NDLEA strange liaisons with Naira Marley

IT must have dawned on the management of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, that their decision to “partner” with controversial Afrobeat musician, Afeez Adeshina Fashola, better known as “Naira Marley”, was a disastrous bungle.

Some months ago, photos and videos of Naira Marley rubbing shoulders with the NDLEA Chairman, retired Brigadier-General Mohammed Buba Marwa, hit the public space.

The musician, known for his unabashed glamourisation of weed smoking and drug use among his ample followership, was at the NDLEA headquarters apparently to consummate a partnership with the anti-drug agency towards reducing the drug menace among the youths.

NDLEA strange liaisons with Naira Marley

This visit was read in many quarters as NDLEA making Naira Marley their “ambassador”, and this got many right-thinking Nigerians scratching their heads. What was the most notorious musician who commands cult following for promoting drug use and gangsterism doing beside Marwa, one of the highly-respected public officers in Nigeria?

The NDLEA’s spokesman, Femi Babafemi, issued a clarification which failed to justify the purpose of the partnership. According to him, NDLEA did not appoint Naira Marley as its ambassador.

Rather, he said, the Agency engaged him “to encourage him to use his skills and platforms to put out content that will discourage millions of his followers and Nigerian youths from substance abuse”.

Furthermore, Babafemi said the move was part of the Agency’s “whole society” (or inclusive) approach, which was in tune with this year’s World Drug Day theme: “People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen Prevention”.

The NDLEA’s clarification was a mere play on words. How can you invite an artiste with questionable reputation, pose for photographs with him and ask him to preach your message to his followers and still argue you did not make him your ambassador? Who is an ambassador?

Secondly, did the NDLEA have any evidence that Naira Marley had repented and forsaken drug use before signing him on? Even if he repents, how many of the youths he had misled can he bring back to rectitude?

Even before the Mohbad tragedy in which Naira Marley’s name rings loudly like a bell struck, it should have been plain to the NDLEA that Naira Marley was potential bad news. Did the NDLEA investigate Naira Marley enough to know about his life on London streets before he returned to set up his turf in Nigeria?

The argument of stigmatisation only applies to people who are victims or genuinely repentant felons, not people who still brazenly carry their vice as an anti-social banner. The wrong decision by the NDLEA to partner with Naira Marley has, unfortunately, led to the avoidable speculation in some quarters that the Agency and the Police made him “untouchable”.