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WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE:......LIFE AS NDLEA BOSS, I’M NOW A DIFFERENT PERSON– ROLI BODE-GEORGE Interview


There were strands of gray hairs standing at attention on her head. However, neither that nor the fact that she wasn’t wearing any serious make up could diminish or dwarf the fact that Mrs. Roli Bode-George (formerly Roli Adeniyi) is a very, very beautiful woman. And still looks very good and great even at her age. A one-time popular face and bonafide member of the high society, the ravishing beauty is now the Director General of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). At their office, on Shaw Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, and during the unveiling of their latest anti-drug TV commercial, featuring some of their celebrity ambassadors, AZUH ARINZE, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine as well as one of the ambassadors couldn’t resist asking the wife of PDP top shot, Chief Bode George, a few questions. And below is the result…
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How would you describe what unfolded here today?
It’s a laudable achievement, both for NDLEA and the NGO, The Drug Salvation Foundation (headed by Wilson Ighodalo). I’m sure you know that we launched the master plan in June and in line with best international practices. We are telling the people that we have a balanced approach to dealing with the drug issue. We are moving from being reactive to being an intelligence – led organization. Part of our mandate is to ensure that we counsel people who are dependent on drugs and also to ensure that we do advocacy so that people don’t get into it; that it  (drugs) is not enticing for people. I know that our youths are under a lot of pressure and so what we are trying to say to people here is – if you reduce the demand side by doing a lot of advocacy, then it’s not going to be lucrative for the people who are supplying the drugs. That’s one. And we are saying we have to have a balanced approach to the problem. 
Formerly and before the master plan, we were always on the supply side and realized that we were lacking a little bit on the demand side. So, what we have done is to step up and we give a balanced approach – equal representation, both to the demand and the supply sides. And most of the part of the demand side is to make sure that the demand for drugs is really reducing and that is to ensure that people do not use drugs or do not even abuse drugs. Because some drugs are licit, but they are abused and put into illicit use, like codeine. It’s for cough; nothing wrong with it. But the codeine inside it makes people high and sometimes students abuse it. So, what this advert has done is that we’ve got celebrities coming out to tell you, look, you can achieve things in life; achieve your goals without doing drugs. And one of the things I was happy about was that I saw people from sports, people that are doing well business-wise telling you they’ve achieved it and they’ve been drug-free and they’ve been clean and that’s a good message to send out. 
And it’s also a time for us to say that look, reaching people through media, social media, which NDLEA is initiating, is great. We are now on Twitter, we tweet. I’m surprised we have over a 1000 followers and we are less than one year. Also people ask us – should we do this? What should we be doing? And you will find out that it’s been very positive and we’ve gotten a lot of response. It’s not even just for those who are dependent on drugs, the drug-dependent people, but also about those who are caring alongside. Because the challenge is more on the person who is caring and sometimes they need to talk to somebody, and sometimes they need to understand that it’s not just them going through this thing. And there’s a lot of stigma. We are trying to remove the stigma. If you are using drugs, you can walk in and in our centres now, we have a lot of people who are walk-in patients, which is a step in the right direction. It shows that we are doing something right.
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Other than these celebrities whom you have netted to assist with the message of say no to drugs, what other strategies are you adopting to ensure that there’s a reduction in the in-take of drugs?
Well, we have what we call Unplug. It’s an educational programme where we go to schools. It’s in line with the EUthe programme is being co-ordinated by the UNIDC office in Nigeria and what we are trying to do is that we are training teachers, training people in schools to ensure that people understand and that they are educated (about drugs). The kind of programme we are doing is that we are not telling too  much, but just enough to make sure that they understand the ills and to keep them away from drugs. That’s one. Then, we have what we call Drug Anonymous, which is an NDLEA initiative and that is where you can get counseling, online counseling and telephone counseling, which is free. So, you call in, but we take the cost of the counseling and that started last year. Which we celebrated during the Drug-Free Day.  
