Recently, a young undergrad committed suicide by ingesting something. His lecturers spoke out and mentioned that there had been previous attempts by him to commit suicide and they had tried to talk him out of it. He had admitted to struggling with mental health issues and even thanked people around him that had helped him as he put it; “extend his life by a couple of minutes, hours, weeks and months.” He had adapted a poem as his suicide note.
According to a 2017 WHO report, there are about seven million Nigerians living with some form of mental health issue with depression on the rise. I couldn’t find any study by Nigeria but with the recent happenings in our country, I will risk and say in a population of 200 million and with a pervading sense of hopelessness in the face of economic meltdowns, instability and breakdown in security, the figure should be as high as half.
We used to restrict the physical definition of ‘madness’ as a dirty, disheveled, dada carrying person roaming the streets bare foot and sleeping in the rough. Alas, that’s not it. We are people with mental health issues living in plain sight and because of the fear of stigmatisation, this threat is still on the low. As Next Level has warned us on the need to further adjust our belts because the Next Level will be just that in terms of what we are witnessing now. The need for mental health education has never been more important.
The Rise Of Atheism
Nigeria’s religiosity is quite perplexing. Nigeria is a country where hypocrisy rules, where rendering blessings and committing sin simultaneously doesn’t seem incongruous and all commandments are largely ignored, and an offender can be heard unabashedly bestowing blessings and even uttering ‘God bless you’ after the fact. The saddest situation is to be seen committing clear atrocities in the name of God justifying it and even backing it up.
Religion permeates every facet of Nigerian life, even in areas where it shouldn’t matter; like when I went to register my SIM card. Really, what does it matter who I worship or don’t worship? How does that affect in anyway, the calls I would be making or the tariffs that the communications company will take gladly? Anyway, in this case, I skipped the query. The lady attending to me scanned the form and pointed out rather firmly to me that I hadn’t filled that curious bit of information. I told her I don’t have a religion. You would have thought I had committed an atrocity!
In the corridors of power, religion has a strange, though sanctioned, stronghold, taking centre stage in legislation and politics. For instance, a Muslim presidential candidate must pick a Christian as their vice-presidential running mate, even if the most eligible person in the party is Muslim. The last time when we were still a sane people of blessed memory, when we allowed a single religion ticket was the MKO Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe ticket.
Every neighbourhood and street corner features a place of worship and depending on which part of the country you visit, it could be a mosque, a church or both. Still, with all the prayers emanating from these ubiquitous prayer houses, Nigeria remains one of the world’s most corrupt countries, currently sitting pretty at number 144 out of the 175 countries surveyed by Transparency International. We touch our foreheads to mosque floors on Fridays, shout the loudest praises on Sundays but somehow, haven’t been able to exorcise the demon of corruption. Instead, religious leaders fleece their congregation through tithes, offertories and the sale of blessings. Claims that what is practiced is based on peace, brotherhood, unity, forgiveness, sacrifice, no judgement shocks to the marrow when you hear the stories of man’s inhumanity to man only to discover that the person has a strong ‘affiliation’ to God. We are so wicked that it is no surprise Atheism is on the rise among our youth especially. They have watched us and seen the gross contradictions in our lives; they’ve heard us talk about the attributes that this God expects us to have in dealing with our fellow man, but we are so far removed that it is easier to believe that no such being exist because he can’t claim to be all that and his adherents are just plain horrid. I guess lack of understanding of the gentlemanly nature of God can cause this frustration because we would expect him with all his power to step in and rescue us from these bad, wicked people that he created!!
It is really disheartening seeing people who once had a semblance of belief losing all and actually thriving without the religion and its rituals. As it turns out, they seem to have it more together because they turn their attention to bettering the lives of those around; maybe in a bid to prove we don’t need a god to be humane.
Mark My Words, I Will Become President Of Nigeria – Okorocha
In my article on mental health issues and the need for education and awareness, I pointed out that mental illness is no longer dirty and disheveled but is well dressed and participates in life. You just wonder was the church the place for Rochas Okorocha to start his rant about politics including making the additional statement: “I said this on this altar so that the kingdom of God will rise against those fighting to stop me.” No wonder people are falling off the belief wagon.
We often hear the encouraging words that we can be whoever we want to be, aim high, be tenacious don’t take no for an answer etc. but I think what is lacking in the advice is the context. There is context for you can be whoever you want to be. There are varying factors that make the statement true. While I won’t take the academic route to list them, I think it is only fair to ask Rochas how he wants to achieve this. Will he run as an Independent candidate? Will he first abandon the ambition to proceed to his temporary retirement home, the Senate? What are his selling points? He has spoken and dragged God into this, so he really needs to be clear on how he wants to achieve this goal with one of his least favourite people, eying the seat come 2023.