There are so many burning topics to discuss in columns and news commentaries this week. From the controversial revised Covid-19 protocol for civil servants by the Presidential steering committee, to the heated politics of rotational presidency, to Pandora papers revelations, to Electoral laws amendment, to the executive scorecards which Buhari’s government published recently, etc. In fact, many Editors will have hard times making choices on which article(s) to pick from the pool of their Columnists. So, any writer who don’t see his/her article make it to the prints this week, should not act surprised. There are so many issues on the front burner.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday last week, while Nigerians relish the news of the Senate’s landmark U-turn on electronic transmission of election results, and while pouring encomiums on the mass media practitioners for their patriotic campaign which just got rewarded with the revised bill, one of our finest reigning afrobeat artist — Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, popularly known as Burna Boy was in the U.S advocating for legalization of Marijuana, (more commonly called Ígbó or weed) in Nigeria. He went off the radar to tell the world that “all Nigerians smoke of Marijuana.” That was all he could mutter at a time, his compatriots are mounting pressure on government to allow them exercise their rights to peaceful protest in commemoration of the first anniversary of #EndSARS civil march and honour the martyrs therefrom.
Speaking on Home Grown Radio in Los Angeles, the Port Harcourt-born rapper and singer said, “It’s not a zero tolerance. It’s like everybody does it, but no one wants to be the one that is seen with it. It’s just kind of hypocritical out there. Everybody smokes weed.”
His position has many flaws that included the error of generalization. The same error we faulted in this space, three months ago, when we analysed President Buhari’s submission in three of his few interviews since 2015, with the latest being the one with AriseTv recently. Hasty generalization is a type of logical fallacy. A fallacy is an argument that is based on mistaken reasoning. When one makes a hasty generalization, he applies a belief to a larger population than he should, based on the partial information that he has.
For example, if my brother likes to smoke a lot of cigarette, and he is healthy, I can say that cigarette smoking is healthy and doesn’t really give a person lung diseases. However, I don’t have a large enough sample population to make this claim. I have generalized based on one person. In another instance, you visit a new country and the first person you meet in the airport was rude. You send a message to a friend back home that everyone in this new country is rude.
Or a driver with Enugu number plate cuts you off in traffic. You decide that all Enugu drivers are terrible drivers. It sounds funny but that’s what Burna Boy. did when he spoke in Los Angeles. He failed flatly in his claim that all Nigerians are abusers of Marijuana.
A 2018 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that an estimated 10.8% of population which roughly translates to 10.6 million Nigerians engage in illicit consumption of Marijuana. Out of over 190 million population, Burna Boy rashly used a paltry fraction of 10.6 million to judge the whole! That’s unintelligible. But it is expected since he admitted why he likes visiting Los Angeles is because Marijuana is legalized in the state. So he actually spoke like “Onye ígbó (Marijuana smoker). Marijuana as a recreational drug, has mind-altering compounds that affect both your brain and body. It can be addictive, and it may be severely harmful to some people’s health. Here’s what can happen when you use marijuana: you will get “High” It’s why most people try weed. The main psychoactive ingredient, THC, stimulates the part of your brain that responds to pleasure, like food and sex. That unleashes a chemical called dopamine, which gives you a euphoric, relaxed feeling. Maybe, Burna Boy was high when he was making those assertions.
His statement was not just a blunt refutal of pan-national appeal to launder and market our corporate image as a country in the global scene, but a subtle gibberish jab at the core ethical values which our laws represent. Since his ingenious talent in music brought him to limelight of stardom, everyone expected Burna Boy to be a good ambassador of his fatherland. As a Grammy award-winning singer, he should have known better about managing media outings and guaging his utterances. Obviously, he is a role model to many of our kids and should be more discrete and guided each time he bares his mind on issues of public importance.
But aside civil obligation to “uphold the honour and glory of Nigeria” as enshrined in our National Pledge, there is the question of moral responsibility. The fact that ‘majority’ (as he alleged) indulge in a particular outlawed behaviour does not mean it is no longer culpable. According to Fulton J. Sheen: “Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.” Cannabis is a substance of abuse, and its use has to be controlled under extant laws. The fact that Burna Boy and other 10.6 million Nigerians illegally indulge in its consumption doesn’t make it right or less a crime.
Perhaps someone should remind our celebrities what is expected of them as they swim in the euphoria of their privileged status.
They should also know how to choose their batttles wisely. You don’t advertise a novel lifestyle you see advanced nations like America experiment for less than a decade, to a pluralistic black nation in the third world like ours. It won’t sail. The legitimization of Marijuana in the U.S, under the Medical Marijuana laws, which repelled the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, has not served them any good, and Burna Boy wants Nigeria to imitate them, just because U.S is practicing it. That’s inferiority complex — an unfortunate souvenir of post-colonialism among many Africans. Sympathizers of homosexuals also made similar appeal during President Jonathan’s time, but he worked with traditional rulers and stakehokders to slam the Senate gavel against it.
I know that a day like this will come, since Nigerians started dancing to most hip hop artists’ songs which lyrics made no sense. They also don’t care about the lifestyles of some of these singers; for instance, Naira Marley has more fans than the likes of Face, despite the later serving us a more didactic song lyrics. When a proud habitual smoker (an addict of a sort) releases a song that is lacking in any known human value or philosophy, and you subscribe to it, you are encouraging him. And it will embolden him to continue in his utopianism created by cannabis. After all, we were here in 1998/2000 when Mountain Black and Mad Melon (Danfo Drivers) sang in their track — “Sensimilla” that Weed gives them inspiration. Sometimes, I blame all these madness on National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for keeping blind eye to celebrities like who abuse drugs.
Danfo Drivers are no more on the stage, but the current Guy is now making a case for legalization of what they preached twenty years ago, soon it will be gay, abortion, guns and light arms legalization etc, like America had done.
May daylight spare us!
Eze Jude Ogechukwu (B.MLS)
Medical Laboratory Scientist.