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By Lateef Adewole

Just a week ago, I wrote an article titled; “That you’re down doesn’t mean you’re out!”. It was premised on the often overwhelming negative feelings people do have in the time of challenges. On that same day, the much anticipated results of the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) conducted by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) were released, after 22 days. A total of 1,792,719 results were released with about 34,120 withheld.

The breakdown, as released by JAMB, shows that out of 400 marks obtainable, 2,906 candidates scored above 300 while 57,579 scored between 250 and 299. Total candidates 366,757 scored between 200 and 249 while 361,718 scored between 180 and 199. A total of 494,484 candidates scored between 160 and 179 while 410,844 scored between 140 and 159. Those who scored between 100 and 139 are 99,463 and the rest less than 100. The breakdown of the results showed about 76.2 percent scored less than 50 percent and 56.9 percent scored less than 180 marks.

Then on the following day, Sunday 12th May, 2019, an unpleasant and disturbing news broke the social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram. It was about a candidate simply called Segun, who livestreamed his plan to commit suicide. This he said was due to frustration from failing his UTME. He claimed to have scored 167 marks out of a total of 400. And that was his fourth attempt. He listed the previous scores as: 189 in 2015, 202 in 2016 and 233 in 2017. He lamented why he should score 167 now that he just got people who want to send him to higher institution.

He could not process, comprehend or accept it. So, he “promised” that later in the day by 9 pm, he will use “snipper”, the deadly insecticide to make tea to drink and even asked people to make it a date with him by watching, to make it fun for him. True to his threat, he did so, as the news broke that he had died. Fortunately, he was found early enough, taken to an hospital in Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State where he has been recovering. We pray he recovers fully. Unfortunate incident, one would say.

On Tuesday, another 17-year old boy, Amos Ibrahim, in Jos, Plateau state also drank “snipper” to kill himself because he failed his UTME. He didn’t survive it, he died the following day. On Monday, a final year student of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nssuka, (UNN), Chukwuemeka Akachi, committed suicide. Has was reported to be battling with dementia for some time now. Yesterday morning, another UNN student, Nnemelu Sharon, posted suicide message on twitter. She was reported to have drank the bleaching liquid, “hypo”, in an attempt to kill herself.

Last month April 2019, a final year student of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Kolapo Olowoporoku, was reported to have killed himself. He died after five days on Friday 19th of April, 2019. He was a student of Computer Science, who supposed to have graduated since 2016/17 session. He once again failed in 2019, a course that has kept him from graduating since 2017.

This was barely two years after another 100 level student of Microbiology in the same institution OAU, Mercy Afolaranmi, committed suicide due to poor grade. She was reported to have failed a course.

These are few of possible incidents that might have occurred across the country and came to public knowledge. Likewise, I have only narrated about a stratum of the society; youths/students. This is not limited to them. This Tuesday, one Pastor Micheal Arowosaiye, living in Sunnyvale Housing Estate in Abuja, was found hanging on his belt. He committed suicide. The other day, a Professor of Biological Sciences, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue state, committed suicide out of depression. Some workers in Kogi state did same from frustration in the past few years. Some cases of people who jumped into the lagoon in Lagos are on record.

These and many others are victims of suicides, due to what they considered one personal failure or another. So, why these sudden surge in suicides in our country, Nigeria? Nigerians are citizens who were considered to love life more than anything, and we could not have conceived that a time, not far, will come, when people will see suicide as their option and easier way out of failures and other life difficulties. Now, it is here with us. Unimaginable!

Although, many kids of JAMB ages may not read this, but many adults will definitely do. We all have people around us, related one way or another, as our children, siblings, neighbours, etc, who just checked their UTME results, some of whom might have performed poorly or below expectations, this is the time to give those kids supports and proper guidance. We should not worsen their emotional trauma by our excessive show of disappointment and putting them under further pressure. This will go a long way to reassure them and boost their confidence to look ahead and move forward, despite such setbacks. They need us!

All these are consequences of the dysfunction in our societal orientations now. To start with, as Yorubas will say, “ti a ba béránwí, ki a bérànwí” (blames should be apportioned where necessary). Many of these young people are lazy, does not like studying and working hard. Everyone is looking for easy way out. These have been subtly or openly condoned and supported by parents. We heard of a father in Abuja who tried to help his child cheat in the same UTME. What else should we expect from the children? Leadership by example.

Again, the speed with which children are now “rushed” through schools is appalling. Children who are still supposed to be under the parents’ care at home, are already enrolled in schools at ridiculous age of one year or less! Before age 15, many of them have finished secondary school and intending to go into higher institutions. To do what exactly? “Play with sands”? (Just kidding!). The boy, Ezeunala Ekene Franklin, with the highest score in this 2019 UTME is just 15 years. He is so brilliant and scored 347 out of 400.

