Connect with us


How Poor Mental Health Costs Nigerian Economy N21.6 billion Yearly – Merino



Becoming A Better Boss: Leadership
Professor Akindotun Merino

Dr Akindotun Merino is a professor of psychology based in the United States. She is the president of Jars Education Group whose goal is to help restore people and organisations to optimal well-being and productivity. She is also the founder of African Mental Health Alliance. In this interview, she talks about her mental health programme holding in Lagos on Friday, the importance of mental health and the various roles government, institutions and individuals can play to have citizens with sound mental health. Excerpts:

Why are you in Nigeria now?

I am in Nigeria to push this mental health advocacy. We do have programmes in mental health, a round table, a symposium of sort and we are gathering legislators and stakeholders, psychiatrists, psychologists, policy makers and anyone who has interest in mental health to see how we can as a nation move forward in making this a structured and systemic part of the nation. When we talk about mental health, we are talking about the mental wellbeing of people, one needs to know that mental health issues contribute a lot to human right violation, premature death, all kinds of deterioration of health, global and national economic loss. A study says that over $6trillion is lost as a result of mental. Mental health has to do with anything about health.

What do you tend to achieve with the symposium?

The vision of the programme is to gather practitioners, gather advocates, legislators, gather laypeople interested so that we can start to talk about mental health. It is for both awareness and policy development. Our goal is that people achieve the highest standard of health and wellbeing they can achieve in this world. It is important that socially, in your marriage, academically anywhere, mental health is very important. We are trying to reduce the stigma, reduce the discrimination, we are ready to talk about it.

There are a lot of issues around mental health ailments in the US despite the awareness, what’s your take on that?

When we talk about people killing themselves or carrying guns, they have to deal with the second amendment in the US that allows you to protect yourself. People committing suicide is a global thing and the reason why we do not hear about it so much in this country and Africa is because there is no much report on that. People are committing suicide here, domestic violence. There is nothing much that is going on in the outside world that is not happening here, just that we are not talking about it. Most people do not even know it is trauma, most people do not even know it is mental health. When you see someone who cannot keep a job, always angry, tends to be crying all the time or something like that if you do not address it the way it ought to be, it could lead to serious mental problems. Even in the United States we still do outreach to the minority communities, African communities, religious communities because these communities we need to train them and make sure we begin to address the impact of all the mental health in the society.

Do you think we have enough structures to manage mental health ?

We are having this symposium to see what is out there, what people are doing, not like there is no structure but just that individuals will like to manage it in their own spaces, there is no guidance. If there is no mental health, there won’t be a sustainable economy. Depression and anxiety in Nigeria cost the economy N21.6billion annually. The treatment coverage is low, that is why we are doing this, to stop losing people to this pandemic, there is a mental health pandemic that we need to make sure that we address it. We hear of few cases of suicide, we want to tell people that this is treatable, no one has to die from it. Do you know that when you have mental health issues, it lowers your life by 10 to 15 years? This is so serious that we need to talk about it. What I do tell people is that if you are experiencing any sort of suicidal thoughts, some kind of anxiety, you have to talk about it. One of the cures for depression is connection to check on people. In Nigeria, people connect together. But it feels people are getting isolated, people need to be checked on.

READ ALSO: OneBank Digitises Peer-to-peer Lending For Family, Friends

Which states do you think are investing in mental health?

The Kaduna State government is doing a lot, they have a structure, we are having a conversation with them and Lagos State has done somethings in mental health too. Everybody is at the beginning of putting structures together so that people can have access. The most fundamental thing is training, especially in trauma care so that they can care for people who are traumatized and when people are trained to know what to look for it tends to help a lot. One of the basic things we have to do as a nation is to know what to look out for. It is important to train staff members and teachers, it is just a little thing that is to be done in the system, to create a structure that is sustainable.

What’s your take on criminalizing suicide in Nigeria?

Criminalizing suicide, most states said they do not implement that legislation, it is an old law that needs to be changed, it has no business being in any kind of law in our land. It needs to be removed, it does not speak well for us a nation. It is like if you have cancer and somebody said they are going to put you in prison for having cancer, that does not make sense. People who commit suicide, it is not that they wake up one morning and decide to jump off the bridge, no, there are extreme mental issues that have impacted them. Sometimes it could be environmental, biological issue, it could be psychological issues and they do not just happen. It is one of the reasons we are having this symposium, it is very important so that we can talk about how to get our voices heard so that that particular law should be taken out.

