The devastating and destructive menace of hard drugs across our nation is well documented. That these narcotic drugs, their potency, and destructive abilities are continually upgraded, is unfortunately a notorious fact. Their target markets have increasingly greater spread now, reaching far into the hinterlands of our dear nation, meaning it is no longer just a city or town phenomenon, but our villages are sadly also in play.
Every generation has had a drug with a reputation as the most noxious and has attempted an antidrug strategy they felt was a best fit. In recent years, the drug undoubtedly with the worst notoriety is the dreaded street drug, Methamphetamine otherwise known as ‘Mkpuru mmiri/Mkpulu mmili’ (depending on the dialect) in the South-eastern part of Nigeria. The prevalence of these drugs destroys the very existential fabric of any society. No one is spared its ravaging claws; the rich and the poor, male and female, old and young – it takes prisoners irrespective of religion, tribe, or creed.
The war against drugs in Nigeria is spearheaded by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and their efforts nationwide have unfortunately not stemmed the exponential growth in the drugs trade and use within Nigeria. The scary rate of explosion of drugs use within the country has made it imperative for each community, especially those in the rural areas to devise ways of tackling this evidently destructive and unrelenting menace for their own safety and preservation. Consistently in every locality, the primary targets of these drug peddlers are unfortunately the vulnerable; whether they are the experimentalists, the mentally weak, or those going through challenges in life they are unable to cope with, therefore making them easy prey for these drug dealers. Consequently, given the nature and complexity of the problem, the sustainability of the society necessitates a holistic, strategic, and effective war against drugs that takes into consideration the reasons and circumstances behind the drug use and dependency, to come up with innovative and viable solutions.
Organisations within various communities have in the past conducted marches and walks against drugs to raise awareness and as a contributory effort in the quest to have all hands on deck to fight this menace, all being of the belief they were making a difference. This is no different, particularly in South-eastern Nigeria where community leaders also joined efforts to arrest and mercilessly deal with anyone caught with hard drugs. Last year for instance, the Nigerian social media sphere was often littered with videos of caught drug offenders, with these videos going viral on social media showcasing the treatment meted out to those indulging in hard drugs.
Experimenting youths and addicts mostly young adults were often tied to the stake or pole and flogged publicly on their bare backs. It was believed that whatever evil had taken a hold of them to cause them to partake in such self-destructive pursuits, could be flogged out of them and that the publicity accorded such barbarity would serve as a deterrent to any aspiring or impressionable potential drug taker, still the menace continues seemingly unabated in these communities.
This approach to tackling such a serious and existential threat, is in my opinion as grossly ineffective as it is strategically impotent! I confess that unlike most, I am appalled by the blatant and naked barbarism of the act and am deeply disturbed about not just the inefficacy of this strategy, but also its lack of courage and the inexcusably immoral as well as inequitable underpinnings of it.
Firstly, no one dealing with a case of prolific weeds on a premises, effectively tackles such by trimming the weeds. If one is unable to use appropriate herbicides to obliterate the menace, they must proffer a serious existential threat to the weeds by removing them from the roots and burning same, to ensure that even with the advent of rains there would be no residual roots to reproduce more weeds. In the same vein, it makes no strategic sense and smacks of great unseriousness to conduct the war on drugs by tackling dispensable drug users in a quest to stop the spread of drug consumption and trade. They are dispensable, continually and easily replaceable anyway, as the drug dealers are constantly on the prowl gaining new customers, pushing frontiers, roaming freely and preying on the most vulnerable in the society. As soon as one is taken out, three or four new first-time drug users replace them. Wouldn’t it make better sense to tackle the supply source instead?
Targeting these drug users as the fulcrum on the fight against drugs is also questionably unconscionable; most of these users are those we have failed as a society.
They are amongst those that the social blanket never covered nor catered for. Those that are tired of crying out for help in various forms and in the absence of a societal embrace, they instead were lured into the ephemeral and deceptive solace of a dealer’s alluring words. It matters not if there are others in society who did not fall for these predators. As a society we owe a duty of care to our vulnerable, young and weak, to provide a safe environment for them to live and grow and to keep them safe from such dangers. When we have clearly failed them, we then turn around and punish them for what is in essence, our failing? That is wrong and reprehensible. These addicts deserve treatment, and not public humiliation, our succour not our derision, our empathy not mutilation.
I wholeheartedly concede that every society must decide how it wishes to govern itself and that to survive, every society must reward good acts and punish the bad ones. The reward for bad action is punishment and consumption of illicit drugs is clearly a bad action deserving of punishment. However, I wish to posit that punishment must be commensurate with the bad action. If drug taking is deserving of public flogging, then the punishment for drug dealing in the same community must be in the realms of public amputation of limbs, whilst public burning of culprits should be reserved for the importers and manufacturers of the drugs. Since we wish to tread this barbaric path, we may as well go the whole distance.
The present practice where known and suspected drug dealers donate generously to community development schemes as a means of laundering their reputation or diverting the search beam, is now too prevalent in almost all rural communities suffering from the drug epidemic. The prevailing custom of publicly donating to community causes and sometimes even towards war against drugs by known suspected drug lords, including joining marches against drugs, are rewarded in the community with chieftaincy titles and honours within the churches and mosques, is both indefensible and immoral. It is most hypocritical and in essence renders such a community inexcusably complicit.
Every community knows its sons and daughters and what they really do, at least it ought to before it confers on an individual such honours. These illicit drugs do not fall from the sky into the hands of the drug takers. There is a conduit, a supply chain, and the various village local intelligence networks who are aware of the mechanisms behind the scenes, but choose to not tackle them for reasons best known to themselves, but would much rather make a public show of degrading and mutilating the vulnerable and helpless addicts in the society trapped in this community-enabled vicious cycle, are themselves enablers and as such, culpable. This is sheer hypocrisy and may I add unconscionable cowardice, that will never excuse the community’s culpability.
Our communities are littered with Methamphetamine factories and distribution centres, just as people invest in supermarkets to sell their wares, people are investing in clubs, bars, and recreational joints as fronts for drug dealing and distribution. We need to get serious at tackling this looming drug time bomb in our rural communities by going after and taking out the drug supply routes and avenues, as well as seriously pursuing the manufacturers, distributors and their dealers within our communities.
We must be courageous enough to query people’s sources of wealth before accepting their donations and according to them the community honours and protection that goes with it. We must punish criminality such as burglaries, thefts, and the likes, regardless of whether we believe them to be drug influenced. Vigilance must be the watch word and every building in the community must be observed and businesses within, deciphered and properly identified. We can devise a local and more empathetic treatment plan to wean these addicts, whilst at the same time, ridding our communities of these undesirable merchants of death.
Our rural communities are our sacred spaces with inhabitants that are most disadvantaged in terms of nearness to requisite resources and developmental infrastructures. Our rural communities are where several of us trace our origins to, home of sorts that are dwelling abodes and places of retirement for some of our dear parents and family, blessed with rich cultural heritage, tranquillity, peace, and sanctity that will be hard preserved by an influx of hard drugs with all that entails.
Our rural communities are far too valuable for us to allow them to decay and go to the dogs. They deserve to be properly preserved and we owe it to ourselves to do all we can to protect and preserve them, to do otherwise would amount to an unforgivable dereliction of duty.
3© 2022 Douglas Aniemena