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.
The subject of today’s lockdown diary is a 21-year-old university undergraduate who is forced to stay with her family during the lockdown. There is no assurance of graduating this year and her family intrudes on her privacy. She is thinking of running away from home.
14th of March 2020
I just got off the phone with my mother. That is the third time she has called me in the last 2 hours. Is there some kind of emergency that warrants such incessant calls? No, there isn’t. She simply wants me to come home. I attend Nasarawa State University, Keffi. Some days ago, ASUU embarked on one of its infamous nationwide strikes. A two-week warning strike they called it. But we know better. It is ASUU, after all. ASUU of the endless strikes and disruption in academic activities. After it was announced, a lot of students were excited. We were in the middle of a really difficult semester and we all needed an opportunity to chill out. Besides, we were to write a test in our toughest course — Syntax. Given the strike, we wouldn’t have to write it for a while. My coursemates excitedly packed their bags (really big bags) and left for their homes.
I live off campus. We are just four in the compound: myself, my friend Ani, and two other ladies. These ladies weren’t pleased. One is a 100 level student, the other is a seamstress who works from her apartment. Keffi is basically a student town. Once school is not in session, the town becomes a ghost town. At least most of it. A strike means most students will go home and the town will be empty and unsafe. It is also bad for business. She did not like the idea at all.
I’m in 400 level, and so after the excitement of not having to write the test wore out, the next thing I thought of was graduating this year; I know how mad ASUU can be.
When my mum calls me today, it is just me and Ani left in our compound. Mercy has travelled; she said her mother called her home. The seamstress packed some things and went to stay with a friend, still in Keffi.
Ani leaves later on when her mum tells her to come home. I have been a little sick the past few days and with the recent entry of COVID-19 into the country, I have been excessively worried. It started as an itchy throat one night and metamorphosed into a fever and a dry cough. I went to the school clinic and the receptionist received my hospital card without wearing gloves. I was worried for her. The doctor said it was malaria and I didn’t believe him.
A lot of people here don’t believe that Coronavirus is real or valid. Before I left, my salonist said he doesn’t believe it can touch him. He believes it’s if you believe something that it will affect you.
A few others believe it is fake too. Nobody is taking any precautions, even though it has been all over the news. The belief that Coronavirus cannot survive in hot regions might have aided this belief. Keffi is hot. Very hot and dry. And I mean that socially as well. It is not a very educated town either, even though it houses the state’s university.
Anyway, I have to go home tomorrow. I am dreading every moment of it.. I’ll be on the first vehicle to Jos tomorrow morning.
16th of March 2020
As expected, I already hate my stay at home. My health has improved significantly but I still feel fatigued. I can only be out of bed for 10 minutes at a time before the bouts of weakness and tiredness hit. Because of this, I lay in bed all day and pretend to be asleep when anyone walks into my room. My brother has been doing his best taking care of me but I don’t like the attention. I’ll prefer it if you just drop the food and leave.
I don’t like interacting with people. I like to be by myself, minding my own business and not having to answer unnecessary questions. In school I can spend an entire weekend locked in my room and my neighbors would think I traveled, because I wouldn’t even open the door to anyone who knocks. Enjoying my own privacy is something I love. But this is impossible if I’m at home. I have to interact, and I hate this.
I also hate being told what to do. And being the last born, all I ever hear is people telling me what to do. Then there’s my brother who is always trying to show me a meme or video he found on Instagram. Sometimes he just positions himself in my room, and I hate this.
And yes I have to cook with my mother sometimes. Most times, I would be in the kitchen and suddenly it turns into a gisting session. My brother comes and sits in the kitchen. My mum is usually doing one or two things, so everybody is in the kitchen at the same time. The kitchen is roomy; it can take all of us at once.
My other brother is always in his room so he’s hardly a problem. He’s the first born so everybody lets him do whatever he wants. Usually I cook or do chores with music on. But once they crowd into the kitchen, I have to turn the music off. I hate this. I’m mostly listening to Jhené Aiko’s album Chilombo. I don’t think I’ve sat in the living room for more than 10 minutes. Except for devotions or something.
23rd March 2020
Unbelievable! I’m stuck in Jos. Stuck at home with my family. ASUU’s warning strike was to be over today. I had planned and was ready to leave for Keffi today when my mum entered my room and asked,
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to school. ASUU’s strike is finishing today.”
“Madam you are not going anywhere. Can’t you see that the number of confirmed cases is increasing? If you go and catch Corona in that town, who will take care of you?
