Forty-three-year-old Terhemen Anongo tells JOHN CHARLES how he dropped out as a 500 Level medical student at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State and ended up a porter, pushing a wheelbarrow for a living in Gboko town, Benue State
What is your name?
My name is Terhemen Anongo
How old are you?
I am 43 years old now.
Is it true that you attended University of Ibadan?
Yes, I was admitted into the University of Ibadan in the 1996/97 session (as a medical student) and by 2000 I moved on to the teaching hospital, UCH (University College Hospital) but I dropped out when I was in 500 Level because I was suffering from severe depression, which made me lose interest in medical school. Though at a point I tried to go back, the authorities did not allow me.
Where are you based now and what do you do?
I am based in Gboko, Benue State, where I work as a porter, pushing a wheelbarrow.
Is it true that you recently attempted to castrate yourself?
You know how the issue of sexual urge torments one when you don’t have a wife, coupled with your religious beliefs. I am someone deeply involved in religion and I read about Origen Adamantius, one of the early church leaders from Egypt, who paid to be castrated so that he would not be bothered by sexual urge. It was in an attempt to do the same thing that I removed my right testicle but there was a heavy flow of blood, so I abandoned it (castration) and rushed to hospital.
Why did you carry out the surgical operation on yourself?
I had earlier visited three doctors because I wanted a safe procedure but they declined; so I decided to do it myself.
What gave you the confidence to do it?
It was based on my medical experience in medical school. I got the local equipment to do it with stitches, antibiotics as well as other things. But in the process of removing the testicle, there was too much blood, so I had to terminate the surgery.
How do you feel now?
The wound is healing wonderfully because I was admitted into hospital for two weeks.
When did you start having depression?
First of all, it was never my desire to study Medicine. I graduated from secondary school and had best results. I loved Physics and Mathematics, so I wanted to study Engineering, Petroleum Engineering to be precise. I got the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination form and filled it and took it to my dad who was a Mathematics teacher but my dad said no; he said he had some Indian teachers who told him that the best course for me to study was Medicine. But when I got to medical school, I realised that Medicine is about cramming, memorising terminologies whose origin you don’t know. So, I lost interest in academic work but I still managed to pass and got to the teaching hospital.
The way University of Ibadan is structured, the people there are not friendly, though, it is the best medical school. I remember a girl who came from the United States for a programme in UI; before she left, she told the Head of Department that their approach was too harsh; that the environment was not friendly. If you don’t know something, you are not confident to say you don’t know it. That, coupled with my lack of interest, made me quit.
Why didn’t you switch over to another course in the university?
I tried to actually go back to take another course, at least to change from Medicine to Psychology, but they refused. I tried other universities, including University of Maiduguri and Benue State University, to see if I could switch course, they all refused.
Was that when you started having depression?
Yes, I lost interest in academic work; at a point I thought of suicide; I almost cut off my radial artery, so I could just end it all.
What have you been doing since you quit school?
I told you I am in Gboko, working as a porter, pushing a wheelbarrow. Imagine a medical student who could have graduated doing that. My mates are now consultants, but I am pushing a wheelbarrow, you can imagine the psychological trauma.
Where are your parents now?
My dad is no more alive but my mum is alive. What she is trying to do now is to set up a chemist shop for me; she has got a shop and I am trying to raise money so I can put some drugs in the shop. That is what I am trying to do right now because, the wheelbarrow thing is very stressful.
At what point did you decide to castrate yourself?
Initially, I felt that through fast and prayers I could overcome this libido but it is an ongoing trouble, starving (abstaining from sex) yourself is not easy; you get some energy to overcome and then some women around here (in Gboko) are almost walking naked, you know what I mean. So, I said to myself “Why not take away the ‘petrol tank’?”
Now that you have removed one testicle, has the sexual urge stopped?
No, it has not. Even now that I have removed one testicle, the temptation still goes on (laughs). Now that I have removed one testicle, the sexual urge has escalated (laughs).
Are you not considering getting married?
I am but there is no money. If I have money, I would have married. If I find a woman who is ready (to marry me) despite the loss of one testicle, why not?
Do you have a girlfriend?
I don’t have a girlfriend because no girl is prepared to date someone who doesn’t have money. But when I was in the University of Ibadan, I had a girlfriend. Even when I came back home, I had a girlfriend but that was many years ago. So, for close to eight years now, I have not had a girlfriend.
What do you intend to do when you get better?
As I said earlier, I am trying to set up a chemist shop. I have rented a shop but drugs are not there yet; so I hope to stock the shop once I have some money. At least, that would help me to put body and soul together.
Some thought you had mental problem when you castrated yourself.
It was not from the perspective of mental problem but to devote myself to Christian values and I am not the first person to do that; that was why I made reference to Origen, the father of theology, the greatest theologian the Church has ever produced. But in the secular world, it is very easy for people to always look at people who do things out of their religious beliefs with suspicion.
What advice do you have for people suffering from depression?
I will tell them to get medical attention but most importantly, to draw closer to God, whether they are Christian or Moslem. Two, they should have people around them to encourage them. I think they should also get married for those who are supposed to be married. Depression is prevalent among unmarried people. They need to get married because they need someone to cheer them up and encourage them with good meals and good love making.