The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has announced that it intentionally enlisted the controversial rapper Azeez Fashola, better known as Naira Marley, as an ambassador for its drug abuse advocacy campaign.
This decision has sparked both curiosity and debate due to Naira Marley's history of promoting and glorifying drug use in his music and public image.
Femi Babafemi, the spokesperson for NDLEA, shed light on the reasoning behind this unexpected partnership in an exclusive interview with Saturday Beats.
Babafemi explained that Naira Marley was chosen for this role because of his influential position as the leader of the “Marlians” movement, which boasts a substantial following, especially among the youth demographic.
The Marlians movement has become synonymous with Naira Marley's unique brand of music and lifestyle, making it a powerful platform to reach and impact a large audience.
The decision to appoint Naira Marley as an ambassador for drug abuse advocacy is a strategic effort by NDLEA to utilize his influence for a positive cause.
Babafemi emphasized that this collaboration aims to utilize Naira Marley's widespread appeal to discourage substance abuse and encourage a healthier lifestyle, particularly among his Marlian followers.
Babafemi addressed the apparent paradox of choosing an artist associated with drug culture to promote an anti-drug message.
In his words;
“It is an advocacy engagement with him. It is what we do as part of the responsibilities of the agency to promote advocacy messages that would discourage people from substance abuse. It is about the message.
“Don't forget that he has a lot of young followers— Marlians— that look up to him. The idea is for the leader of the movement (Marlians) to come out and ask people to stop substance abuse, and live a new life.”
However, NDLEA's choice to appoint Naira Marley as an ambassador does not mean he is immune to legal consequences.
Babafemi made it clear that NDLEA's commitment to enforcing drug laws remains unchanged.
He recounted instances from the previous year when NDLEA arrested some of Naira Marley's associates, Zinoleesky and Mohbad, on drug-related charges.
Babafemi asserted that even if Naira Marley himself were to be caught with illegal substances, he would face the appropriate legal repercussions.
“Last year, we arrested some of his artistes (Zinoleesky and Mohbad). That is to show that we are not closing our eyes. If the same Naira Marley is caught with illicit substances tomorrow, he will face sanctions,” he added.