My first encounter with insane people was in the early 1950s. My mother had a shop along Jubilee Road; the road that links old Gbagi through Dugbe Market to Railway Station. The road is blessed with the presence of Bower Tower. I don’t know if the clock is still working. I do hope it is. This man was called Eegun l’ehin Oga (i.e. the chameleon’s back is all bones) or Eegun a di (tied up bones) ELO. I don’t know why he was so named because he was tall and muscular maybe my perception of him was child-based. But for his madness, he was dark skinned and handsome. There was another insane woman in his neighbourhood. I cannot really know whether the woman was beautiful or not, light or dark, short or tall.
I noticed ELO very much because his shed was about two stall distended from being directly opposite my mother’s shop. Both were positioned within a pole distance from each other. The two were always falling in and out of love, marrying and divorcing. ELO was very gentle except for about three to five days every moon-month; when he could be nasty and abusive. On two or three occasions, to my knowledge, he prevented hoodlums from stealing from my mother’s shop.
ELO went insane because he wanted to get rich quickly through money ritual. He usually made his confession about twice in the days of his ordeal every month “Sebi e so fun mi wipe ki nma sa ti mo ba ri won. Se e ko mo wipe nwon maa d’eru ba mi ni? Oju won da bi oju kiniun, iwo won da bi iwo efon, eekanna won da bi ti amotekun, bee ni ina njade l’enu won. E ko so fun mi bi nwon se maa ri. T’o ba je wipe e so fun mi ni n ba ti sa.” “Yes, I know that you warned me against being frightened and fleeing from them. Didn’t you know that they’ll frighten me? They looked like lions with horns like buffaloes and fangs like tigers yet breathing flames. You didn’t warn me how they would look like. If you did I wouldn’t have fled”.
On those days, he warned us to be content with what God gives. I was a child then
My second encounter was in the town where I finished my primary education. She was the wife of a community rich man. This was in late 1950 to mid-1960. I can remember vividly that she had two male children. I cannot be too certain that the girl I knew with her was her daughter. Her problem was like that of ELO. I think that immediately she became insane her family of origin took her for local psychiatric treatment and she remained there but in the moon-monthly cycle she would come to her husband’s house and make some trouble. After those days she would go back to her trade. She was making and selling alapa. There was nobody in that community who could match her sale. Her alapa was very tasty.
The day I had sympathy for most in my life was the day her first son flogged her with atorin. I cried my eyes to tiredness. A son whipping his mother! I couldn’t believe it. I went to him after, only to find him sobbing, too. He was about eight years older than me.
“Why did you have to whip her?” I demanded. Notwithstanding the difference in age, he respected me and related to as a brother.
“Baatunde, Baatunde, Baatunde!” He called, using the slur in the local dialect to pronounce Baatunde. “Will you be happy if your mother were in that situation?” The sobbing became more grave.
I started sobbing too. I was seeing my mother. Had I been in his situation, would I be able to survive? I empathised with him.
My elder sister said that the last time she saw the woman was about fifteen years ago and that she was normal.
“She even asked about you.” My sister said.
“About me! You are joking.” I responded.
“She asked about mum, you everybody up to our last born! (I won’t mention names).
The third encounter I had was at a fuelling station in Kaduna. It was during IBB-generated fuel shortage period. I queued up for fuel along Mando Road and this man surfaced and challenged me for driving his car which his father bought for him to cruise the town with. He demanded to know what gave me the boldness to pick that particular one among his fleet. He spoke fluent English; grammatically correct English. I sympathized with him. He was a young man; possibly about 42 years of age.
I know of several cases involving insane women and their children. One was in the Yakubu Gowon military era. She had a shed close to one of the tributaries of Ogunpa that crossed Salvation Army Road. Some women noticed that she was pregnant and the youth In the community confronted her. She declared that she had a husband and told them the days and time he used to come around. They tracked and got the man. He confirmed the relationship. He said that he’d been married for years without a child and was told by a diviner to look for a mad woman to sleep with. He tried this and it worked.
Asked by the youth about his plans, he said he would collect the child. The youth were not happy with that.
“What would be the fate of this child if its half-siblings start mocking him that it is a child of a lunatic?” They insisted that he should take care of the woman, as well.
