Addiction re-echoes at NNEW event in PH:

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Christie Bature Ogbeifun, Nigeria’s only polygrapher, who lost all five sisters to the menace, warns that Nigeria’s youth section may soon be wiped off   

(Culled from BD Sunday)

Drug and other addictions are believed to have forged a force to consume the youth segment of the Nigerian populace, especially the women, and this is said to be marching menacingly in Northern Nigeria.

Port Harcourt-based but Kaduna-born Christie Bature-Ogbeifun, who is left to cater for the children of her sisters, lost all her five sisters to addiction. Her siblings, the only children her mother had along with her, may have joined an emerging army of females attempting to escape a discriminative anti-female culture through drugs and other addictions.

For decades, most young females have found that their fathers think it is better to train a dog than train a female in school because she was only good at being wives or following other men in the name of marriage. New jihadists have emerged that outrightly maltreat females who went to schools as in Chibok and Dapchi mass abductions of female students in recent times. Now, most such girls resort to drugs to reduce the pain of life without a future in the 21st century.

Women in purdah have found drugs as the only companion in a life full of frustrations over expectations. Yet, drugs and other addictions are widespread across Nigeria, an indication that it is not only a northern menace but a cankerworm that has come to devour a critical segment of the emerging youth populace.

These are some of the echoes at the inauguration of the newly elected executive committee of the NECA Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at their Trans-Amadi regional headquarters.

Bature-Ogbeifun, a reverend and motivational speaker who may have devoted her life and career to saving those downing in addiction, was guest speaker at the NNEW event where she spoke on mental health in women to motivate the hall full of business and career women.

In an exclusive interview after the event, Bature-Ogbeifun told BD Sunday that she was involved in some studies for the FG and the UN on youths and drugs addiction in Nigeria and could only conclude that there is danger. “Some of the statistics are bad. About 10 per cent of the population is actively in addiction right now. The result is scary. In every state, drugs are being taken. It’s an epidemic waiting to explode, but people are not paying enough attention. It is terrible to see the size of the Nigerian youths that have been swallowed up by drugs. We are grossly under-prepared for a country of almost 200m with 10 per cent or 20m as addicts.”

The problem is the authorities still regard mental health as psychiatric case and thus send those needing rehabilitation to psychiatric hospitals where she said their cases get worse. On whether it was true that the north has bigger drugs case, the Electrical Engineer turned health expert said; “The highest is Kano and Jigawa. I do not know why. It could be the almajiri syndrome. Being left alone to fend for oneself is much trauma. Many go into drugs to contain it. Most of the women in purdah that are not allowed to go out seem to resort to drugs. It is frustration for not finding expression. We have the highest incidence of housewife-addicts in Kano/Jigawa axis. The appeal is to all the states. In 10 years, if nothing is done about the rate of drugs addiction in Nigeria, we would lose an entire generation and leave behind children and old people.”

On what she wanted as takeaway at the NNEW event in Port Harcourt, she said: “I want women to know they have huge capacity but that mental health is the problem that may limit them. Mental health is not about psychosis, madness, depression, etc. It is about maintaining your mind in such a way that you are in control of your faculties; to maintain your state of mind in such a way that things thrown at you will not cripple you. It’s to have the can-do spirit, to be healthy enough to take life as it comes; to learn how to fight back when life throws things at you.”

The expert had picked a particular hormone, cortisone (or cortisol) as very dangerous in the body due its acidic nature. On what could be done, she said: “Yes, at any time, the human body has an acceptable level of cortisone. It is only when bad things happen that it can go beyond the calibrated level. When it happens, it is good to confront the negative event to the point that you can contain. Next, find outlets: sun, exercise, laughter, shapes, skip, so that your body can relax. Some do medication, yoga, etc. Restore the body to homo-statis, the place of balance.’

On the contribution of the economy to mental health issues, Bature-Ogbeifun agreed, saying money is one factor to make life easy and that a tough economy would affect one’s mental health. To combat it, we must practice contentment; that if we do not like where we are, we could learn to enjoy it.

