–Mother of depressed Benue man.
Mrs. Winnifred Anongo, a retired nurse, is the mother of Terhemen Anongo, a 43-year-old medical school dropout who now works in Gboko town, Benue State as a porter, pushing a wheelbarrow. In this interview with JOHN CHARLES, the mother speaks about the nature of his son’s problem and the efforts she has made to get help for him
Tell us about yourself.
I am Mrs. Winnifred Anongo Korna, mother of Terhemen. He is my second child but my first male child.
At 43, your son is still a dependant and is unmarried. How do you feel?
I feel very bad about his plight. The only thing that keeps me going is my trust in God. I have committed his problem to God; I believe that at the right time God will handle the situation. The dream of every mother who has a son his age is that that son would be married by now and be head of a family.
What was his childhood like?
His childhood was normal. He was very friendly; though, then he hardly smiled and whenever he did something good and he was praised his response would be to just nod his head. He was not talking too much; he was rather quiet, reserved and kind.
Did you notice anything abnormal about his behavior while he was growing up?
There was no such thing; no abnormality at all. Spiritually, there was nothing to show that he had any problem; nothing at all. He grew up normally like any other child.
Your son said he battled depression which forced him to drop out of medical school after he had spent five years and had only one year left to qualify as a doctor. Were you aware of his condition then?
He gained admission into the University of Ibadan at the age of 16 years to study Medicine. It was after his third or fourth year in the university that he began to manifest this strange behavior.
At the time he started manifesting this strange behavior, what did you do?
What I did was to seek medical help. I took him to the hospital and they ran tests and did analyses and they said he had a mental illness. From there, he started receiving treatment but at some point, he left the hospital and abandoned his treatment. I was there with him in the hospital but he left me there.
The first time he left the hospital, he headed for Materev, a village in the Gboko Local Government Area (of Benue State). I made an arrangement and my husband’s relations helped me to bring him back to the hospital. But on returning to the hospital, he insisted on not continuing with his treatment. He forced me to sign that he no longer needed medical treatment in the hospital. When we got back home, I talked to him and we agreed to go to a private mental health hospital. Again, he didn’t stay to complete his treatment. He abandoned his treatment and left me in the hospital.
After that, some people advised me to take him for native treatment, saying his problem might not be medical. I heeded the advice and did just that. It appeared as if he was alright and we came back home; then his condition relapsed (into the former state). This time, he burnt down my car. Then some people suggested that he should be taken to a rehabilitation center at Massajer and I took him there. He was taking treatment there but he later abandoned his treatment and left the rehabilitation center.
His uncle later took him to another place when he complained that he felt as if there was fire burning in his head. After some time, he said he no longer had that feeling. After it seems he had recovered from that, the uncle later took him to Taraba State to teach in a school but he did not stay long before he came back and again began to look so unwell.
What then happened?
At that point, I decided to take him to (Prophet) TB Joshua in Lagos but we couldn’t see the prophet. We attended the prayer in the church and when we couldn’t see the prophet one-on-one, he (my son) said we should go come back home. Strangely, after we left the church and got to the motor park to board a vehicle back home, my son said he was not coming with me. I had to plead with him before he agreed to come back home with me.
Was that the last effort you made on him?
There was a time they introduced an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) that handles mental health problems to us – I can’t remember the name of the NGO at the moment – the official went to this house to talk to him; they engaged him and took him round workshops in several places, including in Jos. But after some time, he said he was no longer interested in the NGO.
Later, he asked me to open a chemist shop for him, which I did at Wannune. I stocked the shop with drugs and maybe he felt there were not enough drugs on the shelves, he abandoned the shop. I later took him to a transport company where a relation of mine happens to be the manager and he was engaged there but before long, he left the place too.
When did he start the cart-pushing job?
It was after he abandoned the transport company that he picked up the wheelbarrow-pushing job.
How did you feel when he became a cart pusher?
Kai! It was so terrible. I called him and talked to him that it was better for him to remain with the transport company but he said he was tired of the place because the people there were not cooperating with him but I pleaded with him to return to the transport company; I told him he was the one to join hands with them and not them to cooperate with him.
I told him to just focus on the schedule of his job and not to interfere in other areas, like questioning the drivers. He actually listened to me and went back but shortly after, he abandoned it again.
How does he feed himself?
I am the one providing him with foodstuffs and some of his other needs. Here in this village, I engage in farming to ensure that we live. His siblings, along with their husbands, are also helping me; they always provide for both of us.
Were you aware that he attempted to castrate himself?
I was in the village here and decided to phone him and ask how he was doing. Initially, the matter was kept away from me. My sister who was with him just said I should come to Gboko. When I got to Gboko, I was told that my son was in the hospital. I had to rush to the hospital where the doctor then explained to me what had happened.
The story is too long; I cannot explain everything but I have gone through a lot on this child and I believe it is God that has kept me alive till today. I have no reason not to still thank God but I have seen so much, it is God that is keeping me and I still have faith in God that this boy will not be useless; God will eventually be glorified; He will intervene and that is why I am holding onto Him.
You must have felt frustrated many times, seeing him abandoning treatment and job opportunities you struggled to create for him.
Sometimes I got angry. There was a time I took him for rehabilitation in the correctional centre and I was visiting three times every day to give him food and other things that he needed. I was doing that to encourage him to settle down for his rehabilitation but all my efforts went to waste.
The former Chairman of Tarka Local Government Area, the late Baver Dzeremo, when he was alive, tried so much for him. He once brought some psychoanalysts who worked on him but they could not arrive at anything. This was a boy who was not troublesome but was very intelligent and now he would talk and insult an elder; I know that what is happening is not ordinary; I know it is a spiritual attack, though I am not in the spirit realm and I don’t go seek Babalawos (native doctors) to help me; it is only God I know that will help me.
If I am the type that goes about seeking spiritual powers, I would have taken to witchcraft because of this boy. But I pray that God will take control. What is happening to him is a spiritual war; it is not an ordinary thing. But I know there is nothing that God cannot do and I have trust in Him. It is God who has been strengthening me and I know He will not fail me. A former governor of this state, who is now a minister, George Akume, has also tried for the family financially. When the father died I had nothing; I was just on Grade Level 12, earning just N4,000 monthly and had six children to feed. What could that money have done? But God has helped me to give all my children university education and they are all graduates except this one who dropped out.
How I was able to sail through is the grace of God. When I was in the service, what I used to do when not at work was to be on the farm. And it was proceeds from the farm that I used to send my six children to school. I still trust in God that the story of this boy will end in praise.