A global survey sometime ago stated that Nigeria was the “Happiest Place on Earth”: in a 53-country Gallup poll, Nigerians were rated at 70 points for optimism (by contrast, Britain scored a deeply pessimistic -44). However, many Nigerians are becoming more disenchanted for multifarious reasons, with quite a worrisome many buckling under life’s pressures to commit suicide.
Time was when it was quite unheard of in our clime. But today, you could hardly open a newspaper, tune in to your favourite radio or television station without getting hit by this tragic tale – suicide, “the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.”
The phenomenon is nationwide and cuts across sex, age, social status, religion or education status.
A few cases would suffice to illustrate this point.
In May, 2011 at Okigwe, Imo State, Andrew Uba, 26, reportedly committed suicide over Manchester United’s inability to win last year’s UEFA Champion’s League final match after placing a N100,000 bet on them to beat FC Barcelona.
On July 18, 2011, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain in Lagos, Mr. Al-Mustaim Alade Abaniwonda, killed himself by jumping into the Lagos Lagoon. A senatorial candidate in last year’s general election, Abaniwonda, 56, was reportedly at the time a ministerial nominee who did not make it to the Senate screening.
Also last year, a 29-year-old man, Emmanuel Peter, allegedly committed suicide in the Girei Local Government Area of Adamawa State after medical results revealed that he was HIV positive.
On March 28, 2012 Mr. Olubunmi Olademo, the husband of a university don, was found dead, apparently through suicide, dangling from a tree in the family’s uncompleted building at Oke-Odo, Tanke, Ilorin, Kwara State.
Mr. Onyebuchi Okonkwo, a 300-Level Physics and Astronomy student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was on March 31, 2012, found hanged with an electric cable tied to the roof of an uncompleted building behind the hockey pitch of the Akanu Ibiam Stadium on the campus. Okonkwo was a brilliant student studying on the scholarships of MTN, Shell and that of his community.
Similarly, Miss. Motunrayo Ogbara, a 26-year-old ex-banker in Lagos, was on July 23, 2012 reported to have committed suicide after being allegedly dumped by a lover. A graduate of Economics from the University of Lagos, Ogbara was discovered hanging from the ceiling of her sister’s residence on Allen Avenue, Lagos. She was reportedly depressed and had allegedly made a botched attempt at suicide last year.
In Jalingo, Taraba State, a 30-year-old woman, Mrs. Bilkisi Gidado, committed suicide after her husband reportedly took a second wife. Gidado was said to have set herself ablaze and eventually fell into a well in her residence.
Also in Ajuwon, Ogun State, Tobilola Ajihun killed herself after her long-time boyfriend rejected her pregnancy.
In Katsina, a 36-year-old man, Sabo Lawal, reportedly committed suicide by hanging himself with an electric cable in his house at the abattoir area of the town on July 1. Lawal was allegedly a drug addict living alone since he divorced his wife a few months ago.
A Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Ebonyi State University, Mr. Ronald Oginyi, noted that one could become suicidal if he or she sustained deep stress and that it could also be “one of the manifestations of manic stresses psychosis, which is a kind of mental disorder in the field of psychology.”
According to him, suicidal disposition could also be explained in relation to neurological differences, chemical alterations and other related considerations.
Oginyi observed that suicide was on the rise in Nigeria.
He said: “In contemporary times, things that we are not used to in Nigeria are beginning to happen and even at a very fast rate. Today there is preponderance of suicide in the country, as against what used to be in the past. In the past, suicide was very rare but today it is almost a daily occurrence.
“The factors responsible for this are many. In Nigeria today, research studies suggest that there is high incidence of joblessness, hopelessness, bleak future and loss of meaning individuals attach to themselves. When an individual feels that he has lost meaning, that he cannot achieve anything, that he has failed woefully, then the individual begins to see a situation whereby it is better for him to take his own life.”
The university don continued: “Secondly, some religions propagate the concept of martyr in the cause of the faiths. They say if you die for the faith, you will go to heaven. Individuals who acquire such norm, such belief, such tenets by way of religious inclination might try to actualise what they have been taught. In previous years or decades ago, suicide bombing was an anathema in Nigeria but today it is rampant and used as a weapon of war.”
Oginyi stated: “There is also self-devaluation. This is not far from the first factor. When an individual feels that he cannot offer anything to the society or to himself, then the tendency is that the individual may yearn to take his own life.
“Then another factor is inter-personal crisis, that is, crisis between an individual and others. Such crises include marital separation or conflict, divorce and loss of loved ones through death. These can trigger the urge in an individual to take his or her own life.
“More importantly, there is excessive stress. Excessive stress can degenerate to depression and depression can lead to manic depressive state, which is a mental disorder that could predispose the individuals to take their own lives.”
Oginyi also stated that economic factors could be responsible for the rising rate of suicide in the country.
His words: “Economic instability could do havoc to individuals and our collective life. When people are displaced from their source of livelihood and they look up and down, North and South, East and West without any hope of recovering from such disaster, the tendency for them to become suicidal is very real.”
Also, a Consultant Medical Practitioner at the Psychology Department of the Federal Medical Centre Owerri (FMC), Dr. Chike Francis, stated that suicide rate was on the rise in the country.
According to him, suicide types include assisted suicide, copycat suicide, murder-suicide and para-suicide, among others, which he said could be triggered by frustration and depression.
Francis also attributed the rise in suicide attacks in the country to media publicity given to terrorist actions in the Middle East and beyond.
Similarly, a Lecturer and expert in Social Psychology at the Federal College of Education Kontongora, Niger State, Umar Mohammed Warah, said social frustration could lead to suicide by an individual.
He said when an individual exhausted all aspects of his or her social life, he or she might feel no sense of social security and resort to suicide.
However, Warah said committing suicide pointed to “social maladjustment and is an aberration.”
According to an Islamic scholar, Mallam Mohammed Musa, “Islam is clear about suicide and as such any Muslim that tries suicide or commits suicide has tampered with his or her faith and would be considered as not being a Muslim as a result of the act”.
Also, an Evangelist, Godwin Emmanuel, said Christianity disapproved of suicide.
A Minna, Niger State resident, Mallam Salihu Mohammed, said a teenager who committed suicide near Stadium Road in the state capital last year following a heartbreak was not buried in accordance with Islamic rite because Islam abhorred the act.
According to him, family members of some suicide victims in the state sometimes rejected their remains, preferring the hospitals to dispose them as they wished.
An aviation expert and analyst, Titus Agbo said: “We are not surprised at the spate of suicide in the society, reason being that frustration in the land is becoming unbearable and government is doing very little to cushion the effect of suffering. The twin evils of unemployment and poverty have eroded our value system. There is need to restore integrity in the system”.
According to experts, “there are various treatment modalities to reduce the risk of suicide by addressing the underlying conditions causing suicidal ideation. These include depending on case history, medical, pharmacological and psychotherapeutic talk therapies.
Oginyi said: “One way to do this is through crisis intervention. People should not bottle up their life stresses. People should learn to ventilate the issues involved each time they are under stress. They should stop holding on to hard feelings. They should share concern or fear with their loved ones.
“They should talk to the elderly ones who have seen many tears more than us, who have passed through a lot and will tell you that if you go down the street crying that you don’t have shoes, definitely you will meet people who do not have legs in the first place let alone shoes.”
But Agbo charged the government to establish a social safety net for the masses, tackle the unemployment crisis and set up counselling centres for the vulnerable.