Via Punch: Ebola threatening relationships, social institutions. Excerpt:
Many motorists and travellers on the Lagos-Benin Expressway are familiar with Ohosu, a small community well known for its rows of roadside canteens. Travellers often stop briefly at these canteens to savour the delicacies and other culinary wonders that they offer.
Most visitors are lured to the place by the promise of a delicious meal of eba or starch with banga soup and bush meat.
On a good day, the canteens would be crowded and the diners would have to wait patiently for their turn to be served.
But, last Thursday, familiar crowds of famished and weary travellers were curiously absent. While the aroma of cooking hung heavy and heady in the air, a group of female attendants engaged in a competition of a sort to attract the attention of the few customers that stopped by for lunch.
Our correspondent – who was on his way to Ekpoma in Edo State – settled in one of the canteens, alongside three other travellers: a man and two women. No sooner had one of the attendants approached the women to take their orders than a mild drama ensued.
“What will you eat, madam,” the waiter asked one of the women.
“What do you have?”
“We have eba, starch and banga soup,” came the reply.
“What kind of meat do you have?”
“We have dried cat fish..”
“Is there bush meat in the soup? I hope you have not mixed the fish with bush meat in the soup.”
The second woman cut in then, looking a little alarmed. She said, “I beg you, tell us the truth. I don’t want to die o. There is Ebola everywhere o”.
A little confused, the waiter quietly told the women that ‘bush meat’, in whatever form, had been suspended from the menu because customers were no longer requesting it. The women sighed with relief and relaxed. Afterwards, they talked about Ebola, the deadly virus that is currently rampaging West Africa.
Cloud of fear
The conversation at Ohosu, no doubt, reflects the general mood towards the incursion of the dreadful Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria. One of the immediate consequences of the presence of the virus is that most people, especially residents of Lagos, are living in great fear of the unknown. Everywhere you go, you would find small groups of people discussing this emerging plague in tones that betray their collective dread of the virus.
Barely two weeks after the ‘infamous’ Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, was diagnosed with the virus, a cloud of fear – deep and pervasive – appears to have settled over the entire country. It is fast burrowing into the fabric of society, forbidding intimacies and the gathering of people even in holy places.
Once rated in a UN survey as the ‘happiest people’ in the world, Nigerians seem to have lost their natural good humour and increasingly more people are scared of shaking hands with or hugging other people, especially strangers, for fear of getting infected with the virus.