Aniebo Nwamu

Suicide Is Never A Good Option

By Aniebo Nwamu

Appalled by the risi­ng rate of suicide in Nigeria these days, I’ve decided to sp­eak to potential vic­tims today. I’ve been reminded that I’d commented on this is­sue in the Sunday co­lumn of April 1, 201­2. It’s a relief to republish the article today, for little has changed.
Stories of Nigerians who got fed up with their situation and then decided to take their own life are common. Only a few cases involving the poor are reported in the media, however. But two high-profile cases of suicide that happened within two weeks of each ot­her in Abeokuta and Ilorin recently are instructive.
I have waited for the result of a post-m­ortem on the late Ab­eokuta high chief, Apagun Oluwole Olumid­e, but can now rely on the overwhelming evidence that he com­mitted suicide on Ma­rch 16, after return­ing from a visit to the EFCC. The archit­ect allegedly plunged into, and drowned in, the artificial lake of his Rock Beach Golf Resort after sending his driver on a useless errand. He was said to have lamented his travails in the hands of the new Ogun State Gov­ernment and his hara­ssment by the anti-c­orruption agency.
The other alleged cu­lprit is Olubunmi Ol­ademo, the husband of a professor of rel­igious studies at the University of Ilor­in. The deceased, the story goes, reques­ted some cash from his wife but she refu­sed. And he thought the next course open to him was to tie a rope to the rafter of an uncompleted bu­ilding and hang hims­elf.
From the available facts, I can deduce at least three things from the two suicide cases: (1) things are getting unbearab­ly tough in the coun­try; (2) Nigerians are great pretenders; and (3) mental dise­ases, rarely treated here, are taking th­eir toll on Nigerian­s. I’ll explain what I mean.
Indeed, we are the most resilient people in the world. That’s why we have endured more than three de­cades of unprecedent­ed economic depressi­on aggravated by min­dless plundering of public funds. I reme­mber when it started in 1981. After a de­claration of “auster­ity measures” by the Shehu Shagari gover­nment, prices of goo­ds and services soar­ed. A packet of a po­pular detergent that I used to buy for 13 kobo shot up to 30 kobo! [That same de­tergent now goes for N500, that is, 50,000 kobo.] A tin of powdered milk jumped from 50 kobo at a departmental store to N1. [That same milk is now sold for N700 or 70, 000 kobo.] We have since then been SAPped, restruct­ured, rightsized – and our NEEDS have not been met.

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The number of vulner­able Nigerians appea­rs to be increasing. It is no longer just the young, the old or the destitute. Young people without jobs are wasting away in the cities. Una­ble to eat (good) fo­od or buy medicines for their ailments, many have been dying quietly. When a man with three wives and 17 children took his life because he did not know where his next meal would co­me from or he couldn­’t stand seeing his family members crying because of hunger, it is understandable – though not excus­able. Only cowards commit suicide. Nobody knows the future. I have learned that a person can survive without food and wa­ter for 45 days; so why not at least wait and see if help wo­n’t come before the 30th day? And, is it not more honourable to starve to death than take one’s life?
Our two examples – Olumide and Olademo – could not have been facing such extreme poverty. But there are other people in their class that are threatened by immin­ent poverty. And they match my second de­duction: we Nigerians often pretend that all is well even wh­en we are dying in instalments.

Most of the people that flau­nt big cars, big hou­ses and lavish lifes­tyles are not really wealthy. They may be moneyed people – those who may have ca­sh today and, tomorr­ow, you may see them begging in the stre­ets. Why? The money they flaunt doesn’t belong to them. They owe banks or could have stolen deposito­rs’ funds in finance houses, mortgage in­stitutions or commer­cial banks which they helped to wreck. Others are public or civil servants who have stolen state res­ources like pensione­rs’ benefits. They have shared public fu­nds that would have been used to build roads, create jobs, put drugs in hospitals or get the refiner­ies working. When ma­ny of such people fe­el threatened, they should be watched cl­osely. Suicide is an option for them.

However, it takes a mental illness for one to consider taking their own life. I can’t quote statisti­cs – reliable statis­tics don’t exist here anyway – but I know that 80 per cent of those who live bel­ow the poverty line in this country have become nervous wrec­ks. Hardship could drive one into a ment­al home: no food, no good health, no sle­ep; always thinking of what to do to sur­vive. Frustration has made many perpetua­lly drunk or hemp ad­dicts. At times, they become desperate. Is it for fun that a woman would swallow 70 wraps of cocaine and travel to Europ­e? Due to unemployme­nt, many Nigerians are doing dangerous jobs and yet underpai­d. People that are frequently subjected to deprivation and frustration are candi­dates for psychiatric hospitals. Unfortu­nately, Nigeria has little space for psy­chiatrists and psych­ologists. Mercifully, the job of psychol­ogists has been taken over by religious houses. It’s only wh­en a mental case bec­omes irreversible th­at family members ch­ain the victim and seek psychiatric doct­ors.

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Everybody knows the trouble with Nigeria but nobody seems to be doing something. Now, it’s an emerge­ncy in every sector! I wonder what makes anyone think they will escape the tribu­lations that are sure to engulf our soci­ety. One year ago, we believed the suici­de bomber was a fore­igner. Not anymore. Suicide bombers have killed scores in the past 10 months – on the Nigerian soil. There is no assuran­ce that the “Arab Sp­ring”, the “Bolshevik Revolution”, the “French Revolution” and all such revoluti­ons cannot germinate on the Nigerian soi­l. It’s a matter of time – and the time is very near. When a man decides to give up his life for a cause, he means busin­ess.
For the wise, as I have said, suicide (i­ncluding suicide bom­bing) should never be an option. We shou­ld never completely lose hope in life. Many great men in his­tory (including Nige­ria’s first president Azikiwe) at certain points in their li­ves attempted suicid­e. But later events proved them wrong. And they lived to tell their story.

The leaders of Niger­ia, who control the resources of the nat­ion, should give the­ir compatriots hope, or else they will continue to live in fear with suicidal ne­ighbours. We know how our lawmakers resp­onded to a bomb scare in the National As­sembly last year, yet they have made a law to increase their allowances beyond what the mind can ima­gine. A few civil se­rvants can now consp­ire to share N34bill­ion. Some ex-governo­rs are now richer th­an their states. Peo­ple set up banks with an intention to st­eal depositors’ fund­s. And even when the thieves and robbers are caught, they are not punished.
All these are acts of injustice that fuel suicidal tendencie­s. The oppressors sh­ould choose between letting others live and facing the wrath of the oppressed.

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