A Roman Catholic priest and the Executive Director, of the Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, Rev. Fr. George Ehusani, has said that about 80 per cent of Nigerians have been exposed to one form of trauma stress or the other in the cause of their lives.
Fr. Ehusani made this disclosure during the 2022 National Scientific Conference of the Nigerian Association of Industrial and Organisational Psychologists in Abuja.
Fr Ehusani lamented that a major part of the 62 years of Nigeria’s independence, has been characterised by suffering, pain, distress, and outrightly traumatising experiences for individuals, families, and communities.
He said: “No wonder we hear the expression these days, that “Nigeria has happened to him!” or “Nigeria has happened to her!” To pick up our history of trauma from post-independence times, is not to ignore the brutal and ignominious legacy of the trans-Atlantic and trans-Sahara slave trade, which lasted for over four hundred years, and was sustained by the greed, the wickedness.
“And the callousness of our local leaders, (the Chiefs, Obas, Obis, and the Sarkis), who conspired with the unscrupulous foreign merchants to prosecute the reprehensible trade in human cargo, until the Whiteman changed his method of exploitation from slave trade and slave labour in the Americas, to colonialism, and then compelled our autochthonous conquerors to toe the line.
“Thus, the present generation of Nigerians are descendants of the perpetrators as well as the survivors of that most callous and notorious shade of man’s inhumanity against man, by which fellow human beings were raided, sold into slavery, and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to a land of no return, or they and generations of their descendants were condemned to a dehumanising life of servitude within the country.
“Following closely after the four hundred years of slave trade was another one hundred years of colonial exploitation, which has left behind devastating consequences on the individual and corporate psyche of Nigerians, as indeed is the experience with people of other colonised African countries. With the short time available for this presentation, I resolved to limit myself to post-independence Nigeria, and the series of traumatising events that have turned us into such a wounded and hurting group of people, that are constantly acting out our individual and intergenerational traumas in wounding and hurting our fellow sufferers.
Explaining further how the trauma was dated years back, the Catholic Cleric said; “The Operation Wetie of Western Nigeria that started in 1962, to the 1966 Coup and the infamous pogrom against Igbos that followed in the North, which all culminated in the unfortunate civil war of 1967 to 1970, an event that unleashed unprecedented horror on individuals, families and communities, the same civil war that was the excuse for the Asaba Massacre of October 7, 1967, when callous or vengeful officers of the 2nd Division of the Nigerian Army ordered the execution in cold blood, of over 700 unarmed men and boys, who assembled in one location to welcome the Federal troops upon the liberation of the Midwest from the Biafran Army”.
He added that hundreds of others were rounded up from their homes, their farms or their hiding places and executed. It is reported that the massacre was so comprehensive, so total, that there were no men left to bury the dead. While many of the victims were buried in mass graves, some courageous women and girls dragged the corpses of their fathers and husbands, and uncles and brothers, from where they were executed to their homes, where they used hoes to dig shallow graves for the dead.
“There is the story of a particular boy who witnessed the soldiers asking a young man to dig his own grave, and thereafter callously pushing him into the grave with a torrent of bullets! There is hardly any family in Asaba that did not lose three or four male members – fathers, sons”, he explained.
Fr Ehusani who further lamented that Nigerians are all victims of the ongoing trauma stressed the need to create more awareness in addressing the growing menace.
“After creating public awareness and inspiring some measure of sensitivity to the reality of intergenerational, communal, and personal trauma in the Nigerian society, the next challenge before the professionals in the psychological sciences will be that of spearheading the transformation of our families, communities, organisations and institutions, including religious organisations, corporate organisations, schools and college, government offices, legislative houses, police stations and courtrooms as well as hospitals and correctional centres, etc, into trauma informed organisations and institutions.
“The process will involve a workplace culture that takes into critical account available knowledge about trauma, about trauma prevalence, about the possible impact of trauma, and how people recover from trauma. Public Officers and Legislators, Corporate and Human Resource Managers, Judicial and Police officers and School Administrators, Teachers and Counsellors, Pastors and Imams, and young people preparing for marriage, etc., should be made to undergo some basic training in psycho-trauma awareness.
“For a saner society to emerge, perhaps every adult in the workplace and at home, should be introduced to the now well-known SAMHSA’s Six Principles of Trauma Informed Care which are also an imperative for Trauma Informed Leadership, and Trauma Informed Human Resource management”, Fr Ehusani added.