On October 20, 2020, young Nigerians who were protesting police brutality were shot at by men in Nigerian military uniforms. Unarmed, peaceful citizens were massacred at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, southwest Nigeria.
There are several reports with varying numbers of body counts, some said 12, some 10. But I am not interested in those numbers at all. I am not interested in how many were injured, because even if it is one person, it counts. What even counts more is the realisation that the Nigerian military will open fire on protesters, blank bullets or not.
Nobody is safe, anywhere, that’s what that tells you. And the moment that begins to sink in, you begin to realise all over again how bad a situation you are in as a citizen of this country.
Recently, Mr. Macaroni and some others went out when the Lekki toll gate was to be reopened and he was arrested. Surprising right? No! I wasn’t. I wasn’t surprised at all. In fact, when I heard the news, I was like yea I knew that would happen for sure.
If you stayed in this country long enough, you will know there was a 95% chance that will happen.
And I don’t blame people for going out still. There comes a time when you become numb to everything and you just don’t care anymore. If you perish you perish!
The reason why I’m ranting about this now, and not before is this; when the going gets tough, a lot of decisions are taken on impulse, in seconds. You may get killed, injured or beaten and so on, but it is not at that particular time really that you feel the consequences, the implications of what just happened. It takes time. It all begins to come back to you, plays and replays in your head multiple times, to the point where you find it hard to sleep at night.
That’s the essence of this episode. How has the Lekki toll gate shooting affected us as a nation? How have we been coping with all the half truths and lies, the tussle here and there, not to mention the denials, those responsible saying they are not and so on.
Months down the line, have we asked how the parents of the families that were hurt are coping? How the injured are able to feed their families? How about the people that escaped unhurt, by bullets though, but have not been able to get over what happened that night?
There are so many issues here,
1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – intrusive memories and distressing dreams
I lived in Jos at a time, and during my stay witnessed several horrors, I witnessed someone getting killed in cold blood, stabbed over and over as people watched, silent, some in anger, some numb, some looking away and some shouting yes, good for him. Let me tell you, it has not left me since then, it is there, clear as day in my head even though its more than 11years ago. There was this other time it was so bad, I and my friends had to drop our mobile devices inside nylon bags like offering just for a driver going our way in the convoy of military men to take us out of Jos. We withdrew from ATM in Abuja enroute lokoja so we could get our phones back and inform our parents we were ok. When I got home eventually, sleep was far from me. Even a needle dropping on the floor could wake me, and this continued for months.
Till date, when I take up any apartment or sleep in a hotel room, without knowing it I start looking and checking round for escape routes just in case. Just in case what?this is straight up PTSD! So, when I think about that and then reason with the Lekki toll gate survivors, I can literally feel what they are going through, then bring that full circle to what the concerned citizens of Nigeria are going through.
Talk about the grief from families who lost loved ones, can that eventually lead to depression in some? It’s the big question on everybody’s minds. And when I say depression, I see a lot of people saying they are depressed, a lot of times, the word is wrongly used. Depression is a whole lot, has different levels to it medically. So each time a family who lost someone passes through that toll gate, what do you think will be on their minds?? The rush of emotions back and forth, I mean, I cannot even imagine.
Don’t even get me started on anxiety disorders, seeing someone carrying a gun at a check point and you are like I hope he won’t use me for point and kill very soon and you start panicking so much you are covered with sweat.
How about people who can’t cope with all this naturally and are looking for other means? Do you know people may take solace in alcohol or some other form of substance abuse just to get past a day of sorrow, a day of regret, anger and sadness?
All this could effectively cause several issues relating to
· Loss of productivity at work leading to loss of means of livelihood.
· Relationships between families could be torn apart, blame games here and there.
· Relationships with outsides are also jeopardized.
· The health and general wellbeing are diminished.
· These can all lead to ailments and sicknesses which further plunge the individual into a hole they may not be able to climb out off.
Who is responsible for all this? Has the government put in place any psychological support program to help people go through this? Let us assume, that the toll gate must be opened at all cost, how have we helped the citizens of Nigeria deal with this?
I am aware of the mentally aware Nigeria initiative (MANI) and some other mental health institutions trying to help in this times, but they can’t do it all, they still need help from a greater source who will provide resources and funding so a larger populace can be helped.
What should you do if you realise you or someone else near you is experiencing issues relating to mental health?
· Break your routine! Do something new, try to have fun, meet people, hang out and see if you get your mind off it.
· Try to get enough sleep if you can, it helps.
· Eat a healthy diet.
· Always stay positive, keep a positive attitude to things.
· Avoid alcohol and drugs at all cost
· Listen to calm music
· Get help! Don’t ever think you can go through this alone, talk to somebody. It can be anybody, your friends, family and lastly if you don’t feel relieved, talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist, and your journey begins from there.
However, not everybody will cope, I do hope everybody will, but well, these things happen.
It is our responsibility as individuals, as a nation, to help each other achieve a common goal, a healthy lifestyle, a healthy nation and ultimately, a healthy world.