Lockdown Innovations 

Lockdown Innovations 

Saturday, May 23, 2020 10:22 am

Justice Mojisola Dada of Lagos High Court delivered her judgment virtually on 4 May

Here is how people and organizations are surviving the lockdown

By Richard Elesho

The service was brisk, brief and smart. No ritualistic preambles and time consuming mannerisms like ‘hug your neighbour; ‘Shake at least five persons’; ‘Greet someone with a handshake’; ‘Hold somebody and pray for him or her.’ Even offering was regulated to one person per time. It was unaccompanied by those rib breaking dances and often crowded parades.

The sitting arrangement maintained social distancing. Announcement and homily came almost  simultaneously. Minister in charge announced an indefinite postponement of a wedding earlier scheduled for May 2nd because of the Covid-19 outbreak. He assured the mask wearing members that the “work of the Lord must go on and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That was Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA, Gospel Church Lokongoma Phase II, Lokoja in the thick of the relaxed lockdown measure to contain the pandemic.

It is beyond debate that these are perilous times and very difficult to deal with. The Coronavirus, also eloquently christened Covid-19 is ravaging the globe and enforcing fundamental changes in the affairs of men. Things are no longer the same. Birthdays, burials and weddings marked with lavish owambe parties have become extinct. Humanity’s new arrivals – quarantine, isolation, lockdown, curfew etc don’t allow for large gatherings of people.

The Coronavirus is an efficient crowd disperser. With the restrictions placed on large congregations, society has evolved new ways of life. Modular weddings, video conferencing, radio learning, WhatsApp and Facebook teaching are innovations to cope with the new challenges. Information and communications  technology now hold the key to social engagements. Many couples after making grandiose wedding plans, announce a postponement of the ceremony till a more auspicious atmosphere returns. Others opt to go ahead under strict and austere conditions.

Olawale Bakare is in the latter category. He shall entertain no cancellation or postponement of the date he has long picked for his wedding. Instead, with the partial relaxation of lockdown the wedding will still hold as scheduled on May 9th. Bride price or engagement will strictly be a family affair. The couple and four witnesses, all enmasked will then proceed to the marriage registry to sign all relevant papers.

Thereafter, words and pictures about the just concluded affair will go out to family members and friends. Reception follows at a later date. “I am going ahead with my wedding. People need not bother to take unnecessary risks about travelling and attending. I understand. They should also bear with me. By the Grace of God, reception will follow when normalcy returns.” He told TheNews.

As weddings were being postponed or regulated so were burials and interment of the dead. The pandemic met several corpses in the mortuaries awaiting final funeral arrangement which in many cases are outlandish. A businessman Oludare Iyanu lost his Lagos based father in September last year. He and his sibblings resolved to keep the corpse in the mortuary till April 16th a date set for his burial and a celebration of his life.

The total lockdown declared by President Muhammodu Buhari in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun State however prevented the ceremony from holding. Eventually, the Lagos State Government issued an ultimatum to decongest the mortuaries in the State. Governor Sanwo Olu directed that corpses which were not removed for immediate interment within two weeks will be given mass burial by the government. Iyanu complied with the order. The ceremony was witnessed by ten persons made up of family members and the clergy. Again, the family said a befiting reception will be organized in memory of the departed old man after the disease outbreak has ended.

Technology has driven most innovations to cope with social-physical restrictions. Video conferencing are adopted as a veritable substitute for meetings. For instance Vice President Yemi Osinbajo held critical meetings with certain stakeholders using the platform. Similarly, the Kaduna State Governor, Alh. Nasri El-Rufai held several meetings including the regular weekly Executive Council (EXCO) through teleconference when he was in isolation for contracting the deadly virus. He was isolated for about a month before he tested negative twice for the virus. Lagos State Judiciary on Monday, 4 May held its first virtual court session to deliver the judgment of one Olalekan Hameed who was sentenced to death by hanging. Justice Mojisola Dada of Ikeja High Court delivered the verdict during the virtual session via the Zoom app.

With the closure of schools across the country, education has been one of the worst hit sectors of the economy. Innovations in this sector vary. Some states like Kogi has introduced radio teaching and learning for Primary and Secondary School students. The radio lectures which are broadcast on the State Radio, cover all subjects. Each subject teacher is alloted 15 minutes per day and students are encouraged to hook up to the program. Most private schools have introduced an adaptation through social media learning. They hold lectures on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Religious organizations have also been utilising technology for their activities. At the onset of the pandemic and the ban on religious gatherings church leaders devised new ways of attending to the spiritual needs of members. One of such was Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG. He encouraged members to hook up to live television for church services. Other churches encourage members to join services via WhatsApp.

There are other snappy ways of surviving the times by religious bodies. Many churches now encourage small congregations tagged ‘home cells’ or ‘house fellowships.’ Offerings collected at such fellowships are forwarded into the parent church accounts. In a related development some churches position offering boxes strategically in the auditorium or outside it. Members randomly walk into the church for prayers and drop their offerings as abled. Members of more stolid groups pay into the group’s account via POS, transfers and similar channels.

Two twin major side effects of the economic lockdown are hunger and boredom. Various palliatives from governments at all levels and few chartiable and wealthy individuals are silver linings that help indigent families cope with hunger. The Conditional Cash Transfer under the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme, SIP have assisted it’s few beneficiaries with a pittance. The scheme is designed for the most vulnerable in society. Beneficiaries receive a monthly stipend of N5,000 each. Some political office holders and a privileged few also distribute food palliatives to those in need.

The welfare units of many religious groups have also risen to the occasion. Agnes Micheal a single lady and member of a new generation church in Lagos disclosed that the church had greatly assisted her with food items and a little amount of money to cushion effects of the lockdown. Similar testimonies are commonplace in other congregations.

Lockdown naturally breeds boredom. Some outdoor sporting activities like football on which people would have diverted their energies are also outlawed because of the number of participants. To fill the gap, many people have reinvented old habits of playing indoor games. Games like traditional Ayo (awake on computer), Chess, Draught, Scrabble, Monopoly are regaining potency among men. Ludo, Ladder and Snake, Cards among others are popular among women. The youth direct their vast energy playing Electronic games like Play Station and Nutendo to kill boredom.

-How do you or your organization cope with the lockdown?


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