(Published in The PUNCH, on Monday, January 9, 2023)
Life is hard enough without sniffing drugs. Hard drugs appear in the horizon like golden gates of escape, but they’re traps in reality. Hard drugs are the chains that cripple freedom, the substance that splits the mind from the soul, the cord that ties sense with nonsense.
Powerful is music. The ‘m’ in music appeals to the mind. Music cured King Saul and cursed the devils tormenting his soul, caging them into tranquillity. Music pulled down the Walls of Jericho. Music is the food of love, it is the sound of joy that heralds birth and the song of sorrow that ends it.
We live in a star-struck world of superrich superstars luxuriating in superstardom, idolised by a fandom hooked on superhype, superhits, supercars and superficialities.
Now, singers don’t make music any more; they make noise. They have replaced rhythm with rubbish, they have replaced reason with rage, lyrics now drip only with sex, drugs plus alcohol and everyone in society – parents, guardians, government, clerics, schools, traditional rulers, unions – dances to the decay of our present and the doom of our future.
An uneducated monarch in the South-West was seen in a viral video wrapping marijuana, yet neither law enforcement agencies nor the civil society community has come out to condemn the atrocious act.
At the height of his glory, the most gifted and most radical Nigerian musician ever, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, never dedicated a song to Indian hemp, his stimulant pastime. Though his negative influence in the use of marijuana among musicians today cannot be proven empirically, many Nigerian musicians who smoke marijuana today see Fela as a demigod.
But, largely owing to the breath of sanity in the society and the big stick wielded by regulatory bodies in the 1980s through the early 1990s, murijuana musicians who wished to glorify igbo didn’t do so openly, they used euphemisms such as ganja, Indo, kush, Mary Jane, choko for Indian hemp to eulogise their love for the hallucinatory substance.
In 1984 when the sway of Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s swagger stick typified military swiftness, a Port Harcourt-born young lad wouldn’t have have metamorphosed from Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu into Burna Boy, singing ‘I need igbo and shayo o’. Which studio would have recorded the offensive song?
If Burna Boy missed being tied to a stake and flogged naked in the open by soldiers, he surely wouldn’t have missed doing the time for his crime at Kirikiri. He would have been banned from holding a mic in private or in public for 250 years!
From the late Majek Fashek, who ordered the misty sky to ‘Send Down the Rain’, to Tuface Idibia, who professed love to his African Queen, to 9ice who prophesied that Gongo Aso, to Danfo Drivers, Ice Prince, Olamide, Flavour, Wizkid, Davido, Naira Marley, Seun Kuti, Terry G, Eedrees Abdulkareem, Portable and a host of others, the use of hemp and, or its glorification, is commonplace among Nigerian musicians. Aside from Hip-Hop, R&B, Rap and Reggae, musicians of other genres like Fuji, Juju, Apala, Highlife etc are well into marijuana use, also.
It’s true that marijuana is now being used as a recreational drug in some parts of the world. It’s not yet so in Nigeria, and so, it remains a crime for people to use, peddle or promote it. The use of hard drugs, especially Indian hemp, has been linked to the daredevilry commonly displayed by kidnappers, murderers, bandits etc across the country. It is also a major contributor to the rise in the number of psychiatric cases in the country.
Between 1985 – when he was ousted from power – and now, Buhari has morphed from being a father to a grandfather and a great grandfather, making the weight of parenthood on him heavier. Buhari of the 80s had a voice, and he spoke.
Today, what has changed? Who or what has taken Buhari’s voice? Why has the tough khaki-wearing father Buhari grown into a permissive agbada-wearing great grandfather that watches his children and grandchildren nationwide take hard drugs without showing concern? Why?
My mind tells me the violation of values in about the last four decades is the answer. Even Buhari himself, the advocate of the War Against Indiscipline crusade, got caught in the web of moral conflict when he declared without shame that his benefactor, the Brainless Bandit called General Sani Abacha, never stole.
Buhari lied. A corrupt lie. He saw a thief in dark goggles and called him a saint in white robes. The ever-increasing army of unemployed Nigerian youths watch Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress lie and make merry in luxury while the economic noose gets tighter. So, to Nigerian youths, life is hell, escape is hemp.
The youths watched how two jailed ex-governors were pardoned, they heard Aisha Buhari blow the alarm over Aso Rock Clinic fraud, they saw Buhari’s asset declaration promise crumble; they witnessed the Lekki Tollgate killings, they watched their age mates, the children of the members of the political elite, control billions and fly in private jets. To Nigerian youths, life is hell, hemp is paradise.
While the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress government busied itself flexing muscles and banning millions of Nigerians from legitimate use of Twitter, with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, shouting himself hoarse over the ban, virtually all agencies of government agencies that perform oversight functions on drug abuse have gone into slumber, including minister Mohammed, who has been snoring the loudest.
Sadly, the Ministry of Information and Culture, National Broadcasting Commission, National Film and Video Censors Board, National Orientation Agency etc have kept mum over the glorification of hard drugs by Nigerian music artists. A High Court judge, who wishes to be anonymous, says ‘any of these agencies can drag erring musicians/producers to court for glorifying hard drugs’. Sadly, none has ever done so.
Retired Brigadier General Buba Marwa is doing a good job at the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency but the agency needs to regularly raid nightclubs – the haven of open drug abuse. The agency also needs to tell Nigerians the outcome of its investigation of Obinna Iyiegbu aka Obi Cubana who was alleged to have received payments from convicted drug peddlers.
While Aisha Buhari expended her presidential energy on an obscure blogger, do not judge her if her NGO, Aisha Buhari Foundation, is unperturbed about the rain of drugs swarming the nation like a hail of locusts because drug abuse isn’t part of her mandate in the kitchen where Buhari put her. But politics is.
When I was growing up, to be called a marijuana smoker was an invitation for family war. A parent will fight tooth and nail to ensure that the dignity of his/her child wrongly called a hemp smoker is restored. This is no longer the case as parents now form ‘Association of Yahoo Parents’ to shield, do juju, and pray for the Yahoo success of their children. Parents now buy igbo for their children.
Morning shows the day. Today, we are seeing the manifestations of what to expect from our cocaine, heroin, loud, Arizona, lean, codeine, Tramadol, Gentamicin etc consuming leaders of tomorrow.
Over the years, Burna Boy glorifies marijuana, and he sings in his recent album, “I need igbo and shayo (shayo), I need igbo and shayo (shayo), I need igbo and shayo (shayo), Shayo (shayo) shayo (shayo)…” And he was rewarded with a national award of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic by President Buhari, barely two months ago.
Nigerian parents, teachers, pressure groups, pastors, imams, babalawos, atheists etc were at the national award ceremony in Abuja where Buhari dignified Burna Boy with his igbo songs, and everyone clapped.
We have failed to snatch our youths from the jaws of hard drugs. We failed to teach our children that the ‘D’ in ‘Drugs’ is ‘Death’. The monster of hard drugs that we bred is mature, it is devouring us one by one.
Facebook: @tunde odesola