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INTERVIEW: Comedian D’General’s arrest by NDLEA inspired my anti-drug campaign, says Kemi Olunloyo

Dr Kemi Olunloyo is everything in one. She is a pharmacist, journalist, publicist, speaker, influencer, and the list goes on. She is known for her controversial take on issues, but nonetheless blunt and dispassionate in her submissions. TheLink News had a chat with Dr Olunloyo on her anti-drug campaign as well as on her health and wellness advocacy.

TheLink News: What has Madam Kemi Olunloyo been up to lately?

Kemi Olunloyo: What I’ve been doing lately is… when I woke up during the New Year; I just said, “I don’t want to be called a controversial journalist anymore because really there is no controversial journalist; every journalist puts a story out that might be too hard for some people’s ears, and I just said I don’t want to be called that, I want to do things that can actually empower the people’’. So, I decided that I’m going to do a lot of wellness news which is also called health news or health journalism, but health news can be boring once you start using all the big words people won’t understand.

So, in February something happened; a comedian by the name of D’General was arrested by the NDLEA. D’General was arrested for drug trafficking and there was a lot of ruckus from the entertainment industry; and this arrest, it was for tramadol, 2000 tablets, and the artist said he was using it for a skit and the NDLEA said no “you’re trying to sell it”. Ultimately, the artist confessed and he was convicted in court. The NDLEA generally gives you an opportunity to go to rehab or they’ll prosecute you. D’General was probably not given that opportunity because they said he was purely trafficking the drugs and making money from it. That case awoke me because as a pharmacist trained in the US the one thing that we hate most is people that abuse prescription drugs so I took it up in February and I decided that I’m going to help the NDLEA with this problem so I tweeted at the NDLEA, and I said, ”you need to come out here to the island and arrest people and raid people’s houses because many celebrities are abusing prescription drugs, and I need prescription drug abuse to stop in Nigeria”.

So, the NDLEA replied to me on Twitter which shocked me, when a government agency is replying you on Twitter I think it’s big, and they now contacted me and then we exchanged numbers and I wanted to know what they were doing and all that, so they now told me they have spaces every Friday on Twitter, and I decided to join NDLEA Spaces; every Friday I would come in and I would speak on the panel; I’m always a speaker, stakeholder as they call it, and the rest is history. Every single Friday I’ve been on NDLEA Spaces and today we’re still going to do another space.

So, I decided on the 27th of February to launch my own campaign and I mean the End Drug Abuse NG. End Drug Abuse NG has been largely successful online. I do videos, I’m sure you’ve seen some of those; I do audios and I tweet a lot about everything from prescription drugs to illicit drugs on the street to the marijuana that many people think is not a drug or is not harmful, everything, and the NDLEA was quite impressed. When they came to Lagos, the spokesman called me and told me Alhaji Marwa would like to meet me; so I went to Eko Hotels and I had a meeting with the chairman of the NDLEA; there were several officers outside; you know security detail, and I took some time, you’ve probably seen the pictures to talk to the agents on what they’re doing, what to look for and I was kind of like training them, very hard because they can’t show their faces, the pictures were very good and they learned a lot from me. So, I spoke to him about what I want to do, what I’m doing I didn’t ask him for a position, a contract, a consultation or even money; I just said this is strictly a volunteer initiative that I’m doing because I’ve done this in the United States. Now if you look at my pinned tweet on Twitter, I now told Marwa to go look at my pinned tweet he saw letters from people in America dignitaries, congressmen and just everything I’ve done and all these awards and stuff, so he was convinced, if you want to do something let them see what you can do or what you’ve done so at the end of the day I continued my own thing and it’s a one-year campaign, February 2022 to February 2023.

TheLink News: What happens after the one-year campaign?

