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SUICIDE - Now A Trend In Our Universities?

One early morning, about a month ago, the lifeless body of a 300-level Physics/Astronomy undergraduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Onyebuchi  Okonkwo,  was found dangling on a rope, suspended from a height in an uncompleted building  beside the hockey ground.

What made his death more intriguing is that Okonkwo who hailed from Oraukwu in the Idemili Area of Anambra State, was on scholarship from Shell Petroleum Development Corporation Plc. His elder brother is a bank manager.  So, his death couldn’t have been caused by poverty.

Some blocks that he, apparently, used in facilitating his movement into the noose, were found very close under his feet. He dropped a suicide note that reads:  “The controversy is over.”  Of course, the note did not give away much on the reason the 300-level student took his life. His former roommates said Okonkwo, who his course mates believed would have made a First Class, was also the Class Representative or Governor of the Physics/Astronomy department.

According to reports, he left his room in the hostel, at about 2 a.m. to an unknown destination. “When he left the room, we thought he was going to the classroom to read, but we were surprised to see his body dangling from the roof of the building this morning,” one of his roommates, who does not want his name in print, told Education Review.  Those who know him very well said he was aged 23.

Okonkwo is not the only Nigerian undergraduate to have committed suicide in recent times. In fact, it is gradually becoming the way of Nigerian students in higher institutions  to take their own lives. Take, for instance, the pathetic case of Kehinde Akintunde, a 22-year-old student of Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) who committed suicide in a hotel at Apata in Ibadan, Oyo State, on August 20. A 400-level student of Civil Engineering, he was reported to have checked into the hotel at about  noon, clutching a laptop bag. He booked for a night accommodation and was expected to check out by noon the following day, on Saturday.

But he never did.  This attracted the attention of the receptionist who noticed that he did not submit his room key when it was past noon. He  contacted    the hotel manager,  Mr. Ladapo Osu, who reportedly informed the director of the hotel.

After waiting for few hours to see whether the guest mistakenly went out with the key and failing to drop the key, he instructed that the door should be forced open . This was done but the carpenter, the hotel staff and other curious onlookers were shocked to find the guest hanging on a rope tied to the hook of the ceiling fan in the room – he had committed suicide!

The hotel management  informed the police at Apata Division, who went to the scene  and took pictures of the dangling body. His family members were also contacted through a diary found in his bag. Like Okonkwo did, Akintunde also left suicide note. It reads in part:  “This is the hardest thing for me to do – having to part with my family this way.

As far as I am concerned, I have lived my life. I felt like an old man… like a person who has seen it all. I can’t just see any purpose in living. Besides, if you can’t help build it, move to one side. Allow others who can.” He went further to address his family members thus: “I cherish all the years together, but a performer has to leave when the applause is still sounding. I love you.”

The same fate befell 27-year-old National Diploma (ND) graduate of Business Administration  Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, Muili Awolumate, who reportedly took his life in Ifon area of the state. Eyewitnesses confirmed that Awolumate’s body was found dangling on a tree in May, this year.

The evidence that he actually committed suicide was that the belt he used in making up the noose was the one that people had always seen on him. It was also claimed that there was no evidence to show that he might have been killed elsewhere and had his body hurriedly dumped there.
It was reported that the late Awolumate was unemployed at the time of his death.

There was also the case of 24-year-old student, Towobola Adeniran, in Ilorin, Kwara State who committed suicide early this year. Investigations revealed that Adeniran, a 100-level student of Marketing at Kwara College of Education, Oro, killed himself by hanging in his apartment at Opo-Malu area of Ilorin as his body was discovered dangling from a ceiling fan.  The neighbourhood was alerted about the tragedy by a co-tenant, who noticed that his door was still locked from inside, hours after daybreak.

Following the alarm raised over the matter, the door was forced open only for shocked co-tenants and neigbours to see Adeniran’s lifeless body dangling from the ceiling.  Adeniran who was said to have showed no sign of distress before the incident was handsome and jovial and always playing with people. But a strange twist to his story is that he was discovered to have packed his belongings from the house and deleted all the contacts in his mobile phone.

But unlike Okonkwo and Akintude, he left no suicide note. A friend of the deceased confirmed that Adeniran, an indigene of Shaki in Oyo State, was a self-sponsored student and a commercial motorcycle operator in Ilorin. He, however, added that the late student showed some distress when the motorcycle was stolen two months earlier.

The present deplorable situation whereby  students commit suicide with ease is becoming a source of worry to teachers, parents, guardians and other stakeholders. One of them is Dr Uwaoma Uche, Head of Department, Mass Communication, Abia State University. “I must be very honest with you, this issue of committing suicide by some  students in recent times is giving us concern,” he said while sharing issues with Education Review.

“It amazing that a student that came to the ivory towers to learn so as to make himself and humanity better would end up ending his life in a most brutal and wicked fashion while bringing pains and anguish to his family friends and well wishers. We all are worried by this condemnable development and we should do everything within our purview to ensure an end to such unholy attitude.”

Godwin Uloleme, a lecturer in the School of Medicine, Imo State University, (IMSU) regrets that the present trend really runs counter to the ideals and aspirations of university standards. He believes the university ground is a hallowed centre for perfection and an arena for good ethical promotion and not a place where an evil act like suicide should be conceived. Like Uche, he called on university authorities to ensure that the trend is checked.


There are various reasons students take their own lives. They  range from depression, frustration, examination failures, unsuccessful academic ventures, betrayals, etc. But according to Teni Atalabi Osundeko,  American trained Nigerian professor of psychiatry, poor family surveillance is one major factor that leads to suicide.

“First, let us ask the question:

Do Nigerian youths commit suicide?

The answer is a resounding yes,” he said. “Due to the stigma attached to suicide, many families may not advertise the fact that their beloved child took his own life, so it may be difficult to know how widespread this phenomenon is. Nevertheless, some cases do become public knowledge.

The first case that comes to mind is that of a young boy in his mid teens that killed himself in my old neighbourhood in Akure many years ago. You see, examination failures or betrayals by close relatives or friends can lead students to committing suicide.

Depression from failed dreams and business deals is also a major factor.’

Prof Dada Joseph of the National Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos  notes that “we normally consider suicide as a mental issue. Not necessarily that the person is mentally derailed but that at that particular time he committed suicide, something actually had gone wrong with him because somebody in his natural self cannot take away his life.

Two, we also know that suicide comes as a result of deep depression, loss of confidence in oneself, betrayal by loved ones and close relatives, social isolation, and in this case, academic related matters especially failures.

In most parts of Africa and in so many areas of the world’s leading religions, suicide is considered as an abomination but in Japan it is seen as an honourable thing. Another thing we must note about suicide is that it is not normally a spontaneous action, it is usually premeditated and this is why actions and utterances of some people must have to be monitored to prevent them from committing this evil act.”

But Rev Fr. Emmanuel Oriyomi of St Alphonsus Parish, Akute, in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State, believe that most students who commit suicide are usually pushed by spiritual forces that they find hard to resist. “I want you to know that any student who passes through the six years programme in the secondary school and wrote the JAMB and eventually gained admission into the university, only to end up committing suicide must have been under the influence of some supernatural forces. To this end, I call on students to be spiritually alert so as to avert such unfortunate situations.”

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