Lockdown Diary is a limited Zikoko series that highlights the lives and experiences of Nigerians (and Africans) currently self-isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lockdown Diary: Today’s subject is a 26-year-old young woman who lost her job as the lockdown began. The loss of her job, the pandemic, and the lockdown has changed her perspective of life and what she intends to do with the rest of her life.
Friday, 20th of March, 2020.
I’m moving back home today. I live in Maryland, Lagos, because of easy access to work. It was in my plan to move back home, find my own apartment, and relocate. But when Corona happened and the talk of a lockdown started to spread, I decided to move back home. Home is in Magboro, along Lagos Ibadan expressway. Yesterday, my boss told us to start working remotely.
I call a cabman and he helps me move some stuff back home. It’s still the 20th of March and nobody knows what Nigeria is planning. Will there be a lockdown or not? So, I just pack my things. By 2 pm, I am done packing; we leave soon after.
I do some more work in the car. The roads are free, so I get home in an hour.
My parents are happy to see me. They are always happy to see me, even though I come home often. I unpack, take a shower, and continue with work. When my task ends, I type up a report to send to my line manager. I have free time on my hands.
I watch a bit of anime to relax. I spend some time tweeting and texting. I even eat some cake.
By my own standards, it is a good day.
Saturday, 21st of March, 2020.
Saturday at home is like Saturday in every Nigerian home. Wake up early, morning devotion spanning into eternity, house chores, cooking — that order. But I am exempted from some of this. It is a hard-earned freedom. Ordinarily, I would have been forced to join the morning devotion and then gone to slave in the kitchen afterwards. But since I returned from university and made it clear that I don’t like cooking, they learned to make peace with it. It doesn’t mean that I can’t cook, though. I can, and some days I just feel like it and decide to cook for everyone. But not today.
Morning devotion is another thing entirely. My parents attend MFM, and they gave them “Coronavirus Prayers.” Back when we were younger, my father wanted to enforce family devotion. He’d come to our door, knock and say, “Oya come out,” but I never did. Sometimes, my brother didn’t come out too. We dragged it for quite a while. Once, he started yelling and I had to come out and join them. But when I got out, I sat down and didn’t participate in anything. That was when he surrendered. Now, he doesn’t bother calling us. He just leaves us alone.
So this morning, I wake up around 10 am. It’s late, but so what? I do some yoga, grate coconut for tapioca and take a bath. Everybody goes about their business. My father has a farm at the back of the house, and that’s where he goes to. At 61, he is still very agile and hardworking. He is an easygoing man. His own is to ask what you’d like to eat and sometimes make it. My mom is the same way too, but she doesn’t have a farm at the back of the house. One thing she does is yell a lot, and I hate yelling.
They don’t think the virus is as serious as we are all making it to be. And I know that they would have gone out if I were not at home with them. So, I sit them down and tell them that they need to stop going out, and that if the trip is a very important one, then they should wear a mask and carry hand sanitizers. For a brief moment, it feels like I am their parent and they are my children, and I am telling them what to do, protecting from harm as a parent should.
Monday, 23rd of March 2020.
I wake up and start reading manuscripts from work. We have a meeting but some of the team members have issues connecting, so it takes a while for the meeting to start. We have a group chat. Here, we talk about things that are work-related. I keep reading manuscripts. I decide that I will send a weekly report rather than a daily one, because frequent daily reports might get tedious for my line manager.
Around six in the evening, a colleague texts me to ask why my boss removed me from the group chat. I am confused as well, but tell him not to worry that I’ll ask her. When I do, she says she is sending me a mail. A few hours later, I receive my termination letter.
It is brief and cryptic. Something about cohesiveness and a strong team and all of that. I am not bothered. I thank her, and wish the organisation the best going forward.
The first thing I feel is relief. I exhale, and then I lie on my back for a while.
Friday, 27th of March, 2020.