In the event proper, many important resources persons tried to motivate the NNEW women and the women they brought together including the Divine Widows from the Directorate of State Security (DSS) in Rivers State. An 83-year-old widow, Christiana Nwogu, caught the eyes of the officials at the event due to her hunger for entrepreneurship and her healthy looks.

Turning negative to positive; Bature-Ogbeifun

I am glad that God made me a woman. I am glad am that I am the one that will go to the man at the end of the month and open my palm and say, honey, money? Sometimes the man howls; won’t you allow the month to end well? This is second of the month oh, I would remind him, my hand still stretched.

I am glad I am not the one to take all that pressure; so a woman has less pressure, she is creative to manage little things and to turn dour environment around with colours and bright moods, and be able to take pressure. But, most times, the woman forgets to care about her pressure.

Women lead a life of stretching themselves to make others happy. When born, her ear lobes are pierced to create holes for earrings, and this brings pain. Soon, the chest begins to stretch to sprout breasts; the hips stretch to give her female shapes. Soon, she is ready to stretch her stomach to carry another person for nine months. Sometimes her stomach would protrude far ahead of her with her buttocks stretching far backwards, all about pains. She goes to the labour room to stretch the more for the baby to come out. She soon stretches to carry the baby on the back, load on the head, and stirs soup with one hand; yet she is still coordinating others. The lesson here is about a women’s capacity to take pressure and stretch all the time. Men are made to focus on one thing but the woman is multi-tasking. It is however important for today’s woman to know that the body can just jam.

Hormones: See how it works. The body discharges hormones in good or bad moments; in good or bad. Certain kinds of hormone are discharged into the body. But Cortisol (Cortisone) is a terrible hormone that affects all parts of the body badly. Agonising or worrying is one of the ways the body discharges cortisone into the body; waiting too much under the sun or under stress or sleepless night discharges cortisone into the body, too. Other instances are menace of bad children, failed businesses, or emergencies. Crying is a way to create balance in the body by freeing cortisone from the body.

Stress is a major culprit; cortisone is acidic. You cannot stop cortisone from being discharged into the body. The danger is if one is brooding or worrying; that is when cortisone is most discharged into the body.

Solution: You must look for ways to reduce or eliminate cortisone in your body. Create time to cry or to worry; then move on, put the injury behind you. Do not surround yourself with ‘chief mourners’, those who think they are helping you by provoking the injured feeling. Look beyond your problem; if you bring your finger very close to your eye, you see nothing else except the finger because it is magnified. If you keep it far, you will see it but still see other others. That is how putting your injury very close to your heart blocks all other things in life.

Insight into her life: I am from Northern Nigeria, Kaduna. There is a northern mentality about training girls in school. The belief there is that it is better to train a dog than train a girl child. They say, after training her, she would walk away with (marry) another man.

This created a sense of loss of value in most northern girls of our time. My case was worse because my mother gave birth to only girls, six of us. My father rejected my mother on this account; that she did not know how to give birth to male children. So, we lived a miserable life, life of self-pity and rejection; inferiority feeling. The belief was that a woman was no good for anything, only to give birth to children; or just to be a wife so as to help a man fulfill his destiny. In this case, a woman was not entitled to her own destiny.

No! I say to you, you are more than somebody’s wife. My case was worse because I was not only a girl-child, I had a big voice which was frowned at. People always turned to ask, who own that voice. That it was the voice of a girl made the scolding worse.

I say to you, find positive in negative environment. That is what I did. The problem is that most women keep competing with men; and they may die competing. I say, develop yourself and don’t compete with the man.

I studied Electrical Engineering, but that was to please my father. After that, I came to Port Harcourt and started looking for my own identity in life, to ask myself some questions and seek answers to them. I had handed the Degree certificate to my father who actually is the owner. I began to look for my own qualification, my own knowledge and own relevance. I started designing and doing Greeting Cards. I was shopping at Oil Mill Market (that was what my level could afford then). My sisters all died of addiction (drugs and alcohol). They could not take the rejection like I did. They sought solutions in those habits and died in the process.

