Suicide Rising: The Blind Side of Anti-Corruption

Anti-corruption is raging in Nigeria and governance as predicted is blind siding countless worthy and real issues for governance. Anti-corruption is not an excuse whatsoever for a nation or government to [completely] forget any of its governance responsibilities to the nation. Incidences of suicides due to major government failures and irresponsibility due rapacious theft are rising in Nigeria but as a hidden and unspoken phenomenon. What hope does the present and future generations in Nigeria have?

When you hear that a man aged 42 committed suicide because he had not been paid his monthly salary for over a year, it does would not usually register in the minds of Nigerians unless they have something directly to benefit from such news. Such news no matter how poignant, tragic or indicative has never been a major challenge to the Nigerian government or society. But it does represent the plight of thousands if not millions of Nigerians. The coroner’s office certainly is a redundant department. How many Nigerians die yearly and of what causes?

Evolving a consciousness in society to the stage of considering the “human development” of the people is just too far beyond its reach. Nigeria is firmly stuck with brick, mortar and tarmac (BMT) infrastructures as development, perhaps well into the distant future.

The man who in question who committed the suicide is a university-educated engineer working in a professional capacity in the public sector. Without being patriarchal, an engineer who does not bring money home  especially when he has go to work and work hard daily is a hostage to his wife. His kids see him as an unfit father and his family see him as lazy, thoughtless or worthless. Friends fear the loan requests he might make.

Debt-collectors can visit the engineer’s work place and disgrace him publicly with tacit societal approval; poverty or cash flow problems are unconsciously crimes. Some will mock his sound intelligence as wasteful. When rent or school fees or emergencies arrive they hit the engineer like a bullet. His only crime though, all things are considered, is he worked for kleptocratic state government run by callous thieves who immiserate everyone outside their patronage, non-payment of salaries included.

With gross “human underdevelopment” in Nigeria it would be seen as an abominable act to commit suicide and his corpse would usually be thrown in the “forbidden forest” without ceremony but fortunately he did have the dignity of a burial and remembrance service.

Some would say with total conviction he was just a weakling. Others would say he it is the curse of witchcraft especially within his family that led to the suicide. What would be rarely discussed is the economic hardship, hunger and utter despair that chases Nigerians in public and in private like some avenging angel gone wild. The state government denied him his salary that was adequately allocated for in the state’s budget. Who cares?

The stigma of suicide is so oppressive that families who have suffered it tend to hide them very well. The public rarely hears about suicides as much as they happen. Hush hush gossip is the only source of news of suicide and never makes it to relevant formal centres, yet suicide is a regular common occurrence in Nigeria. Almost everyone on Nigeria ‘dies’ of physical impact or a “brief illness”. Brief illness masks so much.

For those who do not commit suicide there is the pervasive slow death. First there is the ‘physical slow death’. Hunger, starvation, illness, pollution, poor sanitation, GMOs, expired foods, dud medicines, absent medical services, toxic waste, road accidents, bad roads all ensure that the life expectancy of the Nigerian is at best in the 40s. Sooner than later death takes its toll. Oil wealth appears in Nigeria to be better stolen than invested [in human development].

The ‘psychological slow death’ is even more prevalent though subtle. Mental despair and psychological torture is not limited to economic impossibilities or an identity devoid of self-worth. The aggressive conspicuous consumption and impunity of the “social oppressors” against the learned helpless / hopelessness and exclusion of “the social others” is a sophisticated manifestation of societal sadism and masochism in Nigeria. Ordinary man’s masochism is never voluntary but forced upon him. His masochism makes him prefer death to life. The social oppressors just love it. How can the human mind be put to good use under such circumstances?

Will anti-corruption solve the problem of suicides, slow deaths and systemic de-humanisation in Nigeria? On the surface many will believe that once corruption stops, non-payment of salaries will stop. Such thinking is naivete in the highest. The engineer’s suicide was a combination non-payment of his salary for 13 months, a lack of medical insurance and affordable health, forced societal masochism and abject de-humanisation. Not even a good education and a secure career could save. That is Nigeria for you.

The over 160 million Nigerians who have not acquired higher education or have do not have a professional career, how are they coping? Yet, there are those who say the index based on those living on less than $1.25 a day is neocolonialism. Stop the hyper-kleptocracy and focus on human development. Then the $1.25 index will have no relevance in Nigeria.

Anti-Corruption is good, human development is better.

Grimot Nane

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