Thursday 21 July 2016

Bullying: An Emerging Security Problem in Nigeria


Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Aggressive behavior may be bullying depending on what happened, how often it happens and who it happens to. Bullying typically involves subtle methods of coercion, such as intimidation.

There are many roles that children can play. Children can bully others, they can be bullied, or they may witness bullying. When children are involved in bullying, they often play more than one role. It is important to understand the multiple roles teenagers play in order to effectively prevent and respond to bullying.

Burger, Christoph; Strohmeier, Dagmar; Spröber, Nina; Bauman, Sheri; Rigby, Ken (2015) observed that bullying is a subcategory of aggressive behavior characterized by the following three minimum criteria: hostile intent,  imbalance of power, and repetition over a period of time. Bullying may also be referred to as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally or emotionally.

The Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus noted that bullying occurs when a person is "exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons". He says negative actions occur "when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways." He pointed out that individual bullying is usually characterized by a person behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.

Bullying Is Not Conflict.

Bullying is not conflict. Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power, which distinguishes bullying from conflict.  Behaviors used to assert such domination can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion, and such acts may be directed repeatedly towards particular targets. Rationalizations for such behavior sometimes include differences of social class, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, behavior, body language, personality, reputation, lineage, strength, size or ability. If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing.

Bullying ranges from one-on-one, individual bullying through to group bullying called mobbing, in which the bully may have one or more "lieutenants" who may seem to be willing to assist the primary bully in his or her bullying activities. Bullying in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse. Robert W. Fuller has analyzed bullying in the context of rankism.

A bullying culture can develop in any context in which humans interact with each other. This includes school, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods. Bullying can also be used by the national government to coerce, intimidate and suppress oppositions as we are witnessing in Nigeria today.

Types of Bully          

There are many types of bullying. Individual bullying can be classified into four types. These include:

Collective bullying which is also known as mobbing and can include any of the individual types of bullying.

Physical, verbal, and relational bullying are most prevalent in primary and junior secondary schools and could also begin much earlier. Cyber-bullying is more common in senior secondary schools.

Individual Bullying

Individual bullying tactics can be perpetrated by a single person against a target or targets.


Physical Bullying

This is any bullying that hurts someone’s body or damages their possessions. Stealing, shoving, hitting, fighting, and destroying property all are types of physical bullying. Physical bullying is rarely the first form of bullying that a target will experience. Often bullying will begin in a different form and progress to physical violence. In physical bullying the main weapon the bully uses is their body. Physical bullying was widely perpetrated by the rival cultists in Ebubu during the 2013 cult clashes. Houses and properties of members of rival cult groups were burnt and destroyed with abandon. These forced many of them to switch loyalty and groups.    


Verbal Bullying

This is any bullying that is done by speaking. Calling names, spreading rumors, threatening somebody, and making fun of others are all forms of verbal bullying. Verbal bullying is one of the most common types of bullying. In verbal bullying the main weapon the bully uses is their mouth. Many parents are guilty of verbal bullying. They have also use their mouth to talk their children and wards into bad relationship and groups. 


Relational Bullying

This is any bullying that is done with the intent to hurt somebody’s reputation or social standing. Politicians are known to run down their opponents by assassinating their characters and hurting their reputation.


Cyber Bullying

This is any bullying that happens over any technological device. This includes email, instant messaging, social networking sites (such as Facebook), text messages, and cell phones.


Collective Bullying

Collective bullying tactics are employed by more than one individual against a target or targets.


Mobbing is ganging up to alter someone’s actions forcefully, through rumour, innuendo, intimidation, humiliation, discrediting, and isolation. It involves more than one aggressor, often orchestrated by a leader who is a skilled manipulator. Cult groups used mobbing to recruit and initiate new members. The cultists consider mobbing as a convenient instrument for engaging new entrants.

Effects of Bullying

According to Mona O'Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College, Dublin, "There is a growing body of research which indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which can sometimes lead to suicide".


Those who have been the targets of bullying can suffer from long term emotional and behavioral problems. Bullying can cause loneliness, depression, anxiety, lead to low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness.


Bullying has also been shown to cause maladjustment in young children, and targets of bullying who were also bullies themselves exhibit even greater social difficulties.



Even though there is evidence that bullying increases the risk of suicide, bullying alone does not cause suicide. Depression is one of the main reasons why children who are bullied commit suicide. It is estimated that between 10 and 25 children commit suicide every year in Nigeria alone because they are being bullied. Certain attributes of a person are correlated to a higher risk for suicide than others such as: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. When someone is unsupported by his or her family or friends, it can make the situation much worse for the victim.


