"The community was not her usual boisterous self" - a first glimpse into a Covid-affected rural community in Nigeria

In the past 2 – 3 years, I have had several opportunities to travel to Itagunmodi either to pay a courtesy call on some stakeholders, gather information, or collect data.  Itagunmodi is a rural community located at Atakumosa West Local Government Area, in Osun State in Nigeria, known primarily for the extraction of gold deposit, hence the name City of Gold, albeit the general feature of the community does not depict the name. The road to the community is tarred, curvedly narrow, and descends the hill, making it impassable for two vehicles to drive side by side at the same time.  The trips to this community gave me the pleasure of watching nature at work: the different species of trees and shrubs that dominate both sides of the roads, farmers holding their cutlasses and hoes walking briskly to their farms, and the transporters known as ‘Okada’ (motorcycle) plying the road on high speed while conveying their passengers to the mining sites.  My trips to the community usually take place either early in the morning or in the evening, a period which guarantees that the proposed meeting will take place.

Things had changed within the last couple of months that I last visited. The community was not her usual boisterous self and I wondered what had happened!

Recently, I visited the community in the company of other project members, with the aim of  introducing a new member of the hub to stakeholders in the community, and to collectively inform the traditional ruler of the approaching Whose Crisis Project that will require the participation of members of the community. I assumed that my trip will be similar to the ones I had made in the past years, and I was keen to know how things had been with members of the community during the locked down, and the coping strategies members of the community adopted.

Characteristically, the entrance into the community was always thronged with people, both old and young petty traders selling and hawking, with loud music coming from the various kiosks opened by the roadside. As we drove towards the community, I noticed that the road was not as busy as usual, only two or three Okada riders drove past us. Neither was the entrance of the community clustered as I expected, only a few kiosks were opened when we arrived. Things had changed within the last couple of months that I last visited. The community was not her usual boisterous self and I wondered what had happened!

I wondered why there was a drastic reduction in the populace. We moved slowly towards the house of the community secretary, that is, the right-hand Chief of the community. He was going to act as our host, since the traditional ruler was not available for the meeting. The community secretary was glad to be informed about the Whose Crisis Project and promised to assist any time it starts and to as well relate our message to the traditional ruler.  A closer observation showed that members of the community were not adhering to any of the preventive measures of the COVID-19 virus – no social distancing and no wearing of facemasks! This we plan to investigate further when the Whose Crisis project takes off.