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The paradox of Junkies; quarantine might be the ultimate solution by Bill Kaping’a

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The so-called Junkies have been hitting the news lately, well……. for all the wrong reasons. They’ve been wreaking havoc in the Capital Lusaka breaking into motor vehicles and getting away with valuable items, ransacking market stalls and helping themselves with merchandise, staging robberies and of course, ‘baptizing’ innocent victims with unprintable or literally beating up anyone who dares cross their paths.

But who are these junkies, anyway?

They are basically ‘graduates’ from our streets. In their early or late teens, they’ve previously eked a living on the streets doing odd jobs, asking for alms from would-be good Samaritans or indeed eating from dumpsites. However, the Junkies are now in their adolescence and can’t stand the shame of engaging in any of the aforementioned activities as they’ve done in the past. They’ve now retreated to the shanty compounds and organized themselves into gangs and go about brutalizing and terrorizing innocent members of the public whilst high on drugs or inebriated, hence the moniker – the Junkies!

The Copperbelt province, Kitwe in particular, is yet to witness an escalation of such a conundrum as the potential Junkies are being kept busy at the fast-diminishing Black mountain where they are busy scavenging for chrome which they can at least sale at a good profit! But alas, once the portion that has been allocated to the community is exhausted, we shudder at the thought of what these youngsters may resort to.

Following numerous complaints from members of the public, Minister of Homes Affairs Hon. Jack Mwimbu issued a directive to the police last week to immediately put their boots on the ground and flush out these misfits. And as sure as night follows the day, agile men and women in combat gear swiftly moved in and did the needful.

Although general members of the affected communities can finally breathe a sigh of relief…….at least for now, the problem is far from over. Unless we get to the root cause of the problem; we can fill up the entire Chimbokaila prison with all the ragamuffins but many more Junkies shall surely arise in the nearest future and come back to haunt us.

As earlier alluded to, the junkies are obviously ‘graduates’ from our streets – they are former street kids! If we are to nip the problem in the bud, we must adopt a fire brigade approach start providing practical solutions to street kids before they evolve into junkies otherwise it may be too late. Since most of these kids at least have a home where they come from, government should consider joining forces with NGOs, the church and corporate entities alike and establish Welfare centers in our communities where “children at risk” may not only go and pass their leisure time constructively, but equally access education or skills training and a warm meal as an incentive.

With the introduction of free education by the New Deal Administration, one would have expected all the kids to be in school, and yet we still see some of them loitering the streets. We mustn’t pretend and ignore the fact that there are several inherent factors that still force or attract certain kids to be on the streets. Whereas some may be running away from abuse, neglect or hunger at home, others are just plain stubborn kids who are not keen to be controlled. It would therefore be prudent for us to stop looking at street kids as a singular problem but tackle the issue on a case-by-case basis. Whereas those running away from abuse or starvation at home might just require alternative solutions such as safe homes or welfare centers as possible interventions, a bit of coercion might suffice for truant ones. These are the ones that deserve to be ‘locked’ away under the watchful eye of ZNS!

As we may be aware, Junkies are already proving to be a pain in the neck, their age notwithstanding. Imagine the scale of violence they may unleash on society in a few years’ time once they are old enough? We’d easily go back to those spine-chilling episodes of the early 1980s when the Copperbelt province was renowned for dreadful crimes.

Instead of just dumping them at penitentiaries as a possible deterrent and offloading them back into the community after a while, the Junkies ought to be ‘quarantined’ in far-flung areas under the auspices of ZNS. Apart from the rigorous routine of counselling and rehabilitation, the Junkies should undergo mandatory training in agriculture and other practical skills such as carpentry, bricklaying, mechanics, and welding. Once they are done with training, they can be engaged in productive activities such as crop production or animal husbandry and rewarded some sort of remuneration from the profit made.

Of course, we are not suggesting that the Junkies must be isolated from society until the return of Jesus! Those who have demonstrated exemplary conduct may be ‘excused’ from the programme in good time and assisted to set up their own ventures while the unrepentant ones may still remain yoked to the programme until they have completely reformed.

These are our humble thoughts; what’s your take on this?

