CULTISM IN NIGERIA – CONFRATERNITY IN SCHOOLS

INTRODUCTION
In Nigeria, a confraternity (Cultism) is a group that is nominally university-based, though 'street and creek' confraternities began in the 1990s. The first confraternity, the Pyrates Confraternity was created as a social organization for promising students. However, as new confraternities were formed, they became increasingly violent through the 1970s and 1980s. By the 1990s, many confraternities largely operated as criminal gangs, called "campus cults" in Nigeria. Besides normal criminal activity, confraternities have been linked to political violence, as well as the conflict in the Niger Delta.

History of cultism in Nigeria
Nigerian confraternities were largely the precursor to many of the militant groups in the delta. While confraternities began in the country's universities, these gangs eventually spread to the streets and creeks of the energy-rich delta region. Most reports claim that the first manifestation of a campus confraternity (or campus cult) was in 1952. At that time, Wole Soyinka, Olumyiwa Awe, Raph Okpara, Aig-Imokhuede, Ben Egbuchie, Nathaniel Oyelola and Pius Oleghe (who were known as the "Magnificent Seven") formed the Pyrates Confraternity at the University of Ibadan. The purpose of the confraternity was to combat societal ills and conformist degradation, which were being exhibited not only by students, but by society at large. According to the Pyrates, the first graduates of the University of Ibadan were elitist, as they were highly privileged since they were the first graduating class of Nigeria's first university. Most of the university students adopted elitist behavior, imitating the dress of the colonialists and mimicking their culture. Wole Soyinka, who was code-named "Captain Blood," together with his colleagues felt that the pretenses should be stopped. A notable incident that further provoked the Pyrates occurred after many privileged students organized a demonstration against the construction of a rail-line that was to be built across a road leading to their campus. The students were afraid that improved transportation access to the university would reduce its exclusivity. The Pyrates decided to fight what they believed to be elitist nonsense. They succeeded not only in ridiculing the students' argument, but also accomplished the construction of the rail-line. Membership in the Pyrates Confraternity was offered to intellectually promising men with no discrimination as to race, color or tribe. The majority of those who applied to join the Pyrates were not accepted. The activity of members was rigidly controlled and the group promoted non-violent dispute resolution. From 1953 to 1972, the Pyrates was the only confraternity on Nigerian campuses.

The Emergence of Pseudo-Confraternities
In the early 1970s, several confraternities emerged. In 1972, a member of the Pyrates Confraternity, Dr. Bolaji Carew (code-named "Late Ahoy Rica Ricardo"), and other members were accused of not following the teachings of the confraternity and were unexpectedly expelled. As a result of this incident and other problems, the Pyrates pulled out of Nigeria's universities. They then registered themselves in Nigeria under the name of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS). Carew later founded the Buccaneers Confraternity (also called the National Associations of Sea Lords). In the formation of the new confraternity, Carew took with him many elements of the Pyrates, including similar attire and symbols of the cult as well as its highly regimented and hierarchical structure. The origin of confraternity violence dates back to Carew's 1972 saga and the birth of the Buccaneers. After the Buccaneers, the Neo-Black Movement of Africa, also called Black Axe, was founded at the University of Benin in Edo state. After its creation, another confraternity, called the Supreme Eiye Confraternity, also known as the National Association of Air Lords, broke away from Black Axe. During this time, the splintered cult groups introduced a new dimension into confraternity tradition: before carrying out any activities, they would practice voodoo rituals. Several notorious cult groups also came into being under the military rule of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. In 1983, the Eternal Fraternal Order of the Legion Consortium, also called the Klansmen Konfraternity (KK), was started by five students at the University of Calabar in Cross River state. In 1984, the Supreme Vikings Confraternity (SVC), also called the Adventurers or the De Norsemen Club of Nigeria, was founded by a former member of the Buccaneers.

