By Cosmas Omegoh and Christy Anyanwu
There is so much anger in the land. That much was admitted by a cross-section of Nigerians. Anger, they say, hangs in the air, causing people to be easily irritated. Anger is evident everywhere – in homes, communities, and at the national level.
A little reflection shows a growing number of people nowadays react to issues with such uncommon rage, with anger easily brewing in their voices. In road traffics, markets, worship centres, and other places people gather, tempers easily flay up. People pour invectives at their targets. Some readily employ their fists to settle issues – including those considered to be minor. In a fleeting moment of anger, matters snowball into quarrels and a fight might erupt. And this often ends in disaster or tragedy.
Not long ago, for instance, along the Mile-Badagry Expressway, a commercial motorcyclist was killed by a vexed motorist. The victim had brushed and dented his car. He couldn’t take it. Tempers rose. Anger boiled over. The driver, having alighted, dealt his victim a deadly slap. That was it. The Okada rider crumpled to the ground and instantly died!
Months ago, it emerged on social media, on how two men living in their rented apartments in a building engaged each other in a mortal fight, following altercations their wives had earlier in the day while both men were away. One of the men allegedly died on the spot, the other rushed to the hospital after the severe wounds they inflicted on themselves.
Then recently in Orile, a part of Lagos, a man dealt his son a deadly blow for failing to explain how he spent a N100 given to him to fetch an item for the family. The lad died instantly.
Yes, we‘re angry people
In the face of the growing trend, some Nigerians spoken with admitted that issues of poverty, frustration, among others are increasingly pushing Nigerians to the edge.
“There is so much anger in the society at the moment,” Alhaji Abduraham Ahmed, Chief Imam, Ansaru-Deen Society of Nigeria, told our reporter. “Indeed, we are having an overdose of it. There is aggression everywhere.”
Rev. Fr. Anthony Dodonou, director of Social Communication, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, has also observed the trend.
Listen to Him: “There is a lot of anger and frustration among Nigerians right now – including me. I sometimes get angry while on the road driving. “The frustration in the society is too much. We are simply living on the edge.”
Why Nigerians are angry
A sociologist, Dr Augustine Okechukwu Agugua, said that anger is welling everywhere because there is frustration all over the place, adding that “frustration leads to aggression. It is both a psychological and sociological fact.”
Dr Agugua who lecturers in the Department of Sociology, University of Lago, (UNILAG), gives reasons the citizens are in a state of anger.
“This level of anger in the society today is a reflection of what is happening in Nigeria. It is a by-product of the irresponsible leadership, scare, and depreciating state of resources and facilities in our communities. It can also be traced to the level of greed that is associated with the life of the average Nigerian.
“Everything points to the reality that the nation is in a state of crises anchored on frustration.
“In Nigeria of today, even things that used to be a normal aspiration in the past are no longer so. So, people from the point of view of oppression and deprivation, tend to vent their anger on anything or anybody in sight.
“What we see often are incidents of misdirected aggression all because of the type of challenges people are facing. If they don’t see anything or anybody to vent it upon, any object that comes their way becomes a subject of attack. That is the state of affairs in the Nigerian state,” he pointed out.
He added that “even most families are in crisis. That is why if one takes a census of the trend of divorce in a trend analysis form, one will discover that it has been reasonably high in the past 10 years. But in the last five years, it has been worse. And in the past two years, we are getting to the height of it because everything is tail spinning in an era when Nigerian was declared the poverty capital of the world.”
He summed it up, saying that it is all down to poverty, adding, however, that “poverty goes beyond material poverty. It covers the material, mental, attitude.
“But the worst of all is the culture of poverty whereby even the benefits people tend to acquire around them do not assuage their frustration. That explains the height and level of anger prevalent in our society at the moment.”
Pastor Ladi Thompson of the Living Waters Unlimited Church, Lagos, equally believes that the anger in society is fueled by “the sense of helplessness that the average citizen feels as things go from bad to worse.”
