Kayode Fasua examines a recently launched initiative by a group of care givers to wage war against suicide among people in the continent
Like rivulets trickling down the cottage rack, alarmed neighbours and rescue workers, all headed in the direction of the Lagos Lagoon at the Lekki Link Bridge area. A distress call had just been made that a young man who was later identified as Kingsley Gabriel, a student of the Lagos State University, plunged into the lagoon.
Gabriel reportedly jumped to a sure death, from Falomo Bridge, into the lagoon, leaving no one with a cue as to why he took his life.
Shockingly, however, this sad occurrence came barely a month after an unidentified woman on the wheel, suddenly stopped short midway into the Third Mainland Bridge, and climbed the bridge’s barricade, taking a plunge into the lagoon. Bewildered observers could only mutter, “Why?”
Sometime ago too, a young female banker in Ughelli, Delta State, simply hanged herself, having been wrenched by the trauma arising from sighting her husband bedding another woman in their matrimonial home.
Last year too, a teenage girl, named Loveth, had chosen the path of suicide following what she considered an abysmal performance in her Joint Admission and Matriculation Board’s Joint Matriculation Examination. She scored 160, of the 400 total marks. According to reports, Loveth surreptitiously hatched the last plot as she took her life, drinking a poisonous substance.
However, while so many reasons have been advanced for the various cases of suicide as have occurred globally, its preponderance in the Nigerian society has somewhat brought on, a disquiet, to warrant the intervention of rights bodies, care givers and relevant government agencies.
While excruciating poverty, jilting, sundry insolvency, and what some call, ‘spiritual attacks’ are being adduced to the incidence of suicide, researchers also say that loneliness, which inexorably results in depression and a sense of rejection, is also a veritable factor for committing suicide.
Much as every suicide is adjudged to have been precipitated by a particular reason, most of the suicide cases in Nigeria, observers say, occurred with no suicide notes.
A poignant instance of this scenario was the shocking suicide of a former Peoples Democratic Party senatorial candidate in the Lagos East senatorial district, Alade Abaniwonda, which occurred in July 2011.
An ebullient Abaniwonda reportedly did a bank transaction at the Lagos Island area and told his driver to head him to his office at the CMS area. But while on the Carter Bridge, he reportedly ordered his driver to stop and park. The confused lad did. Abaniwonda walked out and was crest-fallen on the bridge’s railing, apparently contemplating on what to do. He entered back into the car, refusing to offer any explanation for this weird act.
As further related by the driver, Abaniwonda later commanded the former to park again at the Marina section of the Lagoon, saying he was hard pressed and would want to use the toilet. This, of course, was a ploy. Having alighted from the vehicle, Abaniwonda walked briskly to the bank of the lagoon and took a plunge. His lifeless body was to be discovered three days after.
Arising from all these suicide cases, which are, indeed, not peculiar to Nigeria, a conglomerate of care-giving groups, rights bodies and entertainment outfits in Africa have now coalesced into a united body, to launch a one-year-long campaign against suicide, in Africa.
Code-named, “Africa Project Against Suicide (APAS) and tagged ‘Stay Alive Africa’, these developmental campaigns will be taken to all African countries, but 10 nations are to serve as take-off points.
The countries to serve as launching pads include, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Gambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Mauritius.
The overall coordinator of the continental anti-suicide project, Nigerian-born Pastor Honey Olawale, told THISDAY that the programme would run from November 2018, to November, 2019. Cities earmarked for the war-against-suicide crusades and concerts in Nigeria, he said, are Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Benin, Abuja, Kaduna and Enugu.
Speaking on the philosophy behind the initiative, Olawale said, “Owing to economic challenges and other social vices within the continent of Africa, the rate of suicide has risen very sharply between year 2016 and 2017; and the statistics of this deadly scourge has reached an alarming rate, hence the need to use training conferences and music as tools of discouragement to suicide.”
