By Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi
Sometime in February, I was having a conversation with someone who wanted me to provide a date in March for an event at which I was meant to be the Guest of Honour. I told the person that I would not be able to give any dates before May. To prove my point, I took out my phone and showed my guest what the months of March and April looked like on my phone. He shook his head in sympathy. I then gave a tentative date in May and advised him to confirm as soon as possible because even May was almost full. I also had chunks of time blocked out for each month of the year for engagements at home and abroad. Then COVAID 19 struck and the world started to grind to a halt. I woke up this morning, and clicked on my revised calendar for March. It was blank, save for a Zoom Virtual Meeting. I opened up my notebook and checked my list of tasks for the day. Just one. ‘Clear out closet’.
Last week, I wrote about being in the US and praying that I would not be stuck there after President Donald Trump announced a ban on flights from Europe. I heaved a sign of relief when the UK was excluded from the initial number of countries, only for me to start fretting when the UK was rightfully included in the ban forty-eight hours before I was scheduled to leave. I got a message from British Airways on my phone and almost panicked before I had even read the message, which was to simply advise me to check in online and look out for further information about my flight. I made it to London okay. My flight arrived Heathrow at 11am in the morning. I had planned to spend the rest of the day and the day after meeting up with friends and family in London and popping into some shops. By the time I arrived in London, the city was beginning to shut down, and was in such chaos that I decided to head back to Nigeria. I tried to change my flight so I could get back to Lagos a day earlier but there were no seats. So, I stayed in my hotel room at Sofitel, Heathrow Terminal 5, right from the time I landed on Tuesday morning till it was time to leave on Thursday. I figured that the cost of paying for room service would be much cheaper than picking up a nasty virus from the restaurant or buffet service, so I ate all my meals in the room. When one of the hotel waiters brought my dinner to the room on one occasion, he told me that Terminal 5 might have to close, and the hotel along with it. He was Spanish, and my heart went out to him to see the fear on his face and hear the worry in his voice.
When I landed at Murtala Mohammed International Airport on Thursday evening, I could barely control my sighs of relief. The airport was hot and unaccommodating as always, but I did not care, I was home. The usual courtesies extended to VIPs of being met by Protocol Officers had been suspended. We all had to file into the immigration hall for necessary checks, and I noted that this was a good thing. All protocol officers had to wait for us at the immigration hall. There should be no allowances for ‘big people’ at times like this. I had already filled out my contact tracing form when I was on the flight. I wrote out my full name, address and telephone number. I gave my own details, not that of an aide. Apparently, many people have given fake contact information on the forms, for fear of being tracked down by thieves and kidnappers. Considering the country we live in, these fears are not unfounded. However, these are trying times, and if there is a chance any of us have been exposed to a deadly virus, we do need to be reached to alert us of the dangers to ourselves and the potential for us to endanger others.
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-Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, First Lady, Ekiti State, is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com