The high rate of mental illnesses among young folks in the commercial city of Warri and its environs in Delta State is alarming and worrisome. EBENEZER ADUROKIYA takes a closer look at two siblings in Agbassa (Agbarha) community in the heart of Warri, whose retrievable mental ailments have been superstitiously attributed to a curse or lack of care and excruciating hunger after losing their parents to the cold hands of death early in life.
Okiemute and Brorien (surname withheld) are two brothers born of the same parents. They hail from an extended family (name withheld) at Otovwodo Agbarha community in Warri, Delta State.
During a close observation of the non-violent duo, the elder Okiemute constantly appears more in gifted tattered clothes. But often, he could be sighted in clean but funny feminine clothes such as micro shorted and tops, high heeled female shoes and earphones, strolling through the Warri-Sapele road and adjourning streets. Neighbors claim that the clothes are gifts from sympathisers. Okiemute is dark-complexioned, tall, lanky and handsome. He possesses some muscles some neighbors usually capitalize on to send him on errands such as vending water for local restaurants and domestic use. Sadly, he does these chores often nude with his phallus dangling in between his legs in broad daylight at Ginuwa junction. Feelers have it that those who engage him in such errands are responsible for his daily feeding.
The younger brother, Brorien, on the other hand, appears in near similar attires. He’s hardly engaged in chores as he looks frail, betraying some amiably half-smiles when roving the streets. His fragile frame, it was gathered, stems from acute hunger.
Nigerian Tribune had an audience with some distant relations of the two ailing siblings. One of them, Miss Ikele Praise, alleged that the root cause of the duo’s mental illness is traceable to a curse. She claimed that even before their father, Mr. Solomon died, people had conjectured that he was also mentally unstable. “When their father died, they were both living with their grandmother. When they brought in their younger brother to live with them in their family compound, after sometimes, he started behaving abnormally, but they quickly took that one away,” she said.
Then dreadful day came. Brorien was suddenly sighted behaving strangely. Some neighbors were said to have taken him to a church holding a special programme and the guest cleric was said to have prayed for him. He was reported to have regained his sanity. But a few months later, the sanity was said to have relapsed.
Nigerian Tribune stumbled on a friend of the mother of the two young boys identified as Mrs Florence (surname withheld). She described Julie, the boys’ mother as a close pal, but gave a different version of the probable cause of the mental illness plaguing the boys. According to her, “Mrs Juliana, popularly known as Julie, was very close to me when she was alive. She had four children, but two of the children (boy and girl) are not for Mr Solomon, her husband. They are children she had for another man before getting married to Mr. Solomon. Because she was having issues with her husband, she left for her mother’s place in Sapele to stay and cool off for a while.
“While in Sapele, it was alleged that the older of the boys (Okiemute), stole his grandmother’s money. And unknown to the grandmother that her grandson was responsible for the theft, she placed a curse before a family idol that whosoever stole the money would run mad including generations after him or her.
“But before she placed the curse, the grandmother pleaded severally with her grandsons to confess to her if they stole the money, but their mother, Julie, defended them that they were innocent and had never been accused or found pilfering.
“Some years after the incident, Julie returned with the boys from Sapele to Warri.
“The boys were doing fine. They were even done with their secondary school education then. But all of a sudden, Okiemute, the elder, started behaving strangely; before they knew what was happening, he had gone insane!
“The mother started taking him from one church to another to seek solution to her son’s illness. It was in one of those churches that she was told that the sickness of Okiemute was as a result of a curse that was placed on him by his grandmother. But unfortunately, the grandmother had died years before then.
“The mother couldn’t do anything because, according to her, it’s only her mother that could break the curse.
“Some years later, she took ill and was admitted to a hospital where I was working then. When she was there, it was the younger one (Brorien) that was bringing food for her. But months after, she died.
“After she died, due to lack of care, Brorien also became mentally ill. He was like that before a pastor that was invited to a church in the community prayed for him and was eventually well. He was well for some time, but after about five months or so, the mental illness returned and became worse.”
A paternal uncle of Okiemute and Brorien, Pa John (surname withheld) also obliged Nigerian Tribune some insights into the plights of the boys. He said although he was not resident in the area during the period, he, however, learnt that a curse placed on Okiemute was responsible for his mental illness. He, however, expressed worries why Brorien, the younger of the two, became affected by the curse.
“It was Okiemute who stole the money. And it is not supposed to affect the younger one. Brorien himself was a very lively boy; he went around preaching the gospel. We don’t have much They are young boys. I’m not very sure of their ages, but Okiemute should be 26 years old while Brorien is around 22,” the septuagenarian, who expressed optimism that they boys could still be helped, disclosed.
Psychiatrist reacts on way out
Nigerian Tribune spoke to an expert, Dr. Emmanuel Clifford Gbiaye, a psychiatrist at the Central Hospital, Warri, on what could be done to help the two brothers among several other mentally ill folks in the oil-rich city of Warri and its environs.
He attributed the mental illness of several others, including Okiemute and Brorien to neglect and frustration due to the lingering economic downturn plaguing the country. But he denounced the spiritual narrative, describing it as false and superstitious.
Dr Gbiaye, who described as laughable the alleged curse working on the two boys, averred that “that does not make it spiritual. Usually, it’s poverty; though affluence can also cause it, when people are too wealthy, their children would want to experiment with things. But poverty is the major cause. It’s not spiritual.”
When prodded further to know if Okiemute and Brorien could still be cured of their illness, Dr Gbiaye expressed optimism provided members of their family or any other person or group could take them to a psychiatry hospital for medical care.
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