Our Water Bottle Children Are Here, By Festus Adedayo
A rough survey I carried out indicates that this water bottle culture has become so pervasive among our youth that we could be having a pandemic on our hands. While the list of drugs known to previous generations included cocaine, heroin, marijuana (cannabis) – the latter now with different variants and cognomens – a host of other variants have since erupted.
Let us briefly shift our attention from the damning stories emanating from the political and shuttle into the social. Unfortunately, we can hardly divorce ourselves from the political as it dictates the social; and this is the reason why we must constantly interrogate the political. That probably was why great Peter Tosh, at the One Love Peace Concert held on April 22, 1978 at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica, was quoted as saying, “I am not a politician but I suffer its consequences.” The social is the manifestation of the political. Or vice versa.
In the week that just ended, some signposts of the fire which lies in wait to burn whatever bad or lack of home training, bad governance, ethnic mistrust and corruption will bequeath to heirs of the Nigerian state, reared their sulphuric heads. The signposts indicate that our society may soon explode right in our very before.
Curious about the Yoruba language-rendered high-tempoed hip-hop song of street boy musician, Temitope Adekunle, a.k.a. Small Doctor, entitled “Penalty”, my curiosity exploded when told that the fad among youth nowadays is to lace hard drugs in alcohol which they put in water bottles, clutched as youth identity at parties and social gatherings. Small Doctor, in the song, had sang of how the boys were “bringing water bottles into the dancehall” while the musician, who called himself Omo Iya Teacher, deploying beer parlour lingo, had enjoined the party crew to “yee ma sun, gba ko je!” (don’t be a dunce, so take it and swallow!)
A former Director General of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had given a scary prognosis of the water bottle menace. Kano, Kaduna, Borno and lately, Niger, according to him, are states “with the highest cases of constant drug abuse in the country”. He didn’t stop there. “If you take an estimate of 10 boys, particularly in Kano, seven will be on drugs… you will see young boys and girls openly sniffing substances like fuel, and over-abusing drugs meant for other purposes, like Tramadol and Codeine and smoking marijuana in the streets without care or fear of being arrested.”
A 2015 annual report of the NDLEA was released during the week too. According to it, Northern Nigeria recorded the highest incidence of these water bottle-related offences for the year, with a total of 2,205 persons, beating the South-West which recorded 1,785 arrests. The narcotics prevalent in those places, said the NDLEA, were cocaine, heroin and cannabis. These are WHO-classified narcotic substances and psychotropic substances. Tablets like rohypnol, tramadol, diazepam and lexotan, are said to be a common line of drug abused by Northern women. A former commander of the NDLEA in Kano told a reporter who conducted the investigation that about three million bottles of codeine used as drug is consumed daily in Kano State alone.
It deeply grieves one that society and government are throwing their hands in the air, in seeming helplessness at the menace of the water bottle culture. If the trend continues, we can predict where Nigeria would be in 20 years’ time… It seems Nigeria is being welcomed to the yesterday world of Pablo Escobar, going into the future.
Earlier, during the activities marking the World Teachers Day, some Northern state governors also expressed fears at the increasing rate of the water bottle culture. “I was at a community recently during one of my inspections to schools in the state and one of the elders of the community told me that nine out of the 11 teachers in that school are drug addicts,” he said.
During the week too, the music world was hit by the thunderbolt of the death of musical associates of hip hop musician, David Adeleke, aka Davido. The water bottle culture was implicated in the deaths. The victims were, Olugbenga Abiodun, aka DJ Olu and Chime Amaechi. They were both found dead last Saturday inside a BMW car in a garage in Banana Island, Lagos. Three days earlier, another Davido’s friend, Umeike Tagbo, had reportedly died on his birthday at a drinking bar located in the Lekki area after an alleged consumption of 10 shots of Tequila drug. DJ Olu and Chime’s remains were said to be oozing out blood from their nostrils and mouths. The Lagos police command said preliminary physical examination suggested deaths from drug overdose. Substances suspected to be drugs were also recovered by the police from the victims.
