ABRAHAM AJANI - COVID-19 OUTBREAK AND THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY -EFFECTS, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS IN NIGERIA
Covid-19 Outbreak and the Transportation Industry -Effects, Challenges and Prospects in Nigeria
Ada turned off the television—she couldn’t take it any longer. Just on and on over the pandemic. Washing hands adverts and rising figures couldn’t take off what was on her mind.
Before the lockdown, she had travelled to Lagos to see her daughter. Things were not so serious then. Bus prices were still regular and one could hug somebody without much thought. It wasn’t as if she wasn’t aware of what was happening in the country. The virus was just heard but never felt.
She had planned a surprise birthday for her daughter’s twentieth birthday party. Mama wanted to come along, but she couldn’t allow her. Mama was too old. She needed to stay home where she could have rest.
No need to punish her with Lagos toxic pollution and hyperactivity.
Who knows what could happen if her body couldn’t handle it? Ada stocked up the freezer. Gave her the new blankets to cover up if the air was too frigid. She bought extra petrol. She told Mama that Chike, the neighbour next door, could put the generator on for her and to meet him in case of any emergencies. She would spend a week with Chioma and return back home soonest.
“Nne1, go in peace,” Mama said.
She would stay in Chioma’s room for the week. She couldn’t wait to see her only child. Her father had left before she was ten. She and Mama were the only immediate family that she had, and she wouldn’t miss that day for anything.
But now, if only she hadn’t missed that day.
If only she hadn’t boarded the bus. If only she hadn’t left one family member for the other. The night after the mad party—her daughter’s words—she listened to the news and heard words she never thought of.
“Due to the recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Lagos state, the Lagos state government has imposed a lockdown on the state…” the newscaster said.
At first, Ada didn’t understand the direct implications of that statement. If she had understood fully, she would have tried to get home sooner. One couldn’t blame her; she only had an SSCE certificate and had left school for over two decades. For then, it meant more time with her daughter in her self-contain room. It had taken a chunk out of her savings, but she wanted the best comfort for her daughter’s tertiary education.
After two days of eating cake and several Tv2 shows, they finally clicked. Whether it was NCDC’s constant reminder to wash your hands and apply sanitiser or the free text messages that Grandma was not responding to. Ada knew something was wrong with her other family member. It wasn’t a week yet, though.
She tried calling Mama. At least she knew how to pick up a phone call.
“Just swipe the green icon, mama.” Chioma continually taught her. But it wasn’t going through. She called Chike to check in on her, but he said the door was locked. She wanted to call some of her friends also, but they had announced a lockdown even in Rivers. Nobody dared going out without a concrete reason, especially when two hotels had been demolished.
She couldn’t leave her mother alone. She alone had the spare key, and she knew she had to get back home immediately. And that was when the full impact of the lockdown hit her.
She barely managed to get to the bus park. Tricycles and motorbikes were increasing their prices. She approached a bus conductor “Oga,3 where are the buses for Port-Harcourt?”
“Which buses? Don’t you know Rivers is on lockdown also? This buses here are either going to Ogun state or Oyo state”.
“Any other south-south state?”
“Are you entering or not madam? I’ve told you where the buses are going to. Don’t let the police catch me”.
I am done for.
She tried online. Maybe she could order a cab and take her straight home. It might be costly, but it was the only choice now. Life was worth more than money.
“Dear valued customer, we are sorry to inform you that all our transport services are currently shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are concerned more about your safety. Stay safe at all cost”. Every one of them said the same thing. Was COVID-19 this serious?
She even tried the seaport. It wasn’t exactly the fastest way, but it was a way. Before she could even get to Apapa, she had almost been beaten by a police officer.
“Madam there is a lockdown stay in your house. Stop the spread, there are already more than twenty cases recorded. Stay at home.”
She had tried replying him but had to dodge his baton instead.
She had to go back to the room e. Back to the start point.
“Mummy how far, any chance?”
Ada didn’t know what to reply to her daughter. Walking and flying were out of the options. Her limited options were already gone. She had limited money with her. Most of it had gone to the inflated okada4 prices. Would she even able to take care of herself and her daughter at least? Was there anything else she could do to get home? Chike’s line wasn’t even going through again. He probably had his own family to take care of. If things remained like this, there would be zero chance for Mama to be alive.
Tears were rolling down her cheeks.
If there was anything, she could do. If she was in charge, she would remove the restriction on movement and rush home to Mama, but that would be selfish. She knew that much from her SSCE biology that it would spread the virus faster. What she would have needed was Data. Facts. Information. Emergency routes and those that needed to move. A hotline would be opened for complaints. No matter what happened, the channel would be opened twenty-four hours straight and be toll-free. Even “Ma’am we promise to get back to you as soon as possible. Till then stay safe and take care” from customer care could be soothing at least. Transportation would mostly be by cabs stationed in the testing centres. And needed supplies could be dispersed by dispatch riders and those okada riders. At least let the okada riders have some supplies. Their poor families made up most of the Nigerian population. But she snapped out of it.
I am not in charge.
“I don’t know my daughter. I don’t know. All we can do now is pray and comply with NCDC’s regulation. Maybe, just maybe we would get through this”.