What To Do About Cultism

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Truth, honesty and information are vital weapons of taming the menace, writes Adewale Kupoluyi
The importance of public relations to national development cannot be over-emphasised. Apart from the role of building and sustaining good image and rapport between an organisation and its stakeholders, this effective tool of communication is potent in security matter for the protection of lives and property. This position was confirmed at the just-concluded security summit and official launch of the Police Campaign Against Cultism and Other Vices (POCACOV), Ogun State Police Command, held in Abeokuta, the capital city of the Gateway State, organised by the state command of the Nigeria Police Force alongside the Ogun State Government.

The gathering offered another opportunity for security experts and Nigerians to examine security challenges facing the country. The Chairman of the occasion was the Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State, Prof. Kolawale Salako, who enjoined youths that are prone to cultism and social vices, not to compromise their bright future for criminal activities. The vice-chancellor admonished youths to be mindful of the fact that they would face the consequences of their actions outside the four walls of their institutions. He stressed the need for youths to be intellectually-sound by reading good books that could make them better persons and avoid having a wrong mentality of get-rich-quick syndrome.

Prof. Salako called on adults to make it a point of duty to ensure that our youths are well guided and not misled due to wrong information that abounds in social media. He said not every information is genuine and hence, people should scrutinise the information they receive to avoid being gullible and easily manipulated. He recalled that in his university days, unionism was mainly based on ideology and principles unlike what is obtainable nowadays whereby many people engage only in ‘personalised unionism’ for selfish reasons, as he made case for mentoring to promote youth development in the country.

The vice-chancellor appreciated the state police command and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, for putting together such an important programme that would foster police-community relations. He added that the police had been doing excellently well in assisting FUNAAB to curb anti-social behaviour within and outside campus while appealing to those engaging in posting wrong information about the police on social media to desist from such act. Salako, a Professor of Soil Physics and Fellow, Soil Science Society of Nigeria (FSSSN), agreed that POCACOV had brought every stakeholder together with a view to resolving the issue of cultism and other vices, assuring his university would continue to partner with the police to engender a safe society.

The IGP, who was represented by the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, CP Edward Ajogun, lauded the IGP for the formation of POCACOV, which he said was the first of its kind and involves the active participation of relevant stakeholders. “Some parts of the state are having challenges of cult-related issues, although the command has been on it, winning the fight and through POCACOV, it will be mitigated through stakeholders’ involvement and participation”, he added.

The police commissioner maintained that the country should entrust its future in the hands of youths by having the right values and orientation to take the country to greater heights of competitiveness, recognition, and respect among the comity of nations. He pointed out that if the country fails to reorient its citizenry, the youth could have a wrong attitude and values by engaging in gangsterism, secret rituals, and voodoo, which could ground the country to a halt, development-wise. CP Ajogun informed that his command had arrested no fewer than 432 cultists in the state in 2019, while over 100 were arrested this year, as he advised that cultism and other vices should be confronted with all seriousness.

The Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, represented by his Special Adviser on Security, AIG Olusola Subair (rtd), promised that the state government would continue to support the programme by ensuring that cultism and other vices were mitigated. The Special Adviser to the Ogun State Governor on Primary and Secondary Education, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo also affirms that the summit and the launch of POCACOV would go a long way in setting children and young ones free, assuring that “The state government, through the ministry of education, will partner and work with POCACOV on the wonderful initiative of the Nigeria Police Force” while the Iyalode of Egbaland, Chief (Mrs.) Alaba Lawson thanked IGP Adamu for the initiative, as she advised parents, caregivers, and guardians to properly monitor their children and wards to be of good behaviour.

During the well-attended event, which was graced by top state functionaries and sister security agencies, a retired Commissioner of Police and former Force Police Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Dr. Emmanuel Ojukwu presented a lecture titled; Cultism: A Growing Menace and Destructive Element in the Socio-Economic Development of Nigeria. Dr. Ojukwu attributed the high rate of cultism and other vices in the country to corrupt practices, injustice and broken homes, pointing out that Nigeria had lost its cherished values of integrity, diligence, and hard work, resulting in youths seeking justice through cult involvement as well as the impunity shown by some public office holders as having negative effects on youths.

The former FPRO reiterated that the incidence of cultism and other vices can be tamed through the activities of POCACOV by discouraging young ones from getting involved in crimes. The official inauguration of the state chapter of the POCACOV/National Youth Service Corps Community Development Service (CDS) took place at the launch while the National Coordinator of POCACOV, CSP Ebere Amaraizu gave an overview of the programme. According to CSP Amaraizu, the campaign is a public relations tool of the NPF involving different stakeholders and entails value reorientation and engagement to offer strategic leadership direction through advocacy, awareness creation and sensitisation, mentoring and reorientation.

POCACOV, an initiative of the incumbent IGP, was borne out of the desire to curb crime through community policing. It strives to counter the dangerous effects of cultism and other vices in society. The objectives of POCACOV include to sensitise members of the public on the dangers of belonging to cult groups; increase the security consciousness of members of the public; inculcate moral values in youths and reawaken that of adults; and educate relevant stakeholders such as traditional rulers, town union presidents, political class, youth leaders, market union leaders, and student leaders; among others.

It is only hoped that after the summit, all the stakeholders would do necessary follow-up as a requirement for achieving virile public relations, going by the prescription of Sam Black, a Professor of Public Relations at the University of Sterling in Scotland, who had argued that the establishment of two-way communication would help to resolve the conflict of interest by seeking common ground or areas of mutual interest and in the establishment of understanding based on truth, honesty, and full information, which are the hallmarks of effective public relations in taming cultism and social vices in the land.
––Kupoluyi wrote from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State.