Posted by Elizabeth Edozie on May 01, 2020
I greet you from my little cabin which has been my home and office for the last month.    
It is easier to stay at home, when you can go out if you want, but if you are told that you cannot go out, it feels like a prison sentence.   Actually, I am a bit lucky, being in an ‘essential service’, so, I still go out to work.  That, however, puts me on the frontline, but I take all the necessary precautions, and I have been able to avoid the virus.
If there is any moment in our lifetime that can be referred to as a defining moment in history, this is it.  From the beginning of time, mankind has faced various catastrophes, armed conflicts, which have changed the course of history. The generation before us lived through the second world war.
Their own predecessors went through the first world war and the influenza pandemic of 1918.
The Coronavirus crisis has already changed life and livelihoods as we know it. The three main life events we cherish in almost all cultures are now isolated non-events:  Births, weddings and deaths! People are still giving birth, marrying and dying,  but all alone, or at a 'safe distance', redefining the meaning of family bonds and friendship.
A lot of things will also change in Rotary. The growth of online meetings, both at Club and District levels will permanently change the concept of fellowship in Rotary. The teleconferencing that I was pushing since the beginning of this Rotary year is seemingly now essential for Rotary's survival.  Physical meetings, when they resume, will have to intertwine with virtual meetings.
Inevitably, it will be sometime, if ever, before we can sing that chorus, : "Give me your hands my friend, Rotary is Good".   Remember we used to shake hands and sometimes even hug?  Not anymore.  Until the concept of 'social distancing' is relaxed,  the Rotary fellowship meeting, as we know it,  will never be the same again.
Should we have a 'wake' for the handshake?  I do not know.
A masked man used to scare people, but now he may actually be safer than the unmasked!  People are now wary of unmasked men. The fear of the virus is also raising stress and psychological problems.  I see people who are panic-stricken because they have a cough, or had a headache (which now makes it worse).  Those are collateral issues we will live with for some time.
The economic crisis that is developing from this will make you even more scared.  Crude oil, a couple of weeks ago, was actually selling at 'minus' $3 a barrel.  Yes! 'Minus'$3!!! What does that mean?  The sellers are actually paying the buyers to collect the crude oil!  Oil tankers, full of crude oil and looking for buyers.  But nobody is buying.  With cars not moving, airlines shutdown, and factories closed,  nobody needs the oil.   Meanwhile these oil tankers are being rented at up to $250,000 a day!  So, it makes sense for producers to cut their losses and just give away the oil for free to stop paying rent on tankers. 
Nigeria is in a worse position because most of our oil is offshore and we have no storage capacity onshore.  We are boxed in to using tankers.  Not a comfortable situation to be. And when will this end?  We do not know.  The world economy will need to recover for oil demand to pick up.  A vaccine will need to be found, and mass vaccinations done for people to be feel free to engage in productive activities. And the experts are telling us that a vaccine is still about twelve to eighteen months away. 
Airlines will be unable to fly because it is economically unviable to have social distancing in an aeroplane.  That is even if any country will let you in!  
The other worry is the expectation of a 'second wave'  of infections when this phase subsides.  We expect this because it has always occurred in previous pandemics.  Scary isn't it? 
Whichever way it is,  we are in it for the long haul.  So, unknot your tie and relax, it’s going to be a long day.
I have watched happily, the ways you and all members within the family of Rotary have connected with your communities with your actions and your compassion. Clubs through the length and breadth of the District, stepping out to demonstrate 'Service above Self'.  I have never been more proud to be a Rotarian.  
At the District level, we created a special 'District 9110 Covid-19 Response Grant' from funds we have saved from cancelled events and activities. Funds have been disbursed to most of the clubs that met the simple requirements.  And I have been receiving reports of wonderful projects coming from these grants.
We, as Rotarians, also need to do our part to 'flatten the curve' of the Covid-19 spread. For Rotarians, it means protecting ourselves and our families by following all the advisories from our health authorities. For clubs, that may mean holding virtual meetings, and postponing in-person meetings and gatherings until the science and the health authorities say it is safe to reconvene.  To my knowledge, no Rotarian in this District has tested positive for Covid-19, and I pray it stays that way.
That leads me to the inevitable issue of our District Conference. It is obvious that the May 28th date is no longer tenable.  I considered  the option of postponement to June, but I cannot picture a Conference with everyone masked, and where the six feet social distancing is applied. Furthermore, restrictions limiting the numbers in gatherings are unlikely to be lifted by then.  
So, I am, with a heavy heart, announcing the cancellation of the District Conference originally scheduled for May 28th, 2020. 
It was quite a difficult decision, considering the amount of time, energy and money that the District Conference Committee has expended.
They have worked tirelessly, for months, and I thank the Chair, PAG Ify Ejezie and every member of the District Conference Committee for their efforts. 
A lot of funds have been deployed already, but we are taking steps to minimise the losses.
We are already moving to get refunds for bookings of the venues and hotel rooms. Details of the refunds of registration fees etc. are also being worked out. 
We are now exploring the possibility of staging of a 'Virtual Conference' for about the end of June. I have put together a thinktank of IT experts to explore the feasibility and details. I will keep you informed of any developments in the weeks ahead. 
We are in uncharted territory now, and the course of events in this crisis is  unpredictable.  I will be monitoring the evolution of events and will be making pronouncements as it becomes necessary.
On the positive side,  due to the relaxation of some restrictions,  I am announcing the reopening of the Rotary Centre from Monday the 4th of May. Hours of operations will be short, between 10am and 3pm, but that will start us on road back to normality.
These are challenging times, but Rotary has survived worse times.  It helped to keep the society together through two world wars,  and I am confident it will beat this too. In the middle of all these, let us not forget our commitment to eradicate Polio. 
Together, we are United to stay safe,  -
But also, to help others stay safe.
Together, we are United to stay healthy,  -
But also, to help others to stay healthy.
Together, we are United to stay connected, -
But also, to help others to stay connected.
Let us all join hands, keep the Rotary spirit alive, as Rotary Connects the World.