Fred W. Opara
“What we must do for our young people is challenge them to put hope in their brains rather than dope in their veins. What difference does it make whether the doors swing wide open if our young people are too dizzy to walk through them?” – The Rev. Jesse Jackson (In the New York Times Magazine)
The recent revelation by the Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, Mr Yury Fedetov, that countries in Central and Western Africa, more especially Nigeria, face ‘disruptive and destabilising’ crescendo of drug-related crimes and abuses if the ugly developmental trend is not checked with utmost despatch and precision is worrisome. Meanwhile, the ease with which violent crimes are planned and executed in the country confirms the unpleasant impression that acute youth unemployment with fatal exposure to hard drugs consumption is at the threshold of criminal activities ravaging the fragile socioeconomic fabric of the country.
It smacks of ill will and grotesque unpatriotism that apart from cannabis sativa popularly known as hemp, which is a herb sparsely grown in some parts of Nigeria, every other killer drug such as the much touted tramadol is imported by some heartless Nigerian businessmen with a view to making unethical profit.
The war on corruption vis-a-vis money laundry related crimes should also be directed on importers who inundate our fragile economy with goods, illicit drugs inclusive, without passing through appropriate channels such as Deposit Money Banks and the Central Bank of Nigeria. Suffice it to say that those who view with pathological disdain the veracity of the figures being churned out periodically by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics on the state of our economy are not far from the truth because most of the processes put in place by our regulatory agencies in controlling the economy are oft short-circuited by the operators in obtrusive collaboration with the regulators thus lending credence to the words of Henry Alfred Kissinger, US Secretary of State, 1973-1977, that where law is treated as dogma defiance becomes heresy.
Consumers of hemp either in the raw or processed form of cannabis sativa either for pleasure or as a therapeutic because of the perceived assumption that it gives the user a feeling of being relaxed risk the fatal exposure of contacting killer diseases such as Tuberculosis, lung cancer, acute or irreversible mental disorder to mention but a few. Findings has also amply revealed that in the process of moving this banned substance from one location to the other in order to evade detection from the prying eyes of law enforcement agents, the supply chain apparatuses adopt the most bizarre, unhygienic and unimaginable means such as concealment in caskets conveying human corpses, vaginal and cervical grove of disease-infested women and animal dung conveyor automobiles in order to reach the ultimate end user.
Recently, Chairman Presidential Committee that is combating drug abuse, General Marwa, in an interview he granted the Saturday Sun, gave a rundown of the plans of the committee in tackling the menace of drug abuse which include but not limited to: complementing the efforts of the applicable agencies saddled with this arduous responsibility such as NDLEA and NAFDAC, closing the gaps through the provision of rehabilitation institutions for drug addicts to seek help from in terms of care, treatment, affordability of such care, spiritual guidance and counselling. The involvement of traditional institutions and religious institutions such as Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and Christian Association of Nigeria, were also not left out as part of the ‘durable solutions’ being midwifed by the presidential committee on drug abuse.
As desirable and laudable the durable solutions being sought after may appear, the presidential committee failed to recognize the ages long truism that an ‘An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.’ Obviously, it is by far propitious to eradicate completely drug abuse in our larger youthful demography than the wild goose chase of dealing with the anomaly after it has taken a colossal toll on our endangered, unengaged, vibrant youthful population.
The presidential Committee on combating drug abuse by now ought to have come to the full realisation that the Nigerian Youth has for decades now been suffering from monumental crisis-of-hope syndrome and as such should not hesitate to give its unalloyed advice to the government as appropriate. Various successive leadership of the country has failed the majority of the Nigerian youth whose woes and deepest thoughts found expression in having leaders who do not have an iota of confidence in the institutions of government in the country.
Leaders, who unashamedly send their children to schools in developed economies because they cannot compete in Nigeria’s highly competitive and volatile educational environment; and fail woefully to see to it that Nigerian schools are made to attain similar international recognition through the provision of whatsoever it takes to achieve that competitive status. Leaders who prefer to loot our commonwealth and stash same in foreign bank accounts thus creating unquantifiable employment opportunities for the youths in countries where the accounts are domiciled. Politicians who seek political power but not to better the lot of those who gave them the mandate to function in positions of creating wealth for everyone, but avariciously milk the economy and leave it comatose. Leaders who do not have confidence in the healthcare system of the country, but proudly hop into beds of hospitals of advanced nations in desperate search for qualitative healthcare, which they have failed to provide through good and responsible leadership.
The best tangible action against the sale and consumption of illicit drugs and the effective containment of the attendant disruptive and destabilising effect remains the rekindling of hope which has been highly elusive to the Nigerian youth. The provision of a level-playing socioeconomic ground for every citizen irrespective of class, tribe or religion which leaders like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory espoused and berthed, which made him one of the leaders who now rightly belongs to the ages, should be internalised in the country’s body politic.
Our leaders now and in the future should be made to realise in unequivocal terms that hope is given neither by political sloganeering and the pontificating of unrealistic motions and proposals in the National Assembly, nor hope reawakened by the dishing of grandiloquent excuses as it is now the norm, it is leadership not by precepts but verifiable example.
Opara writes from Lagos.