• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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How sustainable is the new normal?

new normal

The buzz words since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic have been the two words: new normal, depicting clearly extraordinary times the world has found itself. Things don’t seem normal again as human beings grapple to adjust themselves accordingly. Nigerians have since adjusted to the times. Jokes and serious matters centered on the pandemic have been spewed out as Nigerians are wont to do. The new normal has pervaded virtually all facets of life; ranging from economic through technological, educational, political, social, sporting to spiritual areas. Attempts will be made here to examine each area and how sustainable the changes wrought by the pandemic will be in the country, going forward.

Economic arena: Arguably, the most visible impact of the new normal appears to be in the economic sector of the Nation’s life. Save for those rendering essential services, many companies at the inception of the lock down occasioned by the pandemic were shut down. Even those on essential services never had and still do not have the full complements of their staff at work. With the easing of the lock down, many companies now engage in remote work schedules as many still encourage their staff to work from home. Meetings, conferences et cetera are now being conducted virtually.

From the situation so far, it is evident that the economic landscape of Nigeria will never be the same again. Companies shedding weight via job redundancies are now inevitable. Having everybody in the office on a daily basis will definitely be redefined. Interestingly, the new normal with its perceived disruptive tendencies has inbuilt constructive appurtenances. New vista now exists for online traders and technologically savvy entrepreneurs.

Technology: As already indicated in the preceding arena, the new normal has brought in its wake the pre-eminent position of technology in this digital age. Companies now conduct most of their activities online ranging from scheduled to annual general meetings. Opportunities definitely abound for those willing to tap them as the future can no longer be meaningful without technology in its advanced form. Who has ever thought that ZOOM will ever be the rescuer for important meetings?

Education: There is no doubt that the new normal has asserted its full impact on the education sector. All categories of the education sector have been shut down and students and pupils are now on forced and endless vacation, save for those in exit classes in secondary schools that have just resumed for their terminal exams.

However, the pandemic has thrown up the importance of e-learning/distance learning which hitherto has been viewed as something esoteric. Curiously, distant learning has been treated before now as something inferior, especially by the National Universities Commission (NUC).  That impression will no doubt be a thing of the past, post Covid-19 era.

Politics: Though the political arena is yet to be impacted by the new normal even with the pending gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo states, the electoral umpire – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – has started thinking of embracing electronic voting during the 2023 general elections. The electoral body explained that protocols required to keep the pandemic at bay have necessitated the rethink in its approach to conducting future elections. It is therefore very clear that after many years of lukewarm attitude to electronic voting, INEC has been notched by the dictates of the new normal to have a re-think to what has been the clarion call for it to go digital with the times.

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Social: That the new normal has redefined the social lives of Nigerians is to put it very mildly. Weddings, anniversaries, burial activities are now conducted strictly within the dictates of the COVID-19 protocols. Violators in many states have not escaped without dire consequences. Wearing of face masks and observance of social distancing are now the order of the day. However, whether the entire protocol would still be totally relevant, post COVID-19 era remains a matter for conjecture.

Sports: Due to body contacts associated with sports, it became understandably one of the first casualties of the pandemic. As in other countries of the world, many sporting activities are now on hold. Nigerian youths that are usually very boisterous especially on weekends watching football matches across the globe have since been silenced. Though other continental bodies have relaxed their bans on football matches, the body in Nigeria is yet to follow suit. Many other sporting activities are also still on hold, thereby bottling the energies of many Nigerian youths.

Spiritual matters: As emotional as spiritual matters may be, the new normal never spared them. At the height of the lock down, many states suspended worshipping of any kind in both churches and mosques and in its place, online and television worship were instituted. Even with the easing in virtually all the states, the mode of worship has drastically changed; wearing of face masks, constant use of hand sanitizers, observance of social distancing etc. are now the order of the day. How long congregants are to live with the new normal as itemised remains to be seen.

In conclusion, based on the foregoing, it is intuitively reasonable to take the position that major changes will be seen on the economic, technological, educational and political fronts, post COVID-19 era. In other words, what is now touted as the new normal may in fact be the permanent normal. On the social, sporting and spiritual fronts, a likely return to the old order is envisaged, ceteris paribus.

 

Dr. Okolo is a chartered stockbroker and management consultant based in Lagos