Nigerian Urban Culture and Drugs – A Looming Apocalypse I

In many of our indigenous cultures, smoking and drinking alcohol are or used to be accepted as ‘Manly’, while the smoking of a tobacco pipe is what every old woman/grandmother did. I remember many old aunties in my mother’s village, Otobi, Otukpo, many moons ago, who would heartily puff on tobacco pipes. They’d hug you with that curiously comforting scent of sweat and earth, mixed with that of homegrown, smoke-dried tobacco. That relative idyll would soon be shattered by the advent of wee-wee – the locally preferred name for Marijuana, which I consider to be the precursor to hard drugs and controlled substances abuse. It was, and still is to a sizeable extent, the preferred drug for social outcasts and ‘bad people’. Quite often, the result was the crazed young man in rags or naked and caked in layers of dirt, with unintended dreadlocks smudged and caked with even more dirt, roaming the streets and eating from waste bins. It was the ‘taba o b’obi’ the bad tobacco, as the Idoma would call it. Apparently, things are changing: Wee-wee is no longer smoked in hiding and many young men have taken to the drug, illicit by law, with youthful, green-horned exuberance. For many millennials, being a wee-wee smoker carries no special, negative connotations; it’s just another recreational drug, but for many Gen Xers like me in this country, it remains the ‘bad tobacco’, a taboo, to be indulged in hiding. A drug of choice for society’s underbelly. That perception had been drummed in too well and isn’t easy to set aside for social correctness.  But this is not about Marijuana as such, but more about the pervasiveness of psychoactive drugs leading to their mundanity and social acceptance. About pervasiveness meaning the acceptance of the failure of law enforcement. About Police and law enforcement ‘on the take’. About the fear of an escalation of drug use and abuse to the level of an epidemic. About impending drug-related violence in a land already too violent. About acceptance meaning parental failure to offer our progeny, a tried, tested and ‘safe’ route through life.

In a land where chaos remains the order and where we can’t even control motor traffic on our roads, are we tottering, helplessly, into a drug apocalypse? I will address some of the ‘matters arising’ in the continuation.

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