Wednesday, 27th September 2023

Deepening Drug War In Nigeria Through Naira Marley

By Itunu Azeez Kareem
27 August 2023   |   6:00 am
For what you are about to read, here's a direct introduction in the form of an excerpt from someone who walked the talk, and regretted the steps into the journey. "Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem." - Kurt Cobain The…

For what you are about to read, here’s a direct introduction in the form of an excerpt from someone who walked the talk, and regretted the steps into the journey.

“Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem.” – Kurt Cobain

The menacing journeying being referred to here is drugs. Drug abuse in Nigeria can never be over-emphasized, yet credit must be given to the current National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA) boss (Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (rtd), and all the strategies they have been implementing so far, to curb the country of this malady.

However weeks ago, when the popular Nigerian Singer, Naira Marley, was used as someone to ward off youths against the intake and abuse of drugs inappropriately which is an understatement a lot was said and rumoured and people spoke out in disappointment, while some felt it is the right way to go.

In quick summary, here is what happened, about the whole Naira Marley saga; The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has partnered with Afrobeats artiste Naira Marley in its campaign against drug abuse, utilizing his platform to dissuade substance use among his substantial following.

Despite initial backlash and rumours of ambassadorship, NDLEA clarified that Naira Marley’s role involves using his influence to discourage drug abuse, reflecting the agency’s holistic approach to combating drug demand and fostering prevention efforts.

This collaboration aims to harness Naira Marley’s transformative influence and counter his previous endorsement of drug use, exemplifying the agency’s commitment to leveraging the entertainment industry for impactful advocacy against substance abuse.

The question however on most people’s lips like Ajoke Adedoyin, a 24-year-old graduate of the University of Ibadan is, “Using Naira Marley as a face of drug abuse, does it pass the right message? or is it just a charade with no meaningful message perhaps it will even increase the usage of these various drugs?” These proposed thoughts arise from considering the many controversies of the singer concerning his lifestyle and attachments to drugs.

In response to the complaints by people regarding such, the NDLEA came out to say he is not their ambassador in any way, in the words of the agency’s Spokesperson, Mr Femi Babafemi he said, “This is a misleading and absolute falsehood as the pictures of the visit and the short video containing Naira Marley’s advocacy message to his followers was properly captioned and shared by the Agency without any suggestion of such an appointment” and that people should focus only on his message and not Naira Marley, not who appears to be the poster boy, but is that even possible in this part of the world?

The messages in his music, and the videos accompanying the messages, while on not one or two occasions have we heard and listened to him sing using words like “Igbo” a Yoruba term for Marijuana, and how good it is to be used. The arrest of his counterparts on 22nd February 2022, by the EFCC, for allegedly possessing drugs and things associated with fraud, is an incident that should be recounted. However, these are people still living large on the influence of these known facts and maladies.

Perhaps understanding the deeper influence of this menace would give us better knowledge of the layers of implications of drugs and the faces used to fight such menace in society. According to research, in one of the southwestern universities in Nigeria, after distributing questionnaires to youths between the ages of 16-45, it is believed that the most abused drug or substances were alcohol (61.5%) and cigarettes (54.5%), likely because these substances are legal for use in Nigeria despite restrictions on use before driving and for minors. Importantly consumed publicly with reckless abandon, in front of schools, streets, and even beside police stations, without any restrictions.

The findings are more recent and more comprehensive than the study of 1000 students by the students of Lagos State Univerity, with names Oshikoya and Alli which covered only one institution whereas the study this excerpt is picked from included four representative universities.

The study highlighted 12 factors that influence the abuse of drugs and substances. The major factor was “to get high.” The findings are consistent with those of Adekeye et al.’s study.

In recent years, the psychological effects of drugs and substances and the observable increase in abuse have not gone unnoticed. Risk awareness is a key factor in addressing drug and substance abuse.

Despite establishing that a large number of respondents understood the risk associated with drug and substance misuse, the study recorded a considerable prevalence of abuse. Therefore, we can postulate that perceived factors that drive drug and substance abuse prevail over risk considerations.

