Excessive weed, alcohol take over Nigerian showbusiness

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By Olaitan Ganiu and Gbenga Bada

There is a shift of trend in the Nigerian showbiz as leading celebrities and family brand ambassadors have been turning to sharing and flaunting their posting their binge smoking and alcohol on social media. Experts have warned that there would be an upsurge in the number of substance abuse by youths if caution is not taken.

Like a competition with each participant seeming to outdo the other, many Nigerian celebrities have continued to showcase their love for the constant intake of marijuana and alcohol with little or no care in the world.

The list is endless but fiercely led by leading Nigerian music stars that include Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, Naira Marley, and Olamide.

“I don’t do drugs, I just smoke weed,” confirming his addiction to marijuana at every given opportunity, controversial singer Afeez Fashola aka Naira Marley tells his combined followers of 7.6 million on social media platforms – Twitter and Instagram.

The singer, whose lyrics and songs glorify sex, violence, and drugs, followed up his assertions writing, “It’s a very strange thing when you make nature illegal.”

Known for consistently feeding his millions of followers with his lifestyle, his social media posts are not weird to many of his ardent followers, who refer to themselves as ‘Marlians’.

Except for the Ramadan period, the singer is fond of delighting his teeming fans and followers, who are made up of young teens and adults, with his huff and puff of marijuana videos and raunchy pictures on social media.

With much criticism from Nigerians, the ‘Soapy’ singer rarely gives a hoot nor worry about the consequences and the message he’s sending to younger generations.

Months ago, the singer had shared a picture of himself with his gang wrapping up marijuana and captioned it, “No permission! We do it with no permission.”

Naira Marley might seemingly be the most daring of them all but he’s sure not the only artist caught in this messy puddle of smoke promotion, as many of his colleagues seemed to have joined the trend.

Just like his mentor, Fela Kuti, Grammy award nominee, Damini Ogulu aka Burna Boy doesn’t feel guilty smoking in his music videos and public places. In 2013, to show his love for marijuana, the Africa Giant dropped a special tune titled, ‘Smoke Some Weed’ off his album, L.I.F.E. In the song, he confirmed his affection for smoking saying, “I need to sing this song. ’cause marijuana has never ever done me wrong… Me have some marijuana in a me house that I would like to smoke with you gyal…”

On May 4, 2020, the 29-year-old singer caused a stir on social media as he was seen smoking in the presence of his mother and manager, Bose Ogulu. In the Instagram live video, the Port Harcourt born-artist and his mother were dancing to one of Wizkid’s songs as he was recorded exchanging blunts with a friend. Not his first attempt, the same year, a picture of him smoking in the presence of his father also surfaced on social media.

Not to be left out is Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun aka Wizkid. The 30-year-old singer is fond of showing off his smoking habits arbitrarily on the internet – most especially on Instagram.

Before the release of his 2020 album, ‘Made in Lagos’, the Starboy usually feeds his fans with studio session clips that see him smoking while working. His Instagram page is filled with pictures and videos of the singer smoking or holding substances suspected to be marijuana.

Social commentators have observed that the father of three is losing weight and this has been alleged to be connected with his excessive intake of weed. “Smoke is drying you out… you need to take a chill,” a follower on Twitter cautioned the singer. Another Twitter user, Daddy GeeHoe, criticized that Wizkd has lost his good looks as a result of his continuous consumption of the substance suspected to be marijuana. “Too much weed has made Wizkid lose his beauty,” he posted.

A scroll on Olamide’s Instagram page proves that he is an avid smoker. While he’s hardly seen smoking other substances aside from cigarettes, he has, on several occasions, been cautioned by industry experts for promoting drug abuse in some of his songs.

Another promoter of the binge smoking and drinking lifestyle is 28-years-old David ‘Davido’ Adeleke. The 30BG honcho seems to have quickly forgotten the circumstances surrounding the death of some of his close friends in the spate of one week in 2017.

Precisely, on October 8, 2017, the FEM crooner’s crew including his official disc jockey, Oluwagbemiga Abiodun aka DJ Olu, and Chime were found dead in the car park of a luxurious building situated on Banana Island Lagos. According to reports, the deaths were a result of substance abuse.

Four days before the incident, another of the singer’s affiliates, Tagbo, had collapsed and died after embarking on a drinking binge to celebrate his birthday with the singer and his crew.

Though the 28-year-old singer once hinted that he was quitting smoking just after a music producer, Don Jazzy celebrated his one year of non-smoking on social media, he has since returned to his old habit stronger.

The list of musicians is endless. The same goes for Nollywood stars with many caught in the web of playing characters that sees them interpreting excessive smoking habits on screens.

So bad is the trend that up and coming music acts find it extremely difficult to exist in the space without having to tow the lines of the most popular and trending music acts. The glorification of sexual acts, binge smoking, and drinking has become a norm that should be followed for any entertainer seeking success.

The effects on an artiste’s career

The adverse effect of drug addiction on the lives, careers, and performances of entertainers is not one synonymous with only the Nigerian entertainment space. Just as it didn’t just start today, it is reputable to have dragged many superstars down the grave. Globally, leading musicians and actors from Charlie Sheen, Steve Howe, Judy Garland to Whitney Houston. The Nigerian entertainment industry has also had its fair share of bright stars who have seen their careers crumble over addiction or substance intake.

Early in January, Nigerians woke up to a viral clip where current rave, Bella Shmurda, was seen misbehaving on stage during a performance in Asaba, Delta state.

