Take a very good look at the photograph. In the photograph, you can see the portrait of a young teenager in a blue T-shirt (the Boy in blue) attempting to light up a reefer. He is closely surrounded by peers eager for him to do it because if he does they can too. There is some apparent awe for the Boy in blue by his mates; he is their leader by choice or nature. He is not from a privileged background and neither are his peers but they look up to him. Leaders instinctively know their followers expect them to be first movers and hardly back down. With the provision of privilege or means, he could be a future captain of industry, senator, Anglican bishop, colonel, principal or publisher. Who knows? What will be the use of the Boy in blues’ leadership appearance or qualities in the present and future Nigeria society? Who exactly is the Boy in blue and where can he be found?
The Boy in blues’ life trajectories will mostly be tragic. He may become a tragic junkie falling into an early death due to an overdose/organ failure, delusions of invulnerability, schizophrenia excluding him from normal society, depression ending in suicide or suffering with severely diminished capabilities. He might embark on a life of crime that might have already claimed his life in a society that very eagerly lynches and immolates petty thieves but adulates narcissistic big thieves. If he is still alive, the Boy in blue may go on to be a notorious big criminal comparable to Evans the Kidnapper and others. It is hard not to become antisocial growing up on tough streets, being Uno Numero and using drugs. Organised crime is often attractive to youthful but seriously deprived leaders.
The more fortunate trajectories for the Boy in blue can be found through serendipity and are not common. A sibling or relative may rescue him from a life of drugs and possibly crime. But such persons may eventually tire of the boy’s ways and send him packing, perhaps directly onto the streets. A kind Samaritan who is a veteran of the life the Boy in blue is living may decide to take him under his wing and would have the experience and skill to nurture him into a respectable citizen.
Another trajectory can be found in the establishment of civil society organisations that can accommodate and nurture kids like the Boy in blue for a better life in adulthood. Street kids, in this sense, are not necessarily homeless or family-less, they simply live with so much deprivation they have to fend for themselves on the streets from childhood. Childhood hustling often creates “entrepreneurs” out of kids but not the Silicon Valley-type.
The UK-based Dr Dolapo Sikuade, a psychiatrist and an expert on substance abuse, saw the youth drug epidemic developing in Nigeria before it happened. A few years back he established The Street Child Project in memory of his mother, to give enabling opportunities and support to children like the Boy in blue on the streets of Lagos and later elsewhere in Nigeria. Promoting the Rights of the Child, often neglected in Nigeria, was the central mission of the project. Dr Sikuade is no longer in charge of the project but may have to return to it in light of the youth drug addiction problem in Nigeria and his particular expertise.
The establishment of rehabilitation centres, typically set up and run by charities and civil society groups, is usually a sign that it is too late for the like of the Boy in blue. Rehabilitation, which helps kick the drug habit of addicts is a tough road back to the normal life and relapses (backsliding) back into the habit are far too easy to resist in most cases. Even rehabilitation from drugs in wealthy nations, with good free medical care and a supportive welfare system, can be a massive challenged for drug addicts and the rehabilitation professionals treating them. In Nigeria, healthcare is relatively expensive and there is not even family welfare for naughty boys.
These are the options for the Boy in blue, perhaps a gifted leader. Too many chances of waste and destruction against the few of survival and success. We might one day know who he is. We can help or save him and others in a similar predicament.
We did not forget to mention the various tiers of the Government of Nigeria. They were not worth mentioning.