That evening, he took the woman to the psychiatric hospital in Abeokuta. The youth organised with the man to assure them of continued care by taking two of them along with him anytime he was visiting the woman in Abeokuta. She delivered a set of male twins. The woman became normal.
The Ekotedo youth were made up of apprentice automobile craftsmen, apprentice tailors, clerical staff in ministries and some traders.
Another insane woman was dumped at that spot about ten months after. Questioned on where she came from, she was belligerent; accusing men of deceit. “You are all liars, deceivers. All you want is to sleep with me. Come now, if my baby will not push you away.”
She delivered four days after she was dumped there. Women in the neighbourhood noticed her rhythmic contraction that evening and continued monitoring her. They were there for her at delivery. The following morning health officials took her and the baby away.
Sometimes in the late 1980s, I was in Enugu for a programme. I came out of my hotel to pick a yellow taxi to the venue. Almost opposite KayCee Stores on Okpara Avenue was a lunatic shed.it must be about 7:30 am. I noticed a girl of about ten years entered the shed. She was in school uniform. I felt happy that the family of the lunatic woman was taking care of her. I believed that they had sent the girl to bring breakfast for her.
To my amazement, I heard the woman scolding the girl and accusing her of sluggishness. “You sluggish girl, if your teacher beats you for coming late to school, I’ll beat you again.” she declared. She muttered some words in Igbo which I didn’t understand. The girl rushed into the shed to pick her school materials. I believed she was living in that shed with her mother.
Insanity is a range of both group and individual behaviours categorised by certain abnormal mental or behavioural patterns. It may manifest as violations of societal norms, sometimes, to the level of becoming a danger to themselves or others, however, not all acts showing indifference toward societal norms is acts of insanity. It is believed that the brain’s very structure and function are a product of the social environment (Lenroot and Giedd, 2008)
For many generations insanity has been tagged a spiritual/mental disorder. Most people believed that the victim had been possessed by some spirit or God. However, Hippocrates wrote ‘It appears to me to be nowise more divine than any other disease but has a natural cause’. Felix Platter and Robert Burton believed that it could be both spiritual and natural (BRAIN, 2016). Andrew Snape (1675–1742) is of the view that. ‘Distraction . . . divests the rational soul of all its noble and distinguishing endowments, and sinks unhappy man below the mute and senseless part of creation.’ Without reason, the appetites and passions will be released in their full fury. And the reason is, of course, the greatest benefit conferred on us all by civilisation. Without reason, we are no different from other animals (Frith, 2016).
Given that insanity reduced people to the level of beasts, it follows that they should be managed by the techniques developed for training animals. This means domination through the judicious combination of reward (kindness) and punishment (repression). Such treatment is largely confined to the poor and uneducated classes.
Pinel (BRAIN, 2016) believed that, if madness is related to ‘an organic lesion within the brain’, then ‘the insane are left to look upon their sickness as incurable’. The idea that brain disorders were incurable was overthrown with the advent of successful pharmacological treatments:
- Discovery of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs in the 1950s. While they may not cure, these treatments certainly reduce the severity of mental symptoms whatever their cause (BRAIN, 2016).
- Brain disorders, such as schizophrenia, require physical treatments with drugs while mental disorders, such as phobias, require psychological treatments. Brain disorders are believed to might be more curable than mental disorders as the development of some pharmacological drug is possible (Banner, 2013; BRAIN, 2016).
- New techniques for studying the brain, such as staining and brain imaging, have revealed clear abnormalities in many disorders (Marsh et al, 2008).
- When appropriately prescribed, antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs can give considerable benefits. On the other hand, these drugs undoubtedly have distressing side effects and have frequently been over-prescribed.
Of particular concern is the exploitation of insanity for financial gains by so-called healers who extorted the rich through the astrological bill, extorted foundations through diversion of funds to personal accounts and extorted the poor through the establishment of treatment centres that draw funds from the states (BRAIN, 2016). In developing countries, ritualists have been known to kidnap them for money rituals while power-seeking politicians have been caught either raping and/or luring the females for sex. Cases of their exploitation for other uses abound such as cutting off their dreadlocks, scrapping the hair on their private parts, exchanging or sealing their garments, etc.
Causes of Insanity
WebMD (2018) identified three classes of possible causes as biological, psychological and environmental.
- Some mental illnesses have been linked to abnormal functioning of nerve cell circuits or pathways that connect particular brain regions. Nerve cells within these brain circuits communicate through chemicals called neurotransmitters.
