When suicide is interrogated, it calls to question why it should happen. Sometimes people are faced with situations that blank out any future prospects or remedy.
Chinua Achebe’s widely acclaimed novel, Things Fall Apart, mirrors the precolonial African experience in Eastern Nigeria, within the Igbo ethnic enclave. The novel narrates the story of Okonkwo who commits suicide after a determined opposition to the white man’s inversion and indoctrination of his native Umuofia. There have been multiple interpretations of Okonkwo’s character, some of them scholarly and insightful, some banal and pedestrian and some a monotonous repetition of previous interpretations. While some people argue that Okonkwo is a hero, others insist that the claim to Okonkwo’s heroism is sufficiently flawed by the suicide he commits at the end of the novel. In fact, some others stretch the argument by maintaining that Okonkwo’s heroism consists in his decision to commit suicide rather than face disgraceful death in the hands of the irreverent, white intruders.
Okonkwo’s ignominious exit from the world calls our attention to the despicable act of suicide. Suicide is an abominable act held in contempt across the world, it is condemned by various religions, races, and cultures. In many instances, it requires elaborate propitiation to cleanse the land, appease chthonic gods, and exorcise the demonic trend. Of all the absurdities that characterize 21st-century consciousness, same-sex marriage, sodomy, rape, ritual murder, satanic worship, and cannibalism, it is not known if suicide has been officially embraced by any group as a suitable option to exit the world. However, Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and Hope Eghagha’s Death Not a Redeemer both relieve the cultural practice where a servant is required to die by suicide to let the dead king have a peaceful and unhindered access to the great beyond.
When suicide is interrogated, it calls to question why it should happen. Sometimes people are faced with situations that blank out any future prospects or remedy. Sometimes too, the situation could be as flimsy as losing a job, love and romantic misadventure, financial and economic hardship, the death of loved ones, deportation from abroad and in many cases, no reason is adduced. This reminds us of the poem Richard Cory by the English poet, Edwin Arlington Robinson. The poem recounts the life of a handsome man Richard Cory, perfect, educated and rich in the eyes of all. In fact, he cuts the picture of a quintessential man and many people wished to be like him. However, Richard Cory gets home one day, puts a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. Even though many Nigerians today smile and pretend that all is well, they are going through excruciating pain occasioned by the harsh economic atmosphere which gets worse by the day and like Richard Cory, they commit suicide or contemplate committing suicide.
The idea that a human being can in good conscience conceive to end his life eviscerates the mind and disembowels the inner recesses of the soul. If we concede that individual suicide is an abominable act, how about collective suicide, a situation where a group of people collectively decide to take their lives either to protest a cause or to advance an idea? I have read in the Japanese folklore where a group collectively took their lives by drowning in the sea because they were prevented from worshipping their chosen god. I have also read how a tribe in Cuba collectively committed suicide by drinking poison because the son of a notorious prostitute was imposed on them as a king.
A deliberate decision to take one’s life is both ominous and reprobate. The French sociologist, Emile Durkheim identified four types of suicide – egoistic, altruistic, anomic and fatalistic. For our purpose in this essay, we have further created a subdivision of suicide in conscious suicide and unconscious suicide. In our part of the world, we are more familiar with conscious suicide when someone, deliberately, against all considerations decide to take his life. Sometimes the decision is gradual and planned, other times the decision is instantaneous and immediate, followed by a suicide note where reasons are outlined for the abominable act. Today in our country and unknown to us, many people die through suicide and unfortunately, the government pays no attention to the trend. Many of the cases of conscious suicide are attributed to economic hardship when someone is unable to respond to malignant financial responsibilities.
Take the case of a 52-year-old man in Abuja who, after losing his job, could not afford to pay his wife’s medical bills after a hernia operation was carried out on her. A week before the incident, he was evicted from his apartment because he defaulted to pay his house rent by seven months. Unable to stand the shame, he took his life. How about a 48-year-old man in Plateau state who, also took his life because he lost his wife and three children in one day to herdsmen attack. Let us also consider a 46-year-old man in Oyo state who committed suicide because law enforcement agents impounded his commercial bus and after three days, informed him that the bus was missing and could not be found. The case of a 51-year-old woman in Lagos is indeed soul-wrenching. She had committed suicide because after her bank account was credited by a microfinance bank for a loan of N500, 000, she woke up the next morning to see a debit alert showing that the money had been withdrawn by criminals. An 18-year-old girl in Lagos, fresh from secondary school committed suicide because she got pregnant and couldn’t withstand the ignominy. If indeed, we are familiar with conscious suicide, how about the unconscious suicide? Is it really possible for people to unconsciously decide to end their lives without knowing it? Those who drive more than 120 kilometers on the road are unconsciously on the path of suicide. By eating and drinking certain food and drinks, some people are unconsciously committing suicide. Many of our youths have unconsciously committed suicide by taking hard drugs. Some people are unconsciously committing suicide by overworking themselves in order to make ends meet. They leave the house very early and return very late, they spend several hours on the traffic and ultimately sacrifice their families and their health all in a bid to catch the Golden Fleece.
Some politicians are unconsciously committing suicide by oscillating from one political party to another like manipulated puppets used by a juju priest for diabolic enchantments. These politicians, lacking in any ideological convictions, embrace defections in their search for personal glory and further enrichment of their obscene private enterprise. Events in Nigeria’s political realm shows that some politicians are intoxicated with power and in their drunken delirium can do anything, even if it means dancing naked in the market square to keep that power. They vomit, return to their vomit and back again without a second thought. Dignity, decency, and honour for these politicians have become an anathema long thrown to the dung heap. Whether consciously or unconsciously, those who commit suicide can never be heroes, at best they are forever consigned to Nigeria’s populated hall of infamy.
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