Nigeria is in the firm grip of the epidemic of suicide. From the sun-baked land of Yola to the marshy creeks of the Niger Delta, from the urbane coal city of Enugu to the boisterous Lagos, we hear morbid tales about those who killed themselves. Our young people’s embracing of suicide as a way of escapism has got to an alarming and disturbing dimension.
Till now, in Igbo land, Southeast of Nigeria, it is a sacrilegious act for a man to kill himself. Here, in Igbo land, we do not perform funeral ceremonies for suicides. They are ignominiously wrapped in cloths and thrown into dense forests, where wild beasts will feast on them. After that, a traditional medicine man will be invited to cleanse his family house to prevent recurrence of such evil and despicable act in future. Chinua Achebe’s fictive and anthropological novel, Things Fall Apart, offers us insight and elucidation on suicide.
It is not only the Igbo custom that frowns at suicide. The Christian religion is condemnatory of it, too. The Bible exhorts us to seek God’s intercession when we are experiencing existential problems. Our Christian clerics do urge us to exercise faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ and pin our hope on Christ, who is the ransom for our sins. It is an indisputable fact that no religions, which are practised by the people(s) of the earth, approve of people to take their own lives. The act of committing suicide by people is perceived as an act of cowardice by adherents of many religions.
But since the epidemic of suicide broke out in Nigeria, this question has been agitating our minds: Why do seemingly imperturbable people commit suicide? People take their lives for variety of reasons like depression, impecuniousness, betrayals in relationships, failures in academics and business, psychiatric problems, drug addiction, and others.
In today’s Nigeria, our economy is so grossly mismanaged that millions of Nigerians are living below the breadline owing to their joblessness. Yet, our universities, polythenics, and other schools still churn our graduates who join the growing number of the unemployed people in the country. So owing to these people’s hopelessness, impecuniousness, and the non-existence of love among us, innumerable unemployed people and others, who had suffered privations, took their lives in the recent past. A civil servant in Kogi State, who was owed arrears of salary by the state government, killed himself after his wife was delivered of a baby some years ago.
But it’s not only the dire economic situation obtaining in our country that predisposes or compels people to do hara-kiri. Here, cuckolds do kill themselves, too. In Nigeria, many people chose the path of suicide upon their discovery that their wives had cuckolded them and bore children, who are not biologically their own children. As they could not live with the shame and the betrayal they suffered, they decided to do themselves in. Some ladies did themselves harm when their boyfriends threw them over for other beautiful ladies. Some days ago, an undergraduate of University of Benin, Christabel Buoro, killed herself because her boyfriend jilted her.
More, so some Nigerians had taken their own lives owing to their failures to realize their goals in the areas of academic and business. They thought themselves under- achievers and the rejects of society; consequently, they committed suicide. And it’s a known fact that bereavements can cause people to experience bouts of depression, which make them susceptible to romanticizing the idea of committing suicide. And people who have psychiatry or mental cases emanating from their intake of hard drugs or hereditary factors are liable to committing suicide if they’re not properly monitored and treated.
In addition to these, young people who are exposed to mystical books can start contemplating death and life hereafter after digesting the teachings in those books. My Facebook friend, one Goddy, put up a Facebook post announcing and indicating his intention to leave our terra firma as soon as possible. When I visited his Facebook wall for perusal, I discovered that he has been reading books, which have imbued and given him vast knowledge about death and the life hereafter.
In order to stem the tide of suicide in Nigeria, governments at different levels should implement economic measures to ameliorate our people’s sufferings. And, our leaders should diversify the economy to create job opportunities for unemployed people in the country. More so, religious clerics should not cease to encourage their followers to continue reposing faith in God rather than committing suicide.
And there is urgent need in Nigeria for our schools to train many more psychiatrists, who can treat millions of Nigerians who are suffering from mental illnesses, which can predispose them to commit suicide.
Chiedu Uche Okoye,