As an international student, I worry about how fast COVID-19 is spreading in the United States. I worry about how many people are not taking the necessary precautions, and most importantly how it is affecting Nigeria, my home country.
Like the rest of the world, Nigerians are reacting to the pandemic in a number of ways. While some are being overly dramatic (I fall into this category), some are simply nonchalant. Despite the panic, Nigerians have come up with different coping mechanisms which fall into a variety of categories:
- INFORMATION DISSEMINATORS
These set of Nigerians follow the news religiously and are in charge of information dissemination. They distribute daily broadcast messages that inform you about ways to protect yourself from the virus. My mother falls under this category and it’s a great relief to me because I would rather have her overly cautious than unbothered. Every day, my family members check up on me to ensure that I stay indoors and keep reminding me to stay safe for them, especially since I’m here alone and the borders are closed. There are even days when I feel like they are more aware of what is going on in my present surroundings than I am.
- CONSPIRACY THEORISTS
These set of people refuse to believe that COVID-19 exists and have progressed to developing conspiracy theories surrounding it. Some say it is a sign of the end time and implore the people of the world to repent their wrongdoings so they can make it to heaven. They support this claim with the story of Noah in the Bible, who built an ark to prepare for the flood. Those who refused to join him in the ark perished due to their disbelief.
Then, there are others who claim that COVID-19 is a ploy to bring the 5G network into Nigeria. In fact, this theory is gaining lots of momentum in Nigeria. According to these theorists, the 5G network is a deadly weapon for human destruction, and the operators are masking this destructive weapon with COVID-19.
- COMEDY SKITS/SOCIAL MEDIA CHALLENGES
According to the latest United Nations world happiness report, Nigeria ranks 85 out of 156 countries in the world, and is the third happiest country in Africa despite having serious political and economic issues. I believe this is because Nigerians are very optimistic, and it is evidenced in the way we derive joy any way we can. For most Nigerians, social media has become a place of succor, especially with many Instagram comedians constantly creating skits that are meant to educate people on the pandemic and entertain them at the same time.
Nigerian social media users are also participating in the worldwide “don’t rush challenge” and a new one called the “BOP DADDY CHALLENGE” created by Falz, a prominent Nigerian musician. This challenge involves people recording themselves looking natural and then transforming into a ready-to-go-out look. I personally think it’s a stressful challenge to jump into—because it requires getting glammed up just to stay home—but since participating and watching videos of others jumping on the challenge seems to be keeping people busy and happy, it makes a lot of sense.
- SOCIAL MEDIA GIVEAWAYS
Knowing that a lot of Nigerians are self-employed and would be unable to make ends meet while staying home, many Nigerian celebrities are trying to help out by regularly giving away money via their social media pages. Sometimes, they post trivia questions or simply ask people to post their account details.
This is a busy period on Nigerian social media platforms as individuals are constantly asking celebrities to do giveaways while trying to get money from those who are already giving out.
- FORCED QUARANTINE
Currently, people are being forced to stay indoors in various cities in Nigeria. Soldiers have also been patrolling to make sure people keep to the law. This is being viewed from different standpoints. Firstly, as a violation of human rights as these soldiers punish and beat up erring individuals. In contrast, some people are of the opinion that such discipline is needed to curb the spread of the virus since Nigeria is not ready to handle a large spread of the pandemic.
ME (INTERNATIONAL STUDENT)
Coming from believing it was an Asian virus, to believing Africans were safe, and then believing members of my age grade were safe, until realizing no one is immune, it has been indeed a roller-coaster for me.
I have housemates that I barely see, and it’s funny how we sometimes communicate with each other via sticky notes and text messages. I have learned to stay indoors and avoid getting into contact with others, even though I’m an extrovert.
Despite knowing that America has good health facilities, it’s scary to imagine falling sick because my family members are not around me in case of such an event. For this reason, I work extra hard to stay safe. In fact, I am at the stage where paranoia is the new normal. I wouldn’t want to create more worry for my folks back home.
On a positive note, I have encountered a lot of kindness and love in my vicinity. Even though I haven’t been here for long (this is my first semester), there’s a community of amazing people that are constantly reaching out, sending in food and care packages. There’s also the UCM Campus Cupboard that makes sure we get a regular supply of food while keeping safe, and lecturers who create time to listen to you despite their very busy schedules. It’s amazing how people here selflessly care for you despite having their own family to worry about.
I am indeed grateful to be surrounded by loving people, and derive joy in knowing I can confidently tell my folks back at home that I’m okay. More importantly, I have come to appreciate the things that really matter, such as the beauty of nature, warm hugs, firm handshakes, family gatherings and just getting to smile at random people I meet along the way.