He noted that “it is the product of both a natural and contrived threat. Anger is just a cover-up for deeper emotions that fear provokes,” lamenting that “the real symptom is not the easy irritation, but fear. Anger is just a cover-up for the deeper emotions that the terrors provoked by COVID-19 and the Boko Haram/Fulani militancy have produced across Nigeria.”
Pastor Yemi Akinsaya, founder of the Tabernacle Church, Lagos, equally insists that the increasing level of anger in the society expresses the frustration in the nation.
He is worried that “there is no relief from problems and no sign that there is anybody listening, or willing/able to assist.”
Fr. Godonou agrees as much. He told our reporter that people are unendingly getting frustrated “working like giants and earning like ants. They are frustrated; they go to bed and have nothing to eat. They are ready to cause mayhem.
“This is also happening because the basic necessities of life are not readily available. It is bad for our society.”
But Alhaji Ahmed believes that some individuals are responsible for their own anger in life. However, he admitted that “there are anger trigged at the family and community levels,” adding that “there are individual actors and state actors that are responsible for this situation.
“But the first is the state of the economy. There are no jobs. Even those who are employed, have so many challenges such that their salaries cannot take them anywhere, not to talk about those who are out of jobs and the army of the unemployed is increasing by the day.”
Equally, Pastor Wale Adefarasin, the General Overseer, Guiding Light Assembly, Lagos, reasoned that “mental health is the cause of this spate of anger in the people. When you talk about mental health, people tend to think it’s psycho-problems. Mental health could be stress, anxiety, depression and when you have a pandemic and people are afraid, that could affect their mental health. One of the responses will be anger; you have so much insecurity that right now could also affect people. I’m not surprised people are expressing mental health issues.
“Does this have any spiritual connotations? I would not say so. There could be, but it’s purely natural when people are stressed they are going to react to anger. And things happening now are making people stressed, angry, and anxious.”
How anger manifests
Anger, according to Alhaji Ahmed, is manifesting in every facet of the society “in terms of people becoming irritable and irrational; you see anger in form of street brawls, road rage, and other criminalities like kidnapping for ransom. Bandits are also adding their own voice. Even criminal herders are making the same claim. So, you see manifestations of anger all over. It is also present in homes; marriages are under stress; parents are overreacting; everything about this calls for concern.”
What this portends for society
Alhaji Ahmed said that the worsening culture of anger is not good for society. “You can always see the effect in the increase in violent crimes,” he maintained, adfing that “people are involving in wild protests. We have incidents of road rage and the vandals calling themselves ‘One Million Boys.’
“Generally, this is threatening the stability of the society; it is threatening law and order; it is threatening economic progress and stability.
“We saw it during the last #EndSARS protest. Some people who were perceived as the cause of the suffering in the land had their property visited with anger and destruction.”
Then he added a caveat: “Unless something is done, this is not going to abate and there are signs that the tempo is increasing. And this might consume everyone, including those who are innocent.”
Agreeing that the growing anger might destroy the country, Dr Agugua recalled that “when someone said the other time that Nigeria is like a nation at war with itself, he was correct. Now, the warfare which Nigerians are fighting among themselves is going on in spiral. When you look at issues bordering on insurgency, banditry, and all that, you will discover that they are all symptoms of a highly maladjusted state.
“We expect a focused, determined, and strong-minded leadership to kick in and resolve this situation. But unfortunately, Nigerian does not even have that. That is where we ask: ‘where are we headed?’
“For the first time somebody expressed shock at seeing youths in the Southeast coming together to confront both the police and the army in broad daylight. That is a teaspoon out of the ocean.
“You now explain it with the rise of the Amotekun in Southwest and a certain Sunday Igboho who is operating outside the ambits of Amotekun.
“Initially in the Nigerian state, such tendencies were out of place.
