The cosmopolitan nature of the city of Lagos is not without its own measure of quirky complexities embellished in melodramatic humour.
From the cacophony of voices in market places to the sardonic demeanors of street urchins, the beauty of life in Lagos has no definitive standard. Even insanity is an asset as you hear phrases like “awa n ya were gan” (we are very insane).
Alcoholism is also not without its own share of creative ingenuity. Sepe is a slang used to describe local jin also known as ogogoro or kaikai. Sepeism is therefore, a systemic consumption, study and devotion to local gin and its benefits to the human system.
With herbal medicine becoming more and more popular, most local gin sellers have different cocktails which they claim can cure a catalogue of ailments, especially waist pain, backache and sexual dysfunction. The danger in these claims is multidimensional.
While these cocktails may actually contain medicinal value, dosage and administration which are paradigms in orthodox medicine, are compromised. Worse still, illiteracy and low levels of personal hygiene on the part of the sellers pose a greater challenge.
Medical practitioners have continued to warn Lagosians on the health hazards associated with the consumption of herbal mixtures made with local gin. The media is awash with gory cases of liver and kidney diseases which were triggered by indiscriminate consumption of alcoholic cocktails.
Patrons of these cocktails would rather wallow in their stupefying intellectualism rather than heed the warnings of doctors and other health workers. They will creatively analyse for anyone who cares to listen how the mixture of sepe and different herbs performs medical miracles.
In Abaranje, Ikotun, where this writer resides, dozens of young men wake up every morning to ‘brush teeth’ with these mixtures and when it is dusk, when they return from hustling, they converge at different drinking spots to take some doses to catalyse their night. The possible dangers inherent in the consumption of sepe does not matter to their opinionated worldview.
The Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC and the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, should intensify their public enlightenment campaigns towards safeguarding the health of the people with regards to the so-called therapeutic alcoholism.
Medicinal alcohol is arguably one of the biggest market segments in Nigeria. The list is almost endless: adonko, kogbebe, action bitters, erujeje, pasa bitters, baby oku, pakurumo, osomo, pankere, etc.
While the makers of these cocktails are smiling to the bank, consumers’ health is endangered. Diabetes, depression, cancer, liver and kidney damage can be triggered.
For a healthier Lagos, the state government should pay more serious attention to alcohol consumption by its populace by setting up the Lagos State Alcohol Consumption Regulation Agency, LASACRA.
Part of their duties would be to take inventory of all drinking spots in the state, including the roadside herbal alcoholic mixture sellers, organise health seminars on alcohol and allied matters and amplify the ‘drink responsibly campaign’ in the state.
Beyond drinking for fun, Lagosians must know that the biggest danger to human life is that which is hidden in the midst of enjoyment.