Cultism is a menace on Nigerian university and also the society at large. This topic becomes necessary to discuss after visiting various university campuses since the turn of the year and observed the depressing high rise in cultist activities.
History of Cultism in Nigerian Universities
A cult can be said to emanate from great and excessive admiration or belief in a person or idea. This could be manifested in rituals, praise songs, chants and worship. The origin of cultism in Nigeria can be traced back to 1952 when future-Nobel Prize winning author Wole Soyinka and a group of six friends formed the Pyrate Confraternity at the University of Ibadan. The Pyrates was formed to checkmate the imbalance between the elite and the poor in the university system at that time. They observed that the university was populated with wealthy students associated with the colonial powers and a few poorer students striving in manner and dress to be accepted by the more advantaged students, while social life was dictated by tribal affiliation. For almost 20 years, the Pyrates were the only confraternity on Nigerian campuses.
Over the years, due to doctrinal differences and inability of intending members to meet required standards of the Pyrates confraternity, protestant ones started emerging like the Buccaneers, Mafia and Vickings.
Activities of cult groups in Nigerian universities and the problems they pose
Secret cult groups have in recent years expanded fast, become bold, and gradually becoming a societal norm. They have been left largely unchecked by the security agencies thus operating in such ways that they cannot be described as a ‘secret cult’ any longer but a cult group. Cult activities in Nigerian universities include various forms of violence to suppress other cult groups, tormenting innocent and vulnerable students, organising raids, and in some cases armed robberies. Cult members are also used as thugs during election to foster violence and rig elections in favour of their sponsors. It is hard to believe that someone who gets inducted into a cult group would be moulded into a better person because these groups preach negative values that would gradually turn one into a menace in the society.
In Nigeria cult groups have not been restricted to corners of the university campuses. They have spread into the society at large and operate in various cells in our communities. Cult groups now recruit their members from tender age as early as secondary school students, they also recruit non-students in a bid to grow their membership.
A major reason for the creation of new confraternities was the fact that members of the new groups simply did not meet the high academic and intellectual standards set by the Seadogs. However, Soyinka would later point to individuals who became accustomed to exerting power in the rigidly hierarchical confraternity, and were unwilling to give it up, as to blame for the initial schism. As new groups formed, inter-group tensions led to fighting, though these were initially limited to fistfights. The early nineties thus witnessed a boom as every university was plagued with cult explosion such as the Black Axe, Black Cats, Trojan Horse, Black Panthers, Eiye, Maphites, Temple of Eden, The Jurists, The Executioners, Black Beret, National Association of Adventurers, Black Scorpion, Eagle Club, Termites, Knight Cadet, Sonmen, White Angels, Amazons, Daughters of Jezebel, and the Black Brassieres.
The spread of cult groups outside the university campuses can be traced back to the late 1990’s when there was a nationwide renouncement of cultism by university students and the breakdown of traditional campus cults all over the country as a result of amnesty granted to all renounced cultists at the onset of the present democratic government. This led to migration of cultists from the campuses to residential neighbourhoods and streets as campuses were no longer a safe haven for them. Incompetence of security officials and inadequate facilities to police campuses led to the resurgence of cultism in the campuses as renounced cultists who could not be protected by the Law, went back to their cult groups to seek protection from rival groups who had discerned their identity as a result of the renouncement ceremony. This resulted in a situation where cult groups were now well established in- and outside the campuses.
Solutions to the menace of cultism in Nigerian institutions
All cult groups should be outlawed and there should be zero tolerance towards members of this group. The soft hand approach used by university administrators and security agencies towards this group have made them spread more and grow.