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Opinions Mon, 25 Sep 2006

The awesome lingering power of hard drugs

A GNA feature by Samuel Osei-Frempong

Accra, Sept. 24 GNA - On the old overhead road near the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra, a gentleman gets accosted by a woman, who accuses him of not paying for her night services.

As people gathered around to hear the usual story in that part of town, a taxi driver screamed: "The coke (cocaine) addict is at it again!"

His fast moving taxi zipped through the dark crowded suburb leaving behind a veritable package of defence for an innocent strange man accused of cheating a supposed sex worker in a hostile city corner colonised by drug sellers and users.

Her acerbic eyes glowed as she scrutinized the faces that had gathered to listen to her story. She quivered at the least intervention as her scaly and malnourished body advertised her desperation. Those who knew her called her Funky. This time Funky's tricks could not work on the stranger she had picked on that night. The anticipation of going cold turkey haunted her.

She is in the expanding world of drug users in a country, which has for many years refused to acknowledge its existence, A recent story of a missing drug packaged destined for Ghana and a committee of enquiry brought this reality to the living rooms of many Ghanaians.

They had frozen at news items, which carried an imagery of a Hollywood style invasion by South American drug cartels on a beach of Ghana.

The alleged invasion of the vessel, which was purported to have carried the drugs by certain armed people, pushed a hitherto innocent population into the realms of their real world: an emerging drug transit point and colony.

It is an open secret that certain quarters including the Circle overhead had long held the spirit of drug use and trade as questionable characters openly wiped their nostrils in front of the initiated during dark hours when commuters had thinned out.

A careless whisper during these "happy hours" could spell doom for the stranger since drug users love best and "keepeth the brethren". After daybreak, most addicts put on tattered clothing to blackmail the religious and superstitious Ghanaian, who would give out anything to seek favours from the spirits.

They need those alms to finance a habit, a craving that is highly expensive and addictive.

What a user dreads most is the anticipation of "withdrawal". During such periods, they shake, groan and suffer like a rain-drenched turkey. For those whose sources of income are not assured, prostitution, robbery and killing or the sale of their dignity just for a "high" would suffice.

In the dark alleys, friendly whispers court non-users to try their stuff. On the expansive fields and dormitories of schools, young adventurous teenagers are led into this drug-laden world of illusion where barons build their mansions and worldly empires on their waning sanity.

But a former Minister of the Interior spoke of a looming doom that sent chills down the spine of members of Parliament when they were debating a bill that would make drug related offenders ineligible for bail.

"Drugs, I mean the illicit ones, are the greatest threat to national security .We have to tackle this problem head-on lest we suffer the consequences.

Papa Owusu Ankomah, now Minister of Education, Sports and Science, had seen a lot as a person in charge of internal security and knows too well that drug barons were getting sophisticated by the day. Drugs could bring the political system of a nation down and tear its security arrangements into shreds because the money involved is huge and the people involved in its distribution and sale are exceedingly ruthless.

The Chief of National Security, Mr Francis Poku is also on record to have said that the drug menace is becoming that monster that could squeeze the life out of the Ghanaian nationhood.

While all these words echoed through the various media, new converts are found every night strolling into the dark corners of the country's major cities, savouring the idea of a new paradise which unwittingly steals away their poor souls.

The poor is always the target under these circumstances as they are promised the goodies that they dream of daily. Its appeal becomes more pronounced when wealth becomes the only tool for measuring dignity and substance. Society no longer questions the sudden accumulation of wealth but extol such enterprises.

A short search through the recent past of most South American Countries would lay bare the fact that drug sale and its subsequent abuse could destroy the beauty, strength and sanity of a people like Ghanaians, a people struggling to develop in a harsh global economic regime.

Perhaps, a national debate is needed to fashion out how best to get rid of this menace if the many questions being asked have few answers to match.

The nation must escape the lingering haze of drugs, lest it gropes dazed into her worst nightmare. 24 Sept. 06

Columnist: GNA