Nigeria is populated by people with mental illness, according to the former Minister of Power and erstwhile Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Professor Chinedu Ositadinma Nebo. What is frightening, according to the former minister, is not the number, but government is yet to pay attention to these crazy people whose condition is hinged on economic and environmental hardship. Addressing the second public lecture organised by the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, in collaboration with the West African College of Nursing on the theme: ‘Psychiatric and mental health in Nigeria: challenges and prospects,’ the former minister, quoting medical scholars, noted that out of a population of 160 million or thereabouts, “64 million Nigerians suffer from one form or the other of afflictions of mental illness.” Identifying the cause of unstable mental conditions of his fellow citizens, Nebo added: “Nigerians still grapple with many social challenges, including poverty, high level of unemployment and other social pressures. The prevalence of these situations have been escalated by the fact that there is high level of poor knowledge and understanding of the malaise of mental health disorder and the positive treatments required by the growing population of mentally ill patients.” For a nation that has abundant human and natural resources, the prevalence of mental illness among millions of its citizens is pathetic. The former minister, who supervised the unbundling of PHCN into non-performing DISCOs and GENCOs, cannot absolve himself of guilt in transforming our nation into an abode of mad people. For a country that has produced leaders whose psychiatric conditions have been termed suspect due to their insatiable greed for money, the fallout of the preoccupation of those in the corridors of power has been responsible for this lamentable condition. How does one explain collapsing infrastructure despite appropriation of billions of dollars that disappeared into private pockets? How does a nation endure the stench of sleaze and incorrigible corruption in most states of the federation where governors are more concerned with opening foreign accounts to fleece the states of much needed funds? Why should the citizenry not be mad when their sons and daughters cannot gain employments, several years after completing the National Youth Service scheme? Why should the citizens not be mad when public schools that were once centre of excellence have been neglected, giving an opportunity to private schools that are milking poor Nigerians of hard earned money? Considering the level of corruption among the nation’s political leaders, former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, had called for psychiatric screening of leaders vying for public offices. Her call was hinged on the mindless stealing that has become an integral part of public officers who saw their appointments as an opportunity to engage in fleecing the nation. In Nigeria, it is not only the ordinary citizens that are mad; the country’s leadership is insane, too. That explains why many elected leaders have turned the nation into a vehicle of self-aggradisement. During the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, it was said that the Ota farmer forced a former military leader to refund some of the loot he corruptly acquired. Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo recently said that a minister in the Jonathan administration stole $6 billion. In a nation fraught with cascading poverty, the madness of the citizens seems apparent when considered against the backdrop of pressure mounted on the people for survival. This madness is more enhanced by the roles of spiritual fathers who counsel the people to always take their problems to God, having giving up hope against fighting the monster of graft. Anthony Cardinal Okogie took the conversation on the fight against corruption to a ridiculous level when he called on President Muhammadu Buhari to beg the nation’s looters to return stolen money. The ecclesiastical father’s advice has been described as unrealistic, as adhering to such could undermine the war against the anti-graft war. The madness of Nigerians is more intensified by the spiritual approach to the issues of life that trail ordinary living in the country. Lots of prayers are needed for everything to be accomplished. To get job, a lot of prayers are needed, just as tons of prayers are needed to get paid at month end. Some companies owed salaries for over one year, yet the owners of the companies roam the streets freely without being brought to face the full wrath of the law. Public schools that used to be centres of excellence have been destroyed by those who benefitted from them. In their place, private schools have sprung up to fleece the poor citizenry whose meager resources cannot meet up with other essential bills of living. While these private schools are peopled with quacks, the qualified personnel in public schools are more engaged in private practice. In the craze for money, ghost schools have become the conduit for fleecing funds, while unaccredited universities are more in number than the accredited ones. The absence of a system to punish looters of the nation’s resources is responsible for the high number of crazy people who cannot live normal lives due to the harsh economic hardship brought by corruption. If our government can curb corruption by at least half, improved economic conditions could be attained, which in turn can assist reduce the number of mad men and women.


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