- Genetics (heredity) Mental illnesses sometimes run in families, suggesting that people who have a family member with a mental illness may be somewhat more likely to develop one themselves.
- Infections: Certain infections have been linked to brain damage and the development of mental illness or the worsening of its symptoms.
- Brain defects or injury: Defects in or injury to certain areas of the brain has also been linked to some mental illnesses.
- Prenatal damage: Some evidence suggests that a disruption of early foetal brain development or trauma that occurs at the time of birth such as loss of oxygen to the brain may be a factor in the development of such conditions as autism spectrum disorder.
- Substance abuse: Long-term substance abuse, in particular, has been linked to anxiety, depression, and paranoia.
- Other factors: Poor nutrition and exposure to toxins, such as lead, may play a role in the development of mental illnesses
Psychological factors that may contribute to mental illness include:
- Severe psychological trauma suffered as a child, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
- An important early loss, such as the loss of a parent
- Poor ability to relate to others
Certain stressors can trigger an illness in a person who is susceptible to mental illness. These stressors include:
- Loss of a loved one through death or divorce
- A dysfunctional family life
- Feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, anxiety, anger, or loneliness
- Changing jobs or schools
- Social or cultural expectations.
- Substance abuse by the person or the person’s parents.
A fourth class is affliction.
There was this friend who was a year ahead of me in Teachers’ College. We entered the university the same year through Concessional Entrance University. He enrolled for Food Science and Technology while I enrolled for Agricultural Engineering. We both made the Preliminary Year successfully. I noticed some slight withdrawal from me but I never bothered abbot it realising the Senior-junior relationship in practice in the Teachers’ College. I never discussed it with any of our colleagues who mainly were my former classmate and those ahead of him. If the others noticed, they would feel the same way as I felt.
We were very close. I used to visit him in his hometown and knew many members of his family. He used to discuss everything that happened to him with me.
I was shocked the day he asked me not to call him by name anymore but rather walk over to him and tap him if I had anything to discuss with him. That reinforced the Senior-junior relationship idea in my head. It didn’t bother me, though. I was more concerned about my studies; realising my weak background in science subjects.
About two weeks later, he asked me to have a stroll with him. We walked to a quiet place and sat on the ground in the shade of a tree.
“Tunde” he called. I noticed that tears were rolling down from his eyes. I didn’t make any comment on that. “ I got into trouble during the holidays” he paused, looked at me and burst into weeping.
“I’m hearing you,” I said.
“B got pregnant for me.”
“Has A known about it?” I asked.
I knew the two girls during the holidays. I had a vacation job in his hometown and I used to spend most of my free weekend days with him. I knew he wanted to marry A, and we were both aware that B had another suitor proposing to her. It was, however, obvious that she preferred my friend.
“Your matter is simple. Go ahead with marriage plans with B and let A be free to search for somebody.”
“It’s not that simple. I love A and you know it.”
He didn’t allow me to finish my comment.
“I’m not asking for advice. I’m asking for help. I’ve been afflicted with inanity by B’s parents. They insisted that I should marry their daughter but I’m not interested. That’s why I asked you, people, not to call me by my name but tap me if you have anything to discuss with me. They call my name in the daytime, they call me in the nights.”
“They’re not the ones afflicting you. You are afflicting yourself. Go back to them and promise that you’ve agreed to marry her. She’s not bad! She’s pretty and has a good disposition. They’ll forgive you and release you from bondage.”
“I’ll rather prefer to die than marry B.”
“From what you’ve said, these people are not planning to kill you but make you insane. You want to roam the streets in rags?”
“I’ll not do that.”
“Come to think of it, whether you die or rn mental, A ‘ll marry somebody else.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Remember Mr O.”
Mr O was in his final year in Teachers’ College when he came his first year.
“Yes. I remember vividly. But this is different. I remember that Mr O died about November 1969 and the fiancé was married by Easter 1970 despite her performance at the graveside.”
He didn’t return to campus after the 1973 Easter break. Two weeks into resumption, I went to his hometown to look for him. I couldn’t get any information from any member of his family; even his mother was mute. She showed no evidence of bereavement or any mishap to the young man. I left, frustrated.
As I got out of the house, an elderly man called out to me. I greeted him and moved towards him. I knew him. I had greeted him on a few occasions when I came to visit my friend and had had occasion to shake hands with him once.