Those things affected me but I turned them to energy for solutions. I got close to people so I could solve their problems. Today, I run the only Rehabilitation Centre in the South-South. Next, I realized that rehabilitated drug addicts lie a lot to cover their tracks. They usually go back to their habits and would lie to cover up. I began to look for how to bust them and know the truth. That brought me to the idea of a machine that dictates lies. I invested very much in the study and instrumentation. Today, I am the only Polygrapher in Nigeria and the only woman for that matter. The centre is in Port Harcourt.

So, I say, don’t lock up your dream.

DSS official

The DSS in Rivers State understands that the fight against crime and violent conduct in the society can better start at the family level. It is correct to say that if mothers are supported to bring up their children well, those children will grow to be less troublesome to the society. If a mother coordinates the children well, they will turn out better members of the society, and there would be less crime. It is with this in mind that the State Director floated the Divine Widows Scheme to cater for wives of deceased officers and female officers that lost their husbands. He expects the beneficiaries to make good use of the funds and trainings so as to allow others to benefit.

Chairman of occasion: Chris Birionwu

The chairman is also the geo-group chief inaugurated the new executives. He said despite economic downtime in the country affecting businesses, the NNEW group waxed stronger due to their resourcefulness and quality of its leadership. His advice is that they new executives should continue to promote team spirit to weather the storm. He said NECA was fully supportive of the work they are doing.

Chairperson: Temitayo Ojesanmi

My team is strong. NNEW has been in existence in PH for five years but there are things that need to be reviewed right now especially in terms of the hunger for business to put PH NNEW on a stronger map in Nigeria. That would be our new focus. I have no doubt that this exco would do the national body proud in the Port Harcourt zone.

NNEW is working on a widow’s empowerment scheme funded by the State Director of DSS in the state. It is his initiative for retired officers who are widows or wives of officers that died either in service or after retirement. The idea is to help these women do meaningful things. He wants them to be professional in their businesses.

In some cultures, the widow is deprived of everything the husband had. So the director started this scheme to support them with reasonable raised from supporters of the ideal. This is to minimize the number of youths that may become restive in future. It is about dealing with insecurity at the long run.

The Director thus invited NNEW to work with him on this project, to help them set up, train them, mentor them to ensure they are running successful businesses. It will be for one full year of mentoring and guiding.

Also, we are on an advocacy project funded by the USAID on multiple taxes and hassles faced by women entrepreneurs especially in the markets in Port Harcourt and the oil region. We are asking for policies to stop or reduce these problems on women so they can run meaningful businesses. The little they make should not be taken from them especially by people you do not know. The women should be made to know what to pay, when to pay and where to pay it. We go round and we see how women are beaten up, their kerosene poured on them, their goods strewn all over. We say no to this kind of thing.

We have training also for business women to teach them how to write their own business plans. We got one of our IOCs to back the programme. We have other trainings for our youths from nine different sectors. They would have their own specialized trainings.

We are also going to run a business clinic for different businesses. Those harassed would know where to go.

That is the journey we have been on and we would continue to be on.

Jossy Nkwocha, PhD; (Indorama)

Nkwocha said Indorama-Eleme Fertilizer Company Limited (owned by Indorama-Eleme Petrochemicals Limited) has embarked on a campaign with series of trainings with NNEW members on the correct application of fertilizers. He also talked about numerous opportunities in the fertilizer chain as well as in other chains created by the company.

He said: “Women are bringing huge impact on the society worldwide. Men seem to take the back seat. Nobody seems to talk for the men. Management of Indorama feels proud of the NNEW. Remember that the FG put aside N2Bn as fund to lend to female SMEs alone. The woman is no longer restricted in the kitchen. Indorama was there to support the last exco; we will be there for the incoming exco to help them improve on what was achieved. Indorama-Eleme as a company recognizes that not many people use fertilizers in Rivers State to increase farm yield. Let your members get close to the fertilizer chain and plastics to see areas of participation as entrepreneurs.

Euegnia Marcus of Fresh View (widow, founder of Fresh View to help women)

The issue with widowhood is, when do the tears stop? Sometimes I break down and weep but good people around me urge me on. I will say, set up and move on. Keep on with your small business and soon, the heavy heart would clear up. Women, get close to places such as NNEW so you can network and get better.