I am not having it. I have to leave this house today. But my mum isn’t having it either. She tells my brothers to keep an eye on me and phones my other brother in the US and asks him to talk to me. I want to cry. What sort of nonsense is this? This is not how or where I planned to spend my lockdown. I had already envisioned the bliss of being all alone in my apartment in Keffi, literally just eating, sleeping, watching movies and reading good books. Instead I’ll be in this stupid house with all these people who have no respect for privacy. I am so frustrated, I want to cry.
30th of March 2020
Today I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I am moody and upset for no reason. I just want to be alone and scroll through Twitter and Pinterest till I get hungry. I don’t want to see anybody or talk to anybody. I don’t like having to interact with anyone when I don’t want to. I know you might say that this is my family but it still makes no difference! They’re still people who get all up in your space and don’t understand why you want to be left alone.
I think every child has made plans to run away from home once or twice in their lifetime. I’m 21 years old but here I am thinking of running from home today. The number of confirmed Corona cases is climbing drastically but I’m not bothered; Jos is still safe. I really need to leave this house.
Mumsy comes banging on my door and asking me to go make breakfast. But these boys are not kids, they can fix something up for themselves, I grumble inwardly. When I’m done she asks me to bring out tomatoes from the fridge and blend in order to make stew. What nonsense is this? Why do I have to slave away while my brothers sleep till noon?
What’s worse is that as I finally settle into my room with my earphones plugged in, my brother comes in and tries to gist with me, sitting comfortably on the chair in my room and chatting on his phone. Why on earth is he here? Did they really plan to drive me crazy?
The only reason I’m still in this house is because my charger got spoilt so I have to share a charger. Once I figure out how to get a charger, I’m leaving. For real.
29th of March, 2020
Today, Buhari announces a nationwide lockdown. We watch his speech on TV. There is no light so my brother puts on the gen. My room is right next to the living room so I just listen in from my room.
We already knew a lockdown was unavoidable. In fact since I got home from school I haven’t gone out at all. Not even once. My mum strongly discouraged it. My elder brother used to go out every evening, once he returned, she usually scolded him mildly and asked him to go straight and take his bath and dump his clothes appropriately. He never did this.
It’s hard to say what the situation is like in Jos, because I don’t go out. Regardless, I hear cars actively passing on my street. Besides, the lockdown is for Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, not Plateau State, so nobody is necessarily bothered.
Life goes on almost as usual. People like my family who do not really have any business outside, stay indoors. But we always hear the sound of cars passing outside, so I know that not everybody is staying home.
16th April, 2020
On the 2nd of April, our governor announced a two-week lockdown. It was said to be a preventive measure, a means of reducing the chances of the virus getting into our state, since almost all surrounding states have confirmed cases. The day the lockdown in Plateau began, no car passed on my street. It was awfully quiet.
I have a cat who is potty trained, so I have to change the sand in the litter box about twice a week. There’s a farm right across from our house (I don’t know who owns it) where I usually go to empty the litter box. As I stepped out, I was scared that I would get arrested because I had heard a lot of stories from Lagos. I ran out and ran back in.
Basically Plateau people complied with the lockdown pretty good.
After two weeks of total lockdown though, the governor relaxes it for the weekend. I’m very much an introvert but this news excites me. I am tired of dealing with my family’s madness. Today I’ll be meeting a new friend I met on Twitter. For context, I have a boyfriend, a best friend, and about 3 ride or die friends. What this means is that even though I am an introvert, I do actually have friends and a social life. Besides, Ahmed seems fun; what could possibly go wrong?
I meet Ahmed and he’s a really nice guy. I enjoyed the meeting a lot. . But now I’m back home to these people I’m forced to live with every day.
As soon as I enter, my mum makes me take my bath even though I try to tell her it isn’t necessary. She makes sure I lick 4 vitamin C tablets as well.
I saw a post on Twitter saying introverts must be having the time of their life. We’re not! My mind screamed out. The entire point of being indoors and isolated from the world is defeated by the family we have to live with. We’re not having the time of our lives. Don’t be fooled.
23rd April 2020
Today is my birthday. I am now 21 years old. You want to know what is interesting about this? Plateau State records its first confirmed Corona case today. What a birthday gift. As the number of confirmed cases nationwide reach 1000, I know that I’m doomed. No hope of returning to my own house anytime soon. No hope of graduating this year. Meanwhile my rent is wasting. I just might run away after all.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.