The adage, “Everything that has an advantage, has a disadvantage” is a balm used to soothe the wound inflicted by the jagged edges of the sword called despair. It’s also used to light up the way for hope in the darkness of doom. When you hear, “everything that has an advantage, has a disadvantage,” know that the ointment of tranquilising words is about to be applied to a raw sore. It’s the equivalent of what the Yoruba refer to as ‘Ti teni kan o ba baje, teni kan o le da’. The adage is not the blissful climax of man’s ultimate triumph over life’s vicissitudes. Rather, the adage nakedly wriggles out of the empty closet of chanciness alone in submissive consolation – bowing to man’s grief, failure and fear.
Last Wednesday when Canada became the second country after Uruguay to fully legalise the consumption of cannabis, the adage raced through the mind. There, surely, is a monstrous disadvantage in the growing legalisation of marijuana across the world. Hard as I tried, however, I’m yet to see the advantage in its unbanning. Before cannabis was legalised for recreational use in Canada last week, Canadians only used the psychoactive fibre plant for medical purposes, legally. Recreation here means something done for pleasure and leisure. Medical cannabis is the use of unprocessed cannabis plant or the chemicals contained therein to alleviate the symptoms of certain conditions or diseases. Only a physician could recommend medical cannabis to the consumer. With Canada becoming the first wealthy nation to fully legalise recreational marijuana, it means adults can now take, possess, grow in their homes and sell the drug to fellow adults, crystallising a campaign promise of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. With nine states legalising marijuana for recreational use despite federal laws upholding contrary legislation, and 29 states allowing it for medicinal purposes, the US may reconsider its position on cannabis.
As a primary school pupil of St Paul Anglican Primary School, Idi Oro, Lagos, I knew marijuana quite early in life when I wandered with my co-rascal classmate, Akeem Amao, around Fela Anikulapo’s Kalakuta Republic in the Moshalashi area and the Empire Carpet end to deliver letters from Akeem’s uncle to a harlot, who was his girlfriend! The harlot, who lived in a hotel, always looked forward to seeing us. She would sit us down in her dingy room and serve us yellow gari with lots of sugar while she read the missive of her lover and wrote a reply. Many parents would die of heart attack if they have an idea of what their children do. My deeply religious Christian parents can never picture their innocent little son anywhere around the vicinity of the Abami Eda or the highly dreaded Empire area, where even angels feared to tread. This was before over 1,000 ‘Unknown Soldiers’ attacked Fela’s Kalakuta residence on February 18, 1978 – during the Olusegun Obasanjo military era, burning it down and throwing his mother, Mrs Funmilayo Anikulapo Ransome-Kuti, out through the window of the three-storey building. She died on April 13, 1978 from the injuries sustained during the attack as the Obasanjo regime got full revenge against Fela for criticising the advent of full-blown corruption, oppression and impunity by government.
A couple of years later when I was in secondary school, Uncle Abela Candle, in company with bodaKingsley, in our Mushin neighbourhood called me aside, walked me to the next street and whispered to me, pointing: “Go to that shop and tell them that you want to buy stone,” squeezing some coins into my palm. I ran like a cartoon character to the shop which turned out to be a rancid pub, and announced, “I want to buy a stone.” The shop owner looked at me from head to toe, went outside and came back. He got a paper and wrapped something in it. He gave it to me and I ran back to Uncle Abela and boda Kingsley. Eagerly, bodaKingsley took the wrapped object from me, opened it and exclaimed, “It’s a stone that they gave you?” “Is it not stone that you sent me,” I retorted, wondering how adults could be so foolish to buy a stone when they could freely get stones on the street. Then, he said I should go back and mention his name. When I went back and mentioned his name, the shop owner went inside a room, came out with a wrapped object that he gave to me. I squeezed the stone in my palm, it felt soft. “Ha! Soft stone?” I wondered to myself. I ran back to ‘uncle’ and ‘boda’ whose faces lit up as they checked out the content I brought. Sadly, neither Uncle Abela Candle nor boda Kingsley amounted to anything later in life before they died.
I came in closer contact with marijuana during my university years. Out of curiosity, I took it but it didn’t blow my mind away. I still remained Tunde. It didn’t turn me into a philosopher or a superman. So, why take hemp when it adds no value to me, I thought. At least, I’ve proved a point and passed the test of masculinity. I knew within me that my parents wouldn’t forgive me if I got hooked on cannabis, anyway. All my friends who got hooked on marijuana in the 1980s at the ‘United Nations Base’ in Orile Agege, Lagos, are nobodies today. Marijuana is what it is; a mind-wrecking hard drug, whose personal consumption man is incapable of self-regulating. This is why for every Bob Marley, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Peter Tosh, King Yellow Man, Orlando Owoh, Diego Maradona etc, there are millions of fans whose lives have been shattered in their quests to emulate their superstars.
Nigeria is a dumping ground for all manner of material and socio-cultural wastes from western countries. From President Muhammadu Buhari to the least Nigerian on the streets of Abuja, we lap at handouts and innovations from other lands, failing perpetually to evolve our national salvation, and dwelling on jaw-dropping inanities, instead. President Buhari shouldn’t lap up the idea of legalising hemp in the country, please, because we already have an army of marooned youths who daily live on drugs nationwide. In fact, the President must conduct routine drug tests on the members of his cabinet, some of whom are unlikely not to be on drugs. How do I mean? An enactment of a beer joint scenario inside a National Youth Service Corps camp would suffice.