A most heartrending news which emanated from Ondo State last week was that of a grandmother who allegedly set her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren ablaze for starving her of food. The woman reportedly sprinkled petrol on the victims’ room and ignited fire with a matchstick while her son, Victor Oloro; his wife, Rachael, and their children, Toluwani and Blessing, were all in the house and deeply asleep in the wee hours of the fateful day. The ensuing inferno did so much damage to the victims that the doctors could not salvage the situation when their neighbours rescued and rushed them to hospital. The only surviving child is said to be in a very critical condition in the hospital where medical officials are still battling to save his life. In one fell swoop, the woman wiped out two generations with which she had intimate and filial relationship. It was terrible. The horrific incident happened in the town of Aponmu in Akure South Local Council of Ondo State.
The grandma’s extreme action and the alleged motivation for it do not match. It smacks of killing a gnat that perches on one’s forehead with a sledge hammer. It is difficult to believe that any parent with a stable mind could liquidate her own son and his nuclear family on the grounds of the starvation she allegedly suffered under their watch. Many people believe, rightly in our own view, that there might be more to the horrendous incident than meets the eye. In other words, there could be more to her condition given the excuse she advanced for resorting to the extreme. Put more pointedly, the graveness of her hideous attack on her son and his family and the grouse upon which she predicated it is really confounding.
It is believed in some quarters that her mental status may have contributed to the extreme action she took, or that she was under the powerful influence of Edi, the evil spirit which in Yoruba traditional belief is thought to take sudden possession of its victims and rob them of sanity momentarily. Edi allegedly pushes the victims to engage in gross misconduct, take precipitate actions and commit atrocities which they would be otherwise incapable of. Its objective, of course, is to make its victims run afoul of the law and inescapably face its wrath. However, the fact that the grandmother is reportedly rationalising her ghoulish action with a flimsy excuse that verges on denial of food by the victims suggests that her insanity goes beyond the transient variant. Most victims of Edi are said to regain their sanity after wreaking havoc.
Our strong message to the society is this: it is imperative that no one takes things for granted when people begin to exhibit signs of strange and weird behaviour. These days, some people are bound to slip into a situation of disorder of the mind owing to escalating political and, more significantly, socioeconomic challenges that seem to constantly put many people on edge. Prompt preemptive action and caution could go a long way in averting disasters that may arise from those who have literally lost their minds. The truth is that there is so much stress in the society that the need for caution, restraint and vigilance has become highly imperative. Indeed, we believe that it is high time the society reverted to the time-tested practice that imposed a duty on everyone to be his brother’s keeper and embraced the responsibility of watching others in other to stave off unwarranted and chilling occurrences.
We urge the relevant authorities to cause the mental status of the suspect to be critically examined to determine whether she could reasonably be held to account. The objective is to ensure that official time and resources are not wasted in prosecuting someone who is oblivious of the gravity of the offence she has committed or lacks the capacity to appreciate the essence of punishment and deterrence.
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