Losing my job allows me to do the things I have always wanted to do. I decide to learn UI, because I have always had an eye for design and I think I am pretty good at it. The only thing holding me back is the fear of failing, but I am ready to fail now. It will only make my victory all the more glorious.
In the days since I lost my job, I have done a bit of self-evaluation. It is one of the things that losing does to you. I know I am supposed to worry about cash, but I do not. Finance has always been a rollercoaster for me. Growing up, we had just enough to get by, nothing extra. Sometimes it feels that way, but working changed and changes everything. I can afford to buy things I want. The best part is buying stuff for my parents; they light up and it makes me so happy. It is one of my motivations for making money. I want to buy stuff they like and want for them.
Losing my job does not change so much. I decide I will spend this time polishing my skills. I register for courses on writing, editing, UI and UX. I decide to learn how to play chess.
Sunday, 29th of March, 2020.
Today is a quiet Sunday. Nobody is going anywhere. My parents are now starting to see how serious the Coronavirus is. Before the pandemic, Sundays came with a bit of activity in our home. My parents would have woken up early to prepare for church. My father is a member of the ushering department and my mom is a member of the watchman group. But this Sunday is quiet, uneventful. We wake up in our separate rooms and conduct our separate businesses. There is not much to look forward to.
My parents move about the house, quietly. I’m sure they miss their jobs. My dad works in a school: Dowen College in Lekki and my mom works in the fire service. My dad stopped going to work after all the students at the college were sent home. My mom, on the other hand, is an essential worker, and so she still goes to work. She does 24-hour shifts — if she leaves home this morning, she’ll be at work till the next morning, after which she gets two days off. She works in the control room, which is where all the calls about fires go to.
By 7pm, Buhari announces that there will be a nationwide lockdown. I look at my parents so I can gauge their reactions, but they do not seem so surprised. It is almost like they are expecting it.
Saturday, April 4th, 2020.
My days have taken on a new, simple routine. I sleep a lot now, and when I wake up, I feel calm and very much in control. In the morning when I wake up, I do yoga or cardio exercise. I do some speed writing, then get on with my day. I eat breakfast, read a few articles, write and take a break to play games. I FaceTime with my friends, read, and try my hands at chess to see how much I have learned.
The lockdown has changed the order of my parents’ lives. My mother especially. She still goes to work as an essential worker, but her shift is no longer 24 hours; when she goes to work in the morning, she returns home in the evening, not the next day. Today though, she is at home, nowhere to go. I feel a tinge of pity for her and wish, for her sake, that Monday would come quickly.
Tuesday, April 14th, 2020
Today, Buhari announces an extension of the lockdown for two weeks. I am on the phone when I come across the news. Again, it doesn’t catch me by surprise, I knew it would happen. In all honesty, everyone can see that Nigeria did not really have a plan to contain this virus, they just did what other countries were doing. Nigeria, my country.
When my parents hear the news, they go out to buy more foodstuffs. I do not go anywhere. I spend the rest of the day thinking of how much change this pandemic has brought to my plans. My plans to get an apartment has been postponed. I am applying for an MFA, but if I am granted an admission, travel might still be a bit difficult. I hope I’ll be able to defer my admission for a year. Everything is now based on hope. It is all we have left.
Being stuck at home during this period has made me realise that the things I want are very much in my reach, but something small can also push them out of my reach. A few months ago, something as easy as going to Ibadan was possible. Now, I can’t even go to a friend’s place. It makes me think about the fact that I don’t want to spend the next few months or even years in an office. I have realised that I want to freelance, travel, see friends, and spend time with them. It’s scary, but I will do it anyway. Death can claim us anytime: it is one of the things this whole lockdown has taught me. We are like grasses that can be pulled out without a second thought. And life will still continue to go on.
Check back every Sunday by 1 pm for new stories in the Lockdown Diary column. If you want to be a part of the series, kindly reach out to me: email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you.