Taking a critical look at the substances that are being abused within the population of interest is important. The top-ranking substances of abuse, alcohol and cigarettes, are generally considered social drugs because they are legally allowed. The majority of the population of interest falls within the age bracket of those allowed to consume these social drugs; this may account for why these substances were the most popular among users.

Notwithstanding, this should also be considered alongside other factors that predispose individuals to consume substances to alter their state of mind, to “feel good” or to “get high.” Socioeconomic and environmental factors largely contribute to the use and abuse of these substances by a large percentage of the population.

A consideration of these factors is therefore critical in any effort to address the threat of drug and substance abuse within the broader population in Nigeria.

The research above means that to control the substance abuse one needs examples or people who have had a regrettable experience, not one who seems to have made a life using it, and then advising people not to take drugs. While it may have its advantages, its disadvantages are far superior.

The many controversies about the musician, who at one time even said, he had been arrested over 124 times concerning his kinds of songs, “Lemme tell you, you don’t know me, I have been arrested 124 times in England and I am not doing any other type of music, No slow songs, no love songs, just gang music.” these songs are somewhat relative to users of drugs as they include uncensored display of drugs at it’s best.

The NDLEA have done a good job in this regard but they could do better. What are Nigerians saying about these developments? talking to some Nigerians here’s what they have to say; note all sayings are unedited, as it is the direct response from people with one or two things to say as it relates to the issue.

According to Mr Bolaji, a teacher in a government secondary school, he believes that “While the message is clear the NDLEA, the master based on his track records, can limit the truth in the message from reaching the greater audience. People might even be misinformed by the misrepresentation of the character, Kudos to the NDLEA, but they can always do better on this”

To Miss. Summayah said that ” While NDLEA has a point, by using someone with such a huge fanbase, and from the perception that he has the audience and the medium to reach larger people, “Nairamarley can better be partnered with one of the elites better suited for the delivery of the message”

Another person who responded on the streets of Lagos, Mr. Abdulhamid Ahmed, said “I think Naira Marley shouldn’t be used as an example for people to stop drugs because most of his followers are victims of drug abuse.

They might believe NDLEA is legalizing drug abuse by using him as an example of drug abuse, Some of the citizens believe Naira Marley is into drugs and this will make people believe that NDLEA has made drug abuse legal and this will increase the rate of drug users”

CHIDERA, A student from a government secondary school, also has something to say, “Well to my suggestion oo: Naira Marley shouldn’t be used to stop drug abuse because himself that’s wat gives him vibe on d the stage because its clearly stated that musician uses drugs b4 going on stage OK let’s see a throwback in d time of Fela he also uses drug NDLEA should use someone who has tasted it and regretted their actions.

Rather than using Naira Marley maybe their mindset could be because his a musician and has people following him lets clear the fact that he has been arrested over 3 to 4 times in Nigeria and that same person is now been used to stop drug abuse ahh ahh nawa oo”

While to, Mr Azeez Muheeb Akanni, A fashion designer, Naira Marley is not a good example for this awareness, because, he is a drug addict (Unproven though) and he takes drugs constantly and whenever you see him he is always on some kind of drugs hit so however he is not a good example for this occasion. The NDLEA has also arrested him many times for this (Unrelated to drugs).

In summary, and conclusion as well, The theme addressed here revolves around the issue of drug abuse in Nigeria and the involvement of Naira Marley, a popular Nigerian artist, in combating this problem.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) partnered with Naira Marley to dissuade drug abuse among his followers. Despite initial controversies and rumours, NDLEA clarified that Naira Marley’s role is to discourage drug abuse using his influence. The collaboration aims to leverage his impact to counter his past endorsement of drug use.

However, the concerns are whether Naira Marley is the right messenger due to his lifestyle controversies and alleged associations with drugs. And these concerns are valid, based on the peculiarities of the Nigerian people.

Fingers crossed as we hope for a positive difference in the times ahead.