A lot has been done n the area of mental health but yet not much outcome. What innovative approach are you bringing to ensure sustainability?

I am not sure a lot has been done, a little has been done in mental health in Africa. We have not implemented the WHO expectation of twenty something years ago, we have not allocated money to mental health. Saying that a lot has been done, I do not agree with that, we have not even done the bare minimum for mental health. What we need to do first, professionals have to come together, have a national resource and number two, we have a national mental health number so that everybody knows the number to get access to. We need to train all the medical staff so that they can know what to look for. We can start with these two basic things. Awareness, make sure medical personnel are trained in trauma and mental health 101 and also make sure that we have advocates who are championing the legislation.

People feel stigmatized and often seek refuge in faith-based institutions. How can these institutions be integrated into mental health care?

One of the things we need to do and are doing is to talk to faith-based institutions. We talk to churches about mental health that it is not opposed to faith. Mental health is everyone’s responsibilities. As a Christian, talking about mental health Jesus did not just die for our physical health but emotional and psychological health. So we connect with people with large congregations. We let them know we are not bringing anything, rather it is scriptural. We educate them on the importance of mental health wellness. Again, the faith-based institution need to get trained or hire trained personnel. We salute the work being done in some faith-based institutions who have done well in this area but one of the issues is that we need more rehabilitation centres and be monitored. Individuals, faith-based institutions need to be trained or hire trained people so that they can know what to do. If you want to have a mental health programme in your church, make sure you have to follow the mental health protocol.

What are the effective roles the government can play?

Government roles, create awareness, we need a mental health campaign, we need trauma-informed campaign, we need national and statewide campaigns, even at the local government. All hands have to be on deck. It is not a one-man show so that people will know that it is there. Trauma-informed care matters will need this sort of care. People need to know the symptoms to look out for regarding mental health issues, like if you see yourself yelling all the time, if you see yourself sleeping more than you should, if you notice you are crying when you are not supposed to, you have thought in your head you cannot go on, you need to talk to somebody. Persistent headache and stomach ache should also be looked out for.

Read more authentic news on our social media platforms 

Continue Reading
Click to comment


Don’t Rule Out Possibility Of Military Coups In Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Others – Panelists Warn



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

Want Medicines, Food Blockage In Niger Lifted 

African governments have been warned of the possibility of being upset by military coups similar to the ones that have taken place in some countries on the continent.

The warning came from some panelists at a session of the Toyin Falola Interviews entitled “Coups in Africa: Geo-Politics, Legitimacies, and Resource Management” which was held on Sunday.

At the virtual session which was organised by Prof. Toyin Falola, the panelists spoke on the problems of governance in Africa and how to stop military coups from occurring in African countries that are not already being ruled by military coupists.

The panelists included King/Prof. Fuankem Achankeng, Col. (Rtd) Festus Aboagye, Dr. Omotola Ilesanmi, Prof. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, and Prof. Biodun Ogundayo.

They warned that it is an illusion to think that the recent military coups in Niger, Mali, Gabon, Burkina Faso and Guinea will be the last ones in Africa.

The panelists raised the alarm that as long as the practices of democracy in Africa are plagued by Western influences and corruption that results in the impoverishment of the citizens, the military will always find excuses to make incursions into governance.

They also warned that countries where their leaders arbitrarily change their constitutions so that they can have third or fourth terms instead of two terms are prone to military takeovers.

The panelists also expressed the need to exercise caution in unleashing sanctions on Niger Republic because of the military coup.

They urged that regional bodies such as the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS) , the African Union (AU) and political leaders in Africa should have a common template for defining coups.

According to them, there are military coups just as there are civilian coups. Thus, to them, if military coups are sanctioned, civilian coups which are fomented through the rigging of electoral processes should also be sanctioned.

They urged that ECOWAS, AU and political leaders in Africa should have a better way of sanctioning military coupists and their governments. They urged that the blockage of medicines and food in Niger Republic  should be lifted since it is the masses and vulnerable people who are the worst hit by such a sanction.