Strictly Personal

For 133 million poor Nigerians by Lasisi Olagunju

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The National Bureau of Statistics in January 2012 released its ‘Nigeria Poverty Profile 2010’ report which contained data covering the previous 30 years. It showed that 17.1 million Nigerians were in poverty in 1980; 34.7 million in 1985; 39.2 million in 1996; 67.7 million in 2004 and 112 million in 2010. The same NBS a few days ago (November 17, 2022) launched the results of its 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) Survey. It returned a figure of 132.9 million poor people in Nigeria. That figure represents 63 percent of people living in Nigeria. In 1999 when we retrieved Nigeria from the jaws of the military, we danced and rejoiced. We were sure that with the breath of fresh air had come prosperity, the safety of self, family, and property. The Yoruba among us hit the street and sang ‘bye bye to jatijati.’ Now, look at the figures and the depth of a people’s misfortune: Democracy grows in years, poverty and insecurity grow in leaps and bounds; the Nigerian elite stay firm; they count their blessings. They continue to grow big and powerful and exponentially rich; their giant cocks muffle the crow of the poor and they give no damn.

This democracy is filthy water; it cannot be washed. Democracy is supposed to give freedom and prosperity and security. Nigerians have gained none with this experiment. What they have is the evil hen that lays poverty – the Somali definition of slavery. The difference between what we want and what we get is leadership. Our ancestors always desired good leaders because they wanted to live the good life. They knew that choosing a leader is like choosing a spouse; it has consequences for the well-being of the parties. And so, people of the past travelled from ocean to ocean in search of good governance. They paid attention to the details in the leadership selection process; wealth and its corrosive properties had no influence in the conclave where kings were chosen. A former vice-chancellor of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile Ife, Professor Wande Abimbola, offered an insight in an interview published by Saturday Tribune two days ago. He told us that: “In ancient times, there was a vacancy in the stool of the Alaafin. In those days, Ifá would choose from among the princes. So they had the list of all the princes; they presented all to Ifá and Ifá rejected all of them. After exhausting the names of all the princes, the kingmakers were worried about what to do next. One of them said: ‘there is one person who lives in a village far away. He carries his load of firewood to the town once a week. He goes to the bush, cuts firewood, and takes it to the town every week to sell. After selling, he would go back to the village. His name is Otonpooro. Why don’t we try him?’ So they consulted Ifá if Otonpooro would be fit for the throne and if the Oyo Empire would be prosperous under his reign. Ifá said yes. At that time if Ifá had chosen you as the new Alaafin, the kingmakers would meet you in the house wherever you were. Otonpooro had just put his heavy load of firewood on his head, coming to the town. They met him as he was leaving his abode in the forest. They shouted: ‘Otonpooro, da’gi nùn; ire ti

dé’lé kokoko’ (meaning ‘Otonpooro, throw away your firewood; great fortune is awaiting you in the city.’) He ruled for a long time. He was a successful king….” You see how all princes failed the test and no one in the metropolis merited the throne. It was a poor villager with a promise of good governance that got the crown. The professor’s story fits into my thoughts as I reflect on Nigeria’s poverty of governance and the billionaires campaigning and abusing one another because they want to inherit us next year. The present line-up should tell us why the poor sink deeper in want and why Nigeria gropes in this dank alley of ineffectual democracy.

The 2022 NBS poverty report says that 83.5 percent of Nigerian children under five years are poor “due to lack of intellectual stimulation needed for childhood development.” The report adds that “school attendance is particularly problematic in the North-East and the North-West.” And these are zones with a cumulative 65.96 million poor people, about half of the national total of 132.92 million. Ironically, these two zones, with very huge voter populations, will determine the next leader and the direction the nation faces, going forward. How do you help such a country? Educating the children of today secures the future for the community. The Zulu say a tree is bent before it gets dry. The Yoruba say no wise person bends a dry fish and complains that it breaks. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2020 (two years ago) said there were 10.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria; the most recent figure from UNESCO is 20 million. These are not just numbers; they are human beings wasting away like millions of others before them. I don’t think those kids want to grow up as limbless cripples, useless to themselves and to their clan. The truth is that their dog does not prefer bones to meat; it is just that no one ever gives it meat.

Unless Nigeria’s jungle of demons is deforested, its foliage will continue to kill the soil. There is an instructive quote credited to Chief Obafemi Awolowo in Kole Omotoso’s ‘Just Before Dawn’: “Look at it this way. All over the country, you have farmers and peasants, fishermen and labourers barely earning a living. They have millions of children who cannot go to school because their parents cannot afford the fees. If somebody does not do something about it, there is going to be trouble in this country in another decade or so (page 220).” Omotoso did not put a date to that quote, but the understanding in it apparently informed Awo’s free education programme. It is tragically ironic that the sage’s Western Nigeria today suffers literacy poverty almost as much as the other parts that paid scant attention to education. It is a catastrophic failure of the present. The ancestors did not create ragged, unschooled children in search of hope. That is why we proudly parrot our father’s saying that it takes a village to train a child.

