The stationary cow gave a low moo, as the woman walked pass. Deep in thought, she answered absentmindely: “Oh, jare!”. On she went, ahead of herself, to her farm.
A young woman roaming the streets saw an “abomination”. A man was eating from a public refuse dump. “Hey! Why are you be eating from a dustbin? Are you mad?” The man looked up with a mix of anger and scorn. “If I’m mad, then you are crazy. If not, why are you naked?” The young lady laughed a while before replying: “I’m not crazy. I’m just a just unwell, madman like you!”
Recently, the Mental Health Department of Uniersity College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, gave an indication we might all be going mad. And the fellows above weren’t even among the 1,680 patients they treated last year. Multiply that by the number of General and private hospitals we have. It’s a scary note! A few years back, Dr Bisi Odejide of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, said over 36 million Nigerians were officially mad. Mental illness, he said, “is no respecter of class, creed, religion or hierarchy”; though many ignore the minor signs of it. By 2020, it’s estimated that common “madness” like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse-related disorders, will “finish” more people than AIDS, heart disease, accidents, and wars combined! About 30 percent of our population is currently “mad”. But then, whatever figures the experts come up with who really cares? Not government; not us!
Wetin concern my grandma, sef, with hospital? You want her to waste time and money to go to hospitals, where some “eaglet” personnel might even add to her unstable condition? Then, one stetoscope-wearing fellow would pronounce her officially mad. Lai-lai! Me? Whenever I have fever in my ears; or headache on my legs; or feel like going mad, I just drink “agbo jedi” and well, otapiapia! Madness is part of our rights. In fact, I heard our constitutional freedom includes the right to be mad! It’s part of the democracy dividends. What Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba once called “democracy of neorosis”. Neurosis, by the way, is the big word for madness. It’s described as “mild psychological disorder characterized by anxiety, depression…” And it gives a lot of freedom, too. Have you ever seen a mad man arrested for “wandering”?
There’s madness everywhere. Roads, homes, offices, professions, in government policies, markets, etc. Health experts agree one doesn’t have to be admitted to a psychiatric home to be confirmed mentally ill. In other words, there are degrees of madness. And kinds. I can easily identify “madness of the leg” – the sufferers can walk from Lagos to Abuja, in support of a politician. They may not even know they’d walked that far. There’s “madness of the mouth” – check out the pastors, politicians, salesmen, ‘419ers’, etc! Talk from both sides of the mouth. Without thinking. Lie through their teeth, even to themselves. There’s the “madness of the head”. The victim forgets things easily. Could be erratic, irrational, etc. But the worst, I think, is madness of the heart. Comes with vindictiveness, hatred, venom, vile, and all the other evil emotions added unto it. In fact, all the frustrations imposed by the other types of madness come to bear on the heart. So, the sufferer of “madness of the heart” is automatically a victim of the other kinds of madness.
On the roads, especially in the cities, some say you need to be mad to survive. The madness shows in the way we drive – swerving into the front of the next vehicle with impunity. Then, you ask the next man: “ Are you mad?” Or in a better delivery: “You de craze”! Without knowing it, madmen have taken over the roads. And, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) can’t do much about it. I heard the new requirements for a driver’s licence include prospective drivers uttering a certain number of offensive words before qualifying.
The madness at home can only make you, well, mad. It’s frustrating trying to pay rents, NEPA(or what’s the name in your area?) bills, buy fuel, etc and then feed so many mouths with a meagre income. Yet, you still have to answer questions on why one tiny oversmart kid must eat beans twice a week. I-i-meme o! And, if you are unfortunate to be trapped by a nagging wife or girlfriend, say your last prayer.
In the market, the madness has affected prices. A N10,000 worth of item last year could be N50,000 now. And if you don’t want to go mad, just smile and say, “e go better?” Never mind the mad man next to you who might be mischievous enough to ask you: “when?” If you want to be dramatic yourself, the better answer is: “when government policies stop spreading madness”. For that’s the reality. Many ill-mannered drivers blame bad roads for their acts. Sometimes, they’re right. But then, when they stop in the middle of the road to pick passengers should we blame government too?
The madness phenomenon causes many to troop to churches, mosques and traditional healing homes, in search of solution to the conflicts within them. But there, they meet a different kind of madness – commercialisation of “miracles.” The “healers” dramatise their “powers” on TVs, print posters claiming what they do not have. And because many who seek “miracles” aren’t schooled in scepticism, they gullibly swallow the hooks. Only when their pockets and beings are milked dry do they come to their senses.
Even in schools, there is madness – high fees, poor learning environment, bullies called cultists, sex-for-mark lectures, lazy students, etc. Education is now for the highest bidder – either in cash or in kind. Unfortunately, like a madman who doesn’t know that he’s mad, nobody caught in the various realms of madness admits his fate. Why? Because, some argue, madness is a thing of the mind. Really?! Some even argue that madness is only mental. Yet, it’s as real as other ailments. In fact, the mental or psychological madness eventually affects the social strata. Isn’t it a demented mind that would physically assassinate a fellow human – all for money and vendetta? When that happens, as in the recent Nigerian experience, does it not affect the society?
Now, there is a new dimension of madness in the air. It’s call 2019! Almost
everyone is focused on how to rig, sorry, win election next year. Politicians, in their increasing number, repeating failed promises, and; the elctorate, not minding they’d been shortchanged before. Well, we know in Nigeria, like the defunct Charley Boy’s show, anything can happen. But isn’t it madness to contemplate backing a liar?
The madness spreading in this land is not spiritual. It touches our physical entities and the earlier we got rid of it the better for our polity. It has little to do with endless prayers and fastings; it has nothing to do with dramatised “miracles” at religious centres. The first step towards healing is self realisation – admitting, for once, irrespective of our political or religioius leanings, that we’re “ a little unwell”. Then, determination – the exercise of mind power – to clean the “stable” would exorcise the madness. No spirit-being would come to the realm of men to do it. Man, heal thyself! Amen!