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The lockdown and family bonding

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COVID-19 has locked us all in. it has forced families to live together as they never did before. It is unlike the long weekend holidays. Then you could still drive off to the club. Take a beer. Eat some good food. Chat with friends. And return home to an exciting or boring partner. This time, we are all stuck. No clubbing. No church services. No parties. COVID-19! It has revealed, it is yet revealing things. It has confirmed certain things too. It has destroyed some mountains; mountains built over the years. It is building still for some. Those in the big cities who never had time for each other, for the kids. Now, time has been frozen. In biblical terms, like in Mount Gibeon, COVID-19 has commanded the sun to stand still. For people of faith, God will do wonders. And what we see today will never be seen again. What was lost can never be regained. Lies have been shattered. Eyeball to eyeball we have confronted the truth about ourselves, our families and our lives. Sometimes, at great cost! 

Of course, the lockdown is a bag of mixed blessings. Lagos daddies are compelled to stay at home and feel the kids. No more rushing off by 5am. No more coming late because of traffic. For four weeks in the locked down cities, there is no complaint about heavy traffic. The cars are asleep. The mechanics are home. There is no cash coming in. Food consumption is high. The kids must eat three square meals, snacks between meals. It is no time to push them to mom. Dad must do his duty. For four weeks, they must wake up and see each other, one another. There is nowhere to go; no need to go. So, we must live together. 

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No more excuses about meetings, about deadlines about travels. What has it made of you? What has it made of me? For some, it is a reminder of their mortality. How temporary things are. How ephemeral the glamour of the world is! That expensive dress or suit or silk material bought with millions of naira has become worthless. No need for them. In the face of an unknown, unseen enemy, what will an apparel do? And I remember the morality play Everyman written in the late 15th century and how ultimately it is the virtues of life that count. When the eponymous character Everyman is summoned to the other world, it is only the positive aspects of life that accompany him. Wealth and Goods all disappear. They are worthless in the final analysis. They are baggage to salvation, to our humanity.

COVID-19 has created fear too. Is the end of things near? Some charlatans have seized the day to feed rubbish to their followers. End time. Mark of the beast. The coming of Jesus Christ is around the corner. Bill Gates is an agent of darkness. Such foolish talk from the tongues of those who ought to know better! Coronavirus is not killing people. It is 5G network. It is an attempt to impose one government on the world. It is an attempt to stop God-worship. If these fear mongers had their way, huge congregations would continue to meet and worship, damning the hard realities which confront us. The tithes and offerings are more important than the lives of followers. ‘For the leaders of this people cause them to err’, so says the bible, ‘and they that are led of them are destroyed’. In Plateau State mobs chanted war songs and declared that they would rather continue worshiping and die. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia which maintains all the sacred places for Islam has frozen congregational worship.

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COVID-19 has also revealed the inherent weakness of the system that we operate as a government. There is no decent structure to deal with everyone. Hunger is real among the ordinary people. It is more terrifying than the dreaded virus. The virus appears distant. But to wake up in the morning with nowhere to go or what to do for four weeks is trying. Our leaders have failed to generate reliable data through the decades. The culture of false population figures that struggles to put one side of the country ahead of the rest has counted against us. Illiteracy and poor access to modernity is also a problem. Else, with the stroke of a pen all citizens of a certain class or age would receive credit alerts, courtesy of the federal government.

As hunger rages, some dads are denied their masculinity. They cannot provide food. The kids know no lockdown, food must be on the table. You don’t have money daddy? Yes, there is no money. Please go to the bank and take money. You get to understand the kids and the kids get to understand you too, may be! In times of extreme hunger, the children cannot bond with parents. The kids will be angry. Angry with a failed father. A husband who is unable to feed his family cannot bond with his wife. So, the situation is complex. Patience and understanding are some of the first casualties of a relationship once certain basic needs cannot be met. Especially so for young couples. the fear of COVID-19 has prevented from going out there to ‘hustle’ a living.

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I am sure dead certain that victims of savage domestic abuse will not agree with the thesis of this essay- the lockdown as a time for family bonding. They have entered a period of being left alone with a savage husband or a cantankerous and henpecking wife. Locked inside a house for twenty-four hours, all the ‘faults’ of the other person become magnified. Of course, we know that domestic abuse is not caused by the victim. It is the weakness of the aggressor. Kids are at the mercy of savage guardians. Wives too! And perhaps daughters! Reports from the UK show a spike in the number of persons calling for help since the reign of coronavirus started.

Well, I’d rather stress the positive aspects of the reign of King COVID-19, that scourge which has humbled giants. Families ought to use this opportunity to pray together, eat together and share experiences with a view to bonding. That way, we would come out of the period stronger and closer. If we achieve this, we could claim some victory over the terror that is (that was) COVID-19!

Finally, to help proper bonding the federal and state governments should wake up from their inertia and provide massive assistance for the people who have been asked to remain indoors. Food. Cash transfers. Prompt payment of salaries. Life of immobility is stressful to a man who has everything to eat and drink for a month; for a family with nothing to eat, there will be nothing but anger, sorrow and defiance. It is for this reason that I urge the police authorities to release the woman who appeared to be the arrowhead of the protest in Sapele Delta State last week.    
Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393 or heghagha@yahoo.com

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