Many Nigerians have yet to come to terms with what could have led a teenage undergraduate of Babcock University, Verishima Unokyur, to take his own life, write GBENGA ADENIJI and MOTUNRAYO JOEL
In what appeared as a clue to the mystery surrounding the suicide act by a part-two student of Babcock University, 19-year-old Verishima Unokyur, his mother, Patricia, on Friday said her son couldn’t have done such to himself without external influence.
The mother, who was pensive and heart-broken, told some sympathisers who came to console the family in their home in Ewu Tuntun, Mafoluku Oshodi area of Lagos that her son never gave her any trouble while alive.
She also disclosed her notice of his extremely reserved and shy nature which gave her concern.
She said sadly, ‘‘Why would my dear son commit suicide? He cannot do that. I know him. He was manipulated and God will fight for us. I will forever love my son. I know he was too reserved. I forced him to talk to me. I asked him if he was facing any threats anywhere or he didn’t like the school he was attending but he said no. Since he entered the university, his reserved nature got worse. He was neat and obedient. He is a son I wish to have again and again.’’
Verishima, who hailed from Benue State and was studying Social Work at Babcock, committed suicide in their apartment after the New Year when his mother, who works with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, was away on night duty and his younger brother, Asor, was asleep.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the deceased’s mother is a widow who has not remarried since the demise of her husband about 15 years ago but dedicates her time to the care of her two boys.
A source close to the family who refused to be named said the woman created time for her kids by taking them out most times and also frequently visited Verishima in school.
“Their mother is a very wonderful person. She gave up everything for the joy and comfort of her boys after the death of their father. She ensured that the boys lacked nothing. One would think Verishima was the son of a king because there was nothing he needed that he did not get. She also gave them attention, always ready to talk with them to know what was worrying them at anytime. She is a great woman and an amazing mother. Only God knows what went wrong because this woman did her best for her late son,” he said.
When approached by one of our correspondents for an interview, the distraught woman politely and vehemently refused to speak on the incident, noting that she detested publicity until the unfortunate development drew attention to her family.
Sources told SUNDAY PUNCH that prior to the suicide act, the teenager had a wonderful New Year celebration with his family members. It was also learnt that he ate to his satisfaction on that day without giving any inkling that he would soon depart from the family.
Besides, it was gathered that the deceased was an usher in the pentecostal church which the family attends.
Reacting to the incident, the spokesperson for Babcock University, Mr. Joshua Suleiman, who described the late Verishima as a little reserved, said he was an A grade student.
Suleiman stated, “Verishima was a good student; his academic performance was excellent. He always obeyed instructions and was easy-going. We rated him as a student who was law-abiding. Whether in class or in his hostel, you would never catch him behaving rudely to anyone. He had a good character and was disciplined. At this very moment, the school grieves over his death and we sympathise with his mother. It is saddening, nobody expected this. We are deeply saddened over his departure.”
The Spokesperson for the Lagos State Police Command, Dolapo Badmos, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the case was under investigation.
She added that the command was working to unravel the matter.
Some of Verishima’s friends have continued to mourn his death on social media. One of them, Christiana Omolola, linked the development to ‘spiritual attack,’ while asking God to give his family the fortitude to bear the loss.
Also commenting on Facebook, Moses Mow, said he attended the same lesson with him. He said, “Oh my God! I went to lesson with this boy. He was a good kid. Why will this happen. I’ve not heard from him since then, then this is the next thing I’ll hear? God bless his soul. He was so quiet and reserved.’’
Also, one Diamond Kingsley, who described the deceased as smart and God-fearing, said he was yet to know the reasons he took his own life.
On her part, Oludotun Giwa wrote on her Facebook page that though she was not close to the deceased in secondary school, she knew him to be a smart and focused person.
She said, ‘‘Please, if you know anyone going through depression, please comfort them and make them feel loved. God loves you and you are not alone. Do not be shy to speak to people about it. The only thing that cures depression is shared feelings of happiness, love, knowledge and laughter.’’
Checks on the Facebook page of Unokyur showed that he loved DC comics and foreign movies. He posted only cartoons of super heroes. He had about 610 friends and most of them are foreigners.
One of his ex-secondary school mates currently studying abroad, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said she felt the deceased was lonely.
The ex-school mate noted, “I think it’s a feeling of loneliness. Maybe when he got to the university he felt more alone. He had a lot of friends on Facebook who are not Nigerians. That might be a sign that he was looking for friends. I know he watches a lot of cartoons and games that are mainly American. Maybe he had the American mentality and decided to solve his loneliness by taking his own life.’’
Many Nigerians have expressed worry over the incident and decried suicide cases among Nigerian youths. In July 2015, Benue State University was thrown into mourning when a medical student, Idoko Inalegwu, reportedly committed suicide following his withdrawal from the university after he failed a re-sit. He had spent 10 years in medical school.
In November 2016, a final year student of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nigeria, Nssuka, Tobechukwu Okeke also took his life.
Also in September 2016, Jessica Beer, a 19-year-old female student of Dyege Memorial College, Akpehe, Makurdi, Benue State, committed suicide after her boyfriend, identified only as Labi, impregnated another girl and subsequently dumped her.
There was also a report in May 28, 2016 about a student of the Department of Library Science, Faculty of Education, Bayero University, Kano, Sarah Imoleaya, who drank a pesticide; sniper, and left suicide note. Her action was allegedly spurred by her poor academic performances.
In the same year, a 300-level microbiology student of the University of Lagos, Jacob Eniola, died after consuming sniper.
Speaking on the act, a psychology expert, Prof. Oni Fagboungbe, linked suicide to frustration-aggression.
He said, “When you set a target and you are not able to achieve that target despite all efforts, you become hopeless. This makes the person resort to aggression. This form of aggression has dimensions – it could be towards oneself or towards the society, which is why we find criminals destroying people’s lives. This is form of aggression is towards the society. When one acts aggressive towards oneself, it resorts to things like suicide.
“So many things are happening these days that cause students to resort to suicide. Parents no longer have time for their children; they no longer show parental love towards their children. They are distracted with the pursuit of daily survival. When a child feels lonely and has no one to share his or her problems with, the child becomes fed up with life. The last resort is to commit suicide. Technology also plays a role in the issue of student suicide. Children are exposed to all sorts that don’t enrich their souls. In the past, it was cowardice to commit suicide, but these days children watch all sorts that trigger them to commit suicide when fed up with life. Even criminals watch movies that increase their knowledge on how to act like a criminal. The child who is frustrated sees no reason why he or she should continue to live.”
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