By Dr Ugoji Egbujo

Perhaps, the gods are no longer amused. 

Long before Buhari and Idiagbon prescribed the death penalty for drug trafficking, the Igbo abhorred narcotics and quick wealth.

The village vigilantes of the ‘70s and ‘80s sought out local drug peddlers and drug addicts and enforced taboos.

This homily is neither an endorsement of draconian decrees nor a prescription of jungle justice.

This is to mourn the death of taboos.The bible says: what a man sows; that, he shall reap.

The bible says: those who kill by the sword shall die by the sword. The bible speaks in tongues and parables. The bible emphasizes rewards, recompense and retribution.

Let those who wait for the interpretation of easy parables remember that our ancestors warned they could be trivializing the dowries paid on their mother’s head.

When the ’90s came with a surge in drug trafficking and a crazy appetite for sudden wealth, the decay began.

Advance fee fraudsters sought to have the money without taking the huge risk inherent in drug trafficking.

They had seen narcotics transport youths to the gallows and transport youths to ill-gotten fame and societal adulation. The twilight of the ‘80s and the dawn of the ’90s was the beginning.

That was when the relegation of hard work and honesty to the back pews in the church and the sidelines of the community started.

Fraudsters in and out of government, in and out of the country, became role models and cornered the prized honours and chieftaincy titles. That was the onset of the rot.

Economic deprivation spread. A quiet dismantling of the taboos to enthrone the god of mammon proceeded imperceptibly.

Soon, evil-doers became role models. And they lacked compunction, the realisation that they are impostors.

Everywhere they went they flaunted wealth and taught wealth generation. The justification was that drug trafficking was business. And advance feed fraud was reparation.

Religious leaders preached prosperity that included inordinate wealth as the manifestation of the miraculous and reaped huge rewards.

The sanctification was happening on all fronts. Notice-me philanthropy became the hyssop that washed away all sins.

After all, they didn’t force anyone to buy drugs and didn’t teach the whites greed or drug habits, didn’t kill.

Nigeria was a transit centre. Drugs came from Brazil and Columbia and passed through on their way to Asia. Worries about Nigeria graduating from a transit station to a consumption centre were dismissed.

In our usual exceptionalism, it was said that Nigerians were too wise, too shrewd to be drug addicts. That was exactly what we felt about suicide bombing, too. 

Recently the NDLEA said there were two million drug addicts in Kano. Stories shave been told of women in Gombe addicted to sniffing menstrual pads. The drug problem has become a national epidemic. In the last couple of weeks, it’s been the story of Nkpurummiri—Meth crystals. Nkpurummiri the reports said were the product of laboratories built by Mexicans in Nigeria. Some Mexicans identified a market and built laboratories. That’s where we are now.

Our youths living on hallucinogens for dubious euphoria and false sexual stamina.

Nkpurummiri and its cousins — Guzoro etc— lend the consumers cocaine euphoria, leaving them sleepless and overheating on a high, ultimately converting them to violent drug-addled, drug-dependent zombies.

Frightened by the depth of permeation of Nkpurimmiri and the imminence of its calamitous consequences, many Igbo communities have begun sensitizing the youths against drug habits and addiction. These efforts are commendable.

In many of these communities, the vigilantes have resumed. Junkies and drug peddlers are rounded up, tied to stakes and flogged. The attempt is to whip them back to sanity and a sense of responsibility.

This homily doesn’t endorse corporal punishments of any sort and definitely, not the kind extracted from jungle justice literature. But the attempt to recreate order, no matter how crude, must be recognized.Amongst those most vociferous in instituting zero-tolerance to drugs in the villages are successful drug traffickers living abroad and those who do not see any evil in the narcotic trade.

In many of the villages, neither the elders nor the religious leaders dare to preach against drug trafficking. The sermons and counsels are deliberately tame. Peddlers are told that no one is against the trade.

The advice is that they must take their business elsewhere. Somewhere far away from their hometowns. The communal lack of courage to condemn the trade while whipping drug addicts isn’t shocking. Drug traffickers have become the elite, role models.

The existing morality is that anything done to make money is permissible if it doesn’t bring harm to self, family and immediate home community.Before the white man came, our people used to be scared of spirits.

They watched their actions and worried about the wages of sin. Spirits were believed to be the enforcers of moral codes. Unlike the western criminal justice systems, the spirits saw in secret and saw everything.

Our people believed that what people did even in secret faraway places spirits could earn and bring bad fortunes to them and their families.

The morality was that people reaped what they sowed. The White man’s criminal justice depends on evidence and proof and allowed arguments and exculpatory sophistries. That system has given us room to play hide and seek, to live hypocritically.

So drug traffickers pay for the containment of drug addiction in their villages even while recruiting young boys into the trade.

We must join hands and tackle Nkpurummri. But we shall not do it like the child who when asked to take bath begins to wash only his tummy. To understand how water entered the stalk of our pumpkin and Nkpurummiri seized the minds of our youths, we must count our teeth with our tongue. This is not a rotten few. This isn’t a finger attracting oil and staining the rest. This is communal complicity in society picking up a wasp with its head and starting to get stung. We are all responsible The homily is therefore not directed at drug traffickers. It’s not aimed at hypocrisy. It’s an exhortation to the communities fighting drug addiction to recreate societal values and restore drug trafficking to the status of taboo where it once belonged. Let’s tackle the problem from its roots. So that it shall not be said that we chased rats while our house burned. So that it shall not be said that we reaped what we sowed. O ji ofo ga ala — good conscience protects. Eziokwu bu ndu — honesty is life. For far too long we have beat drums for madmen to dance.

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