Chikaome Imediegwu (Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria)
I am a young banker with one of Africa’s largest banks in the country and I am an aspiring investor. Few months before the plague got into the country, the FGN Treasury Bill rate plummeted to an abysmal all time low, and this inadvertently caused a similar fall in commercial banks investment rates. Thus, forcing so many investors to pull out their funds to find other viable investments.
Unfortunately, this was no good news for me as a banker, especially since any bank’s major business is to accept deposits and give out loans in order to make income. Losing deposits mean I won’t be increasing income for my company. I resorted to engaging more local businesses involved in importation and encouraged them to run their transactions via my Bank.
An average Onitsha business man could make payments to his suppliers in China for goods worth more than USD150,000 within a month. All I had to do was make their transactions seamless, thus winning their loyalty and building my customer base. It was my next best option for yielding income.
Within weeks of utilising this option, the novel COVID-19 had hit China terribly; cities were shutdown, businesses closed operations, banks restricted international operations. I was back to square one. Going to work those few weeks before the pandemic hit Nigeria began to take its toll on me.
It was depressing. I made it my duty to make calls to my customers reassuring them their savings and investments were safe and there was no reason to panic. The harder part was reassuring myself there was no need to panic.
Come third week of March, Nigeria recorded her first confirmed case of the virus. The government made measures to restrict the spread until finally it was lock down of major cities. This led to the closure of many borders and temporary shut-down for business, while many banks resorted to working with skeletal staff (mostly to maintain the ATMs).
The lock down has been on for three weeks and this has affected many things around me. Not going to work for the first two weeks initially seemed like a deserved break, but there after it began to look like undue punishment. Listening to news about the spread of the virus is depressing. It drains psychologically.
No one can move around freely without meeting several checkpoints on the main road, you’ll have to identify yourself as an essential service provider or you’ll be asked to go back. It is assumed that essential service providers are permitted to carry on business, nevertheless people are still being harassed for coming out to go to the hospital.
Yesterday evening, some young men came out to an open space to play a game of football and halfway through the game a Sienna van carrying a group of SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) officers arrived and harassed everyone home.
The local market woman has doubled the price of every product. How can I argue with her once she tells the ordeal she faced just bringing those goods to sell. Not only have schools been suspended, but continuity is increasingly uncertain.
While I do not underplay the number of people who have been infected by the virus and number of deaths, there’s a huge out-pour of information online (most of it fake news) causing a lot of fear and panic for most people. I had to deliberately tune off some social media channels to protect my mind space.
Protecting my mind space is very important to me because I am aware of how easy it is to sink into wrong fearful thoughts based on what my mind takes in from media. It might be a second view of a headline that trigger thoughts that will affect my feelings and eventually my actions.
Instead, I have decided to dedicate more time and energy to improving myself mentally by reading helpful books, physically by doing some essentially-needed exercise and financially by looking out for investments that have not been drastically affected by the virus. Or indeed that have been positively impacted by the virus.
Dear Reader, I hope you too are being deliberate about all the social media posts and broadcast messages this season. Stick with only really important information that counts.
Find ways of taking advantage of the free time you have on your hand. And as I always say, “This too shall pass”.
I pray God’s peace and protection for us all as we get through this together.