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26.02.2007 Feature Article

The Broken Promises and shattered dreams: Is the nation's future hooked on crack- cocaine?

Surprise, Surprise! Drugs are everywhere, but our Mps were on strike and the Narcotic Control Board is sleeping. Who is leading the fight?

FAR BE it from me to get in the middle of a political mud wrestling match between NPP and NDC. It's a food fight, which doesn't benefit anyone, other than the selfish party's interest. But, would anybody mind if I pointed out the effect of this match on the nation's future.

The relationship between the NPP and NDC Parties has never been lovey- dovey for years, but can we all get along for the sake of Ghana? The issue at stake is not a political one, but moral one. For that reason, I was hoping against hope that I wouldn't have to write about political wrestling match again. But, with the boycotting of parliament by our MPs—because things didn't go down well with them— and the proliferation of crack- cocaine and other high-octane drugs taking over our schools and cities, it's impossible to resist that temptation. I couldn't let it pass without a comment. It seems enticing to me as seeing a bully being mugged by a Dwarf— I can't stop talking about it!

Let's Talk about Drugs:
There's a war going on in Ghana—with sophisticated non-conventional weapons, but our MPs were on strike and the Narcotic Control Board is sleeping on the wheels. (What is the role of the Narcotic Control Board in this equation, anyway?). How does one know the nation is slipping into a warfare mode? I know Ghana is at war when I read that the drug pushers have invaded our schools and colleges. I definitely believe we're at war when it's reported in the local papers, that last year, out of 731 drug –related patients admitted at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, 690 were students from our tertiary institutions. I know we've been invaded by “cultural imperialism”, when the same report says that, 614 patients in the hospital were young people, between the age of 15 and 40. If you can't see that our youth's tendency to use drugs is a national crisis –equivalent to Ghana being invaded by 'another country' – then you must be living in a cave ,for the past five years.

I told you so:
Ouch!, my trembling hands hold before my disbelieving eyes a copy of an article which appeared on the Ghanaweb, about the proliferation of high drugs in our secondary schools,(“cocaine Biz booming in Cape Coast schools ”)February 19th 2007's edition. But, I'm not surprised at all. In one of my articles (“The Over-consumption of imported diet and foreign cultures”) I mentioned the need to watch what our children consume .I was speaking both literally and figuratively. But, some people thought that I was crazy; living on sensationalism, and that I didn't know what I was talking about. The negative side of the Globalization is likely going to damage our local cultures, and it's gradually eroding our spiritual foundations.

As if Ghana doesn't have enough problems of its own. First, we had to deal with the gay life-style and its conventions, and, now our youth's drug addiction. There's no end in sight. Very soon we will witness the same- sex marriages and crack- babies and drugs-dependency population. If you don't see all that as a declaration of war on Ghana, then nothing is.

In fact, right now, I'm filled with dread at the thought of the trauma millions of innocent Ghanaians will soon be enduring if this drug epidemic is true. I'm in the Law enforcement profession, and I have witnessed the damage the drug addiction has done to the western world, and that makes me very nervous. I'm tired, and I don't even want to contemplate on the ramifications of the Ghanaian students burning their brains with crack- cocaine and other high drugs, on the streets of Ghana .We're going to spend over three times as much per mental patient as per public school student. Sometimes, Shouldn't we stop and probe the question of whether the West's extraordinary success in certain areas is also the cause of its social failures? We have to be careful what we copy!

The Cost of Drug Use:
The real effect is not even the random homicide that goes between the sellers and users of drugs. But how is a handicapped police force like ours, going to handle such unprepared social earth-quick? I'm not even talking about the cost of treating thousands of the substance abusers( in our over- stretched mental intuitions) which the nation will produce. My main concern here is the general rise in crime rate that goes with the drug trade. We need more proof? Those of you who live on the east coast of US can check the Bronx, New York neighborhood, Look at Newark, New Jersey. Check Camden and Trenton, New Jersey. The list is long, but I just want you to see the picture. All the places I have mentioned here have neighborhoods which make life meaningless because of the drug trade. They're literally infested with drug gangs which make the residents prisoners in their own homes.

I Have Witnessed The Effects of Drugs:
I have seen people who have sold their children, souls and bodies for drugs. I have seen people who sold all their possessions for drugs. I have seen addicts who had killed their own families because of drugs. I have seen very affluent families which went from grace to grass, because of drugs. In essence, no one is secured, when the drugs are taking over our schools, towns and neighborhoods.

So Much for our Future Leaders:
It's very sad that our 'future leaders 'have been caught in the middle of a major' social experiment' and a clash of cultures, which we don't have the means to fight back. So you think the brain drain is bad for Ghana? Well, we haven't seen anything yet. We're about to witness the entire nation's brain being in the drain. What good is it for the nation when our youth walks around with brains on crack? The drug addiction is not something a country like ours is equipped to deal with. Yet our leaders and MPs haven't seen the seriousness of it. I wonder why!