“Some people years back, for instance, used to be pissed off with the Nnamdi Kanu’s rascality and radicalism. But today, people like Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho are becoming heroes. The implication is that the frustration in the Nigerian state is assuming a national dimension.”
Way to manage anger
“Anger is not the solution to the challenges we are having at the moment,” Fr Godonou said, adding that “because individuals who get angry because of little things are doing lots of harm to their bodies, souls, and spirits rather than to society.
“Anger is like a poison that one takes hoping that the other person will die. The other person will not die. Rather it is the angry one who will die.
“Often times when I’m driving, I’m conscious of myself. I say to myself ‘calm down, what is wrong with you.’
“When I see the Okada and Keke Marwa coming at me, I say to myself, ‘calm down!’ There is no need to be angry. Wherever I’m going to, I will always get there though late, but that is better.
“I often tell my listeners as a Catholic priest, that you have to overcome anger for you to be victorious. You must have to be patient with yourself so that you will have the serenity to overcome the anomalies and misbehaviours that abound.”
He told our reporter that “the moment you are angry, there are so many things you can do wrongly. Anger can bring you to do what you do not want to do and by the time you are done, you offend not just the other person, but God. This is the spiritual basis of anger, but the social basis is that many people are living on the edge.”
What the Holy Book says
Many Bible passages, according to Fr. Godonou, put things in the right order. For instance, the “Parable of the unforgiving servant.” He sayI’d that St, Paul advised Christians not to go to bed angry without forgiving their fellow man.
“We need God in our lives to be able to conquer anger because the Book of Gal. 5, says anger is the fruit of a corrupt nature. It is necessary that we realise that we offend God and fellow man when we are angry.”
For the Muslim, Alhaji Ahmed recalled that “Islam condemns anger. The Prophet says anger is something whose beginning is madness and the ending is regret. We are also told by the Prophet that when you are standing up and you are feeling angry, sit down. And if you are sitting down, and you are feeling angry, recline on your couch. He said go and make ablution so that it will calm you down.
“It is certain that any action stemming from anger will end up in regret.
“When a man or woman is angry, they are not in their right senses; they will act out of senses and this results in destruction.
“We have seen parents inflict bodily harm on their children. It is not the devil because you cannot arrest the devil.”
Solution to anger
To stem the rising tide now threatening to sweep away the society, Pastor Thompson believes that socio-political solution is expedient.
He urged both the government and rich individuals to have a plan to supply palliatives that will boost the confidence of the common man.
He added: “The future of the average Nigerian will be determined more by the leadership responses to this threat than individual actions.”
Pastor Adefarasin reminded all and sundry that anger has damaging effects on the mind.
“From the spiritual angle, the Holy Bible says, ‘I have not given you the spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. Work on your mind.’
“Some people need to consult with professionals. If you watch the news 24 hours a day, you will become depressed. The best is to consult the professionals and work on your mind.”
From the political viewpoint, Dr Agugua believes that stemming this tide would either rise or fall on the leadership.
He said: “Unless a highly informed, educated and determined political elite with a strong feeling of patriotism and nationalism arises to stop the situation, it will definitely spiral out of hand as it is tending to be.”
But until the government kicks in to address triggers of anger in the society, he counselled everyone, saying: “People should have a sense of moderation in all they do.
“We must also admit that the structural dysfunctionality we are experiencing in the Nigerian state will always incline people towards abnormal tendencies.
“Always live life in moderation; imbibe a love for peace, amity, love, and kindness; people should have the spirit of accommodation – these make for inter-harmonious relationship.
“People need to carry themselves in a very sober and moderate manner. No unnecessary flamboyance or advertisement of affluence.
“Above all, seeing that there are lots of frustration everywhere, people need to put up cheerful visage. People should try to be friendly in the way they relate to others. A kind word and friendly attitude will go a long way in moderating people’s anger. Avoid being overbearing. Always put up an engaging and accommodating smile. That way you will neutralise the anger of the person coming up against you.”