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Friends Made Me Do It ⦁ Pandemic of Gang-Bang, Drug Dependence Seize Nigerian Teens ⦁ Their Frantic Battles with Peer Pressure ⦁ They are Getting Bolder, Slipping to Self-Destruct – Psychologists

ByCitizen NewsNG

May 8, 2021

 

For Bola Akinde, watching his daughter smoke weed was like peeping into a time capsule. The image spiralled rearwards, like dismal paste-ups to his younger self.
“I experimented with weed on my 17th birthday. I lived in the school hostel and my friends urged me to try it. I stopped four months later, after our housemaster caught us smoking and I got suspended for two weeks. I vowed never to touch weed again. But my daughter, Joke, is only 14, and she is a chainsmoker. She smokes and drinks marijuana. She hosts gang-bangs.”
Since he caught his 14-year-old daughter “sucking on a claro,” – that is, smoking the butt end of a giant weed wrap – with her male cousin and twin daughters of a family friend, he has been afflicted by a strong foreboding about his child’s future.
Despite their affinity for marijuana, father and daughter are light and shade of the same fever. While Akinde quit smoking at age 17, at 14, his daughter still suffers heavy drug dependence.
Yet getting high is not her only vice. “Joke is very reckless; so reckless that she was caught pants-down letting strange boys run a train on her (gang-bang). She is just a child,” said Akinde, revealing that his daughter orchestrated and hosted the sexual activity with classmates.
“We found out that, that was the second one masterminded by her. What her mother wouldn’t dare as a teen, Joke dares recklessly. She is very reckless,” said Akinde in a wavering tenor.
Then, close to tears, he said, “Mi o to set lori omokankan ri, bawo lawon boys buruku kan se ma wa ma to set lori omo mi (I never participated in any gang-bang of someone’s else’s daughter. Why should my own daughter become the vixen of multiple gang-bangs?)”
He said, “When we queried her, she said, the first time, her friends convinced her to do it. And the second and third sessions were initiated by her. Her cousin said she did it to gain ‘street cred’ (street credibility). Now, someone will say she is acting out. Acting out what exactly?
On New Year’s eve, Joke’s mother reportedly caught her pants down with the son of her childhood friend. A 12-year-old boy. “But she (the mother) never told me about it until I caught Joke smoking weed on an unannounced and unscheduled visit to their place. Then, the mother cried that it was about time we sought spiritual help for her,” said Akinde.
The 51-year-old disclosed that although he and Joke’s mother are divorced, they maintain cordial relations for their daughter’s sake.
He said, “Yes, I experienced peer pressure too as a teenager, but there was a limit to the things I did. Yes, I smoked Igbo (weed). Yes, I took some alcohol. Heck, I had girlfriends but I didn’t have sex until I clocked 20. My daughter has been having sex since age 13,” he said, lamenting that she got deflowered while experimenting with the 14-year-old son of a former neighbour.
•Teenagers smoking marijuana at a makeshift colony established by them in Adeniji Adele Estate, Lagos Island
“That was why her mother changed apartments, because the boy’s mother became hostile, claiming Joke was a bad influence on her son…I had saved up money to send her abroad for schooling. Who knows what she would do over there? I would rather commit my money to my bar and printing business,” said Akinde.
Frustrated, the Akindes took their daughter to a white garment church in Ibadan, where she is currently been exorcised of the “demons of addiction.”
“We had to take her that far to avoid uncomfortable questions from neighbours and close relatives. They know the truth but they will still come to rub it in, showing scathing concern,” said Hannah, Joke’s mother.
Were the Akindes right to haul their daughter to a spiritualist? Tunde Allen, a teen psychologist and school counsellor stated that teenagers like Joke often times “act out of character” to get their parents attention.
“Random sex, minor or extreme drug dependence are often manifestations of deeper emotional issues. They represent a deeper cry for help. But most parents hardly hear such a child’s cry until it gets too late. The child is probably broken by her parents’ divorce. The trigger to her rebellion could be something a classmate did or said to her. It could be a line or scene from a teen movie she watched. It could be as a result of having suffered molestation. Her parents must seek urgent mental health support for her,” he said.
