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He was scared as he walked home that Sunday morning. He had every right to be.
Sule had spent the night at his friend’s place for the third time that month.
The teenager was greeted with a slap by his auntie upon arrival. She had seen him standing by the street with two of the notorious boys in the neighborhood. “I don’t smoke anything” he exclaimed, when she threatened to report him to his uncle and guardian Ufa Kassimu.
Sule feared Ufa Kassimu, for the cruel treatment he gave him in the name of discipline.
He swore he was not going to experience the beating that Saturday night, for just standing with his friends. So he followed one home, like he did when he ran away from Makaranta (weekend Islamic School) before.
Aunty Habiba’s slaps were followed by Ufa’s beatings, when Sule came home. The following weekend, he slept out again, this time for four days. His friends had invited him to a weekend party in another region. At the party, he was introduced to weed. His first puff hurt so much, as he coughed painfully, and felt heavy in the head all night.
His friends told him that was the greatest feeling on earth, and that he would get used to it. They explained that the roughness he was feeling in his throat was because his throat was not open enough, and that if he smoked more, he would love it.
The next morning, he smoked again, and even though the coughs got worse, he was excited and full of smiles. At the age of 13, he was really high, for the first time in his life, and even though the thoughts of Ufa frightened him, his friends got him to enjoy the moment.
Later that night, Sule was introduced to another substance-alcohol. Farid had left him in Kojo’s care. Kojo told Sule that he noticed the weed slowed him down earlier, which Sule nodded to. He added that if Sule tried his new mixture, he would be smarter than even Farid, who was able to lure many young girls at the party.
Being a Muslim, Sule first hesitated, but tried it after he was told Farid drinks as well, and how it would boost his sexual performance. Sule got wasted with his friends, for the rest of the weekend, and returned home on Tuesday night.
This time, he walked home confidently with dull red eyes, from smoking weed. The sight of him alarmed his uncle and aunty. They had perceived him dead, because no one including the police could provide information on his whereabouts. He was not beaten that night, and Sule believed the weed and alcohol combination had worked magic.
A few months later, the health implications of abusing weed and alcohol became evident in Sule’s teenage frame. Ufa and Aunty Habiba, no longer bothered about what Sule did, out of fear of him and his notorious friends, who were now known as ‘Gang 24’, for practising social vices for 24 hours daily.
Once, Sule fell ill and he coughed out blood often. He approached his family for support, but his uncle and aunty wanted to have nothing to do with him, and they had convinced his mother who lived in the US, that at 14, he had become an irreproachable junkie, and any financial support offered him was worthless.
Perhaps, they should have listened to him and found out the main cause of his illness, in order to help him.
Gang 24 offered maximum support where the family failed, and they replaced the family in Sule’s heart. Soon Sule graduated from just abusing weed and hard liquor, and began drinking cough syrup and energy drink mixtures, which the gang leaders prescribed to overcome his illness. Little did he know he was quickly moving closer to his grave aged only 14.
Barely a year after his illness became serious, Sule passed away under intensive care at the 37 Military Hospital. He had been admitted for nearly two months, after he collapsed one Thursday afternoon. His mother, who was on holiday in Ghana, was at home that day when his friends rushed him home. He had fallen unconcsious during a game of football. The doctor’s diagnosis revealed that it was heart failure, caused by the mixtures he had been drinking. The doctor revealed, that had he reported his health condition at least a year earlier, he would still be alive.
His mother recalled that a year earlier was around the same time he had started complaining about chest pains and head aches. Unfortunately, no one was prepared to listen except Gang 24, which only led him to his early grave.
Back home, Ufa Kassimu and Aunty Habiba recounted the promising future Sule had before sinking into the habit of abusing drugs, and eventually losing his life. This destroyed their relationship with his mother, who felt her son died due to their negligence, and they should have done better, knowing this.
Gang 24 was reported to the police for their role in Sule’s death, but they were soon released on bail, for lack of evidence of direct involvement in his death.
Who knows? Sule could have been the next medical doctor, lawyer, farmer, or even the president, who would solve the problems of many people in this country and beyond. But his young soul has been lost to drugs, something that could have been prevented, or curtailed if along the way someone had offered a listening ear.
There are many more ‘Sules’ out there, whose lives can be saved if given a chance.
The theme for this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking:”Listen First – Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe” emphasizes the need to listen and not judge persons, who are into drugs in order to help them, and put into better perspective how to prevent others from falling victim.
This week #ZongoUnitesAgainstDrugs as we embark on a #SayNoToDrugs campaign
The characters used in the story,are all fictional but representative of characters in our society today. Drugs have killed and are killing many of our young people. Join us in this fight, for it concerns you too.
Source: Larry Musah Prince