December, 2017 was a very sorrowful and painful moment for the family of Adung in Bebuabie Village, Obudu: a boy of about 18-19 years who after burying her grandmother on Saturday, decided to hang himself on Sunday, while other members of the family were away for a Thanksgiving Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church, Bebuabie, Obudu.
September, 2018, 9 months after Adung’s incidence, was another young and energetic youth from Ukwel-Obudu, whom I gathered was into banking money for folks around his village, decided to hang himself on the eve of Obudu New Yam Celebration. News and rumours of the death of Mr. Bartholomew (an exseminarian) of the Calabar Archdiocese in January, 2017, who took a poisonous substance after he was expelled from the seminary, was more than a shock to me.
According to Luke O. (2018), suddenly, death by suicide has become one of the leading causes of death in the country. Nowadays, almost on weekly basis, reports of suicides make headlines. The victims cut across all gender and age groups. Men, women, teenagers including boys and girls and children are all involved. It is like an epidemic, a social malady ravaging a people and little or nothing seems to be said or written about it. All you hear in some parts of the country, particularly in most parts of Obudu Local government area in Cross River State, is the growing inferno that he/she has been bewitched.
In this article, we shall be looking at the meaning of suicide, some factors that has contributed to the growing rate of suicide in Nigeria, particularly in Obudu L.G.A. We shall also try to re-orient ourselves about the causes of suicide which most times are outside manipulations by forces of darkness, and finally we shall attempt a solution to curbing the monster.
What is Suicide?
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, suicide is the intentional killing of oneself; a particular instance of a person intentionally killing himself or herself, or of multiple people doing so.
Causes of Suicide
According to a research conducted by NOIPolls Limited, cited in Luke O. (2018), Nigerians have identified the five leading causes of death to include sickness (26%), poverty (24%), motor accident (16%), malnutrition (7%) and natural death (6%). Poverty and malnutrition go hand in hand and so should be lumped together to make 31%. In other words, going by the poll, poverty in all its ramifications is the leading cause of death in Nigeria.
However, we shall avoid talking about other causes of death in Nigeria such as the incessant attacks by the Fulani herdsmen, dangerous Islāmic sects, etc, and rather focus more on the causes of suicide. In my observation, frustration, depression, lack of good sense of judgment, stigma from an incidence, and lack of vision can cause suicide. Luke O. (2018), observed that practically in all suicide cases, frustration and not poverty is the prime factor. Because a fairly comfortable person could still commit suicide due to frustration, like in the case of the woman banker he narrated in his piece.
In view of this, it will be very primitive of us to attribute the cause of suicide to witchcraft and this is very common in Obudu and some parts of the country. I am aware of the efforts being made by parents, guidance, the government as well as institutions to curb the effects of poverty and other causes of death in Nigeria. Sadly, little or nothing seems to be done about curbing suicide! Luke O. (2018), captures this succinctly when he said:
while effort is made by the government and institutions to help those afflicted by the aforementioned causes of death, no attempt is being made to help people in dire straits of human suffering that often spur people to take their own lives.
The Way Forward
You may all agree with me that suicide is one kind of dying, that affects not only the family of the deceased, but the entire community. It gives a very bad reputation of a particular people and create stigma too. In Obudu for instance, there are Villages known for suicide due to their history of reoccurring suicide cases. What baffles me most is the fact that nothing has been done in the past and nothing is being done to curb this monster. The only effort I noticed ironically was a situation where the oracle was consulted through “Ipe” Divination, after which some members of the family were accused of bewitching the deceased.
Nobody has thought about the way we frustrate and stigmatize each other. No society has thought about how we stereotype ourselves. No one has thought about how we speak negatively about each other. No institution has thought about the growing lack of care we have for each other. Most times we busy ourselves chasing money and other material things, but tend to neglect our primary responsibility of caring and giving a listening ear to people around us. Luke O. (2018), noted that while improved hygiene and a change in lifestyle could help curtail the incidences of malaria, HIV, stroke and heart attack, nothing brings succour to a dejected soul except right counseling.
The burden and urge to commit suicide are normally birthed in the heart. Thus, quite often relatives and friends do not understand the symptoms of suicide,until the harm has been done. It is important that people should begin to take every abnormal behavior or violent remarks serious. Careless statements of frustration should not be ignored but watched closely. Like the young man who hung himself in Ukwel-Obudu on the eve of Obudu New Yam had, before his sudden disappearance, manifested signs of frustration and attempted suicide. He was stopped at the first attempt, but was not placed under surveillance. It was some days later that the people around him noticed his absence and started searching for him. Medicine after death! Our chiefs should help organise conferences on suicide.
Finally, may I echo yet again Luke’s (2018) statement that there is need for the government, NGOs, churches and other institutions, to set up counseling centres where people could visit to seek succour. Over and above therefore, there is the need for the authorities to cushion the human suffering in the country by way of social safety nets. A situation where millions of young people graduate from school but have no job to do is killing. There should be a way to engage the idle hands even in public works to close the open gutters all over our cities or plant trees, through which they will be paid a stipend for survival.
To read more cf: “Growing Rate of Suicides in Nigeria” by Luke Onyekakeyah 20 March 2018 in the Guidance News Paper, https://m.guardian.ng/opinion/growing-rate-of-suicides-in-nigeria/”
About the author: Richard A. Ugbe holds a Master’s degree in political Science from the Veritas University, Abuja Nigeria and a Bachelors of Art in Philosophy from the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Among his publications include “African Causality…” He is a Cross Riverian and could be reached via Facebook (Richard Ugbe) or email@example.com
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