‘Parents need to chill’
“Kids really don’t have it easy,” argued Ruki Awosile, an aspiring writer and high school senior. The 16-year-old argued that teenagers “use drugs sometimes to catch fun.”
She said, “Most famous people, politicians and celebrities did drugs when they were young. Yet they turned out well. I have an uncle who smokes weed with coffee to unwind every night. He is married with kids and very rich, richer than my parents. They tricked me back to Nigeria from the UK. They even enrolled me in a trashy public school to teach me that life is hard.
“Yes, life is hard, for me especially. What? I must be grateful, they keep saying. Too many parents think this way.
“Parents make our lives hard. Jonzing (Using drugs) is allowed to deal with their stress. I spend every day in school and still come back home to do house chores. There is no law that says I must wash plates or sweep the floor. That is why people employ housemaids. On top of that, my father expects me to perform excellently in school. The pressure is too much. I can’t deal, abeg,” she said.
Corroborating her, Noah Idaba, 19, argued that many teenagers do drugs in order to avoid a meltdown. “Parents are in your face, everywhere. They don’t even let you watch TV when you feel like. Parents just need to chill. Yes, they pay school fees, but children too are cashing out these days. We are hustling, doing forex and other businesses. Even being a Game Boy (Yahoo Boy or internet fraudster) is good hustle. I am yet to see any parent refuse a car gift or money from a child,” he said.
Encounters with teenagers across Lagos offered interesting glimpses into their mindset. “We are using drugs, breaking rules, because we want better attention,” was the resonant refrain.
Bisi Agaba, an addiction counsellor and child psychologist, described it as indicators of the usual teen rebellion and a part of growing up. She said, “Several kids engage in anti-social behaviour; they start using hard drugs either to get their parents’ attention or avoid their attention. Parents must rethink their approach to parenting, she said.
Olumide Michael, a retired school principal, however, argued that the modern teenager is a beneficiary of excessive cuddling. He said, “My 16-year-old niece once told her mother that her life is hard because she is made to do house chores and attend to her personal needs, like fetching and heating water for her own bath, washing and ironing her own clothes.
“She lamented that her parents failed her and her siblings by being ‘too middle-class.’ Look at that entitlement mentality. In our days, such drivel would earn you a slap and thorough thrashing.”
Michael said, “When you spare the rod, you spoil the child. Teenagers need tough love. Teach your children to pray. Teach them to know God. Ultimately, prayers and constant counselling, and an occassionally good thrashing, exorcise the wildest demons from a rebellious child,” he said.
But are these enough to divest the modern teen of rebellion? In several parts of Lagos: schools, playgrounds and unchaperoned house parties, teenagers immerse daily in seething currents that flow beyond their ken and frequently sweep beyond their depth. Outright neglect by their parents and the lack of a dependable guardian and mentorship has led too many of them into chasms of misdemeanour, argued teen psychologists.
In a frantic bid to ride the tide of abstruseness characteristic of adolescence and the apathy of their parents, they shoulder each other into the quicksands of vice, oftentimes. They experiment with hard drugs, hard partying, and unsafe, random sex.
Cynthia, 14, and her 13-year-old stepsister, Ijeoma, were recently rescued from sexual indiscretion by their mother’s automobile mechanic. Their mother, Theresa Obiekwe, said but for the artisan, her daughters would have “grossly misbehaved.”
The mechanic and his apprentice reportedly caught a glimpse of both girls and four others as they filed into a bungalow behind one of his clients’ building, where he had gone to service cars.
“I was preparing to go out when my mechanic called me that he had just glimpsed my daughters around Egbeda. Cynthia is SSS1 and her younger sister is in JSS3. And their school is in Ikeja. I wondered what they were doing in Egbeda.
“He urged me to come immediately stressing that they weren’t in good company. Luckily, two of my brothers were with me. We hurried to the place and together with the mechanic and their hosts’ neighbours, we stormed the apartment. We banged on the door for 20 minutes before they opened it. They didn’t open it because they were playing loud music.
“I still can’t wrap my head around what I saw. My daughters and four other girls were strip-dancing to this lewd song while the boys, sprayed them with cash. The oldest among them all was 15 years old. After forcing them to put on their uniforms, I discovered that they didn’t put on underpants to school. ‘Marlians don’t wear pants,’ said the mechanic’s apprentice derisively, and I was completely overwhelmed by shame.