He listed the causes of suicide to include loneliness, psychiatric illness such as depression and bipolar disorder, economic recession, domestic conflicts, low self-esteem, unbearable emotion and physical pain, substance abuse, and significant losses in a person’s life.
On the mission of the anti-suicide crusaders, Olawale added, “This project is meant to spread songs of hope across Africa and turn the heart of the downcast and depressed people from suicide, and also, depict the great destiny that is ahead of this continent.”
He stressed, however, that the aims and objectives of the concerting groups were to unite the African people, show the beauty of the continent’s rich cultures, let the people know what they will miss here on earth if they take their lives, and sing songs of encouragement and tell the stories of the people who have endured and stayed alive and are successful.
According to him, the two-pronged, expected result of the year-long events, are: reduction in the level of suicide, and unification of the African people.
For take-off, mega concert and conferences will be held at all the major participating countries and the official launching ceremony and conferences will take place at Polokwane city, South Africa, between November 19 and 24, 2018, he further disclosed.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO), two months ago, conducted a study and ranked suicides per 100,000 cases with Nigeria having 15 percent per 100,000. By that token, Nigeria has placed fifth in the inglorious column of countries with jaw-dropping cases of suicide.
The list was topped by South Korea with 24,000,000 cases; followed by Russia with 18,000,000; India, 16,000,000 and Japan coming fourth with 15,400,000 suicide instances.
Reacting to the worrisome situation, however, the Convener of Conference of Nigeria Civil Rights Activists, Comrade Ifeanyi Odili, said the Nigerian government should take the blame if cases of suicide are now spiralling. Odili, who is also the General Secretary of Campaign for Democracy (CD), said suicide incidence comes in isolation in a well-developed economy, as against high prevalence in a country wracked by abject poverty.
“As they say, a hungry man is an angry man, and a hungry man can never be persuaded by any sermon but first, by food.
“Here in Nigeria, there is abject poverty occasioned by bad leadership and satanic greed in high places. Look at the army of the unemployed, the intimidating number of youths who, having acquired academic knowledge, are in want of what to do.
“Look at the high rate of job losses in the last one year. Parents would sponsor children in school and the children will graduate to become dependants still on the stultifying parents.
“Someone who cannot feed his family, who is out of jobs, whose sons, out of excruciating hunger have joined bad gangs, and whose daughters, out of nothing to eat have turned to prostitutes; how will such a person not tinker with the thought of taking his life?
“Though it is a sin against God and humanity to commit suicide, the government of Nigeria is also sharing in the grave sin by not coming up with comprehensible policies to tackle poverty and make jobs available for our teeming population,” Odili deplored.
Reacting, however, a cleric, Emmanuel Bamiduro, said despite hardship, it is a serious sin to think the way of suicide, noting that God can cause a turn-around in the life of anybody.
Bamiduro, who is the General Overseer of Thy Word Is Life Ministry, a church in Casso, Lagos, said, “We have had instances of people who had contemplated suicide but did not yield to the temptation and still overcame their problems to become reference points in life; as such, nobody should see their situation as the end of the road.”
He also advised government at all levels to focus on tackling the malaise of mass unemployment afflicting the Nigerian society.
Complementing him, an Islamic cleric, Alhaji Adeshina Balogun, said no true Muslim would contemplate suicide, noting, “It is one of the greatest offences before Allah, and anybody who takes his life will spend the rest of his existence in everlasting fire.”
He counselled religious leaders in the country to keep harping on this line of admonition, to save lives, even as he stressing: “Many people are tired of their situation, but with words of encouragement, their spirit will be lifted, and you will be surprised to hear from them that, ‘Oh, I had thought of taking my life.’”
In own contribution too, a psychologist, Mr. Samuel Adeokun, said, “Suicide is always foreshadowed by loneliness and unhappy, confused looks; and under such a situation, what the sufferer needs, is love.
“Unfortunately, love is lacking in our society nowadays because a lot of people are obsessed with survivalist instincts, caused by socio-economic discomfort and sometimes, discomfiture.”