By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
The willful taking away of one's life is known as suicide. This can be done by hanging, strangling of one's self, jumping into a sea, drinking poisonous substances, jumping unto a moving train or vehicle, starving of self, etc. In recent times, we have witnessed series of suicide cases in Nigeria and beyond. What is happening?
In December 2018, a middle aged man took his life by lying down on the rail track at Kubwa area of the Federal Capital Territory. A speed train ran over him and crushed him like floor. He left a suicide note addressed to his wife and kid: “Please forgive me for I do not have funds to take care of you.” What a tragedy! He escaped his family responsibility by taking his life. Is it a solution to the problem?
In the same month of December, a 300-Level female student of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria committed suicide by taking Sniper insecticide. She left a suicide note which blamed her parents for the decision to cut her life short. Probably she didn't get enough moral and financial assistance from them. Who knows the financial strength of the parents? Was the student herself extravagant and unappreciative? Who is to blame?
In January 2019, a Benue Council worker committed suicide because of unpaid salaries by the Local Government Authority. He drank acid which did not react immediately. Unknown to his colleagues, he asked them if acid no longer kills. Shortly after, he collapsed and was rushed to a hospital where he died. He was married with children. His reason for killing himself was that he couldn't cope up with family responsibilities. Earlier, a married woman who worked in the same Local Government Council killed her husband and three children before killing herself.
In the month of April 2019, a don in the Department of Mathematics at University of Ibadan simply known as Mr. A. O. Subair set himself ablaze in his senior staff quarters. Before the evil act, he resigned from the university without justifiable reasons and was yet to pack out of the Staff quarters. It was also reported that he had separated from his family and had challenges about his career. He will become a don in the department of suffering in the world beyond.
In the same month, a jilted 100-Level female student of Kogi State University (KSU) Ayigba, Miss Rebecca Michael, committed suicide over a breakup with her alleged boyfriend by drinking Sniper insecticide. The boyfriend in question informed her by phone call that he was no longer interested in the relationship. Is this a good reason for killing herself? Would she find a better boyfriend in hell?
Also in April 2019, a 40-year old man, Emmanuel Igwe popularly known as Ezeugo from Ebonyi State killed himself by hanging on a tree. He was a landlord and a restaurant owner. On that fateful day he left his residence to the restaurant. On his way he called his wife on phone and instructed her to take care of their children. Nothing more was heard. The wife tried to enquire the reason for the strange message but his phone was off. His lifeless body was later found dangling on a tree. No one knew the reason why he decided to take his own life. He did not leave any suicide note behind. Everyone was asking, “Why?” Was he under a spell? Why did he die in silence? Had he no one to confide in?
In the month of May this year, a 400-Level male student of University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Mr. Chukwuemeka Akachi, committed suicide in an uncompleted building at Sullivan road Nsukka by drinking two bottles of Sniper insecticide. He left this suicide note: “Forgive me. In case you are the one who found the body, I am sorry. It had to be someone you know. I have chosen J.O. Nketaih's poem as my suicide note: 'They said you came looking for me. I don't drown, I was the water. Where do atheists go when they die? LoI. Amen.” It was reported that Akachi was having some mental health challenges earlier before he took his life. Sorry!
Also in the month of May 2019, a 300-Level medical student of the Niger Delta University (NDU) in Bayelsa State, Uzaka Timi Ebiwerri, committed suicide for failing in his professional exams. He was reported to have dived into the Amassoma River and drowned. He was among the 40 medical students disqualified in the professional exams. For him, it was a bitter pill to swallow. Therefore he decided to end his life. There is no cause for alarm. He must have undergone another eternal examination at the judgment seat of God. If he failed it, he might have probably committed another suicide in hell fire.