Amidst its crisis of mass poverty and ignorance, Northern Nigeria last week celebrated the mining of crude oil in the desert. How is that wealth (if it is true wealth) going to wean the bandit of his banditry and educate the uneducable millions? A Cameroonian tribe says knowledge is better than riches. Grand old Yoruba musician, Haruna Ishola, lyrically celebrates education as the “chord of wealth that endures forever (okùn olà tí kìí já láíláí).” Somewhere else in Nigeria, people tell themselves that wealth diminishes with usage; learning increases with use. My own people say it is sweet to be wise, educated, and knowledgeable (Ogbón dùn ún gbón; ìmòn dùn ún mòn). Yet, if there is an age that despises, deprecates, and devalues wisdom, learning, and schooling, it is this age of dirty, unwashed leaders. Yet, we complain that nothing works. Were you not told that what you give you get ten times over? The untrained child won’t ever escape poverty and society will not escape the consequences of that abandonment. There is an apt proverb here: The child who is not embraced by the village will soon burn down the village to get warm. You cannot nurse millions of children with the waters of poverty, illiteracy, and hopelessness and

dream of peace and prosperity. North to south, the road to the farm and the pathway to the stream are strewn with terror and terrorism. Who is not afraid to venture out anywhere today? People can’t work; the poverty queue lengthens; the odious cycle remains unbroken – because of the choices we made yesterday. We are set for another round of mischance.

Greek philosopher, Plato, wrote about his ‘cave’ and the people’s fascination with darkness. Before Plato, there was his teacher, Socrates with his profound analysis of power and politics. Socrates’ dialogue interrogates the eternal contest between good and bad; between what is just and what appears to be just. We see a world in perpetual competition “between the perfectly just man who shall appear to others (because of their ignorance) as supremely unjust and the perfectly unjust man who is absolutely ruthless, observing no moral constraints in attaining what he wants, and who possesses a magical ability never to get caught but always appears to others as supremely just.” A brilliant writer once described Nigeria as an unusual country of destructive intrigues; a nation where what one person wants is negated by what another person wants and what eventually prevails is

what no one wants. In 1998/99, we were eager to replace the military with just anything, and we did. In 2014/2015, we were proud to insist that what we wanted was “anything but Jonathan.” And we did just that. Today, we can’t wait to see the back of bleak Buhari and his aura and we are toeing exactly the same path that led to today’s ruination. What is coming is what no one wants.

In Plato’s ‘The Republic, Socrates states why democracies fail and leaders without sense rule. He asks us to imagine a ship in which there is a captain who is stronger than any of the crew, but is deaf, dumb, blind, and drunk and is disastrously incompetent in navigation. In addition to the tragic combination, the crew members are quarreling with one another about the steering and about who holds the wheel. I have a feeling that Socrates had Nigeria in mind when he constructed that ship of confusion and entitlement where “everyone is of the opinion that it is his turn to lead and that he has a right to steer the ship though he has never learnt the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learnt.”

 

 

 

 

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Strictly Personal

Qatar World Cup, alcohol and gay by Festus Adebayo

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A little over a week ago, on a Qatar Airways flight journeying to Doha, city of the current World Cup fiesta, I saw a film that clearly depicts the raging back-and-forth arguments between the Arab World and the West. A Betty Kathungu-Furet film, The Medicine Man is a Kenyan Swahili movie subtitled in English. It has as one of its major themes, the danger of orthodoxy and the barrier that a stagnated belief constitutes to human progress.

The lead character, Ben Muriithi, a medical doctor working in the State Hospital in Nairobi, hails from a family line of traditional healers as his great-great-grandfather, great-grandfather, grandfather, and even father were respected, traditional healers. He returns to his Embu village and to his Njoka family to research herbal and alternate medicine, only to find out that Gicovi, his cousin and a herbalist, has been given permission by the Njoka family to continue in the family herbal healing line, at his own expense, the direct descendant of these herbal greats.

Gicovi has, over the years, totally conquered the minds of Embu people with traditional African medical healing remedies. Spiced with witchcraft and sorcery, due to their quick returns of cash in Kenya, Gicovi’s healing, in most instances, is incapable of bringing succor to the health challenges of the people. With Gicovi’s ailing son, Eli used by Dr. Muriithi to demonstrate the power of the white man’s healing power, the medical doctor fights, tooth, and nail, with the help of his lady nurse friend, Weruma and Nguo, the stammerer – who kept neutralizing Gicovi with his tantrums – and the buy-in of Beth, Gicovi’s wife, to conquer this traditional medicine’s long orthodox hold on the minds of the people. His bid to rescue his people from dying of treatable diseases and the conflict in his deployment of the same traditional herbal treatment in the process reflects hypocrisy and a non-acceptance of tolerance, understanding, and hybridization as the basis of a modern world.

