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Suicide and the courage of living

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Suicide by Hanging


Suicide in the Nigerian traditional context is a taboo, a crime against earth just as much as murder. It is totally forbidden. A suicide in the traditional concept is never given any burial rite but the corpse is usually dragged into the forest of Oro or other reserved places for such and left on the ground as food for vultures, hyenas and other carnivorous animals to devour.

Even at that, the family had to come up with a fine, which is used to purify the home, the family and the community. These acts as a sort of deterrent to others, especially the younger ones, watching, hence in the traditional society we emerged from, suicide is never an option. It is almost unheard of as the crude treatment of the suicide body rev fear in all.

The sixth commandment of the Ten Commandments given by Moses was quite emphatic, “thou shall not kill”, though many biblical scholars have argued that what Moses actually said in the original text was, “thou shall not murder”, not “thou shall not kill.

It makes sense, as the State, when in the execution of a convicted felon for capital offence could be said to have breached that law of injunction not to kill, except properly interpreted as murder while a solider on the battlefield must as a matter of necessity kill his opponent or be killed.

The law as it is today cannot punish a successful suicide as he is no more there to feel the punishment but there is a law against attempted suicide which every magistrate will think twice before evoking as the offender will only get to prison and begin to look for a way or manner to finish what he began, therefore, an unsuccessful suicide is at the first opportunity confined to a psychiatric hospital for medical attention.

Suicide is some form of manic depression occasioned by so many factors, raging of the mind of the individual against some unfair or unjust treatment that could not be righted, shame, fear, anxiety and others leading to a total loss of control of the WILL to go on living, to go on existing. It is an abandonment of hope.

Sometimes for sure that unfortunate individual seek only to attract attention to himself or herself to gain sympathy or empathy for wrongs he or she had committed against friends, family parents or societies believing that the society will neither tolerate nor condone such behavior.

However, the rate at which suicide and suicidal intentions had gone up in the country is becoming overwhelming, unbearable and unexplainable, especially among the youths, a carefree taking of life, theirs, as if such life has a spare part.

When a girl of fourteen kills herself because of a boyfriend, it is a shame on the parents and on the society. When a boy of seventeen kills himself for any reason whatsoever it is no less a shame. It is a sign of total inhibition, of lack of respect for Human life. It is not much different from what the suicide bombers of Boko haram are doing may be the example is from there.

The truth is, our society is somewhat failing, the traditions, the ethos the convictions we had lived by have been eroded, degraded and uprooted by the uncensored films, uninhibited adult nuances, juvenile delinquencies, broken homes, cultism, peer pressures, misuse of drugs, the worship of the god of mammon in our places of worship to the detriment of the salvation of the soul; failing standard of devoted teacher’s, negative indoctrination failed parenthood, the list could go on ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

Whatever may be the case, suicide is not an alternative to all or any of these problems. No human being has a right to see himself or herself as a tragic figure, nor is it an escapist route to another world when the present world has not been fully exploited or fully challenged.

Death is a necessary end, yes, but I do believe after all said and done that suicide is a cowardly end, it is living in the face of vicissitude and so much aridity that takes courage and as Shakespeare put it in Julius Caesar, “cowards die many times before their death, but the valiant never taste of death but once”. In my book a suicide is not a valiant.

It takes courage to live, to swim against the tide, through the drudgeries of life, the failed dreams, the spiteful friends, the disappointments at work, at play, in school on the road, anywhere there is a call for life there is courage of existence a courage of living and as Chief Obafemi Awolowo once espoused “It is not life that matters but the courage you bring to it”…. “blessed are those things which becometh the making of a man”.
If Adam had committed suicide at the first accusation of breach of contract by the Almighty, no human being would have been in existence as God Almighty perhaps might write off humanity as a failed experience. No, he did not commit suicide but took his faith in hand imbued with the courage of living, at a closer level, if perchance any of our parents had committed suicide we would not have been born or perhaps born to different parents with different bodies and different fate.

Young people must be taught high and lofty ideals, in the home, at school and in all our religious centres as also in their clubs boy scouts, girl’s guide, Red Cross, green crescent wherever they could be reached.Our religion ministers must equally be made to understand that as role models they cannot afford ostentatious living, they cannot worship God and mammon at the same time, they should not be seen to be sending the wrong signals to the upcoming generations. Since we are living in a hyper capitalist society, nobody grudge them their money but they should enjoy it quietly not flaunt. it in the face of the hungry teeming millions (revolutionaries will say masses).

Young people must be taught to live in harmony with each other to watch out for one another and report any case of unwarranted depression to any elderly person round. In short they must be taught to be each other’s keepers.
Most importantly they must be taught to live in harmony with their souls and must strive to ameliorate the cord which bind their souls which in actual fact is a personal matter between that person and his soul and then each person must attempt through his or her religious status or by sheer meditation a thorough understanding of the knowledge of God which is the eternal relationship between that person and God.

Problems ·must be seen holistically as a challenge not a stoppage or an end to existence. Problems of life are a challenge at physical, psychological and spiritual growth and sometimes a call to physical, psychological and spiritual amelioration and elevation; they are the point of darkness, closest to the light of salvation. Problems are a definitive challenge that will pass like everything good and bad, they are turning points for a new way of life. They will pass.

In the immortal words of the desiderata as found in 1697 in St Paul’s cathedral, Baltimore “……………………………………… you are a child of the universe not less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God whatever you conceive him to be and whatever your labour and aspiration in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With its sham, drudgery and broken dreams. It is still a beautiful world”. Strive to be happy.

God tests no man beyond his capacity or enduring limit. The test before you is not beyond your point of elasticity, at any point in time where the burden of the cross weigh you down God always will and always have provided helpers, provided you are patient enough.

Those who do not encounter challenges of life, vicissitude in life test of existence and challenge of living are those who have passed to the great beyond. As for us that are living; “May God give us hills to climb and strength for climbing”.
Alaba, a legal practitioner, wrote from Lagos.


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