He became a drug addict at nine and at 16, a cult leader. Now 19, Karo Ovwonuri, is already a father. Narrating his experience as a street kid and drug addict to MOTUNRAYO ABODERIN, Ovwonuri advised parents not to choose their jobs over their children
Nobody, including his parents and teachers could ever in their wildest imagination believe that nine-year-old Karo Ovwonuri, was doing drug. He was in Primary four at Marere Primary School, Ughelli, Delta State, then. But, little Ovwonuri was not just into hard drugs, he was also a member of a robbery gang.
This is in spite of the fact that the indigene of Ughelli and the last child in a family of nine, grew up in a Christian home. His father, a business man, also held a high position in their church. To his parents, having a son who would become a drug addict seemed farfetched.
But narrating his story to our correspondent at a rehabilitation centre, Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry, in Lagos on Tuesday, Ovwonuri, said his 10 years of drug addiction started when he was in primary school.
He said, “I grew up in Ugheli, Delta State. I attended Marere Primary School. It was during my primary school days I started smoking and doing all sorts.
“I wasn’t a bad boy; but when I started moving with wrong friends, my way of life changed. The desire to cause havoc became so strong in me. I started doing drugs, stealing and sleeping around at such a young age.”
Ovwonuri said his addiction started the day he smoked plantain leaves. From smoking plantain leaves, he graduated to Indian hemp and then stealing.
“My friends and I would get plantain leaves, wrap them and smoke till we get so high. If that didn’t satisfy our urge, we would smoke marijuana and other drugs but we never did cocaine.
“My addiction to these substances became so strong, but my parents did not know. My mum was a very busy woman; she was always travelling to buy goods. My dad was the one at home more often but his job also sometimes kept him busy. I made sure that they never caught me doing drugs. If I had the urge; I would either go to the bush or do it in a club,” he said.
As if getting hooked on drugs wasn’t enough, Ovwonuri said he started stealing money to satisfy his urge for drugs.
“When you’re hooked on drugs, you need to always have money. Anytime I did not have money on me; I would become so restless. I just had to get money by all means even if it mean breaking into people’s houses. And when I get money, I lavish it on drugs,” he said.
After his primary school education, he said he managed to gain admission into Ereni Grammar School, Ughelli. But he could only spend over a session in the secondary school as he dropped out in J.S.S.2.
“I just could not keep up with my education. My life had gone wild. I then approached my parents that I wanted to learn a vocation. They got me my first job but I left the job after looting some of their materials. My next job was in a spare parts shop.”
Ovwonuri said that the pressure to keep his consumption of drugs and his girlfriends glued to his side spurred him to steal a large sum of money.
“I had become so used to having money and I had so many friends. It was during this period that a friend who I call a brother approached me to join their cult group. Within a short time, I was made second in command. So, I had boys who obeyed me.
“Anytime we went out as a group, we ensured that we caused havoc. On several occasions, I watched two of my close friends die. But these did not make me to change my way of life. Some of them died while riding their okada heavily drunk, while others died from wounds. But I continued my riotous living,” he said.
Ovwonuri said that one morning he woke up tired with little money in his pocket and then decided to steal a large sum of money from his employer.
“I succeeded in stealing N2m after which I absconded to Port Harcourt for some days. When I returned back to Delta; I shared the money among my friends and rented an apartment for the mother of my child. One night, I went to a club and was arrested by a vigilance group. I was beaten but not killed because the group knew me and my brother was their leader. They tied my hands with a rope for two days. Even when the rope was released, my hands became useless,” he added.
Ovwonuri was again arrested and taken back to his boss who insisted on getting his money back. His parents and family members managed to pay back the money but this incident could not dissuade the lad from continuing with his ways.
After he was released, Ovwonuri said he still did drugs and drinking.
“One day, I was so drunk but managed to get a taxi to my house. On alighting from the vehicle, my shirt got stuck to the door but the driver did not know and drove off. He dragged me along on the ground. I was seriously injured.
“Passersby wanted to take me to the hospital but I objected because I did not want my parents to find out. I went to a chemist, treated my injuries and went to a friend’s house,” he said.
Despite the accident that almost claimed his life, he said the urge to continue with his wild life was very strong.
“I just did not care. The accident meant nothing to me. But one day, my aunty called and told my dad about a rehabilitation centre in Lagos called Christ Against Drug Abuse Ministry. When I heard about the rehabilitation, I just broke down in tears,” he said.
But in spite of his tears, Ovwonuri was brought to the one of the many centres for rehabilitation were youths like him are being rehabilitated.
His experience in the centre, he said, had been worth the while.
“I have had a flash back of all the things I did and the pains I’ve caused my family. That was a very painful moment for me. But I thank God for changing my life” he said.
“I’ve spent about a year in this rehabilitation centre and I’m so happy. I could have died, but God spared my life for a reason,” he said.
The success of his rehabilitation is proof that as long as you can find a drug rehab center you can trust, recovery from addiction is very much a possibility.
Karo said he plans to return to Delta State to complete his secondary education.
“I now have a story to tell. I’ve been down there and have come back up again by the grace of God. My advice to teenagers is that they should remain focused and get close to God. There is nothing in this world. Alcohol, drugs girls can’t make you happy.
“And to parents, I want to beg them to spend time with their children. No job should occupy your time. If you don’t spend time with your children, they will look for something to occupy them. Parents should also discuss their past with their children. If you notice any of your children who prefers being alone or doesn’t like to spend time with the members of the family, please be on the alert. When a child prefers isolating himself, something may be wrong. Also read the Bible to your children constantly. The word of God is very important in building the right foundation for your children,” he said.
Speaking on his client, the National Coordinator of CADAM, Mr. Dokun Ayodeji, said that Ovwonuri is now a changed person.
“I still remember when his family brought in him. He was not in a good condition, but now, he looks refreshed. I just thank God for his life. He has been through tough times and I know God plans for him would still be fulfilled,” he said.
Also, child psychologists and educationists warned parents against abdicating their responsibilities to schools and househelps.
“Yes, we need money to take of our children, but we should put a limit to our search for it. Otherwise, we may end up losing our children,” a lecturer at the Faculty of education, University of Ibadan, Dr. Kehinde Kester, said.