Serial killers were frequently bullied through direct and indirect methods as children or adolescents. Henry Lee Lucas, a serial killer and diagnosed psychopath, said the ridicule and rejection he suffered as a child caused him to hate everyone. Kenneth Bianchi, a serial killer and member of the Hillside Stranglers, was teased as a child because he urinated in his pants and suffered twitching, and as a teenager was ignored by his peers. A serial killer and leader of one of the notorious cult groups that terrorized Ebubu in 2013 told a gathering of chiefs, elders, youths and women that the humiliation and rejection he experienced as a child made him to hate everyone.  

Positive development

Some have argued that bullying can teach life lessons and instill strength. Helene Guldberg, a child development academic, sparked controversy when she argued that being a target of bullying can teach a child "how to manage disputes and boost their ability to interact with others", and that teachers should not intervene, but leave children to respond to the bullying themselves.

A few studies have pointed up some potentially positive outcomes from bullying behavior. These studies have found that with some individuals, as a result of their having been targeted with bullying behavior, this certain minority of former bullying targets have actually experienced being enabled through their experiences with bullying to develop various coping strategies, which included standing up for themselves in ways which acted to re-balance former imbalances of power. Such former bullying targets have reported such things as becoming a better person as a result of their former bullying ordeals. The teaching of such anti-bullying coping skills to would-be-targets and to others has been found to be an effective long term means of reducing bullying incidence rates and a valuable skill-set for individuals.

Some widows in Eleme are known to have encourages and advised their children to join bully-gangs to get protection.    


A bully may project his/her own feelings of vulnerability onto the target(s) of the bullying activity. Despite the fact that a bully's typically denigrating activities are aimed at the bully's targets, the true source of such negativity is ultimately almost always found in the bully's own sense of personal insecurity and/or vulnerability. Such aggressive projections of displaced negative emotions can occur anywhere from the micro-level of interpersonal relationships, all the way up through to the macro-level of international politics, or even international armed conflict.

Emotional Intelligence

Bullying is abusive social interaction between peers which can include aggression, harassment, and violence. Bullying is typically repetitive and enacted by those who are in a position of power over the victim. A growing body of research illustrates a significant relationship between bullying and emotional intelligence (EI). Mayer et al., (2008) defines the dimensions of overall EI as "accurately perceiving emotion, using emotions to facilitate thought, understanding emotion, and managing emotion". The concept combines emotional and intellectual processes. Lower emotional intelligence appears to be related to involvement in bullying, as the bully and/or the victim of bullying. EI seems to play an important role in both bullying behavior and victimization in bullying; given that EI is illustrated to be malleable, EI education could greatly improve bullying prevention and intervention initiatives.

Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying is any bullying done through the use of technology. This form of bullying can easily go undetected because of lack of parental/authoritative supervision. Because bullies can pose as someone else, it is the most anonymous form of bullying. Cyber bullying includes, but is not limited to, abuse using email, instant messaging, text messaging, websites, social networking sites, etc. With the creation of social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Instagram, and Twitter, cyber bullying has increased. Particular watchdog organizations have been designed to contain the spread of cyber bullying.


Disability bullying

It has been noted that disabled people are disproportionately affected by bullying and abuse, and such activity has been cited as a hate crime. The bullying is not limited to those who are visibly disabled, such as wheelchair-users or physically deformed such as those with a cleft lip, but also those with learning disabilities, such as autism and developmental coordination disorder.

There is an additional problem that those with learning disabilities are often not as able to explain things to other people, so are more likely to be disbelieved or ignored if they do complain.

Gay bullying

Gay bullying and gay bashing designate direct or indirect verbal or physical actions by a person or group against someone who is gay or lesbian, or perceived to be so due to rumors or because they are considered to fit gay stereotypes. Gay and lesbian youth are more likely than straight youth to report bullying.


Legal Bullying

Legal bullying is the bringing of a vexatious legal action to control and punish a person. Legal bullying can often take the form of frivolous, repetitive, or burdensome lawsuits brought to intimidate the defendant into submitting to the litigant's request, not because of the legal merit of the litigant's position, but principally due to the defendant's inability to maintain the legal battle.


Military Bullying

A culture of bullying is common in the military. In the Nigerian Army for instance, bullying is common place and is an acceptable behavior to express superiority. In 2000, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MOD) defined bullying as "the use of physical strength or the abuse of authority to intimidate or victimize others or to give unlawful punishments".

Some argue that this behaviour should be allowed, due to ways in which soldiering is different from other occupations. Soldiers expected to risk their lives should, according to them, develop strength of body and spirit to accept bullying.

