It was shocking and heart-rending last week when it was reported that a Lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Enugu Campus), Dr Bede Apata, committed suicide. Why it was jaw-dropping for all is that at 38, with a Ph.D. in law and a good and prestigious job, he was very “successful” and millions of Nigerians would want to be in his shoes.
Besides, he was also not even a nobody by birth; he was a son to a former Commissioner in the old Anambra State, Chief Clement Apata. But, regardless of the nobility of his birth and the prestige of his profession, he still went ahead penultimate Saturday to take his own life. His body was found the following day (i.e. Sunday 27th July, 2014).
What made a man of his social status take such a decision is yet to emerge, as far as I know. However, the development is an indication that several Nigerians that are supposedly “successful” are fighting internal battles that can make them take desperate actions including suicide.
Cases of students who commit suicide because of failure are legion. There are also cases of the unemployed and the under-employed, including a wide range of heavily indebted people, who take the pernicious step because they are overwhelmed by the challenges life throws at them. But a gainfully employed and upwardly mobile professional taking own life has upped the ante. There are many questions begging for answers.
Nigerians should appreciate the fact that whatever the circumstances they may face, suicide is not an option. We are truly facing a lot of challenges that can make one go crazy. There are poverty, insecurity, corruption, impunity and indiscipline ravaging the land. We jump from one tragedy to another and life is so cheap here that we are not shocked anymore. We are increasingly losing our humanity as we are getting accustomed to human suffering and deprivation.
In Nigeria today, if you are rich, you are in trouble; if you are poor, you are in soup! Politicians go to any extent to get power. When they get power, their turmoil begins afresh as they are confronted with winning the subsequent election. Even when they win it, they are still concerned about how their legacies would not be obliterated by their successors. It is a vicious circle.
Despite the challenges one may face, suicide should be ruled out completely. The consequence is dire apart from the cowardice underpinning it. From the theological perspective, it is a grave sin because you don’t terminate the God-given life. It is a desperate act that people, especially the frustrated students, should not contemplate.
I remember a stage in my teens when I thought life was hard. I was living under undesirable circumstances and gaining a university admission was the only visa out of that deplorable state in Lagos. Life was difficult but I realized that nothing lasts forever. After a lull that seemed like eternity, time liberated me from the situation to face other ones. The troubles and travails of this life are for a limited time but life after death is eternal.
There is a misconception that rest lies in death but it is not true. Many Nigerians would want to jump on the nearest plane to travel abroad because of the misconceived notion that the streets of Europe and America are paved with gold. It is only when the desperate ones get there that they realise that life is not rosy there either but they will find coming home extremely difficult. They then suffer for as long as it takes.
One reason for which people commit suicide is ignorance of the true essence of life. The secret of life’s sweetness is to be good and serve God and humanity. We all crave success but many people have narrowed success to being rich, famous, powerful and physically attractive. It is a truism that the rich ones among us are not the happiest.
If one struggles to attain all success and still realizes that one is not happy, there is frustration. It happens more often than not that an individual would have a good house, assorted cars, a fantastic job with a fat pay package with a good spouse but still realises an emptiness, a void in his life. Such a person becomes desperate. True success is peace of mind.
No condition is permanent in this life. The external and internal conflicts we experience are part of what makes life interesting. We should know that part of life skills is knowing how to deal with them. We must strive to make peace with ourselves and thank God in all circumstances while wishing and working for the best.
I repeat that suicide is not an option and if we are thoughtful, we would be grateful. Life is short originally. We shouldn’t make it shorter by making its problems weigh us down. One of the quotes of the late American author, Maya Angelou, that I love best is, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”.
We need attitudinal change to survive this world and its contradictions.