The death by suicide of one madam Uzoaku (66) over the weekend in Anambra State has brought to the fore the growing rate of suicide in Nigeria. 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 genders 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 nothing is being said about it. A few examples will illustrate the dreadful nightmare that has gripped the country.
Roughly a week ago, a young female banker committed suicide in Ughelli, Delta State after her husband allegedly brought another woman to the house. Rather than stomach the affront, she decided to drink insecticide and died.
About two days after that, a teenage girl identified as Loveth aged 18, reportedly committed suicide by drinking some poisonous substance because she scored low mark (160) in the just concluded JAMB entrance examination. The girl, reports say, wanted to study medicine. But after scoring low mark which could not qualify her to pursue her dream course, she decided to end it up violently by suicide. Reports say she cried saying, “My father will kill me”. But the father denied ever scolding her but only said that there was no way she would get admitted to do medicine with that score.
In March 2016, a similar incident occurred. An unidentified 23 year old man hanged himself after he reportedly failed to score high mark in the University of Lagos post-UTME test in which he scored 159. Observers say that may not be the only reason as there are candidates who have written JAMB entrance examination several times without success without being frustrated.
Again, in November 2015, a police officer committed suicide in Lagos after failing promotion examinations. The police officer attached to the Safer Highway Patrol in Lagos identified as Corporal Agi reportedly committed suicide after he missed an assessment examination that would have ensured his promotion to the rank of a sergeant. According to witnesses, the the dead police officer was discovered at the premises of the Police Training School (PTS), Ikeja, inside his car, with empty cans of pesticide and some tablets, suspected to have been taken by him.
On August 23, 2012, two unidentified students committed suicide over WAEC examination failure. On October 13, 2016, a 20-year-old senior secondary school student, Moji Agboola, from Omu-Aran in Irepodun local government council of Kwara State reportedly died after she allegedly drank a substance believed to be poison for failing promotion examination. The SS1 student in a community school in the area was treated at a private hospital in the town where she was rushed to by her mother before she died.
Just last month, precisely February 23, a primary four pupil committed suicide after failing spelling test. The boy aged 13 and identified as Kenneth Were promised his grandfather that he would improve next time. But hours later, he was found hanging from a nearby tree – dead. His grandfather said “We gave the boy a spelling exercise, but he failed to spell the words correctly. We encouraged him that he would master spelling the words with more practice.” This, Were recounted, adding that they did not cane or abuse the boy for failing the test. But according to him, after the exercise, the boy went on with his routine house chores but disappeared later in the evening only for his body to be found hanging on a nearby tree. The boy’s death shook residents, some of whom called for thorough investigation into the case.
In the latest incident, Madam Uzoaku, a native of Achalla-Umana, Mgbakwu in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State, reportedly took her own life out of frustration that her two children who graduated many years ago had not got any job. The madam reportedly was cooking in the kitchen that fateful evening, when she suddenly abandoned the food and dashed to her bedroom where she hanged herself with a rope tied to a window protector. The distrust members of her family could not fathom why she decided to take such a drastic decision to end her life given that she was a grandmother with grandchildren. But that is part of the suicide malaise plaguing the country.
According to available research, 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 this poll conducted by NOIPolls Limited, poverty in all its ramifications is the leading cause of death in Nigeria.
But there is need to isolate other growing causes of death in the country like the incessant herdsmen attacks and the rampant suicides. Practically in all suicide cases, frustration rather than poverty is the prime factor. A fairly comfortable person could still commit suicide due to frustration like in the case of the lady banker mentioned earlier.
Gone were the days when malaria, HIV, stroke and heart attack were the leading causes of death in Nigeria. While attempt has been made to identify these which could be segregated to particular gender, age group or lifestyle, not much research has been done on the growing trend of suicides.
Besides, 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.
Furthermore, 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 appropriate counseling. Quite often, relatives and friends don’t understand the symptoms of suicide not until after the harm has been done. The burden and urge to commit suicide are normally borne in the heart. 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.
There is need for government, NGOs, churches and other institutions to establish counseling centres where people could visit to seek succour. Over and above that 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 finish 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 are paid a stipend for survival.