– Lagos community, experts warn youths on dangers of illicit substances
Hundreds of residents, comprising mostly youths, of Isheri-Oke Church in Ikosi-Isheri Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, on July 14, converged on the palace of Prince Jamiu Alade Odunsi to speak against drug abuse.
Medical experts, religious leaders, community heads and artistes took turns to warn the gathering about the dangers of using hard drugs, misuse and abuse of all kinds of drugs and mood-altering substances.
The programme was organised in order to curb the rate at which youths in many communities, including Isheri-Oke, were indulging in drugs, idleness, rape, fraud, violence and other criminal activities.
A consultant psychiatrist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and vice president, Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN), Dr. Ladipo Adepoju, said he had handled many mental cases in his career as fallouts of drug abuse, which often led to mental distortion.
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Adepoju stated that the effects of drug abuse and wrong use do not only take a toll on the individuals and their families but on society at large. He said many Nigerians, particularly youngsters with brilliant minds who could have positively affected the society, have been wasted as a result of drug abuse.
While commending the sensitisation initiative by the Olofin of Isheri-Oke, he said the programme came at the right time when issues of drug abuse, especially among youths, have become worrisome across the country.
“We are here so that the society can learn, benefit and curb the scourge, which keeps tearing the fabric of society.
“Drug abuse cannot be separated from psychiatry. Here, we look at the mental and physical state of the mind, and the social aspect of the individual involved. The behaviour of the consumer affects him or her as well as the people he or she relates with in the society. This is why the case cannot be left or treated in isolation.
“I have been a psychiatrist for about 15 years. Talking from my experience, having worked in the northern and southern parts of Nigeria, l know what l mean when l describe it as a very troubling issue in society. It has wrecked many families and turned some to paupers,” Adepoju said.
The expert urged families to see drug abuse as everyone’s problem in the country so that it could be tackled from each home.
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On why drug misuse was prominent among youths, he said the diverse man-made challenges in Nigeria could be a strong factor. He added that the high level of unemployment was also playing negative roles in the lives of youths.
“Another thing is the apparent lackadaisical attitude of a lot of parents who keep pursing money at the expense of their children’s moral upbringing. It is a direct opposite of raising and mentoring children as we used to have in the past. These children are ready to pick up anything that is available to them, which quickly becomes the norm in their own understanding. Of a truth, there is hardly any other person who can train a child more than the parents will do. The result of this negligence is fraud, cultism and other criminal activities staring us in the face today,” the expert said.
He said it was unfortunate that many drug barons and syndicates were feeding fat on the business but destroying people and the society. He called on all adults to use every platform available to them to keep discouraging drug abuse.
He said it was unfortunate that the various laws enacted against drug misuse were not effectively implemented, regretting that people have continued to flout them with impunity, and his association had been going from one state to the other to warn Nigerians against the consequences of drug abuse and the ripple effects on the larger society.
Many residents of the community saw Prince Odunsi’s presence at the forefront of the campaign as a big boost for the youth who hold him in high esteem. They confessed that Odunsi has always been an inspiration to many youths in his community, and leading them on the path of morality.
The prince said the problems with many youths today were traceable to the use of hard drugs and abuse of drinks with high alcoholic content, especially local gin. He said youngsters were exposed to a lot of violence due to environmental factors and negative influence.
“We have moved away from being compassionate to our children. It is now all about making money and other earthly gains. Many parents don’t teach their children morals anymore. There is an increasing lack of parental monitoring and guidance in the house. More painful are the sets of parents who cover up for their children. Sometimes, children are left in the care of strangers and they develop their value systems from these strangers. This is what I cannot condone in my community.
“Any youth who refuses to cooperate with the community on the path of progress in accordance with the law will be dealt with. We don’t tolerate any act that is traceable to illicit and clandestine acts. Rape, wayward life, violence and clashes among youths are often carried out under the influence of intoxication from drugs, marijuana and strong gin,” he said.
He stated that such lifestyles always created a lasting adverse impact in the minds of the youth. It would prompt them to view life from the prism of achieving great heights overnight by desperate means.
Odunsi said it was one of the ways he could directly interact with the members of the community, especially the younger generation who would take over the mantle of leadership
in the near future. He said he could not fold his arms and watch while what his forefathers fought for and promoted was disintegrating: “Most times, if you don’t get close to people, you will not know how useful you both can be to one another. Whenever l talk to my people, they always listen to me because they also know that l don’t support evil and l cannot lead them astray.”
Also at the event, the executive producer of Nimbe Moviea, Mr. Seun Dania, said his movies were principally written to address drug abuse in the society. He explained that they were scripted to reveal the entry points and tricks used by influencers to lure innocent people into thye practise.
Dania maintained that Nigeria’s population should be a productive and active one, which, he said, could not be achieved when youths indulge in drugs and suffer from different mental health challenges.
“Our culture is about communal living. Nigerians are known for being our brother’s keeper but it is no longer so these days. Most of these vices today are alien to us. That is why we need to send them packing and back to where they were imported from.
“The Oba-elect always has a passion for anything that will benefit the youth. We were able to partner with him, having recognised that these drug addicts also need love and compassion. Many of them went into drugs out of loneliness and depression, and they certainly need help to get out of it,” he said.
The pastor of Transformation World Community Church, Gbemi King, admonished the participants to shun drug abuse and all forms of violence. He said nobody was created by God to become a nuisance to the society. The cleric assured them that God was still interested in every soul, irrespective of the depth their sin.
While praying for the participants, he said God could soften any heart for His positive use, no matter how hardened that heart might be.
There was a free health screening, as well as distribution of clothes and other gifts to those that participated in the programme.