In January 2019, 10-year-old Kevin Reese Jr. commited suicide by hanging himself in his closet. The kid had taken that extreme measure to stop enduring bullying in school which his mother thought he was doing a good job of managing.
To make it clear, Bullying is the use of force, coercion, hurtful teasing or threat to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate others, and has been deadly in extreme cases like that of late Kevin Reese Jr. However, even where the case isn’t extreme enough to end in the death of the victim, the consequences can be immediate, severe and long lasting.
Some of the consequences of bullying include depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, stress related health complications, contemplating or attempting suicide.
It is, therefore, not exaggerated concern when a Nigerian Twitter user drew the attention of other users to what appears to be a pattern of cyberbullying of Nigerian DJ and daughter to billionaire Femi Otedola, Florence Ifeoluwa Otedola; DJ Cuppy.
The DJ, whose career in the music industry has been made largely of her cheerily releasing music to an audience that often goes hard on criticising the quality of said music and relentlessly demands that she quit music altogether, has not been able to catch a moment’s break.
The concept of people doing things simply because it gives them joy, and others respectfully letting them have it, because they understand what it means to them, is yet to fully catch on in Nigeria’s cultural space.
That it is rare to see an older Nigerian wake up and choose to do something like start a music band with their buddies is not because Nigerians are built differently. Many choose to smother their desired dreams for fear of social ridicule, which is often swift and without mercy.
DJ Cuppy could have chosen the same as some of her tormentors noted. She chose to pursue her passion instead because she can afford to. There is something else she can afford that many of her tormentors, some of whom have experienced bullying growing up, cannot – therapy. It is highly likely part of the reason why she has been able to pull through over and over.
But DJ Cuppy is just a piece on the chessboard.
Bullying is a serious health issue that affects the mental health of both perpetrators and victims. And, Nigeria does not lack bullies and their myriad victims. This may partly explain the high rate of mental illness in the country which stands at 20-30 percent of the population.
Some of the consequences of bullying for perpetrators include a higher tendency to commit sexual harassment and dating aggression, substance abuse and difficulty maintaining a good relationship with others, which could ultimately lead to loneliness.
Bullying is a two-edged sword that hurts on both ends.
We need to begin to take bullying seriously. Consider, with gravity, the immediate and long-term implications of bullying on the Nigerian population and manage the menace in the best way possible. More than that, however, we need to begin to hold each other accountable so that we know when we cross the line from harmless banter into the hurtful teasing that is bullying.
Harassing people, popular or not, online or in person, is not a sport nor a source of amusement to laugh over and pass. We must begin to step up in such situations and ensure that bullying is understood as the harmful behaviour it is. For DJ Cuppy, but especially for others who may not have as easy an access to helpful tools to manage well under such vile scrutiny.