A ghost is the soul or spirit of a dead person that can appear to the living. These spirits make deliberate attempt to influence most often harmfully the living. They are believed to haunt particular locations, objects, or people they were associated with in life often for vengeance from a grievous wrong.
The fair ghosts attack the perpetrators and accomplices to their wrong, while the real dreadful ones flurry on a rampage attacking both the guilty and innocent in the community.
Certain religious practices like funeral rites, exorcisms, and some practices of spiritualism are specifically designed to rest the spirits of the dead; especially those that died from unnatural cause or suffer violent deaths. These practices are targeted at appeasing the restless spirit, through offerings, provision of justice and contrition by the entire community.
The overwhelming consensus of science is that ghosts do not exist, but their existence is impossible to falsify.
The Hollywood movie Ghost was an outstanding commercial success, grossing over $505.7 million at the box office on a budget of $22 million. This lends credence that it made literary appreciation to western audience. It was the highest-grossing film of 1990. Similarly, in Nollywood a lot of movies are devoted to bringing to the screen the influence and consequences of dead spirits to living villains.
Details of violent and traumatic incidents at the accident and emergencies of hospitals often reveal interrelated past events that led to the ordeal. There is also a point always that victims recount a loss of control over themselves and the event; this momentary force, apparition, spook or haunt as it variously called; may be the ghosts operating, influencing people and events and perpetrating violence and injuries in our land.
A robber shot a young man in the neck when he withdrew money from an ATM. The armed-robber, another young man was admitted some days later with a stab-chest during a fight with his friends. The gun he used belongs to his father and he has been aware of it and often brags to his friends about it. The night of the robbery, he wanted to prove himself and particularly impress a new friend that’s joined their group recently. The father got the gun years ago when he decided to arm himself after witnessing an armed-robbery in their neighborhood where his friend got killed. He purchased the gun from a local crook whose trade had since improved and now is rumored to be a key supplier of arms to robbers, kidnappers and warring communities.
The accomplice to the shooting and victim of stab-chest though new in town is popular for his demonstrable ferocity. He is from a community with histories of communal clashes; he is not new to killing and being around violence. He is in exile and running from authorities for involvement in a recent clash were he performed ‘commendably’ during the disturbance. His savagery has been fuelled since childhood by embellished stories of hate and grievous injustices meted out to their community over time.
This young lady, a daughter of a community leader started using illicit drugs from sleeplessness, anxiety and panic attacks. Her problem started in her second year at a foreign university when she still kept track of the happenings in Nigeria through social media. For unknown reason, on a fateful day, her phone froze on a graphic video of gruesome murders in a Nigerian community by a group of terrorists. This in addition to living in isolation, school problems and depression made her, overtime, to lose interest in living and she frequently toy with the idea of committing suicide in her head. In addition, the attention, sympathy and excitement that happened in their school when a student committed suicide, left a long-lasting wish in her; she identified with the victim. During a vacation in Nigeria, in her second night she had a big row with her parents about school and the kind of life she was living. This and the new spec of drug she got in Nigeria finally pushed her to attempt hanging herself and she succeeded.
A commercial car driver was rushing fast at night through a particularly notorious route for kidnapping, armed robbery and frequent fatal accidents. This same spot was where, years back, a young graduate on his way for an aptitude test for a job had an accident. The driver under the influence of a stimulant had a split second jitter and the vehicle lost control; the driver survived with minor injuries, two passengers died on the spot and the young applicant suffered cervical spine injury; on-lookers in attempt to extricate him from the vehicle might have complicated the injury, making him quadriplegic; unable to move or use his entire body and incontinent of both urine and feces. His three relations, a mother and 2 sisters, drove to the city from a rural area and arrived the referring hospital with N7000 between them for the first time outside their state.
He died after four months from complications; the multiple surgeries, severe handicap and medical care made the family indebted, and his corpse was held before they settled hospital bills. This was eventually buried through mass burial for unclaimed rotting bodies by the hospital authorities. All through his remaining days, he thought of the spot and the incident, the fear before he was extricated from the upturned vehicle, the trip and rejection at the nearest hospital, the wait before a good samaritan drove them to the hospital that rejected him because of the severity of his injuries. He, especially, retained the pain and tears of his mother and her muttered prayers when he drifted in and out of drugged sleep, these played back and forth in his head before his final confusion to death.
It would have been easy for a vengeful ghost to generate a desire to prove oneself through armed robbery by a young man, to advice a man to purchase an illegal gun for protection after witnessing violence or freeze the phone of a susceptible girl to see gruesomeness. A ghost intending continuity of mayhem could aid the proliferation of vicious youths from misguided and hateful tales, make drivers lose control of vehicles and confuse a system to be unable to provide prompt and effective medical care and justice to victims, thereby, ensuring a constant supply of aggrieved souls of the dead from violence that could turn to more and more ghosts.
Data provided by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and verified and validated by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that in the year 2017, 3,219 persons were murdered in Nigeria. These were unlawful planned killings of humans, while 120, were killed without malice or plan. A total of 771 attempted murder, about 11,000 aggravated assault, and more than a thousand kidnappings. More than 300 persons committed suicide in the same year and about 200 attempted suicide. In the same year, data from Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC) revealed a total of 9,383 Road Traffic Crashes, which resulted in more than 5,000 deaths and 5,456 serious injuries. In spite of this staggering statistics, gaps still exist in the data collection as not all crashes are recorded. The World Health Organization estimates the actual number of road fatalities could be up to seven times higher than figures reported.
Violent death does not only affect the victim, it also impacts the wider family and network of relatives and the consequences maybe serious and long-term for these people. Co-victims having to cope with the loss of a loved one as a result of violent death, suffer overwhelming anger and rage, fear, excessive alertness and feelings of guilt, an enormous anger against the world in general and the perpetrator in particular. They also run the risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and long-term depression. A qualitative study by Scott Kenney found that these relations and loved ones metaphorically expressed a profound ‘loss of self’ which includes: a permanent loss of future; violating devastation; being a ‘different person now’; loss of control; and loss of innocence.
In Nigeria, we may be diverse in belief systems, traditions, socio-economic status and value judgment with regards to violent deaths and injuries, but we are unified in the need to control the proliferation of ghosts unnecessarily, through preventing violence and traumatic deaths, adequate medical services to the injured and prompt, adequate justice to rest the spirit of the dead and calm the living co-victims.
The experience of high-income countries indicates that science can provide a solution to this vexing proliferation of ghosts. National injury prevention policies can and do work. Over the past 10-20 years, many industrialized countries have reduced their injury death rates, some by as much as half. These reductions can be attributed to concerted and sustained injury prevention efforts, often instigated by government as part of a national strategy or program.
Injury prevention and management is not new in Nigeria, the country has in place laws and regulations that address some of the issues associated with violence and injury, and some steps have already been taken to tackle its consequences. However, these initiatives are often inadequate and disjointed.
Well thought-out violence and injury prevention policy is urgently needed, to control the epidemic of preventable deaths and suffering. This requires identification of focal points to lead the effort, establishment of links across ministries, civil societies and other stakeholders, and strong political commitment. This coordinated and combined effort would provide the necessary, effective remedy for the plague of violence and injury in the country.