After exchanging pleasantries he asked me into his sitting room upstairs, offered me a bottle of cold soft drink, Coca-Cola specifically.
“I’ve been expecting you. I know you’ll come to look for your friend.” He began. “I know that you’ll not get any information from the family so I decided to monitor you when you came and stationed myself outside so that I’ll see you on departure.”
I was shocked.
He realised I was shocked. He read it in me.
“You are surprised I said that eh? I’m sorry young man. I shouldn’t be poke-nosing into other people’s affairs. But this is a pathetic case. The young man had no friend in the family; even his mother. It’s getting late if you have to travel back today. I won’t delay you. The young man died three weeks ago. He committed suicide. He stood by a bridge and jumped into the road when a fast-moving truck was approaching. His body didn’t twitch. I believe he didn’t suffer the pain.”
I couldn’t control the sob. It swelled right from my heart.
Symptoms of Insanity
Signs and symptoms of insanity can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors (mayoclinic.org, 2018). Symptoms of insanity vary considerably, can be numerous and affect emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
Examples of signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling sad or down
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Major changes in eating habits
- Changes in sex drive
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence
- Suicidal thinking
- Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headache, or other unexplained aches and pains
Treatment of Insanity
I lay no competence in discussing the treatment of insanity, however, there are instances of cure cited above; albeit through conventional psychiatric hospitals.
The Ogoja Five
Progress Oberiko (2018) wrote “I have seen them trekking long distances. I have also met them in the market making inquiries about where they could get a particular item to buy.
“They are inseparable. They are always walking together. But the intriguing part is their communication.
“I’ve heard the man instructing one of his children who was walking sluggishly behind him as they trekked down the road; ‘Hey Dorcas, will you hurry up, C’mon girl, meet up with the pace’”. And I marveled,
Who are Sick?
In Yorubaland, the Oba s the father of all and he belongs to every religion. Be it Christianity, Islam or idol worship, he is expected to grace the occasions. In the Church, the Pastor is the father of every member of the congregation of the Parish, irrespective of his age relative to the ages of the members while his wife is the mother to all. I believe it is the same in the mosque. In reality, the paternity of a roaming lunatic is a function of his location at a particular time. If he is on a federal road he is the child of the President, on a state road he is the child of the Executive Governor and if on a local government road he becomes the child of the local government chairman
If a lunatic enters the palace in Yorubaland nobody dares chase him out, rather he is fed and taken care of. He is provided a place of rest and possibly changes his clothes for him; he is never forced to comply. It portends prosperity to the kingdom and general, a potent herbs man is invited for his healthcare.
In light of the above, the sanity of the following are called to question
- The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
- The Honourable Minister of Health
- The Executive Governor of Cross River State
- The Cross River State representative of the Honourable Minister of Health
- The Director of the Federal Medical Centre
- The CRS commissioner for Health
- the Ogoja Local Government Chairman
Meanwhile, we need to say Kudo to our little daughter who is presently the sanest person in Ogoja.
In order to address the issue properly and integrate the family into the socio-economic development programme of the nation:
- The children should be adopted by the State Government.
- The parents should be put in a psychiatric hospital for treatment; not separating the couple
- The families into which the parents were born should be identified and involved in the rehabilitation programme without entrusting any funds into their care; and
- Our little daughter, Progress Oberika, deserves an award: possibly retrained to be a caregiver in a welfare scheme for the rehabilitation of the disadvantaged persons
Let’s Look at the Sick!
The followings are really sick and need care. However, they are still at the stage of deciding if they need care or not
This couple, their parents, whoever joined them together, the chief Bridesmaid, the Best Man and other members of the bridal train need psychiatric examination. Immediately Adam and Eve realised that they were naked, they sought for coverings.
Will this young man allow his wife to dress to her place of work thus? If he would will her place of work consider it ethical?
The Pastor and members of this congregation need not just psychiatric treatment but also deliverance from demonic forces.
In the light of (Judges 14:1-7; 16:1-28; and 2 Cor 6:14) every Christian that answers Yes needs psychiatric treatment for insanity while every Muslim that answers No should be examined in the light of (Qur’an 2:221; and 5:5) for they do not believe in their Holy Bible and Qur’an respectively.
What on earth is responsible for this? Drug or alcohol intoxication?