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
I got a surprise call from a long-time friend of mine over the weekend. I considered this a surprise because we have not communicated in so many years. I was taken aback when he introduced himself on the phone. Naturally, the first question would have been “how did you get my number?” But I was too pleasantly surprised to care where he got my contact number from. Moreso, in this lockdown, I was open for communication from any quarter.
Do not blame me though, as the lockdowns and stay at home directives by various governments tend to play games with people’s minds. It is not straightforward to stay behind closed doors with limited physical interaction with the outside world. It could push any feeble-minded person round the bend and make them do what they are not supposed to do. This is an unprecedented time in history and one which we were not prepared for.
We could argue that governments got this figured out – for the virus to be terminated, we need to lock ourselves up. We may say we were given ample time to source our foods, drinks and all that we would need to make ourselves comfortable while we wait for the virus to clear out. It is more or less self-imprisonment. Ask prison inmates what they fear most while serving time. It is the games their minds play on them. Some of them, in descent prisons, result to bodybuilding, and when they are released they look well defined.
The opposite is the case in countries where the general citizens can barely afford basic meals. The prison inmates in these societies reflect the outside world. In 1986, during my intern months at Radio Lagos, I was on the delegation of the Lagos State Chief Justice on a visit to the notorious KiriKiri Prisons. Till date, I have wished I could banish the pictures of the visit away from my mind. The inmates, some of whom were pardoned on the day, were skeletons, with no strength to stand straight. They were more concerned with survival than the thought of bodybuilding. I guessed the society could not bother with them as it passed what was left over to them.
In this era, we have to get inventive to beat boredom. It is not an easy task to stay behind doors while all we behold on television and listen to on the radio are images and news about the virus that got us locked up. It is depressing because while we are encouraged to practice social distancing, the virus keeps invading our personal space. We merely cannot get enough of it.
No matter where you turn to, the topic is COVID-19. They are depressing stories – no vaccines in production yet, the number of expected infections and deaths, the 5G angle, etc. We wake up and go to sleep with the virus. The media make the most of the information as they move coronavirus to the main headline news.
What we have right now is information overload. It has gone from awareness and what to do to prevent the spread to scaremongering. There is no disputing the fact that education could help in halting the spread of the virus. The governments and the World Health Organization (WHO) embarked on comprehensive enlightening campaigns. Basic hygiene becomes lessons for every individual, no matter their age. We have gone back to the basic to defeat this evil virus. We have to relearn how to cough (on our sleeves), sneeze into tissue paper or handkerchief and also wash our hands for at least 25 seconds.
Everywhere you turn to; there is a myriad of people professing to know so much about Coronavirus. From Central Africa to the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, there are different shades of analysts. They invade our privacies, compounding the issues with their incredible opinions. They made it worse as health agencies bicker among themselves on trivial matters, like the use of masks. Take, for example, WHO believes that the mask should exclusively be worn if an individual is ill or caring for someone who is sick. This is contradicted by some health organisations campaigning that the mask should become part of our fashion detail to curtail the spread of the virus.
Some world leaders confuse the issue rather than assist them. President Donald Trump of the United States of America rushed to announce hydroxychloroquine as the solution to Coronavirus. He could not wait for the approval of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). I learnt some of my compatriots in Nigeria were admitted to hospital for “quine-abuse.” In the United Kingdom, the test requirements keep changing from day-to-day, as citizens (including key workers) lose their lives.
It is worse on social media where there is a competition between nonentities and ignorant people. These two sets are struggling to outdo each other in the dissemination of inaccurate information. They pass off non-intellectual personal opinions as authoritative and thereby causing more confusion on the COVID-19 situation. It is incredible how these posts are shared among the public that they practically become official information in some quarters.
I have seen a few of these posts and I reflect on what the motives for the compilation of the information were. Astonishingly, people are sharing them in large numbers and causing them to go viral. Strange days we are. Information that is gone astray.
WHAT IS IT?
If there was a story or information I was thrilled to share last week, it was the heartfelt cry of a Nigerian lady. I came across the video clip of this middle-aged woman on social media, lamenting the state of her country. I was drawn to her in the first few seconds of the clip as she was unlike other publicity-seeking clips that are shared on social media. Her face was devoid of makeup with no air about her.
She was emotional that the giant of Africa, Nigeria, lacks the essential infrastructures that should make life a bit bearable for fellow citizens. Her dominant grouse was that the Nigerian government placed the country on lockdown, with no provisions for the citizens to bear the inconveniences. She lamented how citizens live without electricity as stockpiled foods go to waste. The rawness in this woman conveyed the feelings of millions of Nigerians. Her frustration represented the reflection of fellow citizens. She was just a mouthpiece to deliver the message.
Her anger was pontificated by “what is it?” She said this quite a few times to convey her disappointment. The “what is it?” was her way of demanding fairness from the leaders. She asked, “what is it” that hinders Nigeria, several years after independence from providing stable electricity? She demanded: “what is it” that prevents the leaders from thinking straight? “What is it” that forces the hearts of the leaders to be wicked towards the citizens? She did not have to verbalise the questions, but we heard them.
The question is, do these leaders ever think of “what is it” that has steeled their hearts towards the people that elected them? Do they need asking themselves “what is it” that has turned them monsters? They should be asking each other “what is it” that has blinded them from seeing the plight of fellow Nigerians?
And you wonder “what is it” that makes it difficult to share the COVID-19 money without political undertone? Nigeria, “what is it?” Next week I will tell you what my friend feels it is.
As written for the Diaspora Matters Column, Sunday Vanguard, April 5, 2020.