This past week marks the end of four months since Uganda went into the anti-corona virus lockdown. Even though there has been a partial lifting of the lockdown, things have not been the same. And maybe they will never be the same again. Some parts of the economy are still off limits and it is evident that many ordinary people are struggling. Because of these struggles, we have stopped taking precautions like we used to do at the start of the pandemic. We do not obey the edicts of government and we have gotten bored with the status quo. If you are not reaping from the pandemic, you are probably pushing for opening up everything while those who are reaping from it are fervently praying that the status quo continues!
Like in all matters relating to life, there is more than one side to everything. The emotion that mainly drives whatever we all do is the need to be happy, whatever that means. We work very hard towards achieving that state of happiness. As we achieve one milestone after another, we believe that we are achieving our desires. But the human condition is never satisfied. It wants more and more. What struck me then in our elusive hunt for happiness (and in the context of the pandemic) is that we have forgotten how to be grateful. Under the circumstances, there is a lot we can be grateful for.
First, as a country, we have been spared the worst horrors of the pandemic. Every day we hear of people dying in foreign lands. We see on our screens (for those who have that privilege) people struggling on ventilators, laying in hospital corridors and some even apparently dying in the streets. Thus far we have been spared these horrible scenarios, even with doomsayers foretelling what is coming upon us Africans. Just for being spared the worst effects of the pandemic, we ought to be grateful. That is why, in the words of one writer, “ … to say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.” Many others have not been able to share in our luck. So why not count our blessings in a cruel and uncaring world? Many have not made it this far and a few more may not make it. Having come thus far means that there is indeed something singular we can be grateful about – life.
Secondly, even for some of us who have made it thus far, personal health and finances may continue to be a challenge but we have not experienced the extensive horrors of starvation. Yes many are struggling to keep body and soul together. Businesses have been lost or will be lost. Homes will be jettisoned by the banks and earthly possessions lost, either as a result of the poor economy or lockdown. If you still have a roof over your head and three square meals a day, then you ought to be grateful. Recent economic surveys show that more than 60 per cent of Ugandans cannot afford these three decent meals a day and are, therefore, malnourished. To have been spared complete starvation is another reason for us to be grateful.
A third reason for us to be grateful, even if in a perverse kind of way, is that 2021 which is an election year comes with all forms of inequity including violence, vote rigging and all those things that happen around elections. In Africa, we usually know the outcome of these elections but somehow proceed to expect an unrealistic alternative. Now that the Electoral Commission has declared that we shall have a ‘scientific election’, hopefully we shall see less violence and death. It is not the ideal situation but, we could ask for much more and the gods could oblige us. Usually, to those whom, much is granted, much is also expected.
Samuel Sejjaaka is Country Team Leader at Mat Abacus Business School. Twitter @samuelsejjaaka