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Stress, dealing deadly blows at UNILAG

Posted by by Senior Correspondent, Ralph Okoro on 2005/01/11 | Views: 414 |

Stress, dealing deadly blows at UNILAG

Sudden deaths and several other factors indicate that the staff of the University of Lagos are under high stress.

Sudden deaths and several other factors indicate that the staff of the University of Lagos are under high stress. Senior Correspondent, Ralph Okoro, was at the university recently. His report:

It was at a University of Lagos, (UNILAG) inaugural lecture held early last year. Venue was the university auditorium, and it was full to the brim. The lecturer was a professor of Medicine and specialist surgeon. He was at the middle of his lecture when he suddenly requested, “water please!” Then there was a pause.

The next moment, when the audience was expecting a climatic delve into the lecture, a dramatic calamity took the hall to a climax of anxiety. The lecturer had collapsed into a helpless heap.

He was lucky, however. His was an audience dominated by the medical community of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). Promptly, medical experts came to his aid and worked feverishly to revive him. He continued the lecture to the end.

In recent times, several deaths, which were as sudden as the collapse of the professor, has occurred at UNILAG. Mr. Jimoh Oshey, the university’s football coach, slumped while directing his students during a National University Games (NUGA) preliminary match between his team and that of the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB). He was a brought-in-dead case shortly after. One Mrs. Jato, former secretary to the school’s registrar, died early last year. She was reported to have come to work on a Friday and the next Monday news came that she had died. Dr. H. P. Haruna of History Department died last year. About a week after his death, Dr. Babalola of English Department also died.

When Shina Sambo of Political Science Department died, Professor Steven Olugbemi of the same department was among some of his fellow colleagues that paid condolence visits to commiserate with his family. Olugbemi’s students, however, woke up one July 2003 morning to hear the sudden news that the professor had also died.

On August 14 last year, Louis Chukwuma Obielo, of Modern European Language Department, died. Not long ago also Prof. Ajudua, of the Faculty of Education, died just as Mr. Adeleke, a former Accountant, passed on. A woman teacher in the university staff school reportedly gave up the ghost after taking her bath.

Dr. Ehon Idialu Anthony, a Clinical Health Psychology Consultant, told Daily Independent that last year the university lost about six lecturers both senior and professors whose causes of death varied. Daily Independent was, however, reliably told that most of the victims had medical record of one stress-related ailment or the other.

Jimoh Oshey was an obvious example. He was said to have loved his job to the point of fanaticism even at the age of 54 and with a medical record that was not stress-free. Kenny Shogbesan, director of sports, UNILAG, told Daily Independent that Jimoh was hypertensive as at the time of his death and had neglected taking his drugs. His situation was aggravated, according to the director, by the fact that Jimoh, a pious Muslim, religiously observed the last Muslim fast whose end coincided with the beginning of the NUGA preliminaries.

Just like the professor, who was at his element during the inaugural lecture, Coach Jimoh, who was, like most coaches said, usually carried away by the game, was said to be on the sideline during the match, shouting orders to one of his players when he had the fatal slump. These deaths and their sudden manner have necessitated the question: Are the staff of UNILAG overworked and under high stress?

The response across varies. While some see these deaths as destined, others see them as stress-induced. However, a few others see them as a true reflection of the picture in the larger society.

Shogbesan, who confessed he knew some of the dead staff personally, said those who died took their jobs so serious that it was the next thing to their hearts. And that heart, according to experts, is affected when people work, work and work without observing rest and exercise. The sports director disclosed that some lecturers get themselves overstressed by their academic disposition, which involve research and reading at night.

Boniface Igbeneghu, a lecturer in the Department of European Languages, UNILAG, agreed with Shogbesan that stress could be one of the possible causes of these deaths. He said some lecturers chasing PhD and PhD holders chasing professorship end up not taking care of their health. He is of the view that some lecturers are overstressed without taking rest and working without break. Because of being too involved with their jobs, he said these lecturers ignore seemingly minor warnings or signs of illness in their bodies. Besides, he said that the Federal Government has not taken adequate measures to ensure there is a healthy health scheme for the university community, which produces high-level manpower for the nation.