There's a War going on:
Who wants to be bothered with drug problems, which “affect students and poor people”? Perhaps, Our Politicians, see the drug abuse in Ghana as a plague, only infecting the poor and students from disadvant-aged families. That is why no comprehensive program is set up to deal with it vigorously. Besides, we can't expect them (the politicians) to do anything to stop the flow of drugs into the country, considering the double-sided profits they will get from the trade money and cheap votes. Does the cocaine- vessel saga ring a bell? Thanks to the drug addiction and its related crimes, come election year, our politicians will have something to give lip-service to. They will promise remedies for a problem that could have been nipped in the bud long time. And, please tell me why I shouldn't believe that somebody is behind the large quantity of drugs coming into the country. We're on the verge of losing this generation, and possibly the next one to drugs, yet our politicians are fighting it with rhetoric and boycotts.

It Pays to Be Mean:
So the NDC Mps will boycott the Parliament any time things don't go down well with them, but still get their salaries? God should have mercy on us! I have been on my knees fasting and praying for my dear country to protect our fragile democracy. Where are the true leaders when we need them? The Mps' attitude makes me recall a passage from John Steinbeck's novel, ”Cannary Raw: ”The things we admire in man; kindness , generosity ,openness, understanding , honesty , feelings, empathy, humility, considerate and dedication are the concomitants of failure in our society. But those traits we detest like: sharpness, greed, meanness, egotism, self- interest, materialistic and apathy are tools for success”. He was right. They possess all the requisites of success in our system. How many poor Mps or Politicians do you know, in our modern time? Keep counting!

What We Can Do:
Folk, we're at war so everyone has to chip in a little. The Fm Radio stations and Cell phone companies should embark on a very aggressive fight against the use of drugs. Musicians should also make videos and music which will point out all the dangers of drugs use. Churches should instill moral values in the young congregations as early as possible and keep them occupied with other important things. They should develop after –school programs like: mentoring, college preparatory and leadership training opportunities for our children.

Parental Role:
As parents, we too have a very important role to play in this war. Chances are your children will never take any drug or alcohol. But, if you don't get them hooked on something important, in their early years, someone will. It's believed that when children are hooked on intere-sting things, like books or musical instruments, their chances of taking drugs are very small. So try to push books on your kids, because reading can become a healthy lifetime addiction. It can also help children learn to think independently. Books are fun, relatively cheap and produce a sensible and admirable” high”. And, best of all, nobody ever ended up in an emergency room, jail, mental institution or mortuary from reading too much. So it's about time parents become the real “pushers” .If we don't, someone will hook them on drugs.

Education starts at home, in neighborhood ,and communities ,so it's very important for parents to create time and provide space for home work and find ways to reinforce what they learn in schools.

Schools' Role:
Schools and colleges should form partnership with the community –leaders where the schools are located, to design a method to combat this evil. A neighborhood- watch can be organized to weed out suspected persons seen in the school vicinity. Random search should be conducted in every school, periodically, to prevent drug from getting into the schools. Above all, drug education should be incorporated into the schools' curriculum; from elementary school to university level. And, there should be stiff prison term slam on anyone caught selling drug to a child or engaging in a drug trade. Yes! I know what you're saying, but what's impossible is often inevitable.

Government's Role:
It is nice we have a National Health Insurance, but that is not enough. A 'healthy nation' is a country which has a complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. So if our
government, policy-makers, community leaders and educators want to play a meaningful role in the fight against the drug epidemic, and protect the health of the citizenry ,there is a need to implement public policies which provide information on the consumption of a 'healthy diet ', and safe access to parks or green space, where our youth can engage in healthy physical activities. It's believed that low levels of physical activities and poor diet are linked to obesity, which can result in high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other negative health outcomes, which are comparable to drug use. So we can't fight one and leave the other.

Promote Hope:
Speaking of promoting good health ,we should also give the youth a sense of Hope for the future, and a chance to dream beyond their own imaginations. Show me a hopeless and hapless society and I will show you people who are prone to anger, disease ,self destruction ,drug use and less respect for life, in general and without confidence. Hopeless and hapless people can't love and be loved. Hapless and hopeless people live one day at a time.

What We Want:
And, now to ours Power-brokers, leaders and would-be leaders, hear these: you can't lead us if you don't love us. You can't save us if you won't serve us. And you can't deliver us if you're not determined to make a difference. You can't rescue us if you can't take a risk. You can't lead us if you are afraid to take the unconventional routes to solve our problems... You can't lead if you're not bone honest, with creditability index way down in the doldrums. Above all, you can't lead us if you're afraid to be in the establishments' faces, because the drug addiction has reached its zenith.

Let's get busy!

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
New Jersey. USA

*Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi is a social commentator, a chairman of Asuom Youth Club (AYC), a founder of the Adu –Gyamfi Youth Empowerment and Educational Foundation: to help the Youth of Asuom, in the Kwaebibirem District, Eastern Region

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi, © 2007

This author has authored 191 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KwakuAduGyamfi

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