The FIFA World Cup is unarguably the hugest sport event in the world. Over three and a half billion people were said to have watched its previous tournament on television, a figure that approximates about half of the entire world population. Since Qatar announced that it would not open shebeens for alcohol consumption during the football fiesta, this Arab country had become a subject of lacerating attacks, most especially from the West. Qatar went a step further in its “affront” to announce that, in the Arab world, LGBTQIA+, an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and more, was an anathema which the World Cup will not justify on its land.

As the football fiesta went on at feverish pitch, news came of some dressing styles which the Qatari authorities outlawed. Without equivocation, Qatar banned its wearers from entering the stadia. A widely circulated footage of Three Lions supporters who were turned back from a stadium earlier had enjoyed widespread circulation online. The Irish Sun then carried the story of how Qatar banned England fans dressed as Saint George from World Cup stadiums, citing fears over “weapons and armour”.

The basic argument by Qatari is that their western critics were basically hypocritical. While their most pervasive defence is that, while the West is diffident in its pursuit of the values that undergird its societies, it should allow Arabs the right to their basic values too. One respondent argued that in the Arab world, if a guest comes on a visit to a household, the guest is guided by the rules of the household, beginning from the rules of gourmet, what the host offers on the table and is bound to respect the host’s family and home values. If, per adventure, the guest finds these abhorrent, they are at liberty to leave.

“Qatari and Islam culture are against LGBTQ and you must respect that,” a Qatari began “You must also stop demands to be served pork in Qatar restaurants.

Every individual is bounded (by) the law of any country where they are travelling as visitors or students; either it is Qatar or any other country.

If Europeans want foreigners to obey their law, then (they) also need to obey the laws of other countr(ies) they are visiting.”

The intolerance in Qatar signposts our world and has become the reality of our socio-political relationship in Nigeria. While we are liberty to remember the cruelty and injustices of the past, let us remember that the modern world will need mutual tolerance. The Yoruba, in their tolerance wisdom, will say alejo ojo meta ko soro gba, meaning that a guest whose stay with you is finite shouldn’t constitute a problem. What that means is that, as sacrifice to the god of tolerance, you must give and take, for the mutual comfort of the guest and host. This is why Qataris are at fault for not enduring the excesses of their guests within the period of the football festival, except if hosting the biggest sporting event in the world was to retaliate the several decades of “western hypocrisy.” Nobody has asked Qataris to give up their loath of pork, LGBTQ+s, alcohol, beliefs and thoughts but it should have been tolerant enough to let these be during the World Cup event. The world would be a greater place for all of us if we learn to live in acceptance of our variations.

To show that we all carry scars of guilt, even as we judge others, issues are being made of matters that arose since 12 years ago when this small Gulf country got the bid to host the world. One pertinent one is the 1000s migrant workers who died in the process of Qatar building the stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup. What that means is that the blood of the world was shed for the Qatar gloat of hosting this biggest sporting event. The country has reportedly spent over $200 billion dollars on construction of World Cup stadiums and ancillary infrastructure, most of which it sourced abroad due to the absence of native construction workers. In the process, it had to ship in massive workers who travelled to Qatar.

The West that came into Qatar with intent at showcasing its cultural hegemony, self-flaunt as mascot of everything good and self-appointed spokesperson for humanity, was also liable to charge of cultural imperialism. We must all learn to respect people and their different and differing cultures.

For us as Nigerians, there are a number of lessons to learn from the spat between Qatar and the west which transcend alcohol, LGBTQ+s or pork consumption. One is that, for the most expensive budget ever by any country committed by this tiny Arab country to host the World Cup, Qatar has come out with an unenviable record of being the fastest host to crash out of the fiesta. With its ouster, Qatar will perhaps learn to focus more on organization of the game than its fixation on the culture war it is waging with the west. It is interesting that though money can buy World Cup hosting rights, it however cannot purchase victory on the field where skills and ability talk and money walk out. The second lesson for us is that Qatar, a tiny country of about 2.9million, stood against the giants of the world, unbent, while Nigeria still flaunts its over 200 million population as symbol of brunt. What or when is a big country?

 

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