A rough survey I carried out indicates that this water bottle culture has become so pervasive among our youth that we could be having a pandemic on our hands. While the list of drugs known to previous generations included cocaine, heroin, marijuana (cannabis) – the latter now with different variants and cognomens – a host of other variants have since erupted. Rohypnol, a strong sedative also known as date rape drug; codeine, a cough suppressant; mephenthamine, alcohol, topiramate, methane from soak-aways, glue, petrol and such like narcotics are the drugs commonly consumed by our children, mostly on campuses. It is so bad that some students told me that universities would have to urgently comb their halls of residence to know the metastasis of this vice. Universities claimed to have been founded on religious foundations are said to be the most culpable in the water bottle culture. It is even said that drug consumption by female students on campuses has become so high that, fishing out a socially active girl who abstains from the habit is like seeking needle in a haystack.
Granted that drug consumption is not new among our youth, its alarmingly high consumption should be a source of worry to all of us. While some psychologists blame this pandemic water bottle culture on the hopelessness in the land (no job prospect, poverty and the like), some social scientists claim that the laxity of home training and drop in societal values are the major culprits.
The collapse of governance and the death of values in the home have pushed the water bottle culture on the upswing. Take this as a sampler: While being interviewed, one of the fathers of the late friends of Davido, in the thick of denying that his son was embroiled in drug usage, however didn’t see anything wrong in him dropping out of school at age 19 as a result of living a ‘good life.’
For the Davido gang in the musical and showbiz world, it is almost an anathema not to be involved in the water bottle culture. And it has proven to be the graveyard of many in this category. I remember the tragedy of the life of Brenda Fassie, a highly talented South African singer, so gifted that the great Nelson Mandela was fascinated with her song and danced with her on the dancehall. Born November 3, 1964 in Langa, Cape Town, Brenda was a wonder to watch. Her album, Memeza (Shout), which was released in 1997, is rated as the apogee of her musical success. It went platinum on the first day of its release. After Yvonne Chaka Chaka, arguably no musician from that country possessed her waltz and voice. She also made a huge contribution to Miriam Makeba’s “Sangoma”, as well as Harry Belafonte’s anti-apartheid song, “Paradise in Gazankulu”. Madiba and million others, I included, were her fans. She was once voted 17th in the Top 100 Great South Africans. Unfortunately, Brenda was a suicidal drug addict and addictively wedged to lesbianism.
Brenda was talented and possessed the tantrums of divas, so much that the Time magazine dubbed her the Madonna of the townships. The world, however, began to notice the hiccups in her life when her weird passion spilled into limelight in 1995. Brenda was found in a hotel room with the remains of her lesbian partner, who passed on during their orgy of lesbianism sauced with drug usage. She had died of an apparent overdose. Brenda herself must have gone in and out of rehab about 30 times and on one occasion, sure she had overcome drugs, screamed, “I’m going to become the Pope next year. Nothing is impossible!” A few years after, Brenda reportedly collapsed in her brother’s arms, flung her last cocaine straw on the kitchen floor of her home in Buccleuch, fell into a coma and died after suffering from brain damage. She passed on, on May 9, 2004, with the post mortem report even claiming that she was HIV-positive.
The collapse of governance and the death of values in the home have pushed the water bottle culture on the upswing. Take this as a sampler: While being interviewed, one of the fathers of the late friends of Davido, in the thick of denying that his son was embroiled in drug usage, however didn’t see anything wrong in him dropping out of school at age 19 as a result of living a ‘good life.’ “When I advised him as a father to go back to school, he told me that people that graduated are not making the type of money he was (making) so what’s the point?” he had told an interviewer. The 23-year old reportedly lived in Banana Island, with “flowing money”, celebrity status and even secured contracts with a South-West state government. So, why should his father care about him going to school? If you disaggregate the parental disposition and contribution to the death of this boy, you would find out that he died first in the hands of his parents and merely died physically afterwards.
It deeply grieves one that society and government are throwing their hands in the air, in seeming helplessness at the menace of the water bottle culture. If the trend continues, we can predict where Nigeria would be in 20 years’ time. Gradually, we are being welcomed into the world of Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, the Colombian drug czar and narco-terrorist, whose drug cartel was said to have supplied an estimated 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States while he loomed large at the zenith of his drug career. It seems Nigeria is being welcomed to the yesterday world of Pablo Escobar, going into the future.
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.