Killing of spouses has become rampant in recent time. Usually for love, so to say, many develop a killer instinct. They go after their spouses and snuff lives out of them. Examples abound with some of the cases still pending in courts. One of such cases is the alleged killing of Bilyaminu Bello, son of former Peoples Democratic Party chairman, Bello Haliru, by his wife, Maryam, in November 2017 over a case of alleged infidelity.
A recent but more devastating case is that of one Rachael Adetsav in Benue State who was reported to have killed her husband and their three children before killing herself early this month.
The husband and wife were said to have been having issues before the wife decided to end it the way she did.
In this interview with SAKIBU OLOKOJOBI, a psychologist, Mr. Oni Bamikole Fagbohungbe, who lectures at the University of Lagos, UNILAG, gives an insight into the increase in the cases. He speaks on the signs that give away the other person as having a killer instinct and what to do to prevent disaster. Excerpts:
There has been an upsurge in the cases of wives killing husbands and husbands killing wives. As a psychologist, what would you say is responsible?
Number one, as human beings, we live and survive on our needs. We have needs both in the physical sense and in the psychological sense. Our survival, our happiness, our existence depend on our ability to satisfy these needs. So, when those needs are not satisfied, we become deficient. Now, let us look at it from the perspective of killing and so on and so forth. There is this theory in Psychology which has a strong basis in reality. It is called Frustration/Aggression Theory. Everybody has aspirations; everybody has needs to satisfy and in order to live a meaningful life, we do set goals. It is when you meet those goals that your needs become satisfied. From eating of food to attaining certain heights in life, they are in degrees. A need is a state of deprivation as perceived by an individual. Once you see something as your need, it becomes a very powerful tool to galvanise you into action, to motivate you to do certain things. You will keep on moving towards that goal where your needs will be satisfied. For any reason, if your movement towards that goal is blocked, that means you won’t be able to satisfy that need. Then, one becomes frustrated and when one is frustrated, it doesn’t end there, it leads to aggression.
There are two types of aggression. There is externally directed aggression and there is self-directed aggression. Self-directed aggression will force people to commit suicide. This is because you feel your hope is dashed, you cannot reach your goal: “What am I living for? Let me go!”
Then, we have externally directed aggression. That is the situation where you identify the obstacle or the cause of the obstacle and you go after that cause. That is what happens in the cases of wives killing husbands and husbands killing wives and so on and so forth. They see them as obstacles to their goals, and the first thing they do is to remove the obstacle. And how do you remove the obstacle? By eliminating that obstacle.
Why do we have such cases increasing these days?
To know why it is increasing, you need to look at the environment; you look at the standard of living; you look at access to things. I just told my driver a few minutes ago that he should go and inflate my tyre; to do that it used to be N100, but the vulcaniser said he was going to take N200. Then I told him that people had started charging based on the salary increase that the government has not even approved. The problem is not increase in salary; the problem is increase in government providing what people need in terms of infrastructure and others. You know how much we spend on fuelling power generating sets in one month, talk less of a whole year. We have to provide our own roads, provide our own electricity and so on. Things would be different if these things were available. People will be able to spend their money meaningfully and the money will give them worth. That is the problem we are having.
If you look at the society, these days, the standard of living is reducing, access to good things of life is reducing and these continue to aggravate the state of frustration in people. When that state continues to increase, it gets to a level one will violate the law of survival.
We are controlled by two types of instincts – the death instinct and the life instinct. One thing about the issue of frustration within the society is that it has a way of caging life instinct. It suppresses it. And when the life instinct is suppressed, the dominant one which is death instinct takes over. Recently, we had a lady who killed her children, her husband and herself. That is super death instinct in operation. So, indices are vested in the environment. Behaviour is a stimulus to response connection and once the right stimulus is received, then the appropriate response is provoked despite the social control, the environment and others. It gets to a point where the perceiver breaks down and the next thing is to make use of the death instinct at its highest level. So, that is what is happening. That is the reason for the increase.
You talked about a general situation, considering the environment among other things. How can we relate that to those who go all out to kill their spouses?
One thing about aggression is that for it to manifest it is directed at something you feel is the cause of the whole thing. So, frustration blinds people to reasoning. For example, if you have been taking care of your wife, but for one reason or the other, you can no longer do that, and your wife reacts in an unacceptable way. It aggravates you. If you don’t have proper counseling, or you don’t socialize, like going out, talking, relating with people, there is the possibility that you will kill such a wife with time.
What are the signs that one’s spouse has a killer instinct?
One important one is withdrawal. The person will start withdrawing; it is a form of defence mechanism. He or she wants to play it in such a way that the would-be victim would not suspect. If he or she does not withdraw, his or her plot could be revealed.
The behavior or absence of it which precedes withdrawal is nagging, complaining; things that were right are no longer right, things that one would do and would not attract any thing in the past are now attracting attacks. There are so many indicators to tell you things are no longer the same.
How best can one avoid such a situation?
Number one is the need to speak out your mind. You must have significant others. When you have something in your mind that you don’t say it out, it eventually becomes what we call “pent up aggression.” The anger will be piling up and at a stage, it will explode. But if you are the type that talks out, discuss with your friends, you will discover that something that you considered unheard of is not peculiar to you. So, you see it as normal. Speaking out matters. Speak out. Communicate. You may find out that you are only interpreting things from your own perspective. Discuss with your partner. Effective communication can solve it. Another thing is that you must be rational about your activities. Being rational means weighing the pros and cons of your actions. Not that you kill your wife or your husband and you start blaming the devil. You know that you cannot kill and get away with it. If that is so, are you ready to face the wrath of the law? When you weigh the pros and cons and you realise that the cost is higher than the benefits, you are not likely to go into that action. Where one finds the partner is a stimulus or provoking that situation, you can use avoidance; momentary avoidance. Walk out to a club; if you are Christian, go to your church. Make sure you give that moment of cooling off. If you have the means, you go to the professionals – the counseling professionals. They are all over the place. Seek their services; let them know what is happening; they can help you out of the situation.
When the would-be victims sees it coming, he or she should not swallow it or assume that the other person is joking. When you notice such a thing and you try to talk to him or her, you don’t succeed, let the significant others know. Imagine that lady lawyer who killed her husband. She had been threatening the husband; even the night she killed him, she did. The man called his friend to tell him that the woman was threatening him. When you have that situation, you don’t stay near that person. If somebody says “I will kill you”, that instigating stimulus is what we call ID in Psychology. The ID is very destructive. When he or she says “I will kill you”, that is the ID at play. If you are not careful he or she will do it. One should not take such a warning for granted. You must seek help. If you can’t pacify or make the person to change, then let the significant others know. Our culture doesn’t allow you to go to the police to report; it is believed that going to the police station marks the end of your relationship. Whereas, in other climes, there is nothing wrong with it. But here, we have significant others. These are people we listen to; we have our in-laws, we have relatives, we have religious leaders too.
Is there anything the government can do to stem the tide sir?
Yes there are things the government can do. The government can embark on campaign to enlighten the public, highlight the dangers inherent. Also, here, we listen to religious leaders in churches and mosques. So, they should also be involved, let people know what they should do in such a situation, let them know the consequence of such actions. The force of deterrent is very low. People do so many things and get away with it, but it should not be so. If there are laws put in place to that effect, the level of deterrence will be high and that will contribute to solving the problem.