Are Nigerians Good at Social Distancing?

No. They are not. But it’s deeper than that. The concept of keeping your distance from friends and loved ones is opposed to the way that Nigerians are brought up and how our culture lives.

We all love and enjoy the festive period, when streets are alive, villages overrun by guests and goats. Dancing, drinking, laughing and praying, the flavourful wafts of soup and stew linger in the air, families embracing those that have returned from abroad with heavy bags and gifts.

Now imagine this period under strict social distancing and lock-down guidelines. What would it look like? When we greet someone, there would not be a sharp snap that rings out at the end of our energetic handshake and embrace.

No sharing the steaming ogbono soup that used to see 4- 5 hands quickly gliding in and out of the bowl with large pinches of eba. No more parties with packed halls and rooms of people dancing and sweating through the night.

Modified Handshake – courtesy Vanguard

We would be unable to see the beautiful smile and gapped-teeth from our aunties, that is now hidden under a makeshift mask. The normally crowded church pews would now be sparse, large space between the followers. No communion. No peace handshake and embrace.

This type of situation is alien to the Nigerian way of life that even though local governments and police are enforcing social distancing and the lock-down – in many cases it doesn’t work.

Nigerians daily lives are already filled with struggles and hardships and now the layering of these quarantine measures is an extra burden – but an entirely necessary one.

Photo by Omotayo Tajudeen on Unsplash

Nigerians have dealt with disease and other plagues for millennium but this one is different. The way the current COVID virus spreads is scary. A simple hug or shared laugh may allow the microscopic bug to travel home with you and infect your entire family.

So these measures are tough but necessary. They promote good hygiene, frequent hand washing, staying away when sick, and recognizing that our individual efforts can impact others. Keeping each other safe and healthy is paramount right now, and we don’t want to inundate the hospital system.

The Nigerian health system can’t handle the most basic of services for her citizens, so we need to do everything in our power to stop and slow the spread of the virus for all of our sakes. Don’t worry this will pass, and in time, we will be back to the normal way in which we interact and socialize.

Police Enforcement on Public Transport – Getty Images

Our government needs to do a better job easing the suffering and starvation that thrive in a strict lockdown. What do you expect citizens to do when their means of making money and providing food are taken away? Before enforcing a lockdown, have a strategic plan in place to assist the masses with their daily needs.

Food distribution centers should have been established prior, a stimulus package needs to be implemented that injects Niara directly in the pockets of those that need it the most. Instead what do we see? Chaos, brutality from the police, people suffering and dying – this is unnecessary and preventable.

The next few months will be difficult, and pain will continue. We will get through this, and hopefully, the virus will be slowed down and a vaccine available in several months. In the meantime, please stay safe and stay healthy.

Roman Kingsley

Journalist based in the United States and Nigeria, focusing on Real Estate Development and the stories emerging in and around the built environment.


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