The great German thinker, Karl Marx, might have had Nigeria in mind when he postulated years ago that religion is the opium of the masses. The religious opium is visible and active all over Africa. Marx might as well had in mind, countries in Asia and the Middle East and other places where people eat, drink and sleep on religion, when he propounded that thesis. The nation’s religious opium is strong and working. That is why some people can do anything to defend their faith. The religious opium appears to be the most active and combustive in Nigeria that should be controlled by the government before it is too late.
In Nigeria, religion has been turned into a thriving mega business. That is why most of their founders now fly with private jets. Most of them have invested in the development of university education by founding some private universities. It is no longer about holiness and winning converts for both local and foreign gods. Religion has gone beyond that. Religion has crept into politics, education and even the economy. It is even getting into sports. It has intruded into marriage and other relationships. It has invaded the media, popular culture and the extant growing film industry. Nigerians relish religion and build palatial places of worship to the extent that our streets are dotted with worship centres.
In fact, there is so much religion in our streets than in our hearts. That is why some people can kill even when not provoked or at the slightest provocation. One of the evils of the religious opium, especially from the received religions, is that they divide the people the more wherever they go.
They don’t unify the people, which they supposed to do. African religion is more tolerant and unifying than the borrowed ones. Apart from the religious opiate, Nigerians are fast graduating into the use of other opiates that tranquilize them as that of religion.
One of the most popular opiates in the land now is betting and all forms of lottery. Betting is a thriving industry in the country, especially in big cities like Lagos, Kano, Onitsha and Port Harcourt. It has no age restriction as men, women and young people engage in this money game for quick wins. Blame it on the rising unemployment in the land. Blame it on laziness or greed and the search for shortcut or the easy way out of the excruciating economic system. The betting opium is killing Nigerian youths gradually. It is creating a generation of Nigerian youths that will no longer appreciate hard work.
They bet even with their shoes and clothes to win mega bucks. Okada riders, market women and petty traders are patronizing the growing betting casinos all over the country. With as little as N100 some of these youths are hooked on betting. At times they win some thousands of naira, but most times, they lose. It is not surprising that some Nigerian youths up north have engaged in tramadol, codeine, sniffing of gums, animal wastes and urine, as new found opiates to escape from existential reality. They always feel high when they take these drugs. They are addicted to them.
Most youths down south can easily get high on marijuana, alcohol and other addictive substances that are easily available. There are so many other opiates Nigerians indulge in with great relish that there is no point naming them one by one or listing them in one article. Before the BBC aired the ‘Sweet, Sweet Codeine’ documentary recently, the growing drug epidemic in some parts of the country is public knowledge. The government and the drug and food regulatory agencies are aware of it.
As a result of the documentary, which highlighted the growing drug addiction in the country, the government immediately banned importation of codeine as an active ingredient for making cough syrups. This measure, though good, may not achieve the desired result because the youths will still find other opiates to satisfy their graving to feel high. Even the reported closure of some pharmaceutical companies because they allegedly distributed the drugs to unauthorized persons is not the right approach to solve the problem. Any attempt, therefore, to criminalize a pharmaceutical company based on the codeine epidemic cannot solve the addiction problem. Government can recall the affected drugs, which it has started doing. The solution to the codeine epidemic and the abuse of other substances lies in the rehabilitation of the affected youths. Government must enlighten the youths on the dangers of drug abuse.
It must create jobs for unemployed Nigerians. Youth unemployment is a time bomb waiting to explode very soon. Although unemployment is a global problem, it appears that of Nigeria is more acute. Nigeria as at third quarter of 2017 had 18 million unemployed people, of which the majority are youths. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), global youth unemployment figure is said to have risen to 66 million. The UN agency also said that 145 million youths that are working live in abject poverty. Like unemployment, drug addiction is also a global problem.
About 29.5 million people suffer from drug abuse globally, according to 2017 World Drug Report. About 46 percent of young adults in Nigeria are said to have used drugs at least once in their lifetime. In Nigeria, about 500,000 bottles of codeine are reportedly consumed by Nigerian youths on a daily basis. Besides codeine, there is high intake of tramadol, rohypnol, marijuana and other opioids in the country. Beyond the drug and unemployment problems, the herdsmen killings in some parts of the country have almost assumed an alarming proportion. The killing of Nigerians on a daily basis in recent weeks should worry the government that promised to ensure the security of all Nigerians before it came to power.
The government also promised to create millions of jobs for the unemployed. Three years after, Nigerians are still burdened by rising insecurity and joblessness. Thousands of Nigerians have lost their lives in these killings while many unemployed youths have taken to drugs and other opiates to escape from reality. The political elite must rise up and tackle the insecurity and unemployment problems facing the country. There is a nexus between insecurity and rising unemployment. There is also an inseparable link between youth joblessness and codeine and other opiates addiction. This is the crux of the matter. Government should stop running away from the nation’s existential and foundational problems. Government promised us restructuring and yet it is running away from it. Where is the APC restructuring template unveiled some months ago with much ceremony? Nigeria is ripe for restructuring. Nigerians want political, economic and structural restructuring.
This is the truth this government cannot run away from. Nigeria is ripe for state police, lets this government stop playing the ostrich. In fact, Nigeria is ripe for everything including electronic voting.