“I hauled them back home and gave them a sound beating,” she said, adding that since the shameful incident, she had been personally dropping off her daughters at school and picking them up at closing hour.
Few people would forget in a hurry, the sad case of Lizzy, who started using cocaine at age 19. She developed a hankering for the hard drug while smoking marijuana to seem cool before her boyfriend.
The latter, she said, eventually revealed to her that he had been mixing her marijuana wraps with cocaine to her surprise but it was too late as she was already dependent on the psychotropic substance.
Lizzy became hevaily dependent on crack cocaine and lived with her captors for seven years until her rescue by Dr. Tony Rapu, a pastor and founder of Freedom Foundation, an anti-drug dependence non governmental organisation (NGO).
The latter disclosed that the drug dealers and pimps fed Lizzy’s drug habit. For seven years, she loitered the streets from noon through dusk, begging for alms in the traffic along the Ikeja axis.
“At night, she resorted to commercial sex work, all in a bid to fund her drug habit. We took lizzy off the streets to begin her long journey of rehabilitation and hopefully, successful integration back to a normal and productive life,” said Rapu, soon after he rescued her from the claws of her captors in Ipodo.
Then there is 15-year-old Doyin Lawal, who started smoking weed to fit in with his high school’s hip crowd. He said, “I was at a house party, and everyone was doing drugs. My cousin offered me weed (marijuana) but I declined. Then this classmate made fun of me that I couldn’t smoke it because I was too scared that I would cough and mess myself up. His crew was always taunting my crew, fighting us. Everybody started laughing at me and to show them that I wasn’t scared, I took a drag, and I didn’t cough,” he said.
That night, Doyin smoked two wraps of marijuana to the pleasure and applause of his mates.
But his vision became blurry and he developed a nasty headache. “To calm me, I was given a cigarette with strawberry flavour and a cup of soda mixed with tramadol. After taking it, I fell asleep,” he said.
Nothing happened until midnight when he woke up to see vomit all over him and his friends. He said, “Four of us slept in the same bed at that party. I threw up all over them. They made fun of me but promised to keep my secret. It would be bad for our crew, and terrible for our rep, if our mates knew that I eventually threw up over night.”
In time, Doyin got hooked to marijuana. “Sometimes, I added ‘level’ (cocaine) to give it kick,” he said, stressing that his cousin knows a dealer who usually got them marijuana laced with cocaine.
Doyin became totally dependent on the hard drug. He soaked it in fruit punch and potions of soda and tramadol, until he hit a learning curve. Wola, his 17-year-old cousin, who taught him to smoke weed overdosed on Pamilerin, a psychotropic brew containing marijuana, cocaine, and black berry juice and almost lost his life.
The latter’s older girlfriend, a sex worker called Franca, allegedly plied him with a stronger version of the brew before engaging him in a sex romp at a hotel in Akowonjo; when Wola started convulsing, she escaped and called Doyin to get his cousin at the hotel.
Wola’s close shave with death served as a deterrent to Doyin. “I will never take ‘levels’ or Pamilerin again. I will stick to marijuana and drinks,” he said.
Even if it doesn’t amount to much. It’s a beginning.
Inside the teenage brain
For several decades teen psychologists have pondered the reasons for teenagers’ intense rebellion against constituted authorities and their parents. The whole thing remained a conundrum until Frances Jensen, Chair of the neurology department at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, United States (US), however, encountered an eureka moment in her child’s rebellion.
When Jensen’s eldest son, Andrew, reached high school, he underwent a transformation from a supposedly calm, predictable child to a complete stranger. He changed his hair color from brown to black and started wearing garish clothing. He turned into an angst-filled teenager overnight, said Jensen to an international news medium.
She wondered what happened and whether Andrew’s younger brother would undergo the same metamorphosis. So she deployed her skills as a neuroscientist to examine the situation. “I realized I had an experiment going on in my own home,” said, the author of The Teenage Brain.
That was about two decades ago, when doctors, parents, teachers and society at large, believed that teenagers act so reckless and impulsive due to raging hormones.
