I was at a hair salon some time ago when a lady visited with the salon owner. Although it was getting late and I was impatient to leave, I couldn’t help listening in on their conversation.

Apparently, a young promising lady living just around the corner had been killed by no other than her own older brother.

Like most normal people, I mentally expressed my indignation and surmised to myself that it must have been yet another fight gone horribly wrong. There appears to be a great proliferation of such occurrences these days. 

For some reason, that story kept haunting me, and rightly so, because the tale behind the death of that young lady turned out to be much more sinister than I could imagine.

No, she wasn’t killed for money ritual, it was worse than that. And, no, she wasn’t killed for not sitting at home. 

The full story is about to unfold.

I returned to the same salon several weeks later and the story of that girl flashed in my mind again. So, I asked my hair lady if the girl had been buried and she answered in the affirmative. That opened the door for me to ask if her murderous brother was already in prison and she told me that he wasn’t. He had been sent to the village, she added. 

You can imagine how petrified I became at tis point.

“Why?” I asked.

That was how the story began.

Nne was very talented with making hair. With no head for school books, she discovered her talent early enough in her secondary school days. So, she started her hair-making business right in front of her parents’ humble, two-room abode. She was so good that women would come from all over to sit and wait their turn for her to make their hair.

Nne made good money but was almost always broke. Yes, her parents were poor and aging and she had younger siblings to help out with but these responsibilities were not the major guzzlers of her comfortable income. 

Her income was gulped by a family ‘open secret’ – a family ‘curse’ which she took upon herself to scourge her family of.

Nne’s older brother, Obinna, had a mental illness. It was periodic but when it came, it was bad. He would disappear for weeks and suddenly reappear looking starved, sick, filthy and sober. Each time he disappeared, Nne and her family would pray and hope that he returned unscathed.

Nne spent almost all her money taking Obinna to prayer houses where she had to foot heavy bills spent on holy water, Jerusalem candles, Angel Michael perfumes and all such items meant for the purposes of praying Obinna back into the right mental state. 

Unfortunately, the more Nne spent, the more rituals she coaxed Obinna into partaking in and the more he deteriorated.

One day, Obinna disappeared as usual and returned after several weeks on a cold rainy night. He proceeded to bang heavily on the door. The pounding was so aggressive that Nne’s parents thought it might be wise to let him sleep outside and rather talk him down in the morning than let him in in the aggressive state he was presenting. 

Nne wouldn’t hear any of that. 

She loved her brother and couldn’t bear to see him suffer any more than it was necessary.

Nne opened the door, offered her big brother a big smile of welcome but before she could open her mouth, Obinna descended on her with a big stick, the one he was using to hit on the door. 

The first blow struck Nne hard across the face, sending teeth flying and immediately shattering her jaw. She fell to the ground unable to defend herself or get away or even open her mouth to scream.

Obinna continued to pound Nne’s poor flesh, at the same time screaming, “Every devil and every witch die! Die! Die!! Die!!!” Each ‘die’ was accompanied by a ferocious blow delivered with all the energy and rage he could muster.

Finally, he was spent and Nne was lying in a bloody pulp, not looking like anything that was once human.

To cut a long story short, Obinna became lucid right after the brutal slaying and began to cry, calling for his loving baby sister, who had always played a role reversal of big sister to him, to wake up. 

The family’s solution to their ‘problem’ was to bundle Obinna to their village and abandon him there. 

Poor Nne was scooped off the ground like spilt, spoiled soup and given a pauper’s burial. 

That’s the end of the story for Nne.

For Obinna, I foresee a few more ferocious killings in his future which could stimulate a lynching to death from his people in the village.

This story could have ended a lot differently had Obinna’s family not made a series of poor decisions out of ignorance and fear of stigma.

Mental illness can be treated and managed. 

Prayer houses and rituals will not cure mental health issues. Faith is good but it should not eclipse sound medical care for medical problems. If Obinna had gotten the help he needed, he might not have deteriorated to the point of becoming homicidal.

We must change our attitude towards mental health issues. We must become kinder, more understanding and more inclined to help. 

The government must pay more attention to mental health issues. After all, it is possible that most of the problems we are facing as a country just might be because more than 95 per cent of us – from top to bottom – are sort of plain crazy lunatics.

As another mental health day rolls by, let us think about how best to help not hide or punish those struggling amongst us.


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