In spite of the fact that Nigerians are regarded as some of the happiest people in the world, some people are taking their own lives almost on a daily basis. SAMSON BENJAMIN looks at the rising cases of suicides in Nigeria
Tip of the iceberg
There have been many stories recently of Nigerians committing suicide and this phenomenon transcends tribe, religion and social class.
On March 20, Dr Allwell Orji, had asked his driver to stop the Sports Utility Vehicle that they were riding in, at the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos. Without warning, the medical doctor jumped into the lagoon, leaving his driver and other passers-by bewildered. Four years ago, Dr Orji had attempted to kill himself but the suicide had failed.
Similarly, Mr Edward Kehinde Soje, a Director on grade level 16 at the Kogi State Teaching Service Commission, had killed himself on October 21, a few days after his wife was delivered of a set of triplets.
A week later, Mr Biodun Bashir, a staff Universal Basic Education (UBE) in Oyun Local Government Area of Kwara State, committed suicide on October 28. Since then, they have been many of such deaths which have not been reported either because of taboo or because they haven’t attracted media attention. Sadly, what used to be unheard of in Nigeria, has become an almost everyday occurrence which is assuming worrisome dimensions.
Facts don’t add up
Interestingly, Nigeria always has a favourable ranking in the World Happiness Reports. In 2016, the country ranked 78th in the world and 2nd in Africa, amongst nations whose nationals are happy.
However, in 2017 the giant of Africa dropped to 103rd in the world and 6th in Africa. The reasons for these favorable perception indices are not far-fetched. Nigerians are known for their resilience and sarcasm, as they can make jokes out of serious of political, economic and social issues.
In worst cases, they seek divine intervention in mosques, churches or traditional shrines, hoping that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. However, the rising cases of suicides have questioned these figures.
According to Asabe Lawal, an Abuja-based psychologist, there was a time ‘’when it was unheard of and an abomination to commit suicide in our climes. But today, you could hardly open a newspaper or tune in to a radio or television without being hit with the sad tale of another suicide “.
According to unverified statistics by the Nigerian police, “In the last six months, seven out of the 36 states of the federation sampled have recorded over 62 cases of suicides. With Lagos and Ogun States accounting for most of the cases”.
The law, religion, culture frown at suicide
This high rate of suicide is worrisome, considering that the foremost religions of Islam and Christianity, including traditional religious practices, strongly abhor the killing of one’s self.
Legally speaking, suicide is an offence in Nigeria and according to Barrister Suleiman Abba, section 327 of the criminal code provides that ‘’any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of misdemeanor is liable to imprisonment for one year”. However, he pointed out that “ the implementation of this law is only possible when a suicide attempter fails in his or her bid, ‘’because it would be impossible to punish a person that was successful in his attempt “.
In Islam, suicide is highly frown at and anyone who engaged in it has become apostate . According to an Islamic scholar, Mallam Hussain Audu “any Muslim that tries suicide or commits suicide has tempered with his or her faith and would be considered as not being a Muslim as a result of the act “.
He added that committing suicide ‘’is an affront to God. It is like a man saying to God, you have given me life and I am taking it away. This is what is meant by in the Qur’an in which God is quoted as saying to the one who commits suicide ‘my servant has precipitated my will with regard to himself!
Therefore, I am forbidding him entry into heaven’. But this only applies to a person in full control of his faculties “. However, “ a person who commits suicide as a result of mental disorder like depression or severe anxiety is not in full control of his senses. So we cannot say how God will judge such a person, but we trust in God’s justice “.
Similarly, Christianity equates suicide with self murder. Reverend Istifanus Habila, pointed out that “ God is the only one who is to decide when and how a person should die. We should say with the psalmist, my times are in your hands, because God is the giver of life. He gives and he takes away. Suicide, the taking of one’s life is ungodly because it rejects God’s gift of life. No man or woman should presume to take God’s authority upon themselves to end his or her own life”.
In the same vein, almost all Nigerian cultures consider suicide an abomination. In Igbo culture for instance, suicide is so grave that it is considered to be a sin against the earth. Mr Obinna Ekechukwu said “ In Igbo land, it is believed that if a person commits suicide, he will never be at peace with himself, the village, his relatives and the gods because he has chosen an evil path by deciding to accept a ‘bad’ death “.
Causes of suicides
Several studies have shown the major reason why people commit suicide is depression. Medical professionals under the aegis of the Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria (SOFPON), recently raised the alarm that seven million Nigerians are living with depression, a major risk factor for suicide.
Dr. Akin Moses, a psychiatrist and the president of SOFPON , said “depression could occur when there are stressful conditions arising sometimes as a result of negative life events such as bereavement, job loss, financial difficulty, divorce, loneliness, childhood abuse and neglect “.
According to him, “ research has shown that depression played a role in more than half of all suicide attempts and up to 15 percent of those that were depressed died by suicide”. He further warned that “ if not checked and treated, a depressed person has a 20 percent chance of committing suicide “.
Temilade Aruya, an Abuja based journalist, attributed the unfortunate rise of suicides to the current economic hardship. He said even though current official figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveal that Nigeria is out of recession, majority of Nigerians are yet to feel the effect. ‘’The inflation rate is still relatively high, there is still high rate of unemployment coupled with the escalating cost of living. Times are hard, tough and more difficult than it used to be. The people are coping, but their coping mechanism varies”, he added.
Low self esteem
Similarly, ken Nworgu, a social psychologist blames the phenomenon to “the high incidence of joblessness, hopelessness, bleak future and loss of meaning individuals attach to themselves that is responsible for an increased in the rate of suicides we are witnessing today. When an individual feels that he has lost meaning, that he can not achieve anything, that he has failed woefully, then the individual begin to see a situation where by it is better for him to take his own life”.
Changes in society
On her part Mrs Jamila Bako, a social worker said “Our society is fast transforming from the communal African traditional one where you are your brother’s keeper and the collective interest of all matters to a more secluded one”. She continued that “ as a result of the influence of western society, the Nigerian society and family life are fast becoming disengaged, insensitive, self centred, insurportive and more nuclear “.
She admonished families, friends and relatives to go back to the basics and review their response to members in need. According to her, “families must identify members in desperate situations and give the necessary support needed to surmount the difficult times. They should show love and concern especially to those that are withdrawn”.
The way out
In addition, to address some the factors that are making Nigerians languish in despair, Aruwa, advised “ government at all levels to put in place economic palliatives that will relieve Nigerians of the current economic hardship as we continue our fight out of recession”.
Also he added that “an enabling economic environment will give people the freedom to pursue their dreams and significantly reduce the rate of hopelessness in the country”. But when this Eldorado will be achieved in still in the realms of the imaginations. Meanwhile, people will be killing themselves everyday due to various challenges.