Making the most of the lockdown for citizens
These times demand large-heartedness from individual and corporate citizens
Nigerians enter this Monday the first week of the lockdown declared across the country. It commenced on Thursday 26 March in most states. The call is on all citizens to stay home to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
Many issues arise from the near-total shutdown of the civic space. A government order has compelled business and social activities to collapse. Everyone agrees that it is for a good cause, citing instances in countries such as Italy. However, the price for this prize differs from country to country and from one location to the other even in the same country.
We commend the proactivity of most state governments following the unprofessional delay of the federal government. That delay allowed many officials to travel to Covid-19 afflicted countries and to return with the infection that they have now spread across the country. The nation would have to address the irresponsibility of its elite some other time.
A primary concern now is how citizens forced to stay home can make the most of the experience. While they observe social distancing, citizens must remember to ensure there is social caring and social connection. Our culture speaks to the imperative of caring for one another in all conditions.
What can we do? There are many approaches, tried and tested in some climes, that Nigerians can adapt to meet the needs of the moment. The underlying principle is the need to ensure that Nigerians look out for each other in their various communities.
The background is that as the state governments forced shutdowns, not one of them spoke of how citizens would manage the process. Indeed, many state governments forced economic deprivation on small scale operators of many private sector businesses such as transporters, restauranteurs and others who depend on daily earnings. There was no mention of any palliatives.
These times demand large-heartedness from individual and corporate citizens. We need more corporate social investments in the provision of health facilities such as GTB, Access Bank and others have done. We also need the collaboration of philanthropists with corporates to deliver structured assistance to citizens and communities.
Relief funds. Banks, insurance companies and similar organisations should consider alliances with unions to provide relief funds for those rendered out of work by the current measures.
Food banks. We need to cultivate the habit of providing food banks where the poor can turn to for meals. A few entrepreneurs have attempted this in the past in Nigeria. Many high net worth Muslims also practice this as a stipulation of their faith. We now need to go beyond this and create food banks in the inner cities to assist citizens to overcome the physical challenges of the period.
Remote teaching. Many students at primary and secondary school levels rushed home without taking their qualifying examinations. Professionals forced to stay at home should assist with teaching services of not more than 15 enrolees in each case. Utilise the period productively to the benefit of your community and mankind.
Shared infrastructure. Organisations have compelled many knowledge workers to work from their homes. As with the governments, however, many employers did not make any provisions for how such workers can do so. The fact is that many cannot be productive given the failings of providers of power, data and telecommunications as well as costs. We enjoin citizens with a little extra to open services such as data to others through arrangements. Some of these are easier to do within estates and similar closed communities. Dedicated efforts will show the way.
Necessity being the mother of invention, we look forward as a medium to report positive developments and initiatives that communities and citizens would lead this period. Buzz us with your news. Let’s make the most of the challenge.