A senior administrative officer of the university does not see these deaths as normal or a reflection of the picture obtainable in the larger society. He attributed them to what he termed executive stress. Apart from expressing similar view with Igbeneghu that some members of the teaching staff are biting more than they can chew in their ambition to step up the academic ladder, he revealed that the lecturers are also meddling in administrative affairs. He blamed the university, which he said is so under-staffed, saying that lecturers sweep their offices and type their materials. As a result of understaffing, he disclosed that one person in some instances combine the work of two or more persons. The administrative officer disclosed that it is common in UNILAG to see a cleaner or typist doing the work of a secretary. In Human Resource Development Board, Geography Department, MBA office and the Registrar’s office, the persons acting as secretary to the registrar, for instance, are typists. Apart from all these, he said in UNILAG workers do not have official rest hours.

A lecturer, who confessed to Daily Independent that he sweeps his own office, attributed the death of staff to the Federal Government’s policies that universities generate internally 30 per cent of their running cost.

Idialu Anthony does not see these deaths as isolated tragedy visiting only UNILAG. He submitted that there is an increase of sudden death all over the world. To him, these deaths also cut across every profession. The reasons for these, he said, are due to several factors. He attributed the increase in cases of sudden death to economic hardship. As a result of engaging in so many things to keep going economically, he revealed that people engage in many things, which lead to high stress. The pressure to meet socio-economic needs, he said, leads to cardiovascular ailment.

Disclosing that there is increase in diabetic cases, Anthony said that according to research, three in every 10 middle-aged and elderly people are diabetic and are likely to suffer cardiovascular diseases including hypertension, renal failure, among others.

The second factor he associated with sudden death is what he described as eating habit. He said that people have lost the culture of natural food and are carried away by industrialised nutrition including beer, seasoned food, ‘take-aways’, fried and tasty food with so much sugar content. He lamented that all these are injurious to health and facilitate cardiac diseases after 40 years of age.

Scientific evidence, he disclosed, has shown that more Nigerians will die of cardiovascular diseases in the next 15 years. This scientific prediction, he say, apply to both the female and male population. He blamed Nigerians for not exercising their bodies regularly, which according to physicians, leads to inefficiency of blood circulation and cardiac diseases. Sudden and personality-related deaths, he said, increase with age.

Shogbesan agrees with this point. As one grows older, he recommends a reduction in the level of work one does. He also emphasised the need for regular exercise. Like Anthony, he accused Nigerian workers of being dormant and not exercising regularly, which he said would have brought down their stress level. Fatigue, he said, could lead to hypertension and set in immobility, leading to the heart not functioning very well. He recommended rest and regular medical check-up.

Anthony revealed that many diseases are aggravated as a result of uncontrollable stress. Stress, he said, affects both the physiology and behaviour of individuals. He said that it weakens the immunity of the individual to withstand a particular ailment or disease. He therefore said that stress must be managed before the diseases they aggravate.

“Avoid smoking as early as possible. Avoid alcohol. Eat good food - balanced diet. Read your Bible - if you are a Christian. Avoid stressful situations. Sleep adequately and regularly. Think of positive things instead of negative things. Laugh a lot; it takes 21 muscles to laugh while it takes 108 muscles combined to frown. You stress yourself more when you are angry,” advised Dr. Ehon Idialu Anthony, clinical and health psychology consultant.

The Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Ayo Ibidapo-Obe, was not available when Daily Independent called at his office for comment on some questions raised by these sudden deaths. Segun Ogunselu, acting deputy registrar, however, said the families of the diseased usually do not like to disclose reasons behind the death of their relatives even where the cause of such deaths is known. “Even when causes of death are known, the families of the dead may not say it for public consumption,” he said.

A top administrative official of the university said he would advise the vice-chancellor not to respond to questions concerning these deaths, as such story is a wrong way of starting the New Year. But will it not be a priceless New Year gift if the authorities concerned evolved and successfully implement a new policy that will reduce stress and therefore, sudden death in UNILAG? After all, the university is the centre of all learning including how not to die suddenly and death in the larger society ought not reflect proportionally in such a community.

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