By Blessing Tarfa
As the highly anticipated 2023 electoral period draws to a close, there’s a greater need for the youths who are often tools to steer polls in favour of political parties vying for a win to be more cautious. In the hands of politicians, the youths are used in the game of politics, as pawns, with illicit substances as weapons of control.
The population of Nigerian youths is the greatest asset to Nigerian democracy. They make up 70% of the population, and 75% of the voting population. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, of the 93, 469,08 registered voters in the election year 2023, over 71 million are young people between the ages of 18-49 years. They make up over three-quarters of the Nigerian electorate, and as the largest voting population are inadvertently the determinants of democracy in the country. Consequently, 14.3 million people within this age group identified as drug users, making them the highest demographic population of drug users.
The 2023 presidential election saw a new wave and high for the Nigerian youths, each with their own conviction for whom they desire to vote. However, the highs of hope have come at a precarious time for the youth because of the threat of illicit substances within the country.
There is no denying that the consumption of substances and the accompanying inebriation puts a person in a vulnerable place. The period of ecstasy or “high” that comes after consuming a substance is short-lived compared to the next four years before an election cycle. Even more precarious, the immediate violence that may ensue is a recipe for regret and disaster.
Watching the news closely, one observes the proportional increase in the arrests and seizures of illicit drugs around the election cycle. In the week leading to the presidential election, the NDLEA made the largest singular arrest of the year with over 100 suspects arrested in one location in Lagos in just one day. Now only a week before the country and its agile youth population head to the polls for the gubernatorial elections, the NDLEA has arrested 35 suspects, including an ex-boko-haram fighter, and almost 40 hectares of cannabis farms destroyed in Edo. These arrests span across the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Idiroko, Edo, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Kogi, Ogun, Gombe, Lagos, Kwara, FCT, Benue, Delta and Kano Commands of the Agency. It is not a coincidence.
It further solidifies one’s stance that there are deliberate efforts to increase the availability of drugs that is a temptation to the general public, and the democratically charged youths. Making drugs accessible to people in the nick of time for elections is setting them up for a trip to be violent or incapacitated to even perform their civic duty during the elections.
Drug consumption around elections is not just an enemy of peace, as inebriated people are highly susceptible to violence, it is additionally a tool to subdue people from being at capacity and sound mind to even take part in the voting exercise. Drugs are an enemy of civic duty.
The highway to democracy is not a joy ride on the waves of substance-induced ecstasy. Indeed, our youths already control this democracy in the palm of their hands. But if we allow the circulation of drugs to continue, what was initially an asset may become a burden and a threat to the future of the country.
Blessing Tarfa writes from Life Camp, Abuja