January 28, 2023

Francis Okogun

As 2022 gradually winds down and a new calendar year 2023 beckons on us, this comes with numerous celebrations with many ‘end of the year’ parties by various schools, institutions, public and private organisations, entertainment empires, and their signed artistes. My mind is, however, drawn to the number of parties that are already taking place leading to the Christmas and new year celebrations. In some of these parties, you find youths in their numbers taking in poisoned (narcotics-laced) alcoholic drinks, and eating cakes otherwise known as brownies. You also find them with tiny nylons of wrapped crack cocaine, methamphetamine powders, syringes of different colours and shisha flavoured smokes whirling in the enclosed rooms of parties and after parties of some celebrations.

No doubt as humans we will always have reasons to celebrate and our celebrations are not limited to culture and religion; our celebrations also extend to other reasons like birthdays, marriages and graduation ceremonies, career path promotion, or simply just for relaxation with family members and friends. While it is worthy to note that positive celebrations of any kind are good for our health and mind, it’s disheartening that a number of youths, adults and celebrities use the slightest opportunity to celebrate as a means to engage in the euphoric use of illicit narcotic substances that have been medically proven over time to have adverse effects on human mental health and cognitive behaviour.

Drug use, its attendant addiction, and its ultimate sad end are before us, even more at this season except we wish to turn a blind eye to what we see in our individual environment and the results of drug seizures and arrests made by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency under the administration of Brig Gen Buba Marwa (retd.) in the last 22 months. No doubt the time to act is now, regardless of the failed efforts made in time past.

It is disheartening that the uncontrolled social media posts from young persons and celebrities in Nigeria and around the world showcasing their use of highly addictive substances like cannabis, heroin, cocaine, and pharmaceutical opioids like tramadol, diazepam and the like, have led to the scintillation of their peers, children and fans all over the globe leading a majority of the young people into the adventure of drug use and avoidable diseases. It is very important during this season to lend a word for the well-being of our young ones in Nigeria.

Drug use is an issue that society has been trying to shy away from, maybe in order not to offend the young ones or just because it hasn’t come home to roost. In either case, there’s a need to warn beforehand that our inaction will continue misleading a minority of persons to push the boring but dangerous narrative of legalising cannabis in Nigeria and as well reinforce the drug use culture.

Now that it is that time of the year of festivity, is it going to be business as usual? Would you as a good friend to your friends, colleagues and family allow anyone or yourself to go into the euphoria of celebrations with igbo and shayo and enter 2023 thereby reducing the nation’s capable healthy minds by another percentage? Whereas this is a pertinent question to ask but it is more of a call to join the many stakeholders in Nigeria, especially the NDLEA under Brig Gen Marwa (retd.) and his team, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in a united front against drug use, abuse and addiction. I bring you season’s greetings.

Francis Okogun, a social commentator, writes from Benin, Edo State

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