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Monday, December 5, 2022

Troubled Nigerians and famished Lagoon

Busuyi Mekusi

The Mediterranean Sea is reputed to be bordered by many European and African countries like Italy, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Libya, among many others. Apart from the military zones established in the coast by world powers, this ‘incubator of western civilisation’ delineates Europe from Africa, and remains an albatross to forced migrants who often get shipwrecked in their desperate quest for relief from the socio-economic cum political and physical instabilities ravaging their home countries. The Mediterranean Sea is also connected to the Black and Red Seas, as part of its many affiliating attributes. Given its extensive nature, aircrafts regularly crash into the Mediterranean, with wreckages populating the blue-eye sea, in addition to the sharks that feed freely on human remains. Water is life, but pools could be death traps! 

The Lagos Lagoon, which is more than 50km long and 13km wide, is assuming some notoriety for the attached gory narratives of suicide in recent times, as a result of the human ‘offerings’ it receives. Among other descriptions, a Lagoon is ‘a shallow body of salt water close to the sea but separated from it by a narrow strip of land, such as a barrier island, or by a coral reef’. The Lagos Lagoon became renowned in the turn of the century as a site of expiation after a Lagos-based medical practitioner, Allwell Orji, committed suicide by jumping into it. Many other people have either successfully or otherwise followed the negative pattern to end the game of life, which at the breaking point was considered unbearable by them. News had it of how, for instance, Odunare Olalekan, counselled his girlfriend to take care of his little baby before plunging to the Lagoon. The most recent case of suicide in the Lagoon by Adetutu Adedokun, an unarmed combat instructor with the Department of State Services (DSS), was another pitiable watershed.

Adetutu Adedokun was reported by the taxi driver ferrying her across the Third Mainland Bridge to have had a heated argument with her fiancé on phone before alighting from the car and taking a jump into the Lagoon. I have in the past interrogated the issue of emotional disorder, dissociation and paranoia among Nigerians, and located the place of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in many of the weird behaviours manifested by people across socio-political and economic divides. This is more so considering the economic depression that has left terrible blows on the finances of people, who are either disempowered or made victims of negative changes and adjustments conceived and emplaced to stay afloat. With unmet desires of children by parents, and unfulfilled dreams of wives as a result of economic handicap or misdemeanour of their husbands, families are under tremendous strains, with conflicts precipitating disintegration.

The prevalent filial paranoiac ideation troubling women must have manifested in the rumoured suicide action of Adedoyin Ayinde, the late wife of the Chief of Staff to the Governor of Lagos State, Tayo Ayinde Adedoyin was reported by some bloggers to have allegedly taken her own life as a result of the romantic relationship between her husband and his female secretary. Without prejudice to the plausibility of this proposition, spousal relationships are seen by some women as demonstrative of exclusive possession. This is higher in marriages where religious inscriptions largely guide dealings between the spouses, even though as smokescreen to cover up infidelity, which someone not too long ago described as a common denominator among men.

Feeble-minded emotionally-consumed women are, therefore, liable to heart-break, with suicide as option to blur their disappointment or vulnerability that is evidenced by their spouse’s betrayal. Incidentally, these people fail to realise that death, as a preferable option to shame, is no longer relevant in a postmodern world of relativism, multiplicities and interrogation of traditional order.

With countless troubled and traumatised Nigerians still lost in the crowd populated by selfish and religious people, one would wonder why the Lagos Lagoon is so famished and attractive enough to win a beautiful ‘bride’ like Adetutu Adedokun. A possible explanation for this is found in the Yoruba cultural belief-system about naming. Principally speaking, pre-western adulterated Yoruba cultural practices hold that the prevailing circumstances during the birth of a child, the socio-economic aspirations, painful losses, bountiful happiness, etc., harvested by the parents largely prescribe the names to be given to a child. This is more so as most Yoruba names are both sentential and descriptive. It is also believed that the names of a child would substantially determine his evolutionary trajectory, and shape his future. It is for this reason that the Yoruba counsel of considering the efficacy of bewitchment from the metaphoric condition of matches becomes necessary!

Adetutu, the first name of the damsel, is a creation from two words; Ade (crown) and tutu (fresh or wet). Either as an instance of wetness or freshness, water, being an important constituent of the Lagoon, is metaphorically required to help wet or make the crown of this girl fresh. This is similarly as the man-figure is redundantly symbolically seen in Yoruba worldview as the crown of the girl, apart from the girl’s association to the crown by her names, which is demonstrative of her link to royalty. In the same vein, the second name, Adedokun, is sentential, and an amalgam of three different words; Ade (crown), di (become), okun (ocean/Lagoon), meaning Ade has become ocean.

To this end, this girl plunging into the Lagoon could be interpreted as a fulfilment of the prescription of her name, as she melted into the water, to become part and parcel of the ocean/Lagoon. Besides this associative naming, it could also be culturally argued within Yoruba philosophical epistemology that the girl was ‘married’ to a water goddess, and the goddess must have provoked the discord between her and the fiancé, as the goddess would not like to share her with fallible human. Therefore, the Yoruba would typically explain this girl’s action as nothing but a response to the dictates of her names. My condolences to her family!  

Notwithstanding the foregoing cultural interrogation of the suicide diving of Adetutu, this matter, like other cases of suicide, is reminiscent of the mental health of Nigerians. The postmodern Nigerian civilisation struggles with putative socio-cultural and economic standards and yardsticks for evaluation of success, with religious jingoism fuelling people’s greed and primitive material accumulation. For instance, the society has a standard for married people and time to get married, ability to procreate, success in business, resounding evolutionary development of children and their performance in academic commitments, etc., putting so many people who subscribe to such benchmarking under unnecessary avoidable pressures.  

Therefore, individuals often get pigeonholed by other’s standards and measures, with the feeling of disappointment or failure greeting inability to attain the set benchmarks. The constructed failure-template of the society would make ‘manufactured victims’ of their fickle self-serving templates to be open to periodic disdain, constant lampooning and outright sustainable scorn. This is why religious moralisation has, at best, made people hermits, who are holed in the cocoons of personal angst and paranoia, mentally fixated on the attributions of failure, with suicide erroneously as an antidote.

As part of the measures to stem suicides among Nigerians, it is good that lethal substances could be removed from shelves, far from the reach of emotionally ravaged Nigerians, but the best option is for people to be salvaged from the troubling economic, political and social oceans that sweep them away by the day. This is more so as socialisation in this dispensation has been dangerously eroded by the liberality that breeds irresponsibility in poorly-raised young folks who grow up to parenthood unprepared.

The Lagoon may not be relocated, but Nigerians must be located within tangible hope, not minding the palpable hopelessness that reminds us of the tropes of existentialism. Our names, both individually and collectively as one of the highly corrupt nations, a nation with the costliest democracy, the poverty capital of the world, etc., are befuddling and beclouding, and we need a name-change that would end our vulnerability to the famished Lagoon and Mediterranean Sea, when suicide is seen as an option to permanently get out of temporary pains!

Regrettably, the socialisation of the ‘indomie generation’ is warped, shallow and non-assuring in the face of increased emotional volatility and mistrust shaping cosmetic social ordering, romantic relationships and marital unifications. The younger generation have got to demystify failure, interrogate marital misdemeanour and disaggregate suicide, the latter being nothing but a defeatist approach to troubling circumstances, which should ordinarily be confronted with more toughness rather than throw in the towel. Definitely, the Lagos Lagoon must stop being famished, and eating up beautiful but rejected Nigerians!

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