Sunday, March 26, 2023

Our silent enemies

Whether one is a king, queen, prince, princess, courtiers, belle, or the beast, life mediates human experiences in more ways than one.

• June 29, 2021
Illicit drugs
Illicit drugs used to illustrate the story

It is a fact that life is generally a dialectic between what we have and what we hope for, what is lost and what is regained. In this dialectic, life is not only a sad spectacle; but it is also the theatre in which life’s experiences are brought to the eternal audience of time. 

In life, every actor addresses his or her own character, bringing the promises of their roles to the cheers and jeers of the audience. Whether one is a king, queen, prince, princess, courtiers, belle, or the beast, life mediates human experiences in more ways than one and broadcasts them in ways that provide satisfaction or dissatisfaction. 

Those who find satisfaction in the rich opportunities that life offers them often find security in the faithful anchors of their wealth, aware of the enjoyment that is intrinsic to the good life. Truly, life is good to them. Yet, there are the poor – the wretched of the earth – who worry about the possibilities of survival, while being whipped by hunger and the fears of being swallowed up in the belly of their worries like Jonah. 

Even to them, and to many more, who find themselves in the depths of their fears, with no hope of defeating hunger, caving in to the fears of the ending to life becomes the new normal. There are those who merely seek temporary escape from hunger by coming under the influence of drugs to become euphoric. Here, life lends itself out as the setting of experiences mediated only by opioids. Welcome the poor who, in treating their lives as sites for euphoria, embark on drug-fueled frenzies to numb their pains, like Dr Gregory House of David Shore’s medical drama series, ‘House’.

So, by now, you should have a sense of the point that I am driving at.

But, if you don’t, I am talking about the silent enemy of hunger that attacks the poor of our country – those for whom life has not happened, and is not happening, and who battle the silent enemy, almost to the point of surrender – with brutish savagery. 

Somewhere in our country today someone goes to bed at night hungry and wakes up in the morning hungrier, with no hope of food. In many places, as in many homes, the poor are negotiating the dialectic between hunger and survival, what they crave for and the answers they don’t have to address the hunger question. 

Our country has become the theatre in which the poor occupy front row seats, weep and beg for alms, while our rulers idle-by and watch with a certain disinterest that is typical of the audience of Martin Esslin’s theatre of the absurd. The condition of the poor or the hunger they encounter is of no moment to them. For all they care, the poor should either condemn themselves like the Greek mythical figure, Sisyphus, to the task of pushing the stone up the mountain of their miseries or sod off and die by suicide.

Am I unduly harsh to our rulers here or have I simply stacked up lies against them, in that blame game akin to hanging the dog with a bad name?

The answer is no.

Mounting evidence suggests that our rulers are selfish. Last year when the pandemic coronavirus forced our country and its people into hiding, the poor were locked out of the streets, only to be stalked by the hunger that inhabited their abodes. The selfishness of our rulers didn’t allow them to show concern for their welfare. 

Rather, they yielded to the dangerous attitude of caring only for themselves. This: amid the ravaging coronavirus, they were oblivious to the sufferings of the poor and the hunger that stalked them. Even where they were aware of the sufferings, their lack of compassion and penchant for devaluing the poor helped them in ratcheting palliatives to secret warehouses, far from the prying public. 

Needless to add that the condition of the poor was the least of their worries. In other words, governance to our rulers is about caring for their own interests and not about caring for the poor and those for whom care, concern, compassion and love are desiderata.

All of the foregoing points to the attempts of our rulers at filling up their hollow beings, while emptying out our commonwealth.

Let’s proceed further.

While hunger stalks homes and takes the poor as prisoners, another silent enemy is capturing territories, destroying lives, and taking the toll on our economy – illicit drugs. Simply put, our country has a serious opioid problem. In the small hours of a certain November day three years ago, operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, stormed an illegal drug-producing factory near Owerri and recovered over 78 kilogrammes of methamphetamine – a notorious recreational drug with dangerous euphoric effects. The meth bust that year raised and still raises questions about the growing use of illicit drugs in our country and the easy way stimulants (like ephedrine), which go into the production of meth, hit our streets. 

Also, a few months ago, the agency seized cocaine and heroin with a street value of N30 billion. It remains its biggest haul yet. As the agency steps up efforts in combatting drug cartels, experts warn of the increasing use of opioids, aphrodisiacs, recreational drugs and stimulants like ” cocaine, cannabis, heroin, crack, smack, loud, skunk, viagra drinks, koboko, SK, Kondo, Arizona, Tramadol, Ephedrine, Cough Syrups, and Codeine”. 

One expert, for instance, warns that our country faces imminent fertility problems if the illegal use of aphrodisiac isn’t addressed: “The consumer of these locally produced aphrodisiacs may be risking their future fertility – and even life. They are only courting death and creating employment for gravediggers”.

Our country is already experiencing the consequences of substance abuse with the increasing rate of drug-related crimes, prostitution, delinquency, addiction, and mental illnesses. The murder of the Lagos businessman, Usifo Ataga, and the confession of the killer, Chidimma Ojukwu, appears to give credence to the positions of experts that drugs play significant roles in the increasing rate of violent crimes in our country today.

The question many would ask is: what is the government doing about the drug problem? Supporters of this government would invariably proclaim that the NDLEA, having stepped up the plate, now has a handle on the drug problem. All well and good; but all will be well and good if the government securitises hunger and illicit drug consumption and makes them issues of national security. By securitizing hunger, drug use and substance abuse what the government will be doing in effect is to frame them as threats to national security. When practices that threaten the peace, security, stability and cohesion of the country are framed and transformed into security subjects, they invariably elicit “extraordinary security measures” to combat them – our silent enemies. 

After all our Constitution provides in Section 14(1)(b) that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”; and I dare add, borrowing from Section 17(1)(c), that “government actions shall be humane”.

This government can only begin to show how humane it is when it confronts and defeats the silent enemies of the weak and vulnerable in our midst.

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