Opinion

How I ended up in Nigeria lockdown

How I ended up in Nigeria lockdown
  • I think I ignored all these signs portending what was to come because I really needed the money that would come at the end of that project.
  • It was alarming, but I comforted myself, saying, after all, what was one week? I’d be back home before I knew it.

On March 21, I left Nairobi for what was supposed to be a one-week stay in Lagos, Nigeria.

Nairobi’s first Covid-19 case had been announced about a week before my travel date.

Therefore, I was somewhat concerned, but I reassured myself that I would have travelled back home before things got worse.

There were all sorts of rumours going round, some about an imminent lockdown, but like many Kenyans, I told myself that it was just one case; how much worse could it get?

I had been preparing for this particular project for three weeks and was looking forward to executing it successfully, and of course making some money to tide me over the looming period of little or no work, considering what was happening internationally.

Countries were instituting lockdowns and many employers had sent their workers home. In a nutshell, their economies were on a downward spiral.

My mum, as any parent would, had tried to dissuade me from travelling at such an uncertain time, her main fear being possible exposure to this little-known virus at the airports, but I was determined to work despite the risk.

As I walked into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, I noticed that some people had worn masks and some even had gloves.

RED FLAGS

I had neither. I also noticed there wasn’t as much human traffic, but I told myself that it was expected given what was happening around the world.

Then, I wasn’t really concerned that I could get infected with the virus; it seemed so distant, but all the same, I had carried in my purse a tiny bottle of sanitiser, which I used every time I touched any surface.

While checking in for my flight at the Kenya Airways counters, the ground crew asked me when I intended to return, and when I told them March 27, they exchanged cryptic looks. That was my first red flag, but I ignored it.

After checking in at the boarding counter, the crew asked me how I intended to return to the country, a question I found strange.

When I asked them why, they just gave me small smiles and wished me well. That was the second red flag, which I, once again, ignored.

At the duty-free shop as I was browsing for perfume, one of the attendants struck a conversation with me, asking me where I was heading and when I would be back.

PURSUING INCOME

She then wondered aloud if the airport would still be open then. Third red flag. I think I ignored all these signs portending what was to come because I really needed the money that would come at the end of that project.

By then, we had experienced a loss of three upcoming projects because the clients were afraid of being exposed to the virus while travelling from and back to their countries. This one that had not been cancelled was necessary.

Amidst the many doubts swirling in my mind, I finally boarded the aircraft. From just a quick glance, I could tell that a majority of the passengers were Nigerians, probably returning home.

It was alarming, but I comforted myself, saying, after all, what was one week? I’d be back home before I knew it.

And so I settled down to my seat, and as we took off, I firmly decided to look at the positive side of things and refuse to dwell on ominous possibilities.

Diana Ndinda is Research Manager, Transform Research Limited. She is stuck in Nigeria, where she has been since March 21