Parental Bullying of Children

Parents who may displace their anger, insecurity, or a persistent need to dominate and control upon their children in excessive ways have been proven to increase the likelihood that their own children will in turn become overly aggressive or controlling towards their peers. The American Psychological Association advises on its website that parents who may suspect that their own children may be engaging in bullying activities among their peers should carefully consider the examples which they themselves may be setting for their own children regarding how they typically interact with their own peers, colleagues, and children.


Prison Bullying

An environment known for bullying is a country's prison service. An additional complication is the staff and their relationships with the inmates. Thus the following possible bullying scenarios are possible in Nigerian Prisons:

  • Inmate bullies inmate.
  • Staff bullies inmate.
  • Staff bullies staff.
  • Inmate bullies staff.

School Bullying

Bullying can occur in nearly any part in or around the school building. Though it may occur more frequently during physical education classes and activities such as recess; bullying also takes place in school hallways, bathrooms, on school buses and while waiting for buses, and in classes that require group work and/or after school activities.


Bullying in school sometimes consists of a group of students taking advantage of or isolating one student in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next target. Bullying affects children both at school as well as in their homes. While bullying has no age limit, these bullies may taunt and tease their target before finally physically bullying them. Bystanders typically choose to either participate or watch, sometimes out of fear of becoming the next target.

Bullying can also be perpetrated by teachers and the school system itself; there is an inherent power differential in the system that can easily predispose to subtle or covert abuse (relational aggression or passive aggression), humiliation, or exclusion — even while maintaining overt commitments to anti-bullying policies.

Sexual Bullying

Sexual bullying is "any bullying behaviour, whether physical or non-physical, that is based on a person's sexuality or gender. It is when sexuality or gender is used as a weapon by males or females towards others - although it is more commonly directed at females. It can be carried out to a person's face, behind their back or through the use of technology."


Trans Bullying

Trans bashing is the act of victimizing a person physically, sexually, or verbally because they are transgender or transsexual. Unlike gay bashing, it is committed because of the target's actual or perceived gender identity, not sexual orientation.


Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying occurs when an employee experiences a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes harm. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of workplace aggression is particularly difficult because, unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace is in the majority of cases reported as having been perpetrated by someone in authority over the target. However, bullies can also be peers, and occasionally can be subordinates. Research has also investigated the impact of the larger organizational context on bullying as well as the group-level processes that impact on the incidence, and maintenance of bullying behaviour. Bullying can be covert or overt. It may be missed by superiors or known by many throughout the organization. Negative effects are not limited to the targeted individuals, and may lead to a decline in employee morale and a change in organizational culture.


Academia Bullying

Bullying in academia is workplace bullying of scholars and staff in academia, especially places of higher education such as colleges and universities. It is believed to be common, although has not received as much attention from researchers as bullying in some other contexts. Bullying in the academia is perhaps responsible for the current agitation for the promulgation of law to curb sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in Nigeria.


Bullying in Blue Collar Jobs

Bullying has been identified as prominent in blue collar jobs, including on oil rigs and in mechanic shops and machine shops. It is thought that intimidation and fear of retribution cause decreased incident reports. In industry sectors dominated by males, typically of little education, where disclosure of incidents are seen as effeminate, reporting in the socioeconomic and cultural milieu of such industries would likely lead to a vicious circle. This is often used in combination with manipulation and coercion of facts to gain favour among higher-ranking managers.


Bullying in Information Technology

A culture of bullying is common in information technology, leading to high sickness rates, low morale, poor productivity, and high staff-turnover. Deadline-driven project work and stressed-out managers take their toll on IT workers.

Bullying in Legal Profession

Bullying in the legal profession is believed to be more common than in some other professions. It is believed that its adversarial, hierarchical tradition contributes towards this. Women, trainees and solicitors who have been qualified for five years or less are more impacted, as are ethnic minority lawyers and lesbian, gay and bisexual lawyers.

Bullying in Medicine

Bullying in the medical profession is common, particularly of student or trainee doctors and of nurses. It is thought that this is at least in part an outcome of conservative traditional hierarchical structures and teaching methods in the medical profession, which may result in a bullying cycle.


Bullying in Nursing

Even though The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives believes that all nursing personnel have the right to work in safe, non-abusive environments, bullying has been identified as being particularly prevalent in the nursing profession although the reasons are not clear. It is thought that relational aggression (psychological aspects of bullying such as gossiping and intimidation) are relevant. Relational aggression has been studied among girls but not so much among adult women.


Bullying in Teaching

School teachers are commonly the subject of bullying but they are also sometimes the originators of bullying within a school environment.


