I reject the claim the article titled Gowon and Babangida Created Nigeria’s Drug Culture, which I wrote is guilty of appropriating unnecessary blame to Gowon and Babangida wrongfully or misleading readers about the creation of the drug culture in Nigeria. In the first paragraph, I made it clear that some will disagree with the content. There is a big distinction between the “drug culture” and “drug trafficking” in Nigeria; the former is local Nigerian addictive drug use and the latter concerns Nigeria as an “entrepôt” for international drug trafficking. Even if some assume they are the same thing, let us look at the Gowon and Babangida regimes and their impact on drug access more carefully and see where the blame for Nigeria’s drug culture lies.
Gowon is respected and loved but did he make any mistakes during his regime that still have consequences for Nigeria today? Who said Nigeria had so much money it did not know what to do with it? Fela? Let us stick to the drug culture. There are many critics of the excesses of the Oil Boom-generated indiscriminate importation craze [including addictive drugs] overseen by the Gowon regime, Chinua Achebe’s TheTrouble with Nigeria being the most popular. Under Gowon’s regime, Nigerians got addicted to foreign luxury goods which endures till today. Gowon had also turned Nigeria into a near monopsony to feed the interests if not greed of the “Board Members” he bequeathed the shares of the nationalised foreign corporations to, because it was the only way he could secure “One Nigeria.” Gowon’s involvement in the drug culture is most probably inadvertent to most; he did not know the drugs will come in too. Fine. However, did Gowon know and work with Bernie Cornfeld of his IOS notoriety?
Tom Naylor in Hot Money And Politics of Debt quotes “As civil war raged in Nigeria and international relief for the traumatised civilian population rolled in, IOS [owned by Bernie Cornfeld] was on the scene to help: the international aid funds often wound up in the safe in Geneva.” Cornfeld was also operating closely with Latin American leaders. More interestingly, a retired ranking military intelligence officer who served directly in Gowon’s government in told me in 2000 that Bernie Cornfeld duped the Nigerian military brass into contact with the drug cartels in Latin America. Is that not the beginning of Lagos Port as an entrepôt for Latin American drugs? If these facts are true, is Gowon of creating a drug culture?
In Fixing Nigeria by Emmanuel Inyaba-Nwazojie states that Obasanjo regime’s ban of 1976/77 on imported “luxury” goods escalated the incentive for smuggling goods into Nigeria, particularly as entrepôt for narcotics from Latin America for shipping to Western markets. This is hard to deny. But Gowon had created in Nigerians an addiction to foreign luxury goods that mutated into smuggling rackets when Obasanjo banned them. Gowon made the links with the Latin Americans, not Obasanjo. Obasanjo’s ban did reduce access to addictive drugs which I bear witness to in the original article. Can any blame be apportioned to Obasanjo for creating the drug culture?
Drug barons had only become icons in Lagos during the civilian Shagari administration and were part of the raison d’etre for accepting to become head of state for a coup he did not co-plan. Drug trafficking became the best means to fund the luxury lifestyle Gowon had created. Buhari introduced the death penalty for drug trafficking during his military regime and many Nigerians saw Buhari as a “murderer who killed Nigerians earning their daily bread” and many also speculate it contributed to the coup against him. There is even a blog article dedicated to those executed by Buhari for drug trafficking. (see https://drbiggie.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/list-of-nigerian-drug-smugglers-sentenced-to-death-by-the-buhari-military-regime/comment-page-1/). Nevertheless, it was a notable drastic step to stop drug smuggling and improve Nigeria’s international image. Can Buhari too be blamed for creating the drug culture in Nigeria?
Babangida has been reported on the floors the legislatures of some Western nations and in many publications as being the kingpin of the Nigerian narcostate. When a regime embraces a narcostate, the chicken will come home to roos; Gowon and Babangida we hail thee! From the entrepots a local drug culture emerges usually beginning with a gangster, prostitutes, big boys/girls and rich kids; narcotics are expensive. The Gloria Okon scandal and the death of Dele Giwa remain unforgettable. By the time Babangida had spent one year in power fice most urban Nigerian youths wanted to push cocaine to start or fuel a luxury lifestyle even though only very few did do that in practice.
Babangida also brought the vicious poverty bequeathing SAP to Nigeria with severe repressive tactics; Buhari had refused and lost power for it. Poverty is proven to be a dominant factor implicated in drug use and sales. Drug culture goes hand in hand with irrepressible poverty. Besides Dan Mou argues in National Security, Good Governance & Democracy in Africa, that the end of the Oil Boom and the introduction of SAP against a condition of falling oil prices was what caused the increase of drug trafficking in Nigeria. Babangida more than any other leader structured Nigeria for a future of irrepressible mass poverty while he amassed $35 billion during his regime. After Babangida left office it did not matter anymore.