He stands on the barrier, his back to the road, mesmerised by the Lagoon beneath him. He is 17, frustrated, and believes this water will embrace him and all his worries.
A 3rd Mainland Bridge Police patrol vehicle is just in time and they quickly grab his leg before he can take a dive.
When they ask him why, he says;
“I felt depressed after losing the N6,000 and phone to the five area boys who waylaid me on my way to the market. I couldn’t summon the courage to go back home to confront my mum that I lost the money she gave me to purchase food stuff at Ita Faaji.”
It leaves one to wonder; why would he take his life over a phone and 6 grand?
This is what his 50-something year old mother said when her comments were sought regarding her son’s suicide attempt;
“I was shocked to learn that he has attempted suicide by jumping into the Lagoon. He has just finished his secondary school. He went to Lagos City College. I don’t know why he wanted to commit suicide…If he had returned home to tell me what happened, the worst I could have done was to slap him and threaten him to return my money for me.”
Now, this response, coming from a Nigerian mum, is pretty normal. Nigerian parents have a reputation for slaps. The average Nigerian child grew up on slaps.
But what if he has had enough slaps for one life? What if he was truly scared of what his mum would do if he failed to return the money he didn’t exactly dash his extortionists at the market?
What if thinking about things like his sickle cell, or the fact that his father abandoned him and his three siblings, to marry someone else had put him on the edge? What if this new worry was the final shove that was going to throw him into the lagoon?
We’d call this a one-off, but he’s not alone.
Every year, during JAMB and WAEC season, some people celebrate their success, others lick their wounds and carry on with their lives, but a small and oft-ignored fraction head for the lagoon, or find a rope, or gulp down rat poison, or battery fluid. All for one reason.
Sometimes, it is only family that is capable of driving you to utter misery ‘in your best interests’. It is all too common for Nigerian parents to raise their kids comparing them to other kids, even if their strengths and weaknesses are completely different.
Its why the “Do they have two heads?” punchline is so popular. Its why many dyslexic children grow up as the ‘class Olodo’ because it was so difficult to comprehend school work. It’s why many Nigerian parents force kids into generic standards because they want them “to have a good future”.
This is not an attempt to chastise parents for wanting the best for their children, but maybe it is time to try something new. Something that doesn’t involve screaming and sentences that end with ‘or else..’?
What if the slaps are not giving the mind the promised ‘hard reset’, but instead a permanent shutdown?