On social media, there is a conversation between the Ugandan UK-based model, Eva Apio, and Nigerian singer Father DMW in which the latter launched into an incoherent rambling.
“Corona cannot enter here. When Corona is coming, it will see nylon on the road it will now talk say ‘this one is not country, it’s a nylon country,’ so it can’t pass it will pass from the up…”
On April 6, the Instagram live between the duo attracted over 50,000 viewers in real-time, a huge chunk of them Nigerians.
Such engagements on social media have become a much sought-after entertainment as Nigerian netizens seek an entertainment outlet amidst the Coronavirus lockdown.
On March 29, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the restriction of movement for “an initial 14 days” in Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja as Nigeria grapples with the devastating Coronavirus pandemic. As of that date, Nigeria had 97 confirmed COVID -19 cases and one death.
12 days later, on April 10, the figure increased to 305 confirmed cases and seven deaths, fuelling rumours of an extension of the lockdown.
Faced with a protracted ‘house arrest,’ Nigerians turned to their mobile devices for welcome distractions.
In the early days of the IG live between Eva and Father DMW, the latter, in his barely literate English, attempted to woo the sophisticated model, and the ensuing melodrama served up a veritable comic relief for viewers. Within days, from a few hundred watchers, the viewership shot up to tens of thousands.
Since the discovery of the index case in Lagos, Nigeria has recorded dozens of death from coronavirus.
As the cases continue to rise, Nigerians become more pressed for avenues to ease the tension.
On Whatsapp, one of the several viral videos show other viral ailments like Ebola, Lassa Fever and HIV/AIDS dragging the Coronavirus before a ‘Disease Chairman.’
“Greatest Nigerian Disease!” The HIV/AIDS virus thundered.
“Great!” The others responded.
“I am by nomenclature, HIV/AIDS, and I represent the Sexually Transmitted Constituency. Mr Chairman sir, I am saddened by the sudden loss of relevance of HIV/AIDS in the scheme of things. Nobody talks about me anymore… because of this useless Coronavirus.”
Another video, this time a Karate session, shows Nigeria, portrayed by the British comedian, Mr Bean, scared stiff of stepping onto the mat to face the trainer who is depicted as Coronavirus.
On Instagram and Twitter, activities such as #bopdaddy, #bopdaddychallenge, #tiktoknigeria, #somethingnewchallenge, #nobodychallenge, #boredinthehousechallenge have kept thousands of users busy as everyone seeks to replicate their own version of the challenge.
“There is no doubt that the social media have come to serve a very useful purpose, for comic relief, for information and for leisure, there is no doubt about that,” says Pius Adejoh, a lecturer in the Sociology Department, University of Lagos.
“Those kind of jokes, there are some you will see and you will laugh and laugh before you know it the day will be over. I agree that some of them are quite good and serving a very useful purpose.”
While the mobile devices are serving citizens jokes on-the-go, they have also served as conveyor belts for fake news and misinformation into millions of homes.
For instance, a news blog circulated a story this week that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control have spent N1 billion on SMS ‘just to educate Nigerians,’ a story that turned out to be fake.
There have been numerous other misinformation, including claims that 5G pipes are being laid all over Lagos and Abuja streets, that Chloroquine has been approved for COVID-19 treatment, and that the medical equipment donated by the Chinese government to Nigeria are infected with Coronavirus.
Mr Adejoh said the quantum of fake news and misinformation have become worrisome.
“Clearly, the social media have become an instrument that could set the nation ablaze, by raising the amount of fake news that people spread,” he said.
“Sometimes, some of those fake news often worsen the psychological and emotional health of the recipients.”
As of April 11, Nigeria has recorded 318 Coronavirus cases, with 10 deaths, according to the NCDC. Another 188 people have died from Lassa Fever.
In recent days, a grieving internet has turned to videos of Ghanaian pallbearers dancing with a casket to Tony Igy’s Astronomia to make funeral events appear fun.
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