, an action that is currently being observed in three other southwestern states. However, since the lockdown began on Tuesday, April 1st – there hasn’t been any known result-oriented activity by the state government to mitigate the effect of the lockdown.
Residents in Ile-Ife, where this reporter focused on, have been battling with both avoidable and unavoidable results of the lockdown.
Citizens are gradually flouting the rules in order to survive. People are already running out of foodstuffs and the ones that still have are disposing of them as a result of improper storage caused by irregular electricity.
Aunty Abi, a fashion designer, showed me the Ewedu soup she just thrashed minutes before my arrival.
“There is no light. The boiled pepper I put in the fridge has spoilt already. I have refried my fried fish just so they’ll not go spoilt. We can’t cope with this. We need help, even if it’s a token and regular electricity supply.”
Residents in Ile-Ife usually pray against rainfall on a normal day due to the lack of power supply it causes. When the weather got cloudy, one resident jokingly said, “this rain please don’t fall because we don’t know when the wire will dry this time.” Effect of heavy rainfall in Ile-Ife could be very damaging this time if the wire doesn’t dry off quickly.
From a resident, this reporter gathered that apart from current coping strategies, people have taken steps before the lockdown commenced. The resident told the story of how her neighbour sent one of her children to her friend’s place in Ondo state in order to lessen the effect of the lockdown. This reporter learnt that there are people who had taken similar steps before the commencement of the lockdown.
Like Mr. Orlando, there are quite a number of residents whose businesses are home-based. These residents consider themselves lucky as they get to violate the rules subtly. Mr. Fidelis told this reporter he stays indoor from morning till evening and comes out to open his shop. “The reason I’m outside is that my shop is in front of my house. Some people don’t have the luck of having their workplace in their home,” Mr. Fidelis said while pointing at his shop where he deals in motor spare parts.
Unlike Mr. Fidelis, another resident whom this reporter spotted, live far away from his shop. A customer walked in when the resident was narrating what it was like to cope in this lockdown. Although the resident followed other instructions given by the National Centre For Diseases Control – he violated the lockdown order, which is widely considered as the most effective of all. “This is the second customer I’ll be answering today. That’s something,” the resident said.
Disbelief mixed With hunger
“Starting from next week, we are all coming out. Let the Police stations get filled,” those were the words of Aunty Abi who is not even close to being among the poorest in the city based on her own admittance and this reporter’s observation. Aunty Abi believes the novel Coronavirus is a disease that only affects the rich and therefore doesn’t call for a lockdown… especially if there are no resources to aid the poor.
The crowd in Sabo junction and sabo market in the evening of day 3 didn’t give an inkling of a lockdown. The market, although far from normal, was packed. A resident who sells plumbing equipment told this reporter that it will be almost impossible to enforce a total lockdown.
“This country is already a tough place to live in on a normal day. How does the government expect a lockdown to be effective without the provision of necessary amenities?” The resident asked.
“A hungry man is an angry man. What is the difference between Coronavirus and hunger? If the government wants people to stay at home, they should provide resources.” Mr. Fidelis told this reporter.
What is the government doing?
The Osun state government announced a welfare committee consisting of some of the elite members of the state hours before the lockdown commenced. In the statement released by the government, it was stated that the main aim of the committee is to mitigate the impact of the lockdown on residents.
The government provided contacts of the committee and pleaded for help from citizens of the state and other well-meaning Nigerians. “As the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 continues with intense devotion, it has become inevitable to put in place Relief and Humanitarian Banks across the state. The state appreciates its supportive friends, donors and partners, who have contributed to the project, including those who have pleaded to remain anonymous.”
“Osun has limited means yet unlimited needs to fulfill at this critical time and is, therefore, calling on its sons and daughters and also well-meaning Nigerians to assist it in the provision of social relief to our people, and those who have been and will be impacted by the precautionary measures to curb the spread of the rampaging virus.”
However, the effects of steps taken by the government are yet to be witnessed in Ile-Ife. This reporter didn’t meet or hear of anyone who has received palliatives from the government. Electricity is erratic as before the lockdown began.
Meanwhile, the governor of the state, Gboyega Oyetola, recently signed the emergency prevention regulations into law – a law that is aimed at enforcing the lockdown. But many residents disregard this order with reckless abandon.
Should the state consider an alternative?
Political analysts, scholars and civil groups have argued that Africa can’t withstand a total lockdown like the one in Osun and therefore a structured lockdown should be tried.
Nelson Oppong, a professor of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh, said via a tweet that “Africa’s Coronavirus response needs a much better fix. The informalised structure of the economy, interdependent networks of everyday life, communal living spaces, and the appetite for military brutality do not offer a good architecture for the lockdown measures in place now.”
Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC), in a press statement published on Premium Times, said Africa and other third world countries should only implement measures that fit their realities.
“The Haves cannot ask the Have-nots to stay at home without food; therefore, Nigeria, Africa and other third world nations must quickly review their total lockdown measures, in line with their socioeconomic realities to avert the rage and war of the poor. You cannot tell a hungry father to watch his hungry family dying in their room just like that and do nothing, and for no fault of theirs, and because of a virus that has not locked down their hands and legs.”
“We are appealing to the leadership in Nigeria and other African countries to immediately fashion out the best possible strategies to implement a structured lockdown, which can include structured working/marketing hours and days, with massive sanitisation/fumigation of these markets, clustered businesses, the streets, while insisting the people comply reasonably with the social distancing and handwashing measures.”
The federal government has reviewed the lockdown measure that was enforced in Lagos, Ogun and FCT on the 31st of March. The relaxed lockdown allows Market to open between 10am to 2pm every 48 hours. Oyo state has also enforced something that looks like a structured lockdown.
Osun state currently has 20 cases of the novel Coronavirus, third highest in the country. As the state battles the virus with every means possible, it appears the citizens will do everything possible to survive – including violating a lockdown.