In the video, the 23-year-old singer was seen staggering and unable to take charge of his performance until his crew had to support him to stand properly. The ‘Cash App’ singer was alleged to have been highly intoxicated before climbing the stage to perform.

The development, however, ignited mixed reactions as many slams the young singer for public misconduct, while few advised him against the use of drugs.

“Bella Shmurda needs serious management before drugs will ruin him, his show at Asaba was an eyesore, he was too high to even perform. Talent without goods behaviours and good management will be a waste of talent at the end of the day,” a fan, Uncle Ajala ranted on Twitter.

Another fan, Xammy Official advised, “We’ve seen so many great talents lose it out to drugs. Bella Shmurda needs a very good advisor in the industry and a good management team. He might not last in the industry or as a human being if he continues these drugs.”

In December, the fast-rising star was full of praise to his friend and colleague, Zlatan, Pokolee for redeeming his life from excess intake of smoke and drinking.

“I was going astray, smoking and drinking nonsense but you helped and supported me with everything in 2020,” he confessed during an Instagram live video.

Does drug consumption contribute to artistic inspiration?

Some celebrities indulge in substance consumption for fun, while many believe it enhances their inspiration, lyrics, and performance artistry.

A brief chat with an upcoming rapper who was preparing himself with marijuana and a mixture of alcohol backstage believes the mixture is the best enhancer he needs to wow his crowd.

“Bros, na we dey do am ooo. I copy this lifestyle from my mentor… a superstar,” the young artist with dreadlock said with a smile.

Continuing he said, “I feel more confident, sharp, and fearless after I fill my body with these things. In fact, I can freestyle for one hour non-stop.”

However, veteran music producer, ID Cabasa, does not agree with the notion. According to him, intoxicating substances can bring talented musicians to a tragic end.

Commonly found in the entertainment space are substances that include marijuana, refnol, skunk, cocaine, loud, codeine, tramadol, ecstasy, methamphetamine, etc.

Implications on youths

Findings showed that viewing people smoking in movies prospectively predicts a substantial proportion of children smoking initiation. Similarly, exposure to smoking-related media promotions is associated with smoking initiation while alcoholic use in movies and promotions is also linked to actual alcohol use.

In fact, movies and entertainment materials are veritable tools for the transfer of ideas and promotion of alternative lifestyles.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirms that currently about 8 million people die annually from tobacco use, and if nothing is done to reverse or halt the epidemic, tobacco-related deaths could rise to 10 million annually by 2030.

Speaking on the development, Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) Akinbode Oluwafemi, said there is a need for stakeholders to play an active role in introducing measures to curb smoking in videos.

According to Oluwafemi who has kicked off a campaign, #SmokefreeNollywood to stop smoking in movies and music videos in the entertainment industry to protect young Nigerians, recommend strategies to curb the menace.

“CAPPA is spearheading advocacy efforts at building a critical mass to confront the industry’s tactics of wooing the young and uninformed through films and music videos. The tobacco industry also exploits movies and music videos to give misleading positive impressions of tobacco use. Such has been identified as a cause of smoking initiation among young persons,” he said.

As revealed in CAPPA’s fact sheet entitled, Time to end smoking in Nollywood, in 2007, a screening of 10 randomly selected movies by tobacco control activists in Nigeria showed that the tobacco industry might have been using Nollywood to promote tobacco smoking. The 10 movies screened at the time were Million Dollar Sisters, Fatal Seduction, Battle for Battle, Holy Warden, GL2, Virgin Heart, Games Angel Play, War Game, Living in Pain, and My Share.

Following this discovery, tobacco control activists reported the preponderance of scenes that glamourize smoking. In the screened movies, tobacco smoking was portrayed to be widespread, socially acceptable, desirable, and classy. There were instances of brand placements in GL2, Million Dollar Sister, Virgin Heart, Fatal Seduction, Battle for Battle, and War Games where British American Tobacco’s Benson and Hedges and London were the culprits.

Recently, the Chief Managing Director of Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr. Olayemi Ogun disclosed that 80% of her patients are drug addicts.

“What we observed in our facility last year is that there was an upsurge in the number of patients with a substance disorder. Where we use as Short-Stay Ward, we now have 80 percent of patients, especially males. Before now, we have a dedicated drug ward but currently, our Short-Stay Ward has been converted to a drug ward,” Ogun said.

What the law says

The National Tobacco Control Act which was passed in 2015 and the National Tobacco Control Regulations 2019 contain provisions prohibiting tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorships in movies and entertainment, with some exceptions. Though the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) is the agency saddled with the implementation of the ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships generally, several government agencies regulate the entertainment sector, while the entertainment industry has many pressure groups, coalition, etc.

Sections 12 (1) of the act relevant to smoking in movies and music videos, defines “tobacco advertising and promotion” to include “any form of commercial communication, recommendation, or actions with the aim, effect, or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use directly or indirectly.”

Civil and criminal penalties applying to several responsible entities range from a fine of 1 Million Naira to 5 Million Naira, and imprisonment of 1 or 2 years, in which a person that produces or publishes prohibited content to pay a minimum fine of 3 million Naira and maximum imprisonment term of 1 year.

Media or event organiser, celebrities or other participants, as a recipient of any sponsorship contribution, or as an intermediary that facilities any such contribution, to pay a minimum of 3 Million Naira and a maximum term of imprisonment of 1 year.



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