If you are a frequent user of the social media App, Instagram, chances are you have come across the name Solomon Buchi who is known for his numerous comments on social issues and his struggles with anxiety and depression.
He is a Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, Writer and Feminist and a social reformer as he likes to describe himself.
Buchi is one young person who isn’t afraid to share his opinions on any subject no matter how unpopular and unconventional his opinion may be. With a followership of over 18,000 on Facebook and over 16,000 and growing rapidly on Instagram, a lot of people are following the revolution he is stirring.
The Next Edition caught up with him to seek his views on some topical issues and how he handles anxiety and all it comes with.
TNE: You are quite outspoken online and controversial, why are you so described?
What I talk about online is controversial because my feelings are not conventional because my opinions are not mainstream and when you tend to go against convention people start to create counter arguments, it gets people talking. Basically, it is not my intention to be controversial but then by virtue of the fact that my opinions are not normal opinions, my opinions are opinions that rebel against long standing societal value system that do humanity no good because of that they call me controversial.
TNE: You said your opinions go against the grain, for someone who was brought up in Nigeria, how do you reconcile the way you think and the way an average Igbo man thinks?
Igbo people like I said some days ago online are the most misogynistic people in Nigeria. I grew up in the normal patriarchal family, my dad, of course, is the normal average patriarchal father that you would have. My mum was not a feminist. What really helped me was the fact that right from age 14, I was very inquisitive and very analytical. I wanted to know why are things the way they are, why is this thing like this, I was very very observant. I started reading very early so it broaden my mind and it made me see things from the other aspect. As I evolved, I gave myself to the process of unlearning certain things. It’s a very difficult thing to do because basically most of the things we believe in as people are things the society has made us believe in. Society thinks for us, our parents think for us, churches, religion, they make you believe that you have to act this way, you have to talk this way, these are the things you have to believe in. It takes a very intentional person who is open-minded to make themselves available to unlearning certain things, to sit down and question everything you’ve ever been told. It got to a point in my life where I had to sit down and question everything I’ve ever been told from religion to culture, everything.
I actually haven’t left Nigeria before but a lot of people are like ‘You don’t think like you grew up in Nigeria’ I don’t think it has to do with location even though most times, yes, it can contribute. It has to do with your mind and you being willing to outgrow certain cultural, societal norms that you have been used to even when you know very well that it benefits you but does humanity no good.
TNE: Speaking of humanity, you are literally wearing a shirt that says ‘I am a Feminist’ and you identify as one. That word does not usually go down well especially in Nigerian social media, what does feminism mean to you? How is Solomon a feminist and how is that working out for you?
Feminism to me is equal rights for women. I say women because right from time society has been laced in a way that it has always been male-privileged, male-supremacy. So right now women want to come up to the place where they are considered equal to the men and that is what feminism is all about. Treat a woman the same way you want a woman to treat you, pay a woman the same way you want a woman to pay you, respect a woman the same way you want a woman to respect you, let’s get rid of gender roles that belittle women. That is feminism for me.
It doesn’t have to really work out for me in the sense that I have to benefit anything from it because at the end of the day, I am actually the one (in quote) losing out from it because I am taking myself away from male privilege. I’m taking myself away from male hypocrisy because there are actually benefits to that. Of course, there’s the fact that you are considered superior to a woman by default just because you are a man. A lot of people have called me names like “clout chaser,” you are just doing it because you want female admiration and all that but I’ve been quite consistent. For a few years now, I’ve been very consistent and that’s because of the passion I have for humanity. Some people go ‘Why don’t you call yourself a humanist?’ ‘Why don’t you call yourself an egalitarian?’
I was talking to a friend some time ago and she said she is a human right activist and I said there’s no problem with being a human right activist but then I find human rights flawed because, in the first place, we as humans don’t even see ourselves as one. So, there are types of problems that have to do with human rights, feminism just identifies that this one has to do with women so we are focusing on this. Basically that’s it, it’s actually working out well for me, my following online, people who follow me and resonate with my opinions, they get liberated, women, a few men who would want to give themselves to that pursuit. Some men see me as a threat, like I snitched on them, ‘Why would you be telling women that they are this powerful?’ ‘Why are you snitching on our brotherhood?’ That kind of thing.
TNE: Another thing you talk about online is mental health. You speak about your struggles with anxiety and depression. Of recent, there has been a wave of suicides especially among the young people, for someone who struggles with anxiety, what would you say about this situation?
Well, the thing with mental health issues/disorders in Nigeria is that a lot of people are ignorant about it and there is so much stigma attached to it. From religion, they say you are demon possessed. People see you as mentally incapacitated or should I say deranged, a lot of people don’t want to speak up about it.
