The menace of cultism in Nigeria today is worrisome. It is a monster whose ravaging effects have left behind tales of woes such as loss of lives of would-be leaders, disruption of academic calendars, rape, wanton destruction of properties worth billions of naira, waste of resources, loss of hopes and aspirations, blackmail, threat, kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution, drug abuse and excessive consumption of alcohol to mention but a few.
This paper delves into the meaning of cultism, highlights the historical development of cultism in Nigeria, discusses the rationale for cult related activities, elaborates on the menace and recommends the way forward to drastically curb its tenacious webs to make our society safe, serene and secured.
Cult-related activities is one of the burning contemporary issues that have not spared any one high or low, religious or non-religious leaders, educated or illiterates, employers or employees, academic and non-academic staff, members and non-members of an organization or association, students or non-students and the general public at large.
Without mincing words, the activities of cultists are threatening and undermining the very essence of man’s quest for a peaceful and conducive living and business environment. It is the attempt of this paper to x-ray the meaning of cultism, the havoc caused by this menace, the reasons often adduced for cultism and makes strong recommendations to nip it in the bud so as to prevent further loss of lives and property through this ugly menace.
WHAT IS CULTISM?
According to Igodo (2002:1): any movement, organization or assemblage of people who share ideas and beliefs not to be made known to non-members is a cult. Equally, any association or organization that carries its activities, functions in secret is a cult.
In another development, Rosedale and Langone (2004:1) define a cult as: a group
or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to
some person, idea or thing and employing unethical manipulative techniques
of persuasive and control designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families or the community.
Similarly, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), Section 318(1) defines: a secret society (cult) as any society, association, group or body of persons (whether registered or not) that uses secret signs, oaths, rites or symbols and which is formed to promote a cause, the purpose or part of the purpose of which is to foster the interest of its members and to aid one another under any circumstances without due regard to merit, fair play or justice to the detriment of the legitimate interest of those who are not members.
To buttress this fact, Pemede (2002) defines cult as a group of people engaged in a particular set of worship that involves rituals and an oath that binds them together as one entity.
Thus, cultism can be defined as secret societies in which members are usually bound by oath of secrecy. They are known to coerce and intimidate unsuspecting persons into their membership. The modus operandi of cultism are kept secret from non-members until they are initiated. They are detrimental and dangerous to members, non-members, educational communities and the society at large.
HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF CULTISM IN NIGERIA
The historical development of secret cults in Nigeria dates back to 1952 when the Pyrates (Seadog Confraternity) was formed at the University of Ibadan by the likes of Professor Wole Soyinka, Pius Olegbe, AIg-Imokhuede, Olumniyiwo Awe, Nath Oyelola and Ralph Opara to “fight” injustice and oppression in the society. The group utilized positive means for purposeful social service delivery such as blood donations to health institutions and financial assistance to indigent students.
Consequently, after about two decades of the existence of the Pyrates, other cult groups were formed. They are the Bucanneers Association of Nigeria, founded in 1970 at the University of Benin, Mafia Confraternity (the Family) in 1979 at the University of Ife, the Vikings 1982 at the University of Port Harcourt, the Neo Black Movement (Black Axe Confraternity) in 1984 at the University of Benin; War Lords (Brotherhood of Don) 1985 at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and the Jurists 1986 at the Delta State University, Abraka.
The proliferation of the cult groups became rife by the early 1990, when the following secret cults reared their ugly heads in our public universities which include White Angels, the Mgba Brothers, Dirty Virgins, the Red Devils, Daughters of Eve, Red Berets, Black Berets, Black Queens, the Amazons, Green Berets, the Maphites, Dirty Bra, K.K.K, Supreme Daughters of Medusa, the Sharons, the River Angels, the Daughters of Jezebel, the Black Cat, Trojan Horse, the Scorpions, etc. From 2000 till date, the activities of cultism in Nigeria have assumed an alarming rate and worrisome situation,
unleashing terrors and woes almost in every sphere of the country.
THE EFFECT OF CULTISM IN NIGERIA
Cultism is a monster which has eaten deep into the Nigerian society. It’s devastating and negative impact can be highlighted below.
I. Loss of Lives of Would-be Leaders: The menace of cult activities has led to loss of lives of Nigerian leaders of tomorrow. This is really saddening and absurd and has adverse implications to national development.
II. Rape: The menace of cultism on our campuses and communities does not spare violating young girls and ladies against their will and consent at gun points. The cult members approach girls and their refusal most often lead to forceful penetration or rape, undermining the dignity of women.
III. Wanton Destruction of Properties: In most cases, where cult groups clash, the aftermath is the wanton destruction of school properties – hostels, offices, vehicles, lecture halls etc. They commit arson at every slightest opportunities.
IV. Waste of Resources: The menace of cult activities in our society have led to waste of resources. Funds earmarked for other projects will now be used for the renovation and replacement of infrastructure and vehicles destroyed or damaged.
V. Blackmail and Threat: The cultists resort to blackmail and threat for disciplined and principled lecturers who refused to obey them in awarding pass marks or collecting money in exchange, making the lives of these staff and families unbearable.
VI. Kidnap: The menace of cult activities have manifested in kidnapping individuals of high repute and students from wealthy homes or whose parents occupy public offices. They ask for ransom before the victims are released.
