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Demystifying Cultism

08 Sep 2013

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Yinka Olatunbosun


Cults and Gangs-Before the Rooster Grows: by Cosmas Eze II, Vicosy Publication (2012)
Cultism has been listed has one of the dreaded activities in higher institutions of learning in Nigeria. Scores of students have been killed and victimised by members of cult groups in various institutions of learning. Sadly, cultism has spread to secondary schools and they are not male-dominated as they are thought to be.

In Cults and Gangs, the author, Cosmas Eze II attempted to unearth the root of cultism and how it found its way to the social life of students at the institutions of learning across the country.

From the tales of nocturnal meetings to the violent nature of the notorious cult groups, the author establishes the essential characteristics of any given cult group. He explains in depth the intricacies of their ritual practices, blood oaths and gang war. Starting with Eiye Confraternity, the writer shows how the various cult groups emerged as break away groups from the “parent” group. This trend has been associated with the rivalry that often exists between cult groups because disgruntled members of a cult leave to form another cult at the risk of procuring hatred from the rival group.

The writer made it clear that the concept of cultism was not initiated to perpetrate evil. In Chapter Six, the author wrote that Pyrates Confraternity, a group of seven undergraduates named “Magnificent Seven” was the first cult which was formed. According to him, it was led by Oluwole Soyinka, who was an undergraduate at the University of Ibadan. The group was set up to combat colonial excesses that were prevalent at that period.  It is apparent that many of the cults that exist today are peddling evil and fomenting trouble in their resident communities. To cite an instance, Black Axe was said to have been founded against the backdrop of the Apartheid policy in South Africa.

If that noble idea was all that permeated the activities of the group, then the group would have been exceptional. From what the book uncovers, it can be said that the cultists hijacked the concept of cultism from the intellectual framework and transported it to a region of secrecy and diabolical terrain. For the female cult groups, greed is a common denominator. The author remarked that the female cultism has spread fast into secondary schools. Bound in criminality, the female cultists are described as “vulgar”, acquiring wealth through illicit means to oppress their rival groups and female folks at large.

The author offers suggestions on how to check cultism in secondary schools. Compulsory enrolment in clubs, school-approved extracurricular activities as well as guidance and counselling are some of the alternatives that school authorities can explore in nipping cultism in the bud at that level. The book is full of quotations from notable Nigerians on relevant areas of discourse on cultism. Although the writer’s style is essentially academic, perhaps for the purpose of clarity, the logic of narration is threatened in the introduction of the chapters on role models. These chapters are designed to serve a prescriptive function in the scheme of documentation.

Furthermore, there was no indication by the author pointing to the sources of the information supplied in the work. The secret nature of cultism makes acquiring the knowledge of it daunting. A lot of investigative journalists have revealed some of the information that is now regarded public knowledge in the area of cultism. The author later made a sweeping recant of how he had read some select newspapers and how they had been instrumental to the artistic effort.

Chronology is used by the author in the work to recount the existence of various cult groups at the various epochs but not much was said on the recent activities of these groups or the efforts individual educational institutions have made in resolving the crises that surround cultism in their various jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions in Nigeria, the story of cultism is incomplete without mentioning the activities of student union leaders in various universities in combating cultism. One of the terror combats was recorded at the Obafemi  Awolowo University in July 10, 1999 when four student members of the Student Union Executive were murdered in a gruesome manner. The students were chopped in pieces and fellow students carried their remains in blood-stained mattresses amidst agony and tears. That marked a substantial end to the brazen manner of cultism in that institution.

Since the concept of cultism discussed in the book is from the Nigerian perspective, one would expect that the book would capture some of the details aforementioned and more such that the writer does not fail to add value to the reader. In spite of these weaknesses, the book lays a good precedence for further intellectual discourse on cultism and values.

Tags: Life and Style, Arts and Review, Featured, cultism

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