Continue Reading


Coups In Africa: Historical Antecedents, Root Causes, And The Systemic Way Out



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Military coup — and its sister-act, usurpation — have existed for centuries. Seventeenth-century England had its fair share of attempted and successful military coups. Eighteenth-century France suffered military coups. Even the eighteenth-century Oyo Empire, despite the ingenious move of having the war generals — Are — lived in a city far away from Oyo-Ile to avoid usurpations, still suffered deposition and military coups at the hands of Basorun Gaa. Between the 19th and 20th centuries, several countries of the world faced at least one attempted or successful military coup, from Asia to Europe to Africa. However, military coups have either fully become non-existent or significantly subsided worldwide, except in Africa, where there has been a fresh batch of military takeovers.

Truly, military coups have historically served several purposes. First, they have been an integral part of the growth and evolution of several countries of the world. Humans, by design, are curious experimenters. Therefore, it is only expected that several countries would have attempted military coups and the subsequent military rule that resulted from such coups as an alternative to the type of government they were practicing. 

At its basest form, the motivating factor for military coups is a simple attempt to try something new, to see if there is a better alternative to how the country is being run. For this, military coups have served as the beginning of a learning curve for several countries, many of which have adjusted to find a system that works for them and will help them thrive — China finding solace in a communist dictatorship, the United Kingdom has opted for a constitutional monarchy, and for France, it is a semi-presidential government. These countries have gone through the proverbial fire of military disruptions and rules to become what they are today. 

Furthermore, military coups result from a failing or failed system of government. Historically, military coups happen in countries experiencing turbulence — whether the turbulence results from a leader clenching on to power at the country’s detriment or widespread corruption running aground. We have also seen cases of coups due to the high-handedness and excesses of those in power. For every country that has experienced a coup, there is a backstory of oppression, corruption, dictatorship, stagnancy, and the suffering of citizens.

Africa is not the only place in the world where coups have happened. But Africa is currently home to the highest number of countries with recent military coups and takeovers. When the rest of the world aims for advancement and development, Africa is battling recurrent news of military coups and takeovers. There is something fundamentally wrong on the continent. While it is not out of place to blame the role colonization — and its resultant mambo-jumbling of people of differing races, cultures, and approaches — played in the disruption of the continent, it is important to note that Africa is not the only home of former colonies. India has never for once experienced a military coup. That is not to say India is perfect, but India is growing, evolving and learning.

Military coups have registered themselves as the transitional bridge in African politics. The poor leadership, country-wrecking corruption, mass abuse of power and disregard for the rule of law, constitution, and citizens contribute massively to the military’s self-justification of military coups in these African countries. Ironically, the military that has often positioned itself as the restorer of law and order and the savior of the people is also notorious for committing the same or far worse offenses and abuse of power during their regimes. In West Africa, countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Togo experienced their first military coup less than 10 years after their independence. That speaks more to a fundamental problem or mentality that transcends political failure. 

In Africa — especially with the recent military coups — there is more to it than military intervention. These coups and usurpation of power are beginning to look like the countries’ way of taking a stance devoid of the perceived cowardice of the deposed democratic leaders. There is a pattern to the military coups that have happened recently in Africa, as they have mostly been in countries that are former colonies of France. 

Although it is being said that the days of colonization are far behind, there are indications of not-so-subtle neocolonialism by France within its former colonies, often aided by the French-state-backed elected leaders of those former colonies. In exchange for the pleasures of the French soil — akin to the resultant effect of the notorious model of assimilation and association — the leaders of these Francophone African states curry for the grace and favor of the French state, at the detriment of their countries and citizens. 

There is also the hefty price for independence tied to the ridiculous agreements the French state has reached with its former colonies, including the enormous amount remitted to France annually for the use of the Francs CFA, the widespread exploitation of Nigeriens through mining done by French-state-backed Orano’s Somair, and the over-dependence of resources-rich Francophone African states on France are some reasons for these patterned military takeovers that have happened recently.

