Gowon & Babangida: Nigeria’s Drug Culture 2

Gowon & Babangida: Nigeria’s Drug Culture 2

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 as wrongful. And misleading readers about creating the drug culture in Nigeria. In the first paragraph, I clarified 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.

So many Nigerians respect and love Gowon. However, did he make any mistakes during his regime that still have consequences for Nigeria today? Let us stick to the drug culture. There are several critics of the excesses of the Oil Boom-generated indiscriminate importation craze. That is, including addictive drugs overseen by the Gowon regime, Chinua Achebe’s The Trouble 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. The conglomerate, 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 collaborating with Latin American leaders. More interestingly, a retired ranking military intelligence officer who served in Gowon’s government in told me in 2000 something interesting. That Bernie Cornfeld duped the Nigerian military brass into contact with the drug cartels in Latin America. Is that not the start 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. It became an entrepôt for narcotics from Latin America for shipping to Western markets. This is difficult 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 reduced access to addictive drugs which I bear witness to in the original article. Can we apportion any blame to Obasanjo for creating the drug culture?

Drug barons had only become icons in Lagos during the civilian Shagari administration. But this was part of the raison d’être of Buhari for accepting to become head of state for a coup we initially thought he did not co-plan. We know Buhari was the main coup-plotter.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 Nigerians saw Buhari as a “murderer who killed Nigerians earning their daily bread.” Some went as far as speculating 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 halt the drug smuggling and improve Nigeria’s international image. Can we blame Buhari too for creating the drug culture in Nigeria?

They have reported Babangida on the floors the legislatures of some Western nations and in several 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, beginning with a non-violent 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, most urban Nigerian youths wanted to push cocaine. The youth saw it as a guarantee of a luxury lifestyle, even though only a few did that in practice.

Babangida also brought the vicious poverty bequeathing SAP to Nigeria with severe repressive tactics; Buhari had refused and lost power over it. It proved poverty 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, has a perspective on the issue. He argues that the end of the Oil Boom and introducing SAP against a condition of falling oil prices 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 the office, it did not matter anymore.

Who created the drug culture in Nigeria?

Grimot Nane

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