That’s another one and that’s where you can get counseling; not just for you. Because if you are looking for help, you can just call. You don’t have to have money, because people that are dependent on drugs, usually, it’s a very expensive habit and of course, if they need help, they can’t call. So, I just thought okay, what can we do? So, with our team, the drug demand reduction, we decided okay, let us go for something where you don’t have to pay and you can get help. That’s one. You can go online. We have online counseling as well. We are now upgrading our rehab centres.We have out-patients and we have in-patients. Not all States. But what is important is that all over Nigeria, at least in every geo-political zone, almost every State, NDLEA has an out-patient counseling centre. But we have in-house counseling too where you can come into rehab, where we ensure that you will be checked by psychiatrists and you are okay. 
Because we are just the counseling side and then we counsel you, we give you motivational speaking, we help you to deal with the addiction, because what I want to say, which is the most important thing, is that we should know that drug dependency is an illness. Like high blood pressure and they are managed. And what we have to do is to help them manage it. And so when you manage it, you can have a relapse. Like you have in every sickness. So, we have to make people understand that what we are trying to explain to people is that yes, when  you have people, dependants-fathers, brothers, sisters, anyone that depends on you on drugs. Don’t look at them and say we helped you last year, you’ve fallen back into the situation. What is happening is that it’s a sickness, it recurs. But you have to manage it. 
Eventually when you keep counseling and you motivate them, they get off it and what you also have to know is that one of the most common of all drug abuses here is cannabis sativa. That’s what we know as hemp or Igbo and the truth of the matter is that it resides in a fat of the brain and anything that resides in the fat also comes out as…So, when it goes, it comes. And so they will say but he was in the rehab, we took him to rehab. Why is he back into it? It’s not that he’s back into it. It’s just that it is in the fat, it’s likely to recur and this thing is like a deformity of one part of your brain. Which people have to realize and when people realize what it is, then people will understand and they can cope more. A lot of people are not coping with their children and they are very frustrated because they don’t understand really what it entails.
 You’ve not been here (NDLEA) for too long, but you seem to know too much about drugs. How did you do it?
Put it this way – when I came in, I was very much of a novice. But first of all, you have got to have a passion. Having been trained by the best, I was lucky I was trained by the Americans, and then I was trained by the UNIDC in counseling skills and then I moved on from there to Train The Trainer. And I’ve always had a passion for counseling. So, I’ve always done counseling on the side. But the most important thing is that you have to build capacity. I was lucky that I had capacity built for me over a period of one year. It was very tedious because I was going from one training to the other, from learning how to shoot to law enforcement management, to drug counseling and all that. But it’s the training. First of all, you must go for training, and then in everything, outside of training, you also got to be dedicated, you got to be committed to the cause. One of the things that is happening in Nigeria is that we are not committed to the cause of the Nigerian agenda and right now, I can say that for the NDLEA people, we are committed to the cause.
 What will you describe as your greatest achievement since you arrived here?
What I think I will describe as my greatest achievement iswhen I look at it, we’ve done quite a lot of things. But one of the things I am proud of is the fact that we were able to accomplish the blueprint from the masterplan. People were saying it was not going to be completed, we were not going to be able to launch it, but we did. That is one. And also the fact that we were able to get new standard operating procedures – SOP. Standard Operating Procedures for the agency. But my greatest achievement, I believe, is that we were the first in Africa to launch, to fight the drug war and deal with drug demand reduction from social media. So, when we went to the international conference, Nigeria was applauded as being the first to take that initiative. 
It was something that I had been passionate about and with my team, because everything is team work. It’s not about me, it’s about us. I will say that’s my greatest achievement, and for giving Nigeria the first in Africa to use social media to fight drugs. I mean, it was applauded at the last Crime and Drug Conference and it won first for Nigeria. It’s good that Nigeria is being showcased for doing something very good and being the first in Africa. For me, it was my best achievement in NDLEA.
 What would you have loved to have sorted out by now that you’ve not been able to?
