Cultism is a major vice which is common in tertiary institutions in Nigeria today. Cultism itself, according to history, started for a good cause, but over time things have changed. Let us take a look at the history of cultism in Nigeria and how it all began.
Definition of cultism
Cultism is defined as the activities or practices of a group of people with one common spiritual, religious or philosophical belief. The group of individuals involved in these practices is known as a cult. In general sociological studies, the term cult has been subjected to a whole lot of controversial and divergent definitions. But most cults are referred to as secret cults. They are called that because their activities and practices are hidden from the public and non-members. Members of secret cults often swear an oath of allegiance or go into covenant with each other. They are meant to defend their beliefs and practices down to their very last breath.
Cultism in Nigeria began as far back as 1952. It started out as fraternities, and they were confined within universities campuses with the motive of maintaining law and order on campuses. It was not until the 1990s that they began spreading to the streets and creeks. The first fraternity in Nigeria was the Pyrates Confraternity at the University College, Ibadan. The Pyrates Confraternity was started by seven students among which was the popular Nigerian Nobel Laurette, Wole Soyinka. They called themselves the ‘Magnificent Seven.' The confraternity was founded because the university then was filled with wealthy students backed by colonial powers.
The few poor students were doing everything they could in dressing and manner to blend in with the advantaged students. They also noticed that the social life was determined based on tribalism. All these things prompted the Magnificent Seven to form the Pyrates Confraternity and their goal was to differentiate themselves from the conventional establishment. And also to support social justice and human rights in Nigeria.
The Pyrates Confraternity activities were non-violent dispute resolutions and fighting against elitist nonsenses and pretenses. The motto of the confraternity was ‘Against all conventions.' Their logo was the skull and crossbones. Some of the members gave themselves name such as Long John Silver and Cap’n Blood. The confraternity membership was made open to any promising male students irrespective of race or tribe. Although application and selection were very rigid and many students were denied. For almost twenty years, the Pyrates Confraternity was the only fraternity in most Nigerian universities.
By the early 1970s, other fraternities began to spring up as a result of leadership tussle among members the previous confraternity. One of them was the Buccaneers which was formed in 1972 by a former member of the Pyrates Confraternity. The Buccaneers was established by Dr. Bolaji Carew after he was expelled from the Pyrates Confraternity for not following teachings of the fraternity. On the 31st of October 1980, the Pyrates formally registered with the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Nigeria under name, National Association of Seadogs.
As more fraternities began to emerge, their practices began to deviate from the original intention of the first fraternity. As a result of different disturbing acts, the Pyrates Confraternity pulled out of the universities and shut down all student campus branches. The Buccaneers Confraternity also registered themselves as National Association of Sea Lords.
Supreme Eiye Confraternity
Another early fraternity founded in Nigeria is the Supreme Eiye Confraternity. It also started at the University of Ibadan and was later registered as a cultural association. The confraternity ‘Eiye’ which means ‘bird’ in the Yoruba language was also known as the National Association of Air Lords. Their motto was ‘No Feather, No Bird’ and the symbol of ‘No Love, No Peace.' The objective of the group was to preserve the Yoruba Culture. Every member of the Eiye Confraternity gave themselves the name of a bird.
The Neo-Black Movement of Africa a.ka. Black Axe
After the emergence of the Buccaneers Confraternity, another fraternity known as the Neo-Black Movement of Africa a.ka. Black Axe was founded at the University of Benin. This was the beginning of confraternity violence in Nigeria. Most of the fraternities were popularly referred to as Secret Cults.
Other confraternities and their stories
Another group, known as the Eternal Fraternal Order of the Legion Consortium a.k.a. Klan Konfraternity was founded at the University of Calabar. This was also followed by the emergence of the Supreme Vikings Confraternity also known as the Adventurers or the De Norsemen Club in 1984. During this period, the new cult groups in Nigeria began to introduce new traditions into the fraternities. Before they would go out for any activity, they would practice some voodoo rituals.
