Drugs, the widows and us

Ladies and gentlemen, hobos and tramps, bug-eyed mosquitoes and bowlegged ants!I’m about to tell you a story I’ve never heard before, so pull up a chair and sit on the floor.Admission is free, so pay at the door.  One fine day, in the middle of the night, two, dead boys got up to fight.Back to back, they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other.A deaf policeman heard the noise, and saved the lives of the two dead boys. If you don’t believe my lies are true, ask the blind man, he saw it too!- Kristin Beckstrand from Brentwood California USA.

A very good friend commonly called Uncle UST shared the above, and it captured my admonition for this week, it affects us, you and me…the oxymoron that goes on in the head of an abused person.June 26, was the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. I was at a local function with a heart, organized by a wonderful group called YARAC in Jos, Plateau State, the beat of the programme was listening to ex-drug addicts.

I could not say thank you enough to Professor Tor Iorapu and his team, as I sat down and reflected.It was a gathering with the usual crowd – politicians, press and pastors/imans were missing in action, and there was no money to share. However facing a nation of 150million is various forms of abuse.Drug abuse, power abuse, stomach abuse in Ekiti, Boko Haram and its most recent abuse in Abuja, striking at the EMAB plaza and taking away an ally and friend Sulieman Bissalah, pen man and editor par excellence.It was sad as I pondered about the calamitous consequences of drugs on Nigeria that no one cares about, all the preventable deaths each year from overdoses. Illicit drugs spawning criminal violence and weakening Nigeria’s essential institutions.

How simple drugs like the Benyln cough syrup, or how the drink La Casera has become opium in places like Kano, Kaduna and many Northern states.Did I forget to tell us about the opium fields in Bauchi, Gombe, and Zamfara states, in Ibadan and many villages in Ogun, Oyo, Osun, and Kogi states? And we ask what the drug agency, NDLEA does.Not that one blames them totally, as they are equally abused with poor funding.

I shake my head, at a nation that continues to be abused by its own, with consent of its own, and divided by its own. As I hurt deep inside at the abuse Nigerians go through, swallowing Panadol for pains that are not necessarily fault of theirs and taking paracetamol for self-inflicted ones, I was jolted back by the words below.
“We have been advised to avoid crowded places – Churches, Mosques, markets, shopping malls, parks, airports, schools, some ministries, hospitals, weddings, funerals, workshops and conferences. Those that have died or caught up in bombings were not gallivanting or looking for trouble o! They were at work…UN House, on their way to work…Nyanya, in their shops, shopping and waiting for passengers or just passing by …EMAB Plaza. Nobody will see a pit and enter with their eyes open.

Oh, I forgot? What about the famous Abuja traffic and hold ups at checkpoints then? How do we avoid those? May Allah protect us from the demons amongst us!As I said a soft amen to the prayer to Ramati Bako’s lamentation, I shifted focus to the victims of all the blasts, the insecurity, and I was saddened on how we are gradually losing it as a nation.
And who are these victims that are so unsung, apart from one story and another – widows, wives of dead soldiers, dead policemen. The widows of dead Sulieman Bisallah, Col. Salisu Kabiru and Okonkwo would to go through pains while a host of us, just wish them well and move on.The impacts on these women also become another case open for not only drug abuse but also other hidden abuses.
So I watched as the International Widows’ Day was marked and no one bothered.We cared more about Ekiti, and PDP’s miraculous victory and Fayemi’s acceptance of defeat. But no one thought of stronger action to empower our women, promote gender equality and end all forms of violence against women.

No one in these climes thinks of our widows beyond the politicians PR stunt, and the Church/Mosque pitiful pittance. They are absent in statistics, unnoticed by researchers, neglected by national and local authorities and mostly overlooked by civil society organizations. “The situation of widows is, in effect, invisible”, says UN’s Ban Ki Moon

Yet abuse of widows and their children constitutes one of the most serious violations of human rights and obstacles to development today; enduring extreme poverty, ostracism, violence, homelessness, ill health and discrimination in law and custom.This week, one woman will be widowed, denied her right of inheritance and land rights, degraded and put in life-threatening mourning and burial rites and other forms of abuse.
Let us empower our widows through access to healthcare, education, decent work, full participation in decision-making and public life, and give them lives free of violence and abuse, give them a chance to build a secure life after bereavement. Importantly, creating opportunities for widows to protect their children and avoid the cycle of inter-generational poverty, deprivation and abuse of not only drugs, but abuse of esteem.Nigeria battles with these social issues, too long invisible, ‘undiscussed’, and ignored, the effects on our society, how bad. Only time would tell?

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