‘Dele Oladipupo ©2018
In simple terms, suicide refers to the wilful act of taking one’s life. There are several reasons why people commit suicide: depression, substance abuse, psychotic and bipolar disorders, hopelessness, feeling of abandonment, etc. Perhaps the unacknowledged reason why some commit suicide is the judgemental nature of the society. We judge people mercilessly. We judge the slightest infractions. We judge even when the facts are skeletal. So, some may commit suicide because they’re afraid to meet our prying eyes and self-righteous posturings. You remember the story of the woman who was about to be stoned to death for committing adultery in the Bible? Her accusers had committed more grievous crimes. Yet, they were intent on killing the poor woman. Thank God Jesus was in that neighbourhood.
Last week, a woman parked her Ford SUV on the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos and jumped into the lagoon. This came on the heels of two international celebrity suicide cases. At the scene, somebody quickly posted a video which went viral. The video only showed the vast body of water, sympathizers who parked and peered into the lagoon and the face of the man who did the recording. Nothing more. It seemed odd that a few hours afterwards, the woman’s pictures, her chat records and a nude video had reached the length and breadth of Nigeria. We are not famed for investigative journalism. So, how could anyone have known who the woman was and her motive for jumping into the lagoon within hours?
By the next morning, nearly everyone became pundits. All it takes these days to be an expert is a Facebook wall. Many called her unprintable names. Their opinions were based on snippets of information picked up here and there. The woman whose pictures we have is a totally different person. She has taken to her Instagram page to correct the error. This tells you that for the moment, the identity of the woman who jumped is unknown. The police have also said that the Ford SUV belongs to a man who is currently helping the investigation. So, what happened? Truth must have met with fiction at some point.
Since the facts in this case are still pretty sketchy, we must tread with caution. Suppose the woman actually jumped to her death that evening because she had committed adultery and had sent her nude pictures and videos to her partner who then resorted to blackmail? What then? If you have not walked in somebody’s shoes, it’s difficult to blame them. People battle problems they can’t tell anyone because they know in our characteristic manner, we’ll judge rather than listen. Here in Nigeria, if you’re bipolar, you’re mad. If you’re depressed, it’s the devil. If you are single for too long, you’re morally reprehensible. We drive people to their deaths daily with our ignorance. People don’t kill themselves overnight. First, they try to communicate. Then, they withdraw. Some also try to talk about it. For some, there are usually a few failed attempts at suicide. When all these have failed, they kill themselves. It should interest you to know that the one who commits suicide is dead and gone. His death, however, would gnaw at his family and friends for a long time. They didn’t pay attention while he was alive. Now that he’s gone, their world will move in slow motion. In Japan, I think, when one kills himself by jumping in front of a train, his family is compelled to pay disruption fees. Sometime ago, I read about a man who wrote nearly two thousand pages of suicide note. That took him five years to write and he still killed himself. When I overcame my initial shock, I couldn’t help but wonder whether anyone paid any attention to him at all. A suicide note is not an academic text. Apparently he foot-dragged to get attention. Since he got none, he took his life.
In Nigeria, adultery is not a criminal offence except ,of course, in the north. When two consenting adults have sex, it is their problem not ours. If they are religious folks, it becomes a matter even God has to look into. Splattering a woman’s nude pictures and videos all over the internet is , at best, infantile. For those, circulating and posting the pictures, what have you gained? When an adulterous affair gone wrong gets to the public space, our default reaction is to judge and resort to name calling. Jesus didn’t judge that woman. He saved her from death and he didn’t even use a single condemnatory word. I’m fairly certain that woman got saved without a sermon about ‘a God waiting to send you to Hell should you offend Him’, even mildly.
It should alarm you that suicide is on the increase in Nigeria. Not too long ago, a secondary school student committed suicide in one of the well-known schools. The reason? Bullying. I shudder to say there are more cases than are being reported. A teenager I know once attempted suicide because a girl rejected him. He took an overdose of Tramadol which nearly killed him. He got lucky. I’m fairly certain he saw the Pearly Gates before he returned. If that woman did commit adultery, I wonder if she’ll jump to her death if she had just one person with a pair of listening ears. Africans are wired to be communal. We have abandoned that. It is now a case of everyman for himself. Each would do everything possible to be seen to have attained a greater level of success than his neighbour. This is the reason many more may see suicide as the way out. Nobody cares. Nobody listens. They are frustrated by time-lines of success. All hope is lost.
We must learn and re-learn the art of listening. Stop yakking about ‘suicide not being the way out’ or that ‘suicide is a mark of cowardice’. You see, you’re judging again! Somebody finds it hard to see the way out of a particularly knotty issue and you’re sermonizing. Show love. Listen to people. Enquire after people’s well-being. Buy somebody an occasional gift. Smile. Give hugs liberally. All these things take next to nothing. If you’re constantly rebuffed, now that’s different. If that child, that man or that woman commits suicide because of your nonchalance and negligence, God will hold you accountable. Do you know why? Cast your mind back. What is the greatest commandment, my dear? Love your neighbour as yourself. It’s that simple.