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Editor's note: In this piece, a media strategist and public affairs analyst, Tona Bakare, writes about the prevalent drug abuse among some youths in Ikire, Irewole local government area of Osun state and proffered solutions to the menace.
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Grief has a way of making one think. Last week, I went home to Ikire to mourn the passage of my elder sister, Ronke Oyeyode (nee Bakare).
She joined the angels after losing the battle to cancer. Death is mocked because he could not do her a thing again. She has transformed from the ordinary mortal to the land of the glorious immortal. Death is thus put to shame.
Her life and time is not the subject of this piece (There are so many things going on in my head now that won’t allow the kind of concentration), rather it is about the impending death of Ikire. The place of my birth is on the death bed and her future is bleak.
Do not misunderstand me. It is not about the deplorable state of the roads within the community. It has nothing to do with the epileptic power supply or lack of basic amenities of life that were taken for granted in the seventies. That was a time public taps were running, roads were smooth and electricity was steady.
The deplorable condition of things today is common symptoms of irresponsible leadership and is not peculiar with Ikire. It is actually prevalent in most communities in Osun and beyond. I was in Ife, the cradle of Yoruba culture, and ashamed successive administrations in Osun usually looked away and failed to give that ancient city the attention it deserved.
The inner-city roads are more like ponds and would better serve the community with canoes. Since 1999, I doubt if any repair work has been done on those roads. What you have are carcasses of Western Region public works and relics of Uncle Bola Ige administration of Old Oyo state.
We seemed to be under a potent spell of lying politicians who never kept their campaign promises. They promised heaven on earth but ended making the world scarier than the hellfire. That is not even my concern here.
My concern is not about the chaotic present. My grouse is that the future of my home town cannot be guaranteed. Why? Just wait. Jose Rizal, the Philippine freedom fighter said; “the youth is the hope of our fatherland.” Conversely, the fatherland is hopeless if the youth has no certain future.
Here is my concern. Each time I followed a sympathizer who came to condole with the family over our loss to the road a few meters away from the house, an offensive smell of cannabis rented the air. At first, I ignored it as a one-off. After many stops at the spot, it became apparent that it is a regular occurrence. It is a two-four-seven thing.
This made me probe further. I discovered that the small kiosk nearby is the joint where the persistent foul smell emanated from. The place was crowded by mostly teenagers who may be oblivious of that their future is in jeopardy.
On one occasion, I thought the game was up for the gang when a police vehicle pulled over. To my bewilderment, the four policemen who came down the vehicle happily exchanged pleasantries with the boys, paid, and collected some of the stuff sold at the ‘joint’. One even collected lighted stuff from one of the boys and took a long puff at it before they drove away.
Further enquiries revealed there are about 15 other kiosks in the community. I counted 9 of them and observed boys smoke their brains out.
In those days, there were young men who smoked banned substances in the community. However, it was not as widespread as it has become. Such activities were shrouded in secrecy. Those caught smoking became about derision and a source of shame to their families.
The open display of this thief-of-the-future and the obvious absence of any effort to stop it suggest that the community has grudgingly accepted the situation as normal. One middle-aged bike man who took me around alluded to this when he said there was nothing anyone can do about it.
Many of the boys involved in this wanton drug abuse are said to have taken to a life of crime. They obviously have little or no education, or any marketable skill. Yet, they need money to oil their expensive habit.
This explains the increasing rate of robbery in the community. Many students of UniOsun who returned to the community on resumption after COVID-19 school lockdown met their hostels emptied. Items ‘safely’ kept were removed. Accusing fingers have been pointed at the “boys from the joint.”
The current somewhat peaceful sleep the residents now enjoy is attributable to the vigilante group recently set up. I consider this as a stop-gap. It is not an enduring solution. The drug has a way of emboldening addict. They may become more daring with time, result to arms and become more violent.
It is my consideration that the first thing to do is to clear the community of drugs, arrest the drug barons and their lackeys to make them face the law. The leadership of the community can work with the police to get this done. It is because we are quiet that the situation persists.
The boys who are now hooked to drugs and banned substances need reorientation and redirection. This can be spearheaded by the Irewole local government council. Skill acquisition programme in various trades can also be introduced to engage the mind of the young. The future of the community can only be sure if the youth of today is prepared for tomorrow.
Many may assume it is none of their business. After all, their children are not among the “weed boys.” The truth is that their children tucked away in a distant land may have no home to return to or come back to a madhouse. It is high time we secured the future of Ikire. This can be done by redirecting the energy of these misguided young men from a life of drug to a productive engagement.
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