By Adewale Kupoluyi
THE increasing cases of suicide in the nation require paying closer attention to the problem. In the last few days, weeks and months, many people, mostly youths, have taken their lives prematurely. Not only is the country losing a chunk of its priceless assets, family, friends and well-wishers of suicide victims are thrown into despair and great sorrow. At the end, it is the society at large that losses out. A recent report of the World Health Organisation, WHO, stated that every 40 seconds, suicide tops the chart as the number one killer, just as Nigerians have been committing suicide in the last few years.
Reported suicidal cases are many, while unreported ones are equally significant. Family members of victims usually prefer to keep quiet over suicide because of the social stigma attached to it and the fact that it is frowned at by various religions, cultures and traditions in Africa. For emphasis, some of the reported cases include that of a Lagos physician, who dived into the lagoon on the Third Mainland Bridge. A 500-level student of a federal university reportedly hanged himself in his hostel room, just as a popular Lagos-based disc jockey killed himself after leaving a suicide note. A 300-level student of the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, committed suicide in her hostel.
A senior lecturer at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, took his life following marital challenges, while another lecturer at the University of Ibadan allegedly committed suicide in his apartment, which was razed thereafter. A soldier attached to the 192 Battalion in Gwoza, Borno State also killed himself. It was saddening that a 49-year-old state civil servant hanged himself in Ekiti State, just as a lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State killed himself and another at the College of Agriculture, Kwara State University, took his life after a failed bid to become a lecturer. Reasons accountable for most of the suicide cases border on feeling of rejection, disappointment, guilt, hopelessness, shame and economic hardship. Victims also commit suicide due to indebtedness and provocation by family members and colleagues. Suicide is fuelled by rising societal expectations which the country’s economic climate contradicts. Unemployment crisis has led to a situation where graduates who come out of school with great hopes cannot find even menial jobs.
No doubt, the Nigerian economy is harsh. Many citizens go hungry and cannot afford basic things of life. Getting a job is very difficult. Many girls and ladies are into prostitution, while hundreds are dying in the risky migration adventure. The much talked about entrepreneurial education in tertiary institutions is too academic and not really useful because access to funds is a big obstacle for trained entrepreneurs. The conditions attached to loan processing to start small businesses are so stringent that only the rich and already established people can benefit. This widens the existing gap between the rich and the poor. There are serious emotional and financial stresses among Nigerians, which cannot be wished away. The middle class has gradually been wiped away.
With inflation and high cost of living rising, purchasing power of workers has greatly diminished. It is for these reasons that many of the suicidal cases are linked to bad economy. Without further delay, relevant agencies of government should perform their statutory duties by creating the enabling environment for job creation. Social intervention packages should get to the real beneficiaries. Usually, politicians and public officials are known to use their influence to benefit only people that are close to them. Federal, state and local governments should all be involved and take urgent measures to improve the living conditions of Nigerians. Today, hardly do people help others without expecting something in return.
People should not be too secretive about what they are doing. Those affected by scams like the Ponzi schemes became cheap victims because they kept the dealings to themselves due to greed or ignorance.
The existing National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS and primary healthcare programmes should be redesigned in such a way that they would benefit many Nigerians at little or no cost since they are social security projects. Government should improve the provision of basic services such as electricity, potable water and education.
Drugs for diabetes, malaria, HIV/AIDS management, high blood pressure and other widespread ailments are usually beyond the reach of many average Nigerians. It is imperative for more trauma centres to be established without delay and manned by sound psychologists and psychiatrists, for counselling purposes.
Churches, mosques, schools at all levels and community centres should have functional counselling desks to attend to people on a regular basis, where troubled hearts can go to seek solace. Functional telephone lines and other communication platforms should be open and accessible to all. Private organisations and non-governmental actors should do more in saving our people from committing suicide.
To cope with economic and social hardships, many Nigerian youths and young persons seem to have found solace in hard drugs and crimes. One of the adverse effects of drug abuse and addiction is suicide. The war against the sale and use of hard drugs must be intensified by going beyond mere seizures to controlling their production, distribution, marketing and sales. Educational authorities should monitor the activities of staff and students more closely, to drastically reduce persecution, witch-hunting and frustration being meted out to innocent staff and students. Quality assurance and mentoring are seriously downplayed in our curriculum, hence, the rot we are witnessing.
Religious and traditional rulers – because of their closeness to the people – should make themselves more accessible to their followers to help them vent their anger and frustrations by reassuring them that all hope is not lost for a reversal of their situation.
This vital responsibility should take huge chunk of their time rather than venturing into dirty political terrain – as some of them do – at the expense of their primary constituency. Committing suicide is completely bad and is not worth trying at all. Those still planning to commit suicide should remember that when they die, they are leaving behind many people in perpetual pain, misery and sorrow. Let us all say ‘no’ to suicide and ‘yes’ to life.