Bullying Generally

Bully as simply "forcing one's way aggressively or by intimidation", may generally apply to any life experience where one is motivated primarily by intimidation instead of by more positive goals, such as mutually shared interests and benefits. As such, any figure of authority or power who may use intimidation as a primary means of motivating others, such as a neighborhood "protection racket don", a national dictator, a childhood ring-leader, a terrorist, a terrorist organization, a cult group or even a ruthless business CEO, could rightfully be referred to as a bully. According to psychologist Pauline Rennie-Peyton, we each face the possibility of being bullied in any phase of our lives.

The author Ben Shapiro claims that Liberals employ bullying to intimidate and silence their Conservative opponents in an ongoing culture war. The same scenario is playing out in Nigeria as the ruling APC is employing bully to intimidate and silence PDP opposition members, masquerading as anti-corruption war. 

Impacts of Bullying

Bullying has a negative impact on everyone involved: the target, the bully and the bystanders.

Impact of Bullying on Victim

In the case of School Bullying, students who are bullied are more likely to:

§  Feel disconnected from school and not like school.

§  Have lower academic outcomes, including lower attendance and completion rates.

§  Lack quality friendships at school.

§  Display high levels of emotion that indicates vulnerability and low levels of resilience.

§  Be less well accepted by peers, avoid conflict and be socially withdrawn.

§  Have low self-esteem.

§  Have depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and isolation.

§  Have nightmares.

§  Feel wary or suspicious of others.

§  Have an increased risk of depression and substance abuse.

§  In extreme cases, have a higher risk of suicide, however, the reasons why a person may be at risk of suicide are extremely complicated.

Bullying Contributing Factors

Contributing factors to being bullied may include:

§  Depression

§  Family problems

§  History of trauma

§  Belonging to a minority group, where isolation or lack of community support is an issue.


Impacts on Perpetrators of Bully

Students who frequently bully others are more likely to:

§  Feel disconnected from school and dislike school

§  Get into fights, vandalise property and leave school early.

Recent Victorian research has shown that bullying perpetration in Year 10 is associated with an increased likelihood of theft, violent behaviour and binge drinking.


Impacts of Bullying on Bystanders

Students who witness bullying may:

§  Be reluctant to attend school

§  Feel fearful or powerless to act and guilty for not acting

§  Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety

§  Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.


Impacts of Bullying on Schools

When bullying continues and a school does not take action, the entire school climate and culture can be negatively affected. Bullying impacts on student learning and engagement, staff retention and satisfaction and parental confidence in the school; this can lead to:

§  The school developing an environment of fear and disrespect

§  Students experiencing difficulty learning

§  Students feeling insecure

§  Students disliking school

§  Students perceiving that teachers and staff have little control and don't care about them.



Bullying prevention is the collective effort to prevent, reduce, and stop bullying. Coping with bullying can be very difficult. First, understand that you are not the problem. The problem is the bully. Like everyone else in the school or neighbourhood, you have the same rights to everything, including freedom and safety. Doing nothing might suggest to him that there is no problem. Be very firm and say it straight to his face that you do not like what he does. Act brave.

Sometimes you can ignore him to let him know that you really do not care about his comments or insults to you.

Below are a few more tips that can help.

Avoid the Bully.
If you have to go to a place (bathroom, canteen, games room, locker room) where you may meet the bully, try going with a friend. Do not go alone. Try to make friends with those who use the bus, hallway or waiting room so you can move with them.

Stay Calm and Be Patient.
Bullies feel good when they are challenged or when you lose your temper. Ignore him and walk away. If he teases or laughs at you, try counting up to 10 slowly in your mind and head for the exit. This trick is great for temper control and you always come out stronger in the end.

Tell an Adult.
Adults like your teacher, parent, neighbour, or even older friend can help. They usually have good advice and ways of ending that bully’s activities.

Make Friends.
Bullies tend to pick on people who do things alone. Try and make friends with more than one person and try to move with them. There is always strength in numbers.

Look Out for Your Friends.
Yes, that is what real friends are for. If you see someone bullying another, you need to do something about it. There is a wise saying that goes “evil thrives when good people do nothing” If you feel you are strong enough to face him, you can tell him that what he is doing is wrong. Do not go and fight him, just make your point. You can also encourage the victim to report it and stand by him as a witness.

Remember that you should never do to others what you would not like others to do to you. This means you should stay well away from gangs and groups that gossip, laugh and kick others.

Bullying Prevention Tips for Parents
More than half of youths who are bullied fail to tell an adult about it. Parents have a role to ensure that schools and communities are safe and fair for their own children. This means helping the child to identify, reject, report or help another person being bullied is as important as training your child not to bully others.
Here are a few things parents can do.