Government is continuous. Right now, I think that we are a step in the right direction. There are many things that we can do, but unfortunately it’s a lot of funding. But now, we are trying to think outside the nine dots. We are trying to look for co-operation, partnership with people who we know are vetted, because you know, with drugs, people can come and partner with you and then they can be involved in drugs. So, we need to do proper public and private partnerships and also what we are trying to do is to get civil society organisations, like we’ve just done today, to partner with us. Because that way, it is easier to do the fight. What I will like to see more done is… We need a lot of international co-operations from different organisations, different governments: United States, UK, Germany, Switzerland, France, West African hub, South Africa. I will like to see more of that. 
I think that in line with best international practice, the best way to go is regional co-operation. And one of the things that we have said at the International Police Conference which we just came back from is that we must ensure and insist on more international co-operation. But one of the things that I look forward to, which is in line with our masterplan, is to have inter-agency co-operation. We need to move away from wasting resources and ensure that we move away from political stuff. We need to be able to join together to do things together, programmes together so that we can cut the waste in cost by duplicating efforts.
What has changed about you since your arrival at NDLEA?
Not much! Not really much! I just think that I’m a different person. I think about life differently (now). Before I came into NDLEA, I had gone through quite a few challenges. So, it wasn’t coming to NDLEA; it was that a lot of things had changed me. I had gone through challenges with my daughter, and you know one thing about drug abuse, it’s not just that a child abuses drugs. Sometimes people who are professionals can actually do the wrong thing. So, drug abuse has different areas. Yes, we have drug abuse, but how about drugs that are given to people wrongly and have effects. So, I think differently; I have a different perception to life now. And then maybe also I may not be as sociable (as before), because I have to be very careful now

(Interruption) – I was going to ask you that question – you used to be a society lady, but all of a sudden we don’t get to see you at events anymore. Why?
It’s not that. When you are in a different position, you are more careful. Being a public servant; when you are doing different things, people expect different characteristics. If you are in law enforcement, it’s a different ball game all together. So, you take on the personality of that and that is what I have done. People say we don’t see you outside anymore, but that is just part of my job. I am more dedicated to the enforcement of law and ensuring that we are drug-free. And if you are going to lead, leaders must lead by example and I’ve chosen to live by that. Everything that I do, I just live by my example.

At the expiration of your tenure at NDLEA, what would you like the people you will be leaving behind to say about you?
When I leave NDLEA, I would like people to say that I built a team. Because I’m a student of management; I’m doing my PhD in Management and one of the things I’ve realized is that we have a unique society. It’s law enforcement and so it’s para-military. But one of the things I want you to know is that everybody has something to contribute, everybody has a good idea and what we have to learn to do is to ensure that we do not silence the voice of the people that work under us. I want to believe that I gave voice to everybody that worked under me for them to be able to express their ideas and to put those ideas into practice and so that those ideas are achievable and they become realizable. 
The second thing that I want to leave behind is that I would want to leave and believe that I left the agency a better place. I want to believe that I did a lot in the area of welfare and putting the agency in better stead. The agency is an agency of integrity and I make bold to say that it’s one of the very few law enforcement agencies where there’s almost zero-corruption and I want to say that I helped to continue that fight. There are many things that I can think that I would want to be known by, but I would want to be known by the fact that there was a leader who came, said something and can be held by her word, lived by example and left the place better than she met it.
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Is the NDLEA job so strenuous that you are now growing gray hairs or what? You used to look smashing and very good? And without the gray hairs…
(Laughing) – No! I think as you get into more serious managerial positions, you add a little bit of gray. But also I’m above 50 years now. So, I think age also has a little bit to do with it. But you see, in life, people should also watch it. Looks are very deceptive. I’ve had a lot of gray for a long time, but sometimes when you are in law enforcement and you are working late…sometimes we leave the office 10.30, 11pm. Last week, I was here at the weekend working. You don’t even have time to dye the hair, but trust me, dye can do the trick (General laughter). Theyesng

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