Kemi Olunloyo: I want to do other things, but I just want to do my own thing as a one-year campaign to reach Nigerians and I feel like I’ve done a lot after these seven months; lots of young people especially on Instagram are learning; so, I’m putting the wellness side by side with the drug abuse prevention. I have spent a lot of time and energy on this stuff. I have done videos about every individual drug; I have done a lot; I’ve done spaces on Twitter, and everything continues. So, I want to be seen as Nigeria’s wellness expert and drug abuse expert now, I don’t want to be seen as any controversial journalist, but I’m also launching a subscription only platform. I don’t want to call it a blog or news or website, it’s going to be within my Instagram; a subscription gossip arm, and it’s called Gist-Vestigative; it’s a tongue twister, so, it’s gist that I’ve investigated not just something I’ll just put cause I feel like, Gist-Vestigative will be within Instagram subscription only; because we journalists in Nigeria have done quite a lot of free work; we need to make money; there’s not much money left on social media but, Instagram subscriptions are here and you know… I’m going to Gist-Vestigative, other than that what else am I doing we’ve said drug abuse, we’ve said Gist-Vestigative and we’ve said wellness, I will be teaching Nigerians how to eat well, Kemified is my wellness brand; we’re going to do Kemified foods beginning tomorrow October 1; Kemified foods will show my cooking; I’m not a chef. I’m not trained, but I have been cooking since I was 14 years old; cookery in school, I was one of the good ones in that subject in school in primary and in secondary school. So, tomorrow you’ll see; you’ve seen a lot of videos on Instagram, people cooking on Tik Tok; you’re now going to see Kemi Olunloyo’s cooking, and I mean that part Kemified food, and I want to start selling my cooking commercially; I do cook for people and they would order it and I would have dispatch deliver it to them, but now I’m opening it to the public; I’m going to be making my famous ice teas and lemonades from America. So, basically wellness, fitness, everything. Wellness and drug abuse prevention and investigative journalism; I’m still doing this but very limited because of funding, when there’s no money you can’t do much with investigative journalism, and that’s really what I’m doing, but the core of this interview is my wellness and drug abuse prevention. I’ve rebranded myself into a wellness expert. There’s also Kemi Olulonyo music for music blogging.

TheLink News: How long do you hope to drive this campaign?

Kemi Olunloyo: I want to run this campaign initially for one year. Next February, when I end this campaign, I want to see who’s going to win this election, when the campaign ends February 27, by then we’ll know the president and then I’m going to drive the campaign towards the new president because it’s very important, when the old president leaves, the cabinet changes and I’m not trying to get political, but we want General Marwa to be at the helm of everything at the NDLEA. He has performed very well, so once I’ve finished my one-year campaign, I want to now get to the new government and the new president, and what they’re going to do with rehabilitation for people that want to get off drugs. That’s the biggest problem in Nigeria right now “rehab”. Rehabilitation is not accessible in Nigeria because it’s expensive. if this was America we have Medicaid; we have Medicare. These are health insurances that pay for it and people don’t have to pay, but in Nigeria we have a lot of money, N700,000 to N1.2 million to go to rehabilitation; to rehabilitate someone for at least three months, if you’re rehabilitating someone for at least three months in Nigeria for tramadol for at least three months; I’ve seen one family that paid N1.2 million per month. So, even with the NDLEA health-line, it’s only helping them to find a centre, it does not pay or help them do anything, we are having problems, and when I say “we” that would mean stakeholders like me and the NDLEA itself; we’re having problems with NGOs, there’s not a lot of NGOs who are willing to get involved with drug abuse treatment. I’ve had questions like, ‘’you want me to help somebody get off drugs when they’re going to relapse and go back to drugs when I have women and children who are hungry?” Those are the kinds of responses that I’ve gotten when contacting NGOs, so I’m driving the campaign towards government funding. When are we going to get funding for people because see, the NDLEA is doing enforcement, I’m doing education, and I’m doing it as a volunteer and I’m asking people to start doing what I’m doing in their communities. I’ve been going to schools; I went to a school near my house; I posted everything, and I’m still going to post more, but the children are learning a lot. Many of the children hear about all these drugs in the streets but they’re not familiar with them; they’re not familiar with what the drugs do to them; so, when it comes to enforcement, breaking into people’s houses, seizing drugs, I’m not involved with that; that’s their job, drug law enforcement; I’m involved with volunteering and doing education.

TheLink News: The menace of drug abuse in the entertainment industry; can it be tackled?

Kemi Olunloyo: I’ve done a presentation at the NDLEA Spaces before; I’ve been a guest and I did a presentation on drug abuse and chemicals and so on; I’m coming up with another presentation very soon, it’s going to be drug abuse and the music industry; you cannot change popular culture; you cannot. If I ask Bose Ogbulu, Burna’s mother, who’s my friend and I say “Bose does Burna smoke?” She’s going to tell me “yes” because everyone has seen Burna smoking; Wizkid is smoking; when Wizkid is smoking, he might be in countries where smoking is permitted, might be legalised, but is that right? Does that not send a bad message? Ok Naira Marley smokes, does that not send a bad message? When we’re shouting don’t do this don’t do that, you cannot control popular culture; you can only educate your kids about how popular culture can affect them — weed, cannabis — does not work the same in everybody; the whole point is don’t try it; if you use it and you go crazy with psychosis, then it’s your problem; you saw what happened with Mo bahd, when the marlians were arrested and they raided the house one of them Mo bahd; he said something on a video and he was screaming “if anything happens to me, blame Naira Marley and Marlian Music”. Why would he say that, he’s part of the Marlian family; when he was saying that he was experiencing psychosis, that’s exactly what psychosis is, he did not even remember saying that.

At the end of the day, they know the side effects of this drug and know what can happen, promoting it to young people and fans is bad, but you as a parent; this is my answer to your question; parents must educate their own children individually.

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