According to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), its goal in working with music artist Afeez Adeshina Fashola, also known as Naira Marley, was to persuade him to use his platforms and skills to produce content that would deter millions of his fans and young Nigerians from abusing drugs.
The musician expressed his willingness to help the battle against drug misuse in the nation by leading members of his team on a visit to the anti-narcotics agency’s national headquarters in Abuja on Thursday, August 17, 2023.
The explanation, according to NDLEA, was required because of what it called “continued misrepresentation” of the visit’s purpose, particularly on online news sources where some stories stated that the British-Nigerian musician had been hired as an NDLEA Ambassador.
“This is misleading and absolutely falsehood,” said Femi Babafemi, the NDLEA Director of Media and Advocacy, in a statement on Saturday. “The pictures of the visit and the brief video with Naira Marley’s advocacy message to his followers were properly captioned and shared by the Agency without any suggestion of such appointment.
The Agency chose to support Naira Marley in spreading anti-substance abuse messages rather than using his platform to promote and glamourize drug abuse, which would have the grave consequence of misleading millions of Nigerian youths into danger. This was done to strike a balance between our efforts to reduce both drug supply and demand. Naira Marley has over seven million followers, or half of the country’s drug users.
The subject of this year’s World Drug Day, “People First: Stop Stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen Prevention,” and the Agency’s entire society approach to the fight against drug misuse are both in accord with this. Do we reject him, turn our back on him, and let him continue in his old habit, or do we accept him and give him a chance so he can encourage his followers to stop abusing drugs when an artist with seven million followers who claims marijuana is good turns a new leaf after receiving serious counseling?
Alternatively said, why should we take our anti-drug usage advocacy messages to schools, churches, mosques, market places, motor parks, Nollywood, kannywood, traditional rulers, labor, and the entertainment sector but turn a blind eye to one of their members when they decide to turn a new leaf? These are issues that individuals who oppose Naira Marley’s necessary shift may need to think about.
In fact, the leader of the same movement is the best person to deliver the message against drug usage to the Marlians. This is not the time for mischief or cynicism, but rather the perfect opportunity for us to support the musician and hold him responsible for his public pledge against substance misuse in his video address to his fans.