Nigeria at 60: Are we all mad?

The most important resource for any organization or nation is her human resource – the people. It should therefore be a no-brainer that any organization or nation that desires to be successful and productive will invest in her human resource. They will ensure that they are equipped and provided the best tools to enhance the chances of success. The most basic of these investments will be to ensure that your staff or citizens are healthy and fit for purpose.

The World Health Organization defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, MENTAL, and social wellbeing’. Thus, health can be conceptualized as a stool sitting on three legs: physical leg, mental leg and social leg. Are we paying attention to any of these legs of health in Nigeria?

Public health recommends that we start from a) health promotion – by focusing attention on all those factors and enablers that will help us achieve and optimize good health. Such as clean potable water, regular exercise, eating balanced diet, safe neighbourhoods etc. Then we proceed to b) disease prevention – by actively avoiding the dangerous situations that may put our health in jeopardy, such as avoiding excessive alcohol or drug abuse, bullying and abuse of children, domestic violence etc. Before we get to c) early identification and treatment – which is the point where you get to hospital because you have noticed some complaints or symptoms with your health and you want to take action early. And eventually, we talk about d) rehabilitation – and a return to normal functioning, after a period of ill health.


Current realities

The armed conflicts in the North-East has been going on for over a decade now, with millions dislocated, thousands dead, millions traumatized and brutalized -including children and girls forcefully abducted. Where are the efforts at societal healing via intensive psychosocial re-engineering and rebuilding? Are we waiting for the fire next time, when the brutalized children grow into maturity, feeling abandoned and not cared for? Yet, where funds are allocated both by government and civil society (NGOs) for rehabilitation of internally displaced persons (IDPs), they are also looted. Does this make sense?

Our youths are so frustrated (and I daresay, misguided) that they are willing to cross the desert and risk slavery and treacherous sea crossing in search of a better life. While across the rank and file of politicians and senior civil servants, they are mostly looting mindlessly all they can lay their hands on. Are we all mad?

Drug abuse is on the increase, insecurity is rife with kidnappings and armed robbery attacks, unemployment rates are high, our infrastructure is poor, the minds of the youths appear fixated on instant wealth with no labour – leading to yahoo yahoo (internet fraud) and other crimes. Yet, our politicians do not realize the clear and present danger and the urgent need to inspire hope and chart a clear pathway for progress. Are they really okay?

There is a proliferation of ethnic and religious jingoists who are relentlessly fanning the embers of hatred and fermenting discord. They are unfortunately being abetted by sections of the media, who maliciously skew their headlines to inflame passions. The ivory towers and ´educated elites´ are also not spared from this virus, as they actively embrace it for selfish reasons when it can help their self-advancement. Are we blind not to see the ramifications of all these actions once the genie is unleashed from the bottle and it runs amok within the populace?


Criminal neglect of mental health

Ignorance, shame and stigma remain huge barriers preventing the utilization of mental health services. With the rising cases of mental illness, drug abuse and suicides, in an ocean of hopelessness, poverty and social difficulties, it is a shame that mental health remains neglected by governments at federal and state levels. Attempted suicide remains a crime, punishable by one year jail term; and we still operate an obsolete Lunacy Act of 1958. The revised Mental Health Bill is still at the National Assembly and we hope it will be passed and signed into law. Drug abuse is rife and available at all motor parks and street junctions -openly so. Yet, we are surprised at ghastly motor accidents and reckless motorcycle riders. Are we really okay?



As we celebrate 60 years of nationhood, we have many challenges but they are not insurmountable. They only require a conscious and strategic campaign to change minds and attitudes for the better; via societal re-engineering. Of course, we are not mad. But successful nation building and a responsible citizenry can never be accidental. It must be deliberate and calculated, with a focus on investments in a healthy citizenry. And optimal mental health should necessarily be a core consideration.


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