VII. Armed Robbery: Due to the fact that members of cults possess and use dangerous weapons and arms to operate in order to scare their non-members, they extend their operations into armed robbery and all sort of vices such as stealing, car snatching etc.
VIII. Prostitution: Both male and female cult members are involved in unquenchable desires for sex. The male cultists have fleet of girls in the name of “flexing” or enjoying themselves. Their female counterparts have links to politicians, business magnate and foreigners or expatriates whom they constantly patronize to satisfy their libidos with good cash in exchange, making them spend money on expensive dresses, phones, hair-do, and even own cars which ordinarily their parents could not afford.
IX. Loss of Hopes and Aspirations: Most students involved in cultism when caught or identified by the university administrators are expelled or rusticated which invariably leads to loss of hopes and aspirations. The same applies to innocent students who are killed by strayed bullets.
X. Disruption of Academic Calendar: The nefarious activities of cults in our campuses have led to the disruption of academic calendar. It is difficult for students to finish their programmes of studies on schedule without being disrupted thereby elongating the duration of their programmes more than required.
XI. Drug Abuse and Alcohol: The menace of cultism is also manifested in excessive use of drugs and consumption of alcohol making them wild, destructive, void of human feelings and abnormal which eventually take them away from academic activities.
THE CAUSES FOR CULTISM
Various reasons have been accounted for this precarious situation which include:
i. Home Background: The family is the primary agent of socialization. It is the bedrock for the inculcation of appropriate moral values and behaviours in the child. The common adage that says “charity begins at home” cannot be disputed. Most cult members are from porous homes where discipline and moral values are weak. Consequently, they become susceptible to the lure and antics of the cultists. In addition, some members from wealthy homes and with political connections see themselves as Lords and can do anything and get away with it.
ii. The Society: The corrupt and materialistic realities of the Nigerian society which is based on the tenets of “the survival of the fittest” and “the winner takes all” could cause the young adults to involve themselves in cult activities. In addition, the god father, political mentors and fraudsters who employ the services of young adults to further their parochial political interest and ambition help to create contact points in the form of secret cults for these young adults. The initiated persons are
protected by the society (their mentors) whenever they are
arrested by the law enforcement agencies (Kalagbor, 2010).
iii. School Environment: An educational psychologist, Dr. Nelson Aderemi Oyewo stressed the need for teachers to determine how the best possible environment can be provided for every child. Oyewo (2008) points out that the influence of the environment indicates that good teachers and good schools can have very good effects on the group as a whole and in some individuals in particular. When the environment is conducive for learning, it is difficult for students to exhibit anti-social behaviours or get involve in violent activities. More so, some staff of most universities i.e. academic and non-academic were hitherto members of secret cults while they were students, hence, they give clandestine support to secret cult students.
iv. The Students: The students themselves express various reasons why they join cults in schools. These reasons range from the need for sense of belonging or security, social identity, gain influence, affluence (wealth) to ability to get the beautiful girls on campuses, etc.
THE WAY FORWARD
Though the menace of cultism may not be completely eradicated, it can be tackled or brought to the barest minimum if the following recommendations are taken into consideration viz;
1) Cultism is spiritual and it must be approached spiritually. Therefore, there is a need for spiritual and ethical re-orientation, instilling moral values, the fear of God and the tenets of hard work as embedded in “suffer before pleasure”.
2) Security apparatus should be strengthened, intelligence gathering be given top priority, surveillance across all black spots be increased, improved lighting most especially by night.
3) Members of the public should endeavour to give the Police and order sister agencies accurate and reliable information about all suspicious gathering or activities within their community.
4) The laws of the land against cultism should be enforced to the letter without respect of persons. For instance, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sections 66(1g); 107(1g); 137(1b) and 182 (1h) disqualifies Nigerian citizens who are confirmed members of secret cults from contesting
elections for political offices at any level. Consequently, Section 63 of the Criminal Code (Cap 42) of 1981 provides that any person who manages or assist in the management of an unlawful society is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven (7) years.
5) Members of the public should be conscious of their friends, bearing in mind that birds of the same feather flocks together.
6) Parents should embark on frequent and unannounced visits to their children and wards to ensure that they are in schools and equally try to know the friends they keep.
7) Parents should also encourage their children to seriously attach themselves to religious groups of their own religion where sound moral teachings are shared.
8) The Nigerian society should not celebrate men and women with questionable source of livelihood and wealth.
9) There is need for Nigerian leaders and the led to de-emphasize on materialism, short cuts and nepotism.
10) Elections in Nigeria should be transparent enough as such political class would not use the youths as political tugs to rig elections.
With cultism, nobody is safe, that is why all of us must be involved in this campaign. We must all join hands to confront this deadly social vice in order to keep our environment safe and secured. Similarly, if every individual respects the feelings of others, parents perform their moral duties by bringing up their children in the way they should go and if the standards of our places of worship, work, school, or play which are seen as places of research and moral development, centres for excellence and scholarships, factories for the production of the needed human capital, laboratories for moulding characters that create environments for peaceful co-existence are well kept then, then menace of cultism will naturally be brought to its barest minima.
– Amb. Haruna Batu Konne