Advances in brain imaging, courtesy studies like Jensens’ reveal that the teenage brain has lots of plasticity, which means it can change, adapt and respond to its environment until a person’s 20s.
The brain undergoes a growth in connectivity which presents itself as white matter, and comes from a fatty substance called myelin. As the brain develops, myelin wraps itself around nerve cells’ axons—long, thin tendrils that extend from the cell and transmit information—like insulation on an electrical wire.
The process starts from the back of the brain and works its way to the front. That means the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain involved in decision-making, planning and self-control, is the last part to mature.
Thus it’s not that teens don’t have frontal- lobe capabilities but rather their signals are not getting to the back of the brain fast enough to regulate their emotions. It’s why risk-taking and impulsive behaviour are more common among teens and young adults. “This is why peer pressure rules at this time of life,” said Jensen.
Teenagers also undergo major changes in their limbic system—the area of the brain that controls emotions—at the onset of puberty, which is typically around the ages of 10 to 12. Doctors now believe that this mismatch in development of the impulse-control part of the brain and the hormone- and emotion-fueled part of the brain is what causes the risk-taking behaviours that are so common among teenagers.
This new understanding of the biology that underlies teenage rebellion can be helpful to both teenagers and their parents. Jensen stresses the importance of setting examples of appropriate emotional responses and helping young people navigate difficult situations that are increasingly common among teens and adolescents.
The scourge of the internet
Social media networks have been declared inimical to the mental health of adolescents, according to a recent survey of almost 1,500 teens and young adults. While enhancing social bonding, social platforms have also been associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and failure.
Bullying has migrated from the playground to assume a more personal and sinister dimensions on teenagers’ phones, timelines and message inboxes. As modern technologies and social media make it easier to spread sinister information, leading to suicide ideation by troubled teenagers and outright suicide, virtual interactions have become harder for parents and teachers to monitor and control.
“As parents, we often want to protect our kids from failure or any emotional pain. But opportunities for learning from such experiences in the context of a loving and supportive family are key to helping the adolescent develop and use this ability as an adult,” advises B.J. Casey, the director of the Fundamentals of the Adolescent Brain Lab at Yale University.
Notwitstanding biological analysis of the rebellion and storms of the teenage years, not a few Nigerian parents vote for tough love: a more psychological and physical approach, involving using the rod, prayers and counselling.
Kennedy Adenekan, 48, argued that, “Kids have it easy these days. Yet they are more daring and driven to self-destruct. Parents experienced adolescence too. But we were more responsible. The worst I did was to engage in the so-called ‘deals.’ Back then, it was hip to say you ran a ‘deal.’ In truth, we were committing theft, and burgling our own homes.”
The architect and father of five disclosed that his friends pilfered valuables from their own homes and sold them off at a paltry fee, even though they were from wealthy homes.
“Foolishly, I emulated them. Back then, the pendulum of the old, classic analog wall clock was valuable because it was made of mercury. Goldsmiths made use of it to process gold products. At a friend’s advise, I stole the entire wall clock and took it to my friends. Together, we took it to a goldsmith and pawned it off at N2, 000. We later learnt that the goldsmith swindled us, that we ought to have sold it around N15, 000 at least.
“It was stupid of me because it was the only clock in our living room and its absence was glaring. My parents got me arrested but later released me at my grandma’s urging. I have stolen pumping machines, headlamps of cars and compressors. I pawned it all to for a paltry fee, and to my friends’ applause. I used the proceeds to buy biker boots, lumber jacks, hamburgers and face caps. It improved my street credibility as a tough guy. A homie. A big boy.
“But today, my own children scare me. My daughter wants to become a video vixen. She wants to dance in hip hop videos. I believe she would outgrow this phase. But my son, Bosun, is a lost cause. He is into Yahoo-Plus (advance fee fraud laced with voodoo).
Adenekan’s fears are probably well-founded. “At 18 years, Bosun has failed SSCE twice and won’t resit the exam,” he said.
In late February, he told the teenager to move out if he won’t stop keeping late nights. To Adenekan’s chagrin, the boy moved out the next day. “He told his mother and sisters that he would come back in August to buy me and my house. I am waiting,” said Adenekan, in the tenor of a father who knows that paternity may be borne by equanimity or regret.

By Olatunji Ololade

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