Early this year, a 40-year old woman came into my office in tears. She told me that nothing works for her. She had no work and was unmarried. According to her, she had attempted to kill herself by drinking poison three times, but it did not kill her. At a point she decided to hang herself. As she about to do that, a voice told her not to do so. Then she postponed the suicide. After hearing the Word of God in the church, she was moved to come to me for advice. I advised her to take it easy. Life has no duplicate. God's time is the best. Also suicide is not a solution but a crime. I prayed for her. She left my office with happiness radiating on her face.
Hear a more pathetic suicide case. In April this year in Ivory Coast, a Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Richard Bile, hanged himself in his garage after celebrating morning Mass on that fateful day. He was wearing his alb vestment when he committed the suicide. He was accused of paedophilia (sex abuse of the minor). He was about to be suspended by Church Authority when he was found dead. He left this heartbreaking suicide note: “Near God, I will have peace. God's world is too harsh and does things elusive.” Was he innocent of the accusation? Even if he was guilty, is suicide the best solution? Oh, father Richard, why did you despair?
Various reasons have been adduced why people commit suicide at random. The first reason is depression. American Psychiatric Association defines depression as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act….Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person's ability to function at work and at home.” Are you depressed? If so, you need psychiatric attention before it gets out of hand. A stitch in time saves nine.
Some persons commit suicide for psychotic reasons. Psychosis is a serious mental disorder that can affect one's character and makes him or her unable to behave in a normal way. Those who claim to see visions or hear strange voices should go for psychological test first to determine if they are normal. Of course there are true visionaries, but they are rare. Few years ago I encountered a young man who told me that a voice was telling him to go and commit suicide. He asked me to pray for him before he obeys the voice. I sat him down and advised him to ignore the voice because it was the voice of the devil. Then I took him into the Chapel of the Holy of Holies and prayed for him. Afterwards I gave him a sumptuous lunch to be sure that hunger was not behind the strange voice he was hearing. He was grateful and left with happiness.
The desire to commit suicide may be impulsive. The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines impulse as “a sudden strong desire to do something before thinking whether it is a sensible thing to do.” A person who kills himself or herself out of impulse should know that a corpse does not think. The normal process of human action is to think before you act. Someone who acts before he or she thinks is out of reality.
There are those who commit suicide out of philosophical desire to die. This is a false philosophy. Philosophy is simply defined as the love of wisdom. It should be a wise wisdom and not a foolish wisdom. It is only foolish wisdom that can propel someone to take his own life. Some time ago I had a housedog called Wisdom. At first it was acting wisely like a human being. After some time, it began to act foolishly by killing and eating live fowls. Because of the evil act, I sold it to butchers who butchered it mercilessly. Philosophy teaches us to preserve life and not to toil with it. Our death should be natural and not self-induced.
One can also commit suicide when his or her cry for help falls on deaf ears. Let us therefore be our brother's keeper. We should have listening ears. Dismissing or ignoring anyone that comes to us for assistance is not the best option. We should listen to him or her first. A word of consolation or a little material assistance can soothe the tensed nerves.
Making a serious moral or physical mistake can lead one take his life. No one is above mistake. There is always a way forward. Judas made a moral mistake by betraying Jesus Christ. He could not bear it. He ended up hanging himself. Peter made the same mistake by denying Jesus. He realized his mistake. He wept and repented. Is there much difference between betrayal and denial? What God expects from us sinners are true sorrow and repentance. He says, “Do I desire the death of the sinner? Do I not want him to turn from his evil ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23). Suicide is not the answer. We should never despair of God's mercy. Is there a sinless human being? Often the shame surrounding one's mistake (sin) can lead to suicide. Have we forgotten that it is more shameful to be in hell-fire? Which is better: To endure temporal shame or to experience everlasting shame?
All said and done, suicide is never a solution to any problem. Life is a primary value. It must be preserved. Life belongs to God. The fifth commandment says, “You shall not kill” (Exodu 20:13). Only God has the prerogative of taking away human life. Bill Maher says, “Suicide is man's way of telling God, 'You can't fire me – I quit.” Juliet Lewis asserts, “The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.” A word is enough for the wise.