As the United Nations declares June 26 of every year as World Drugs Day, Christ against Drug Abuse Ministry, a non-governmental organisation led by its National Coordinator, Dr. Dokun Adedeji, will stage a walk to increase awareness about the scourge, drug abuse and how to deal with it. Funke Olaode reports
Drug abuse and addiction is an age-long war that has survived many generations. What are its effects on youths, adults and future generation? And why are government policies to combat the scourge counterproductive? In 2007, reports said the drug trade in the world worth $322 billion and the global trade in cocaine same year was about $95 billion.
Without doubt, many societies still grapple with the effects of drug and there seems to be no end in sight winning the war. Government and its agencies spend fortunes every year battling the use of drugs with some of the wealth that could be utilised to better the lives of citizens. The fact still remains that the impact drug abuse has on the communities is enormous and the negative effect on the society at large is obvious.
For the past 26 years, Christ against Drug Abuse Ministry (CADAM), a non-governmental organisation founded by Pastor Odeyemi of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (Ikeja family) has been at the fore front creating awareness on the harms drug abuse and addiction and how it can be tamed.
Buying into the vision of Odeyemi to take drug addicts off the streets and make them a better person is former Chief Medical Director of Cadbury Nigeria Plc., Dr. Dokun Adedeji. Adedeji joined CADAM in 1992 as a member of RCCG. Adedeji’s lives in comfort and life has been good to him. But he has always seen life beyond ‘self’ as he has launched out in the last 25 years helping humanity especially drug addicts. “CADAM started as a Drug Addict Rehabilitation Ministry with the aim to pray for people who have drug issues, families and even go to the hospital to pray. When I joined in 1992 I just felt visitation to selected group of people would not be enough that we shouldn’t wait for people to get into drugs before we get involved. We embarked on advocacy and that was when the scope changed,” he recalled
Having redefined the scope of the ministry, Adedeji and his team stormed various drug joints where he cajoled and advised the addicts. The addicts advised him that instead of occasional viitation the team should get a center for then so that they can stay away from joint. In 1996, the NGO got a place somewhere in Epe and started a residential programme where they rehabilitate addicts. “We have acquired three centers now: Two for men and one for women. It is a one year programme fully free boarding. The first six months is treatment and the next six months is for skill acquisition for those who want to learn one thing or the other while students spend only six months. Even university sent students to us and we rehabilitate them and even write reports giving them a clean bill of health. These students go back and graduate. Some of the addicts we pick off the street went back to school and become pastors, lawyers, medical doctors and equally excel in other fields. When they graduate they form an alumni to check on themselves as a support group. Drug addiction is not a limitation but a challenge that can be overcome,” said Adedeji.
The extent at which drugs have eaten deep into the fabric of society according to Adedeji is alarming. “Today, one of the most scary thing for me is the abuse of drugs, substance and addiction. I remember a group of 10 undergraduates were picked and tested randomly, eight had tested positive to drug abuse. I tell you if they take ten young people in Nigeria today it will be ten over ten who have tasted one form of drug or the other because the type of drugs that are available today is common; prescription drugs, illicit drugs marijuana, cocaine, heroin, the alcohol is the most common and because it is socially acceptable people think it is normal when the drunkard begins to mess up. Normally, you shouldn’t be buying these prescriptions off the counter but in Nigeria reverse is the case. There is one that is even called ‘gegemu’ which is usually planted in the compound to drive away snakes. In one of the universities we visited the students told us that they sometimes cook these ‘gegemu’ leaves such as native herbs and drink or dry the leaves and mix it with drinks.”
For Adedeji, the awareness about drug abuse should not be left in the hands of government agencies or a few NGO alone, but the awareness should be the whole society. Parents must be involved, the larger societies, religious organization, and anywhere where there are a lot of people because it is becoming extremely scary the way it is going.
The identified factors according to Adedeji is peer pressure asw some of these students go to the university mentally unprepared. “You send a 14 or 15 years old to the university where she/he doesn’t know why he is there in the first instance. Family dysfunction as both parents leave home in the morning seeking for ‘daily bread’ while their wards are left in the care of nanny, domestic staff, drivers. The rate of employment is high as too many young people are doing nothing and as the popular saying that ‘an idle hand is the workshop for the devil.’ For each candidate we see and interview they all have the same reason of how they get into drugs.”
In spite of several measures being made by government to nib this scourge in the bud, Adedeji is of the opinion that the war is far from being over. “In 2013 Nigeria used to be a transit nation so we thought until we found later that Nigeria is a user nation. What the agencies and international bodies have done is they gave all empowerment in terms of mechanism, infrastructure to NDLEA to arrest people at the airport. So the drug that don’t get out are resident here and still get used. Sometimes they claim that they destroy them but the ashes still find itself back into the system due to corruption. The NDLEA is a good agency but not empowered enough to handle this. I think the agency has six divisions now Drug Demand Reduction (DDR). It should be enabled because the current reality must change the dynamics of our war against drug.
“NDLEA has become like a government parastatals. There must be an inter-ministerial collaboration; that is the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Employment, Sports and people that share the same relationship to understand the dynamics and fundamental of drugs and what is doing to the society so they can collaborate and work together. There must always be an inter-sectorial collaboration. Does NDLEA work with NAFDAC? Does it work with Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria? Why it is necessary? Some of these drugs are bought across the counter and overdose of it can lead to addiction and too much addiction or overdose can lead to acute heart attack which can kill within a twinkle of an eye. That is why on Monday June 26 which is declared by United Nations as Drugs Day, CADAM is going to have a short walk from MITV to Ikeja Shoprite down to Lateef Jakande, Cadbury and ACME Road to RCCG in Ikeja starting from 8am in the morning to increase awareness about this looming epidemic.”
Sustaining the ministry to pay the staff and take care of the welfare of its in-house students is by the grace of God. But Adedeji gives kudos to the wife of the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor (Mrs.) Folu Adeboye who has committed her huge resources both in cash and kind to the ministry. “She is being extremely supportive. Her husband, Pastor Enoch Adeboye gave us the land and his wife Mrs. Adeboye is currently building our permanent rehabilitation center in Araga, Epe with about eight structures so that our students can be a bit comfortable. She is also instrumental to the parent church giving us money every quarter to pay staff, feed the people, cloth them. For instance, we are trying to build a gym center. A friend of mine promised to build a sports center with basketball and volley ball courts. We are trying to get international affiliation and help from kind hearted Nigeria so we can increase our capacity building.”
Does Adedeji find fulfilment in all of this? “This is what has kept me going. My chairman at Cadbury asked the same question in 2002 when I won an International Cadbury Award, a programme instituted for Cadbury staff across the world called ‘employees’ involvement in community development.’ It gives me absolute satisfaction in the sense that when you see people who have lived under the Ikeja Bridge and turn around and become a good person. When you see them in their offices as lawyers, accountants, doctors. Some of them that are working in CADAM today are graduates of this ministry. These are people that have been writing off and somehow you are part of their stories. It is overwhelming. The most important thing in life is not about money or one’s position but the ability to touch humanity,” he said.