There is no denying that when the people are pushed to the wall, they would be left with no choice but to push back. This has been the case in Gabon, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. At this point, there is the need for introspection: are the African states that never experienced a coup better off? What systems of government do those states practice? Do they have a history of colonization? Are they multi-ethnic countries? How big are they by population? When we juxtapose the troubled countries with the ones that never had any coup using these metrics, we will then begin to see a clear path toward understanding the biggest root causes of military coups in Africa and whether they have been beneficial, and perhaps understanding the best way out. 

Since the recent coups, there have been grand attempts by regional blocs like ECOWAS to resolve the issue, including opting to use a strong tone and attempting to strong-arm the putschists in Niger into returning power to the usurped president of the country. However, if historical antecedents are anything to go by, strong-arming the putschists is not the way to go, and opting for a full-blown-war or military operation can only result in a victory with two downsides: the emergence of rebels in the state or civilians becoming the victims in a case where the military intervention blows out of proportion. In both cases, the result does not spell good for the average citizen of the countries where the governments have been overthrown. What then needs to be addressed?

There is a need to address the root causes of these military coups, rechristened as interventions in African states. There is a need for holistic approaches that will result in proactive measures to mitigate the issues and usher Africa into a new era of evolution and growth that will banish military coups and regimes as relics of history. 

At the Toyin Falola Interviews, our next panel session will focus on coups in Africa, drawing on the expertise of analysts invited from African states. King/Prof. Fuankem Achankeng, Col. (Rtd) Festus Aboagye, Dr. Omotola Ilesanmi, Prof. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, and Prof. Biodun Ogundayo will be sharing insights and expanding on the root causes of coups in Africa, how the coups tie back to geopolitics, the legitimacies of these coups, and resource management at a time like this. Furthermore, there will be a focus on discussing the true and systemic way out of the myriad of coup-inciting problems within countries on the African continent. Join us on Sunday, September 24, as our panelists discuss this time-sensitive and vital topic.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Mauritius and Seychelles Time (UTC/GMT+4): 8 PM

East Africa Time (UTC/GMT+3): 7 PM

Central Africa Time (UTC/GMT+2): 6 PM

West Africa Time (UTC/GMT+1): 5 PM

Greenwich Mean Time (UTC/GMT): 4 PM

Cape Verde Time (UTC-1): 3 PM

Austin, Texas (CST): 11 AM


Register and Watch: 


Join via Zoom: 


Watch on Facebook:


Watch on YouTube: 


Continue Reading


How To Stop Military Coups In Africa – Bolaji Akinyemi



Prof.Bolaji Akinyemi

A former External Affairs Minister , Prof.Bolaji Akinyemi , has proffered an antidote to the rising spate of military coups in Africa.

Prof. Akinyemi who was a minister in the government of former Military President Ibrahim Babangida spoke against the background of a military coup that has removed a democratic government in Niger Republic.

Military coups which were a regular occurrence in Africa in the decades after independence have become resurgent recently.

The takeover in Niger, led by soldiers belonging to the presidential guard, is just the latest in a string of coups that have taken place in recent years.

There were two in Burkina Faso in 2022 as well as failed coup attempts in Guinea Bissau, The Gambia and the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.

In 2021, there were six coup attempts in Africa, four of them successful.

Akinyemi said during a session of the Prof.Toyin Falola Interviews on Sunday that there should be a charter on democracy that would be binding on members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He said that such a charter should be endorsed by the African Union and even the United Nations.

Akinyemi said that such a charter had become necessary because democracies are not only truncated in Africa by military coups. According to him, democracies are also truncated through civilian coups. This entails elected presidents changing their nations’ constitutions in order to get more tenures beyond the terms as stipulated in their constitutions.

He explained that ECOWAS leaders are opposed to the military coup in Niger as a way of protecting their own democracies.

But he condemned a development that he referred to as the ethnicisation of foreign policy. He referred to the opposition by a region of Nigeria to the plan of President Bola Tinubu to deploy the military in Niger in order to return to democracy. He said such ethnic and religious considerations in deciding foreign policies were non-existent in the past. He said this was why he supported the then Nigerian government’s decisions as regards military interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The interviewers who included Prof. Jide Osuntokun, Bishop Matthew Kukah, Ambassador Godknows Igali, Ambassador Jaiyeola Joseph Lewu and Prof.Richard Joseph asked Prof.Akinyemi questions about his family background, the university system, his career and national and international developments.

Continue Reading

Top Stories