I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.
By Morak Babajide-Alabi
These are extraordinary times when nothing seems to add up or make sense. These are times when the thoughts we have never imagined are happening. And strangely they seem to defy solutions. We currently live the days and nights as they come, without comprehending what will come after. History is constructed as towns, cities and countries are on lockdown to redeem humanity. It is an unprecedented situation that the world has found itself, and it is no surprise that strange measures are now put in place for solutions.
Candidly, there is no solution in sight yet. There are projections on eventual solutions, but they are far away in undated years, months or weeks. The world is at the mercy of a virus touted to be deadly than any other disease ever experienced. It is killing in thousands and bringing cities to their knees while world leaders are kept awake through the nights thinking of what steps to take. There were initial arguments that the virus should not be glorified than malaria and the seasonal flu that eliminates thousands (and maybe millions) yearly.
These points are valid, but what stands COVID-19 out is the swiftness of spread. Unlike malaria and the flu, this new virus on the block is not limited to any geographical sphere. No. While malaria is the king killer in tropical countries, and flu only kills in the cold regions. Coronavirus has no respect for geography or weather. The initial unsubstantiated claim that the virus cannot survive in temperate weathers is played down as cases of infection are growing in Africa. In the light of this, and not in any way downplaying the killing power of malaria and the flu, we grasp the reason for the attention given to COVID-19.
The situations in our cities denote war times. These are unprecedented times in world affairs. This game-changer has turned reasoning on its head as we all wonder and guess the way forward. It is fascinating to watch political leaders speaking from both sides of their mouths as the situation has bewildered them and no clue on what the next step would be. Typically, some of them thought they could exult their ways through. But as events unfolded they realised their absurdity and had to retrieve their steps.
Some bid their time in taking decisions, but they soon realised their mistakes. Even the clueless woke up to their senses and listened to the public, screaming for something drastic to be done. The initial confusion brought about by this bizarre pandemic was no assurance to the citizens of the various countries where it first made contact. In retrospect, it is understandable. The rapid spread of the virus confounded even the wisest among political leaders. We were and are still all overwhelmed. These are times you read in history books.
As the virus has thrown a spanner in everything and the world seems to have lost its circumference, individuals are panicking and asking questions. A couple of days ago, a concerned friend asked if this was the beginning of the end of the world. I had no answer for him because my thoughts were also influenced by the images of destruction I had seen in many films. I imagined the apocalypse, and I could relate the current pandemic to film plots and the many dreadful warnings of doomsday preachers. They apprised us of their dreams on how the world would end and predicted that there would be wars all over the world that will thereafter end humanity.
The image of the ultimate destruction of the world is engrained in our heads. We dreamt and heard rumours of wars in the east, in the west, in the north and the south. We have been waiting for so long, but no such thing as the final war that would wipe off humanity. Bizarrely, all the thoughts and plannings of individuals and governments have proved to be off the mark.
The citizens are worried, and their questions are coming in fast and direct. Where are all the arms and ammunition governments have stockpiled for the showdown? Could we utilize them to suppress this virulent virus? Why are world leaders not making sense out of this the way they trade weapons of war? Why are they not launching some of the bombs in their arsenal to wipe the virus off? Why are they not capable of this? They have a track record of wiping off children in war-torn countries like Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya. They retain the reputation of commanding the destruction of lives and properties. Therefore why is an ‘ordinary’ virus engaging in a game with the powerful world leaders? The questions won’t stop, for now. These are interesting times.
But let us be fair to these leaders. For once, some of them have demonstrated unprecedented courage in facing this pandemic headlong. Many western governments have announced packages that will keep businesses running, despite the lockdown. They are supporting employers to retain their workforce rather than lay them off. This is the hallmark of responsible governments. The daily briefings by these leaders are assurances that keep the citizens going. They know their jobs, businesses, etc., with the support of their governments, will survive the pandemic.
It beats any reasoning that African leaders are not announcing any palliative plans for their citizens yet. Some have gleefully ‘pronounced’ the shutdown of schools without any solid plans on how the students would progress with their studies. Take, for example; Nigeria where social infrastructures are epileptic, online tuition would be a challenge. Merely closing the schools is not the solution. You cannot hope to solve a problem by producing a generation of illiterates. I have chuckled hearing the announcements of some Nigerian state governments directing workers to work from home. Work from home? Where are the facilities to operate from home, where electricity is a luxury and internet facility is in the hands of capitalist providers? Did they ponder this through?
The virus has defied logic, and the governors are following suit in their decisions.
In the midst of all these, some soothsayers have been marketing their stuff. The world is teeming of unlearned individuals parading as social media influencers. I read a couple of unsubstantiated claims by some of them, and they are unbelievably cheesy. A pastor claimed that God revealed to him that He released the virus to “teach the world a lesson!. Another said that the US Army developed the virus and let loose in Wuhan, China. As absurd as these claims are, some people believe them. This is the era of social media when illiterates influence the world.
These represent the individuals who are causing the panic that we see in stores nowadays. They are the influencers that have got everyone panic buying and stockpiling. The scenes at some stores are frantic, as buyers scramble to get everything off the shelves and into their ‘bunkers’. I struggle to accept the logic behind the stockpiling. The stores are amassing fortunes as they are shifting a month’s worth of goods in a day. Some unscrupulous traders are also seizing the opportunity to exploit the desperate masses as they hike prices of essentials, like toilet papers. These times will pass.
Let us be undeterred by this virus that has the plans to ruin and wreck. As long as we do our part, maintain the level of cleanliness and stay away from crowded places, and we should be fine. The World Health Organisation (WHO), various governments and agencies have issued guidelines on how to stay safe. We should accomplish our bit in beating the virus to a retreat.
As written for the DIASPORA MATTERS column, Sunday Vanguard, March 22, 2020.