(Published In the Nigerian Tribune Newspapers of May 7, 2018)
The stuffs are so many now. It is not just codeine and its cough syrup. Shisha’s fumes compete with the plumes of Sango. There is Kerewa; there is Ogidiga; there is Bajinatu. There are many more. The song is Kosewe, huh, Kosegbo; the chorus is Oju ti dirty! Our eyes are truly dirty and it is not funny. We mix desert water with the springs of Lagos. We take codeine and embrace tramadol. We turn gutter water to “chemical” – we say it is our tonic. We can’t be normal; and we are not. Olamide’s song speaks and it is to the shame of our youth: “Kerewa, perm e! Ogidiga, perm e! Bajinatu, perm e! Nap e!” How does that sound to an omoluabi; a person of character? When you take codeine with APC elerin you are not likely to remain the same. If you don’t lose your kidney, you lose your balance. Nigeria is original Omo Science Student.
Wole Soyinka’s hordes stink because ‘they eat garlic.’ Nigeria’s strange voters reek rape not because they enjoy rape. Look into their eyes – they are addicted to strange stuffs. Like common whores, they can’t do without collecting stuffs. They need them to remain high. They suffer the terminal illness of selling and eating. They add other addictive things – they are wedded to opioids. They dance Olamide and gulp codeine cough syrup as blood tonic.
They are science students. But they vote! The calm watch TV, they hardly vote. In their millions, Awon Omo Science Students choose our leaders. Our constitution says you must not be a “lunatic” and of “unsound mind” if you want to be voted for, but the authors of the law forgot to add that voters too must be sane before they can vote. The ancestors were wise. The personal qualifications for appointment as king are the same for kingmakers. You can’t choose if you are not choosable.
Yesterday’s votes were cast by Codeine, Tramadol and Ogidiga. On the queue for tomorrow’s elections are Shisha, Flaker, Colorado, Skushis and Monkey tail. Elections are about exchange of influence: top-bottom; bottom-top. Voters are democracy’s kingmakers. Because like attracts like, Opioid voters will joyfully elect codeine councillors; they will bond with kerewa senators, bajinatu governors, Shisha presidents.
Debates won’t stop to rage on why we are not putting our leaders through sanity tests. Why are we not asking the system to test voters for drug use and abuse; for mental balance? Can INEC give us leaders who are sane when millions who make the choice are hooked to one form of strange thing or the other? And when millions of drug addicts choose the leadership of a country, what results should the world expect? That was my thought as I spent the better part of last week pondering on the codeine cough syrup abuse reports that have dominated the media.
We are just being unfair to codeine. It is not the sole wrecker of the present and the future. There are several others, including the unthinkable. From pit latrines to dirty gutters, addicts forage for highs. But codeine is the current champion because it allowed itself to be caught overdoing it in Kano, in Lagos and in other places. One drug seller in Lagos boasted to the BBC that he could sell one million cartons of codeine cough syrup in one week.
And, he indeed, in one single transaction sold 60 bottles of the syrup to BBC journalists in a hotel room. Codeine is not just a kidney destroyer; its abuse wrenches sanity from its addicts. It takes away wellness and implants mental illnesses of varying severity. Psychosis, schizophrenia and more!
If Benue likes, let it continue to call itself Nigeria’s food basket. That is the only trophy it holds. North-West’s Kano and Jigawa States are champions in their own way. Three million bottles of codeine cough syrup are consumed there daily. And the North-West is the vote basket of Nigeria. It has a total registered voter figure of 18,505,984. In 2015, that zone gave our president, General Muhammadu Buhari, 7,115,199 votes. Out of that figure, Kano state alone gave Buhari two million votes. And it is said to be the drug addiction capital of Nigeria.
We used to worry about Indian hemp, about cocaine and heroine, etcetera, etcetera. This cough syrup addiction is somehow. Do we have an epidemic of coughs? There is no cough epidemic but there is an explosion of cough syrup consumption. The NDLEA recently seized 24,000 bottles of codeine syrup from a single factory in Katsina.
The NDLEA, according to a BBC report, says that in Kano for instance, the epidemic “crosses all class, no matter the level – rich and poor, educated and illiterate, beggars and toddlers.” Kano has a current total registered voters figure of 5,149,070; Jigawa has 1,935,799. Now, Kano and Jigawa take three million bottles of codeine cough syrup every day. And they will vote in 2019.
Drug abuse rains are falling over our country. This addiction is not strictly a Northern problem. The drug takers are everywhere from Kano to Port Harcourt. Even the government of Lagos State has cried out that mental health is a major issue, no thanks to these substances. But where are the leaders to stop it? Or is the free-fall deliberate? How many of the millions of voters were normal and well in 2015, and how many abnormal ones will choose the next set of leaders for us in 2019?
Awon Omo Science Students are everywhere. The problem is national, even continental. It is in Chad, in Niger and in Ghana. So, let NAFDAC clamp down on drug companies in Nigeria; it won’t stop the cancer. The opioids have established routes in the Sahel. Like herdsmen and their terrorism, they are indigenous to these arid places and our borders are smuggling-friendly.
It is an emergency situation but I don’t know if our president knows. The BBC described drug addiction as “an epidemic that is destroying young lives across West Africa.” We need leaders with ideas to defeat this evil and its allies. But we are in a vicious cycle. Who chooses leaders in a democracy? Leaders cannot be better than their creators. Now, how many of Nigeria’s 73.9 million registered voters are not Omo Science Students?
Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai (APC, Borno) moved a motion late last year. He spoke the lyrics of Olamide: The eyes of the entire North are dirty. It is a big factory of drug addicts. There are “meaningless deaths” and devastation of many upper and middle class families in the region. The problem is destroying “even mothers in homes, as they use codeine and other drugs as an escape from their abusive relationships and invariably get hooked on them,” he said. The senator spoke about all the 19 northern states. What is happening in the south?
We are actually a nation on codeine. That should explain how we’ve managed to stave off the pains of our existence. Despite the pains, we are the happiest on earth. Money crisis for parents; admission palaver for children; unpaid salaries for father and mother; joblessness for graduate children. And the family must feed and live like human beings. Increased problems increase the dosage.
You forget your sorrows and pains when you are high on something. But Aroni won’t stay at home as long as Onikoyi won’t stop waging wars. As the pains come back, you seek better relief and take more of the pain killers. Increased dosage hooks the taker to take some more. And when he takes more, he increases the pace to psychosis. He starts living in his own world of dance without drumbeats. He lives a fantasy world complete with its own ‘painless’ realities. He falls in love with Olamide:
Kosewe, kosegbo; kosewe, kosegbo
Won ti po omi gutter po, oju ti dirty
Won ti po chemical po, awon omo Science Students…
Eemo wo’lu, eni ire lo, ore mi ti high, oh my God!
About 60 per cent of Nigeria’s voting population are young men and women. Majority of abusers of psycho-active substances are young people. A new generation of unwell persons is being bred, experts have warned. When a whole generation of voters has impaired relationship with reality, what leadership will it produce? Or what leadership has it produced? Like the kidneys of abusers of opioid stuffs, the country is failing but an army of (in)hailers won’t agree.
So many millions feel they are champions. They are Omo Science Students. They voted in 2015. They will vote in 2019. But you won’t vote because you are clean! Can you now understand why things are not what they seem; why reality is easily denied; why the unreal is the real; why the wise shocks with his belief in facades; why the eyes of tomorrow are dirty …And why the chorus is forever Kosewe, huh, Kosegbo….!?