I started struggling with anxiety last year and it has not been easy. I have panic attacks. Nobody can ever understand what it means to be in that place if they’ve never been in that place. You can empathize, you can sympathize, you can show care but then you don’t know what it means. When people say that people just do that thing just because they want attention online, you don’t know what it means to sit down and you hear voices and you can’t see anybody. You don’t know what it means to sit down and you see things and these things don’t really exist and you see things move and these things are really not moving. You feel this overwhelming fear that you can’t even control, a lot of Nigerians don’t understand that people are struggling with these issues and they are always very judgmental.
I read some comments about suicide and you see things like, ‘Ah, they are just doing it because they are broke.’ and all of that. I tell people that there is something called Clinical Depression. Struggling with anxiety disorder, which is what I have and it has not been easy, it has actually cost me a whole lot but then I don’t like to look at the fears and panic attacks that I get. I like to look at how much it has made me a better person in a way. It led me to learning how to play the guitar and has actually improved my overall esteem. I don’t know but since I started struggling with anxiety, it feels like a part of my brain opened and it makes me think very fast. I feel like it can actually be a gift if you harness it and can actually manage the downside of it. They say people who struggle with anxiety are very smart and creative people same with people who have bipolar disorder as well.
For me, it has been a journey, I take every day at a time. I’ve been suicidal before, when I say that I mean those thoughts cross your mind that death could actually just be the end of everything and you are fine.
TNE: How do you deal with suicidal thoughts?
I’ve been suicidal like twice. There was actually a point that I had to hide all the knives in my house because I was scared I was going to harm myself. Not like I made an attempt but I was like ‘I don’t want to hear stories, I don’t trust myself right now.’ I’ve never gone psychotic before but how I deal with it, I basically remind myself each time I overcame a panic attack, each time I overcame a bout of depression and anxiety and I tell myself if I did it then, I can do it now. I also give myself reasons why I should live. I’m a talented person I know this, I’m a gift to my generation, I know this and I know very well that everyone struggles or is trying to survive, trying to fight something to survive. Mine is anxiety, for someone else, it might not be anxiety it could be a normal health issue, it could be hypertension. I tell myself that we all have that pain in our hearts, I give myself reasons why I deserve to live and to live well.
At a point, we are all going to die one day so I shouldn’t kill myself before my time, I should let my time come. People are dying every day, we are getting closer to our grave. So whether I commit suicide or not, I will still die. The courage I would use to take my life can I just use it to live for one more time? And keep doing that over and over again, repeat till it’s time for me to die naturally.
TNE: What would be your advice to people especially young people who feel that suicide is the way forward, the person who says ‘It’s too much, I want to do now?’
I will tell the person to just wait for that minute. When you feel like committing suicide, just hold on and count to ten. Hold on and count ten. I don’t believe we are here by chance, I believe there is a plan to which we are all here and we exist here. As much as you feel you have lost it or you just got a divorce or lost a job or maybe you are also struggling with clinical depression, decide not to be the victim. I always tell people I don’t want to be the victim in life, I want to beat life. Don’t let life beat you; don’t let life take you down. I know it’s easy to say but trust me, it is not that easy to say from someone who actually struggle with this issue. It’s not like one motivational speaker who has not seen anything coming to tell you to aspire, no, I’m telling you something like I have anxiety attacks every day, this morning (the day of the interview), I took my medication before I came here. If you are feeling suicidal, reach out to people, don’t close up. Call people, if it means you have to go on social media and scream, do that. If it means that you have to reach out to a stranger, reach out to a stranger. Don’t keep yourself all enclosed because the truth is that the more you keep yourself enclosed, the more you are in that space, wallowing in that feeling and before you know it you slip to that point where you no longer have strength to encourage yourself. When you are suicidal, reach out to people, if you don’t have anybody to reach out to, reach out to me. At the end of the day, suicidal thoughts are feelings, nobody ever feels suicidal 24/7, I don’t think there is anyone like that. It comes like feelings and it goes. Don’t let it come and take you away when we know that it would have actually gone after some time.
TNE: You had event in Abuja, where you go and you speak to people, how did that come about and why did you do that?
I’m not just an online person, before I became an Instagram sensation, I’ve had events where I spoke and all that. I went to Abuja sometime and I had like 10 people meet me in four days so I thought to myself if this was a meeting where I had all these people together and we rubbed minds. More than just being a popular person, I want to have a one-on-one connection with the people who believe in what I believe in that’s why I had the event in Abuja. Basically, it was just for us to come together and communicate and share ideas about feminism, life, relationship and mental health.
TNE: Was this a one-off thing or it is something you see yourself doing again?
I just did it in Abuja because I love Abuja more than any other place in Nigeria but in August or September, I will be in Lagos for an event, which I will be organizing for people who follow me and people who are interested in feminism, relationship issues, and mental health. It will be ‘Conversations with Solomon Buchi’, we just come together and rub minds. It’s not something that there will be this big speaker that’s coming to motivate everybody, no we just come and share ideas because at the end of the day, what I am really into is social reformation, changing the mindset of people, changing societal norms and cultural belief systems that really don’t do humanity any good.