BY JEROME-MARIO UTOMI
I remember with nostalgia how participants at a focused group discussion held recently in Lagos, bemoaned infestation of our nation by social problems perpetrated consciously and unconsciously by her own people. Warning that under this condition, it may be thought audacious to talk of creating a better society while we are still battling with the problems of battered economy arising from corruption, social vices and decay of institutions.
Among these social challenges, it was clearly stated that the consumption of drugs in amounts and methods not authorized by medical professionals has become but a silent reality that Nigerians should worry about. Noting that though the act cuts across all strata, powerful statistics make it abundantly clear that the youths-majorly males with a sprinkle of females remain undefeated in this act. The gathering had as a theme; The Alarming Increase in Drug Abuse: What Did We Do Wrong? , organized by the Justice and Peace Development Centre (JDPC), Ketu, Lagos.
Indeed, the worries by the participants without fail has become a living reality validated by a reported sex romp by four students (three boys and a girl) at the sunshine Lodge, Ihiagwa, one of the satellite communities close to the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Imo state that left three out of the four students dead while the boys were taking turns to have sex with the girl after allegedly taking a mixture of tramadol, codeine and vodka.
Certainly, a striking human tragedy deepened by the awareness that it was avoidable particularly when one remembers that this incident occurred neither by accident nor as the first half of a reoccurring circle but rather the beginning of something new.
To explain; for decades, we have been warned with mountains of evidence that this was coming, yet, our leaders who are never ready to serve or save the citizens ignored the warnings describing it as a prank.
Now we have learnt a very useful lesson that we can no longer ignore.
The tragedy in a private hostel has additionally brought to the core governments wicKed underfunding challenge of, and incompetence in providing basic facilities such as hostel accommodation to the educational sector- a malady that runs deep through successive administrations.
If adequate hostel accommodation were provided within the school premises by the government, chances are that monitoring of these youths would have been enhanced.
But more important than all of these lessons is the urgent need to remap strategies to curb reassurance because if the results of the FUTO sex scandal looKs ugly and frightening, what is to come from what medical experts are saying may be worse if serious positive actions are not taken.
Going by these reports, there are but three main forms of drug abuse. They include the use of; mood-altering or psycho-active drugs, performance-enhancing drug and dependency drugs.
While mood-altering or psychoactive drugs such as Codeine, tramadol affect people’s reasoning ability and give the abuser wrong sense of wellbeing, performance-enhancing drugs such as cocaine, heroin drug give extra stamina or energy to the abuser. Dependency drugs on its part typify drugs people abuse in the course of trying to overcome some health issue or challenges or taken to maintain a particular lifestyle.
So what does this mean to our nation where every day ‘exciting progress” is made in the consumption of these substances without recourse to prescription. This stunning awareness in my views has made getting to the cause of this social challenge more compelling.
Certainly, it will by no means be an exaggeration to state that apart from negative peer influence, unemployment and a continuous avenue to escape problems and worries are the major reason why Nigeran youths take to the drug.
This, however, may not be the only explanation fueling this social evil.
Specifically, the deliberate desire by these youths to hide their weaknesses, failure on the part of the family to train the youths on the way they should go, broken home influence, and pressure to succeed at all cost also promote this social menace.
Regrettably, a common fact that abusers fail to remember is that aside from the wide belief that throughout history more people have silently been destroyed by substance abuse than any other cause, drug abuse according to psychologists, has never helped any individual involved.
As an illustration, it is factually supported that drug consumption in amounts or methods not authorized by medical professionals have in the past led to mental disorder, disrupted the abuser’s education and future, poor attitude to work, health problems such as lung disease, heart disease and deaths among others.
From this standpoint, it is a clear socioeconomic problem that we collectively as a nation will have to determine how to solve- as the future strength of our nation depends on these young people.
Catalyzing this process will among other solutions require the government and its agencies to come up with effective reforms and teamwork that will tackle the challenge from its roots.
I hold an opinion that what the government is doing in this direction is but a palliative which only relieves temporal distress, but leaves the disease and its ravages unaffected.
To succeed in this job, an effort expected from the government must have skill development and job creation for the youths at its centre. This approach to the problem is not without successful precedents. Addressing the perennial education sector funding and the infrastructural challenge will also be a right step taken in the right direction by the government.
Re-orientation on our cultural values by faith-based organizations and the civil society groups will assist the youths to drop illicit consumption of drugs and unwholesome behaviours that endanger their lives and threatens the society.
Parents and guardians must strive to influence which people capture their children imaginations and always be aware of who their friends are and what places they frequent. And always put the youths in the presence of people of great accomplishment whom they want them to emulate.
These in the words of Ben Carson are things that used to be done quite routinely by caring guardians but now many young people derive their identity from their peer groups and their social network which can be extensive.
Youths on their part must recognize that ‘the future is full of promises as it is fraught with uncertainty. And should, therefore, develop the capacity to seek activities laced with highest values
Jerome-Mario Utomi ([email protected]) writes From Lagos