This is the only word that crosses Nzuchika’s mind whenever she thinks of the quick spreading pandemic.
Never in her entire life has she seen such confusion, fear and panic on the faces of people all over the world. It is as though an enemy has sneaked into earth leaving people scrabbling for survival. But then, how does one fight an invisible enemy?
Uncertainty hangs in the air even thicker than the clouds themselves. The only fact known is the beginning of an end nobody can predict. What remains more uncertain to Nzuchika is the abrupt closure of schools, markets, companies, hangouts spots and religious centres.
The new world order looks like something from those science fiction movies she had seen in the past. For Nzuchika, this reality is less real than it is true. It just hasn’t settled yet in her mind and in most persons.
Suspicion is written on the faces of strangers like a question mark. Everyone is a suspect. A potential carrier of the enemy but who knows. In Nigeria, it is easier to take the precautionary measures on personal hygiene but tougher when it comes to social distancing.
While people bump into each other on busy main roads, press the buttons on the ATM machines with their bare hands or squeeze themselves in the front seat of an taxi, they silently pray the next person isn’t infected.
Nzuchika can easily tell this because of the attitude of those who are seemingly more educated about the Covid-19. It is how they go about wearing hand gloves and face masks incorrectly or rubbing different kinds of hand sanitizers on their palms. They look like the saints in a holy gathering, keeping to every commandment but then fear is clearly spelt out in their actions.
Today as Nzuchika sits at the back seat of a cab with two elderly women, she ponders on how impossible to use a public transport and not have body contact with the next person. She currently cannot afford a private car so she has to take the risk.
During the drive, Nzuchika pays close attention to the radio as the presenter gives the latest updates about the virus and the state of the nation. The headlines go from tons of death in Italy and America, and then from one shutdown to another in the different Nigerian states. This seem to spark a discussion between the two women. They converse in fluent Igbo and little Pidgin English.
Nzuchika listens with rapt attention as they talk about their ordeal, each sharing their dissatisfaction with the government order to shutdown markets and all public places.
“No be wetin person sell them go use chop? How people go survive if them no fit find their belly?” the one close to Nzuchika snaps.
“My sister, all this stock up, stock up them they shout, which money person go use buy correct thing keep for house? That one mean say no hope for poor man for this country,” the other chips in.
For the first time, the gravity of the pandemic in the lives of common people in the society dawns on Nzuchika. The harsh truth becomes even more glaring. Some people are actually starving! Her heart sinks with pity as she tries to figure out how they feed daily.
She watch the women talk about their helpless children and how this period is unfavourable for their business. It is the stress lines drawn across their foreheads, the desperation in their voices and pool of tears that now cloud their eyes that further reveals a part of Nzuchika to herself.
All along her concern revolved around her career and the trips she had to put on hold due to the pandemic. Never for once did she look passed herself.
As they alight from the taxi, she offers to pay the transportation fare for the women and makes a commitment to support any project with intents to help the less privilege. She hopes that soon policies will be made in benefit of those at the bottom of the pyramid.
But for now, she will focus on the giving aids no matter how small.
Written by Jennifer Chioma Amadi
IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER!