Interrogating the scourge of marital infidelity and high rate of suicides in Nigeria

SuicideAnything that pushes a human being to take his/her own life by taking a plunge into the ocean with the sole intention of dying or stabbing/shooting/poisoning a fellow human being to death must be very tense and gravely. That’s simply because suicide or murder does not happen by chance.

It’s often a product of a well thought out plan after the victim or perpetrator might have concluded that it’s the right thing to do and there is no alternative.

The sad event of the woman who last Sunday (10/6/2018) drove her self in an SUV, parked it on 3rd mainland bridge in Lagos and took a plunge into the ocean has jarred and shocked the conscience of most Nigerians into the sad reality of the inglorious act of suicide which is fast assuming an epidemic dimension in our country.

A scan through both the social and main stream media platforms will reveal a litany of such horrific incidents not only in Nigeria but worldwide, including the advanced/wealthy societies.

So suicide/murder is not necessarily a poverty or hunger induced phenomenon.

The assertion above is buttressed by the suicides committed by two famous personalities in the past couple of weeks in the USA where a wealthy fashion designer Kate Spade killed her self in her New York apartment and in Paris, France where an award winning highly accomplished Anthony Bourdain, CNN Paths Unknown anchor also took his life by hanging himself in a hotel room.

The case of Spade would likely be connected to marital issues as she had moved out of her matrimonial home that she shared with her husband and a daughter. According to her husband she was living apart but they had not discussed divorce before her demons, which she was obviously trying to deal with took a better part of her.

With respect to Bourdain, the circumstances are still unraveling as the relevant authorities are yet to identify and share what motivated his fatal action. However, psychologists have a consensus of opinion that depression always precedes suicide.

Generally, it’s not easy to diagnose what triggers or what goes on in the dark recesses of the minds of the people who take their own lives or what drives those who perpetrate the heinous crime of murder, but psychologists have nailed it down to mental health malady known as psychosis.

In a country where medical care is at abysmal level owing to the paucity of funds allocated towards the procurement of medicines and equipment; and as such an environment where for cultural reasons, mental illness is not accorded serious considerations as it is not perceived as a disease, the spate of mental health related deaths is bound to be phenomenal.

It’s therefore unsurprising that from April last year to May this year, Daily Trust newspaper reportedly gleaned 80 suicide and murder related deaths from media reports in Nigeria. The most prevalent reported reasons for the suicides/murders range from financial difficulty, marital problems, to academic challenges which degenerate into depression and finally manifest as suicide or murder.

Lagos, being a mega city and hub of economic activities in Nigeria, recorded the highest number of suicide/murder , with 14 cases recorded within the period of 13 months reviewed. The only original window that reveals the motive or offers an access into the minds of those who commit suicide or murder is suicide note which they often leave behind.

Lately, the social media handles of victims have been another veritable source. In the case of Kate Spade in the USA, Anthony Bourdain in France, and the lady in Lagos whose identify remains known, no suicide note has been found or discovered, but hopefully that is to be expected in due course.

Before the unfortunate incident of the latest incident, it may be recalled that sometime last year, a man also jumped off the same 3rd mainland bridge into the lagoon at the Oworonsoki end and died. Soon after, a banker Olaoluwa Adejo allegedly murdered his wife Maureen in the course of domestic squabble in Oworonsoki, Lagos.

A Danish man, Peter Nielson, also allegedly killed his Nigerian wife, Zainab and daughter in Banana island, Lagos while a female lawyer Udeme also stabbed her husband, Sim Otike-Odibi to death and cut off his manhood after killing him in the Lekki axis of Lagos.

In Oshodi also in Lagos, an artisan man killed his lover and stuffed her body in a box ready for disposal until he was apprehended by vigilantes.

In Abuja, Maryam Sanda allegedly stabbed her husband and the son of a prominent politician, Haliru Bello to death while asleep, and in Ondo State, a student, Chukudi Oweniwe strangled his lover Nifemi Adeyeye to death. All these tragic incidents of suicide and murders happened between 2016/18.

In the light of the experience in the advanced society, some of these heinous crimes catalogued above might have mental illness as the underlying cause or causes.

Incidentally, unlike HIV/AIDS or order incurable diseases, mental psychosis is curable.

However, with the malaise of mental illness not being paid the required attention like malaria or HIV/AIDS and cancer diseases, the trend is bound to continue.

Worst of all, the incidents may not be recorded by the likes of National Bureau of Statistics, NBS because it’s culturally a taboo to kill oneself and religiously a sin to engage in such.

In the wake of the current incident of suicide on the 3rd mainland bridge, the Suicide Research and Preventive Initiative of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, has put in in the mass media the public information below along with helplines: ‘Have you been feeling sad and tired of it all? Has life lost much meaning? Are you at that point where you felt like ending it all? Before taking any step, why not talk to us. Call Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (LUTH): SURPIN helplines 09080217555, 09034400009, 08111909909, 07013811143’.

Now, that effort may not be adequate to halt or stem the ugly tide, but given the well documented dire shortage of facilities and funding in what’s supposed to be Nigeria’s foremost specialist hospital and citadel of medical scholarship, LUTH, it is at least a welcome modest and commendable effort.

In the Western world such as the USA where superstitions is not taken as seriously as it is in Africa, suicide is well reported. So statistics and data on incidents related to mental illness abound.

An opinion article titled: “Suicide Rates Are Rising. What Should We Do About it?” published in New York Times of June 11, 2018, the author, Richard A Friedman lamented that about 45,000 Americans committed suicide in 2016. Quoting American Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, Friedman pointed out that the figure is 28% increase from 1999 numbers.

Unlike in Africa where diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, Ebola and social maladies like terrorism are the highest killers , suicide ranks as number 10 in the cause of death in the USA.

One of the simple remedies referenced in the article by Friedman is talking openly about suicide with people who are vulnerable. That’s contrary to the belief by folks here that rather than stem it, talking about suicide might trigger it. As an experiment by some professors in an Ivy League university in the USA has proven, talking about it is actually an efficacious remedy.

According to Friedman’s New York Times article “Dr. Madelyn Gould, a psychology professor at Columbia, and colleagues screened a group of high school students about their moods. Subjects exposed to questions about suicidal feelings or thoughts were no more likely to report thinking about suicide after the survey than those who were not asked these questions. The implication is that we should not be afraid to ask people we are concerned about if they are feeling suicidal. In fact, we need to talk more openly about suicide, to help people see it as the treatable medical scourge that it is.”

In a country where only a paltry 3.9% (N346.45b) of budget 2018 is allocated to the health sector as opposed to the World Health Organization, WHO and African Union, AU recommended 15%, an inexpensive therapy like talking about suicide to prevent it from happening must be encouraged by not only govt,  but the media, NGOs, Faith based organizations and any public spirited individuals or entities. In so doing, we can together drastically reduce the number of suicide or murder before the ignoble act assumes a crisis dimension.

Drilling down on the issue of marital infidelity and the consequential fall out of paternity fraud which is a grievous crime; and what drove the lady who is reportedly a mother of three kids to jump into the lagoon to her death on 3rd mainland bridge on 10th of June; the general overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church, pastor Eunuch Adeboye’s recent directive to pastors to insist on examination of genitals of members before wedding them in their churches (which generated a lot of public negative comments), should be extended beyond examination of genitalia.

The justification by the Redeemed Church is that a lot of Marital conflicts are rooted in disappointments by the couples in their reproductive organ’s inability to function optimally after wedding owing to non disclosure of status pre-marriage. As a church that counsels couples before and after marriage, Pastor Adeboye must have made the decision based on experience.

Since prevention is better than cure, it’s better to be sure before saying ‘I do’.

To me, the policy is existential and therefore requiring a radical solution which l believe is a pragmatic thing to do.

Likewise, considering the dire consequences for those ladies engaging in paternity fraud which can lead to suicide when caught , the church can save everybody the heartache by also being preemptive .
In that regard , l would like to recommend that intending marriage couples should consent to pregnancy test supervised by the church before marriage oath can be administered.

That will be one sure non medical remedy to the rising tide of marital crisis resulting in domestic violence and suicides in Nigeria.

Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts USA and former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos to TheCable.

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