  1. Communicate with Children
    Parents must find time to speak and get to know their Children. Talk to them every day about anything. Tell them how your day went and ask how they did. Tell them your problems and try to get them to offer suggestions to you. This way, you can also get them to open up and tell you their problems too. Most importantly, talk about bullying and the need to report it as soon as they identify one.
  2. Raise children to be Respectful and Helpful
    Right at an early age, parents must stress on the importance of good values. Teach them to respect their peers, be kind, resilient, and responsible for themselves and others, to know how their actions can affect others and so on. Help them to appreciate that personal success is not everything, but the ability to care for, help, contribute and make a positive impact in society is more important.
  3. Teach Children How to Respond to Bullying
    Parents must listen to their Children. Get them to be calm to tell the whole story. Let them know you are concerned. Try to develop a plan with them. Do not be too quick to jump into the school or confront the perpetrator’s parents. Offer simple solutions that will encourage him to work on the problem. Most importantly, keep a close eye on them and learn more about how they are improving or overcoming the problem.
  4. Work together with your Child’s School to Stop Bullying
    The idea of discussing bullying with school authorities can be overwhelming. But not working with them is worse. Try to be present at Parent–Teacher meetings to raise your concerns. Find out what the school policies are, and if there are anger, stress and emotional management classes for Children. Ask about how these classes are done. Ask about how support staff (e.g.. bus drivers and janitors) can help. Ask about how you can also help them to make the environment safe for every kid in the school.


5.      Cyber Bullying
In this modern era, the internet, computers, and mobile phones are common ways of networking and having access to each other. But this also comes with a very serious threat. Bullies these days use the computers, internet and phones to:


a.    Send threats, taunting or teasing e-mails to you.

b.    Spread gossip or rumors.

c.    Impersonate (pretending to be someone) online to get you to
e-mail things that will embarrass you or put people in trouble.

d.    Texting hurtful or rude comments to someone’s phone.

The Internet is virtual (that means it is not something tangible that you can touch). This encourages evildoers and bullies to remain anonymous to hurt others. Anyone at all (including the person that sits next to you in class or in your neighbourhood) can anonymously use the Internet to send you dirty, embarrassing and dangerous messages, and you will never know. This means we all need to be careful and vigilant.

If you think you are being bullied online, tell an adult immediately. These days, people can be identified and arrested.

Below are a few things you can also do:

1.    Avoid unsafe websites. If your dad or mum is watching your activities online, do not stop them. They are doing so to protect you.

2.    Don’t share personal information (email passwords and others) with someone you don’t know or don’t trust. Change your passwords often.

3.    Do not post your e-mail address on a public message board or in a chat room. Keep your email away from the public.

4.    Do not join, comment on funny things that people post online. Stay away from trouble. If you are not sure of something, get someone to read over before you post things online.

Do not Record or Take Photos of Bad Things

These days many young people have phones or computers or devices that can take photos or videos. These devices are all connected to the internet and very often people type, text, photograph, videotape and publish to their friends via the internet even before they get a chance to think of what they are sending and what that can do to them.

The danger is in Leaking. Leak means something gets out of your control without your permission and you have no way of getting it back.

Never text or type, take any photo or make a video of any silly thing, either of yourself or your friend, on any device. Once that is recorded, it can spread like wildfire because it is electronic content and can easily be shared by all. Sometimes it is not your intention to share it, but what if you lose your phone and a stranger gets hold of it, or a friend happens to see it on your computer, or your phone is hacked? If it gets viral (leaks onto the internet) it can never be controlled, and it can haunt you for the rest of your life!

Can you imagine what can happen if there is a video/photo or text going around with you or a friend in it, drunk, or naked, or in a boy-girl act, or in a situation that is very bad? How would you feel? How would your parents feel? How would you handle that?

This is why it is very important that you stay away from recording texts and photos and videos of yourself and others doing wrong or silly things in the first place.

Do Not Hurt Someone by Posting
Each time you want to post something (text, photo, video) onto your Facebook or Instagram or internet, think carefully about how that will affect you and others. Ask yourself:

1.      Is it fair to everyone?

2.      Is it descent?

3.      Are you proud of it?

4.      Will it hurt someone's feeling?

5.      Will it damage someone's reputation?

6.      Is it safe?

If you think this way, you are more likely to be safe and also, you will be helping to keep your friends safe.

You also have to encourage your friends to stay away from such behavior. Look out for your friends and ask them to do the same for you, but always remember that the best and safest way now, is that DO NOT text, photograph or videotape any incident of yourself or your friends that can get you into trouble.

Many Faces of Bullying

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