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Is Pantami’s Frequent Crying A Neurological Disorder?

By Farooq Kperogi Twitter: @farooqkperogi A video clip o f Communication Minister Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami weeping during a sermon on Monday ...

By Farooq Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

A video clip of Communication Minister Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami weeping during a sermon on Monday because poor people stole goods from a burning Next Cash and Carry supermarket in Abuja (which turned out to be largely inaccurate because most of the people alleged to be stealing were actually helping to salvage the goods in the shopping center) is going viral on social media and inviting ridicule to him, particularly from northern Muslims who wonder why his lacrimal glands were dry when people were burned alive by terrorists in Sokoto a few days ago.

But have we thought about the possibility that Sheikh Pantami might actually need medical help? The ease with which he sheds tears is leading me to think that he probably suffers from a medical condition called Pseudobulbar affect (or PBA for short), which is a condition that causes people to uncontrollably, frequently, and inappropriately burst into tears--or laughter. 

Even if it were true that poor people stole from the burning supermarket that was probably built from the proceeds of stolen money, no normal person who is not affiliated with the owner of the shop would cry over that. 

If Pantami had cried over video clips of hoodlums stealing the possessions of dead of Shia Muslims that the Nigerian military murdered in Kaduna in 2015, that would be appropriate. Or the burning alive of travelers in Sokoto by terrorist bandits. Or the countless mass massacres of innocent men, women, children by terrorists all over Nigeria.

You see, men in Nigeria, nay Africa, are socialized to not cry openly, to not betray emotions easily and casually even when they’re gripped by emotional trauma, which explains why the sight of a grown man crying often suggests enormously incalculable tragedy. 

But Pantami not only cries frequently and often inappropriately, he also often keeps a box of tissue paper by his side when he preaches, which suggests that he expects to cry periodically in the course of preaching.

It is wholly possible that he isn’t a “cry machine” merely for dramatic effects; he could be suffering from pseudobulbar affect. According to Mayo Clinic, “If you have pseudobulbar affect you'll experience emotions normally, but you'll sometimes express them in an exaggerated or inappropriate way.” 

It adds: “The primary sign of pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is frequent, involuntary and uncontrollable outbursts of crying or laughing that are exaggerated or not connected to your emotional state. Laughter often turns to tears. Your mood will appear normal between episodes, which can occur at any time. Crying appears to be a more common sign of PBA than laughing.”

I am not a medical doctor. I just read widely on psychopathology. So, I could be entirely wrong. But the incidence of a man who is socialized to be stoic and restrained crying frequently for the most banal reasons seems to me more a neurological disorder than an emotional choreography. 

If my dilettante diagnosis is true, Pantami needs more help than ridicule and more sorrow than anger.

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