The possibility of University of Lagos, not admitting him is already generating controversies. If he is of great IQ, is he emotionally matured? How will his parents even feel comfortable sending him to such environment at that age? These are issues that parents and society at large need to reevaluate and address. In those days, a child of his age will probably be in Form 3 or JSS 3 as the case may be. That was even those who started as and when due. Many were older than that. But now, he is about entering the university.

Children are also not made to see that there are two sides to life and that both are inevitable. Failures and successes go hand-in-hand. We only emphasize the success, we praise it to high heaven and reward it, sometimes, inappropriately or disproportionately. While we suppress the tendencies and possibilities of failures. We do not prepared our kids for it and how to handle it. We criticise, condemn and punish it harshly, many times, disproportionately too. These mould the perceptions of our children about the two. So, if they face little challenges and fail in anything, even for once, they begin to think of drastic end. That needs to change. Though, parents who suffer from the same deficiencies cannot be expected to inculcate such in their children. Sad.

Such parents need to help themselves first before helping their children. The reality of life is that, nothing comes easy and hardly has there been anyone who succeeds continously without encountering any failure. I have never seen or heard. In academics, politics, sports, religion, social, business or any endeavour. None. “Ti eniyan o ba subu, k’iimeru di” (if someone does not fall, he may not know how to rise from falling), so says a the Yorubas. It is in the understanding of what failures are, that we appreciate the sweetness of success. Without failure, nothing would have been considered a success.

Ironically, we can learn more from our failures than our successes, only if we pay attention and try to see the lessons therein, ofcourse. Failure is a matter of individual’s perspective. What one considers a failure may be successful in other people’s eyes. We must realise these, if we have not and we must teach them to our children and younger ones. The stories like that of Dr. Ben Carson, in his book: “The Gifted Hands”, can serve as inspiration for both parents and children. Just like many others such as how Thomas Edisson’s 10,000 attempts failed to produce filament lamp before he finally succeeded. And so on.

Another factor is the parents living their dreams through their children. Many parents will “dictate” what their children must study and become in future, based on their (parents’) interests without consideration for what the interests, aspirations, and dreams of their kids are. These need to stop. Whatever parents cannot achieve themselves, should not be foisted on their kids. They only need guidance and supports to bring out their best potentials to succeed. And with that, succeed they will. Ceteris paribus.

We should pay attention to what the children have access to these days, whether online or offline. Internet, social media, television and so on. Many supposed innocent programmes, films or cartoons shown on televisions do influence the minds and thinking of most of the young people. They can get weakened psychologically and become vulnerable through them, depending on the contents. They should be properly and adequately monitored.

This Monday 13th May, 2019, that was how a 16 year-old girl from Malaysia, Davia Emelia, did a poll on her Instagram page for her followers to vote for her to either live or die. The result was 69 percent to die. Then, she killed herself.

The cases of our school system and academic curriculum are different kettles of fish. Beginning to analyse that will take days, weeks or even years. However, the commonly observed issues include; excessive, sometimes unnecessary contents and workloads. These put excessive burdens on students. The teachers or lecturers do not help matters too, sometimes. Failing students needlessly, either to “score” points or as punishment for other pecuniary reasons are evil. Whoever engages in such should repent and turnover a new leave. Let us leave further detail discussion on this for another day.

Our religious systems contribute in some ways too. A situation where people, including children are made to believe they can “pray their ways to success with little or no hard work” is a great disservice to our society. All kinds of ways are used to encourage the people to be more religious than more hardworking. People spent more times on their kneels praying than they use their hands toiling, because of the impressions that our religious leaders give and the emphasis in their preachings. That is a big problem. This is also an issue for another day.

In all, a Yoruba proverb says that: “t’omode ba subu, a w’owaju. T’agba ba subu, a w’eyinwo”. All that we have been discussing are not peculiar or restricted to our children, students or youths alone. They are applicable to all of us as humans, whether young or old. The proverb only present the expected perspectives of each. If the young ones display immaturity in handling their failures, it is the call of the older ones to chart the right course for them.

We should reach out to our friends and families whenever they need our supports, which may not necessarily be financial. A word of encouragement can mean more than money sometimes. Also, whenever we have challenges, we should not be silent about them. We should share our worries with trusted friends. “B’ojo ba n pakan ore, gbogbo wa l’ojonpa”. A problem shared is half-solved.
May God continue to guide us aright.

Everyone should come to the realisation that, to fail in our attempts at moving forward in life is part of the process that will lead to success. It is an ingredient of success and suicide is not an option!

God Bless Nigeria.

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