Confraternities and politics
During the period of 1980s - 1990s, under the military rule of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, these cult groups became notorious. Following the coup organized by Ibrahim Babangida which led to a lot of political tension, fraternities were used by military leaders as a check on university staffs and student unions. The university staffs and staff unions were the major organized opposing forces to the military rule. The cult groups were provided with weapons and money to use. The weapons were eventually used in deadly inter-confraternities rivalries. Some confraternities were protected by universities vice-chancellors who used them to attack students that challenged their authorities. It is believed that all these changes led Wole Soyinka to declare that the Seadogs shouldn’t operate on any Nigerian university campus.
In the early 1990s, activities of the confraternities expanded to the streets and creeks. Different confraternities were involved in bloody battles of supremacy. It was around this time that The Family Confraternity also known as the Mafia of Campus Mafia emerged. The Campus Mafia was modeled after the Italian Mafia. As time went on and the emergence of democratic rule, most of the on-campus confraternities began to move out of campus. This was as a result of movements which were planned to end cultism in Nigerian Universities. Amnesty was granted to every cultist member who decided to renounce their membership.
So, cult groups have moved their meetings and other practices to neighborhoods and streets around their campuses. Although it seemed the move was effective for a while, cult groups soon resumed their activities on campuses. This was because the University authorities and the government could not provide enough facilities to security personnel to tackle cultism on campuses. Also, some of the renounced cultists became vulnerable to attacks from rival groups who now knew their identity. So they returned to the groups for protection. Cults in Nigeria now became established both on and off campuses.
Another cult group later emerged at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology called the Brotherhood of the Blood a.k.a. Black Beret or Two-Two. Numerous cult groups arose in the early 1990s. Some of them include Black Scorpion, Dreaded Friend of Friends, Eagle Club, Executioners, Fame, Fraternity of Friends, Gentlemen Clubs, Jurists, Mgba Mgba Brothers, Red Sea Horse, Second Son of Satan (SSS), Sonmen, Temple of Eden, Trojan Horse, White Bishops, etc. Some female cult groups were also formed such as Amazons, Barracudas, Black Beret, Black Bra, Daughters of Jezebel, and Temple of Eden.
Cult groups in Nigeria were involved in a lot of known criminal activities and deaths. They have been involved in different kidnappings and beating of lecturers who crossed their paths. Some lecturers or other individuals have been dealt with by cult groups for stealing a cult member’s girlfriend or sugar daddy in the case of female cult groups. Some were involved in cyber crimes and armed robberies. Cult groups in Nigeria were also employed by politicians to scare or deal with their political rivals. Some of them were also involved in fighting and kidnappings in the Niger Delta regions.
One of the most popular organized crime of cult groups in Nigeria is the Obafemi Awolowo University massacre. The massacre took place at the Awolowo Hall of the university and left five people dead and several others injured. It was an organized attack carried out by members of the Black Axe as revenge against some leaders of the Student Union. One of the recent cult group popularly known as Badoo has been involved in numerous ritual killings this year.
Consequences of cultism
A lot of students today join cults in Nigeria tertiary institutions due to following reasons:
● The desire for power and sense of belonging.
● Oppression from cult groups (some are targeted for various reasons so they can become members).
● Pressure from friends who are members.
● And some for security.
There are personal consequences for joining a cult group. They include:
● Loss of respect and regard for lives and property.
● Loss of moral values and good character. Once a person becomes a member of a cult, the initiation process transforms the individual into a ruthless and destructive person.
● Premature death due to inter-fraternities wars.
● Chances of being expelled from school are very high.
● Living in fear is also something that happens to members of a cult.
Consequences of cultism on campuses include:
● Exam malpractices
● Intimidations and oppressions of students and lectures
● Sexual assaults
Cultism in Nigeria today has reduced compared to the 1990s. But they are still rampant in some locations. It is necessary that the Nigerian government and universities authorities work actively to make sure that measures are put in place to deal with anyone found guilty to dissuade people from joining cults. Also, measures to protect a student from being targeted and oppressed by cult members should be taken. Be advised against joining a cult group and advise anyone you know against joining. Nothing good comes out of cultism.