Nigeria's Confraternities Spread to the Streets and Creeks
During the early 1990s, Nigeria experienced an explosion of confraternity activities in Nigerian schools, colleges, streets and creeks in the energy-rich delta region. The extreme hooliganism, violence and bloody struggle for supremacy among rival confraternities peaked around this time. The Family Confraternity, also known as the Campus Mafia or the Mafia, came into existence during this period. Today, they maintain a presence in numerous schools throughout Nigeria. Maintaining a low profile, they operate as an imitation of the Italian mafia. Shortly after their dramatic appearance, several students were expelled from Abia State University for cheating on exams and for cultism. This started a shift in the activities of the confraternity group from the university community to the streets and environs of the state.

Another notorious campus confraternity was formed at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) named the Brotherhood of the Blood, or Two-Two (Black Beret). Countless other groups appeared, including the following: Second Son of Satan (SSS), Night Cadet, Sonmen, Mgba Mgba Brothers, Temple of Eden, Trojan Horse, Jurists, White Bishops, Gentlemen Clubs, Fame, Executioners, Dreaded Friend of Friends, Eagle Club, Black Scorpion, Red Sea Horse, Fraternity of Friends and Victor Charlie Boys — the last of which was formed by Professor Augustine Ahiazu during his tenure as vice-chancellor of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology.
During the same era, campus-based confraternities such as the SVC and the KK extended their influence by creating street and creek wings. For example, the KK established a street/creek arm called Deebam in order to fight for supremacy and territory through organized violence, banditry and criminality. In response, the SVC created Deewell; however, when Deewell was ineffective and could not match violence for violence with its rival Deebam, the Icelanders (German) was additionally formed. Well-known cult and militia leader Ateke Tom would later become the leader of the Icelanders (German). The Outlaws, another brutal street and creek confraternity, broke away from Icelanders (German). Other groups, such as the Big Five and the Mbacho, still exist in Rivers state.
There are even female confraternities in Nigeria. During the late 1990s, female confraternities such as the Black Brazier (also known as Black Bra), the Viqueens, Daughters of Jezebel, White Angels and the Damsel, among others, acted as spies for the male confraternities and operated as prostitution syndicates.

Confraternities and their Role in Delta Violence
When discussing confraternities in Nigeria, the gangs referred to exist either in universities, colleges and polytechnics or in the streets and creeks. Almost all of the violent confraternities originated, splintered or derived inspiration from the various university confraternities, as evidenced by similar initiation rites, slogans, symbols and gang-type behavior. The outpouring of cult activities in the 1980s and 1990s heightened tensions within campuses and led to fierce struggles for supremacy among the groups. Those that were normally peaceful became engaged in acts of violence in order to survive. New members were lured into the confraternity by various spurious means and empty promises. Recruits were enticed by the prospect of having access to money and increased employment opportunities. Confraternities claimed that they could grant new members the powers to defend themselves and loved ones, improve their reputation and social standing and facilitate contact with influential people and those of the opposite sex. These promises were often never realized, but disengaging oneself from the confraternity group after being initiated was extremely difficult — when it did occur, defectors were often killed so that they could not reveal cult secrets. When a new recruit joins a cult group, he is inculcated with respect for spiritual fortification and trained in common tactics of physical combat, such as hand-to-hand combat and the use of firearms. Violent cult groups acquire their weapons from several sources, including wealthy patrons and politicians and chiefs who hire them for specific purposes. Other sources include friendly governments at the state and local levels, captured weapons from rival groups, attacks on security forces and exchanging stolen oil for arms.

In order to sustain their activities, confraternities frequently swing their loyalty and actions in the direction of sources of money. Most of the confraternities have been blamed for taking hostage foreign oil workers and collecting ransom in the Niger Delta. Numerous militant groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) employ confraternity members as combatants. For example, the head of the cult group The Outlaws, Soboma George, doubles as a MEND commander.

What really is Fraternity?
Simply put, it is brotherhood. All over the world, fraternities among youths, especially the type encouraged in higher institutions of learning, exist to foster brotherhood, collective aspiration and pursuit of noble goals. They provide a platform for leadership capability development and provide a forum and opportunity for active participation in nation building. It was never intended to be an avenue for exhibiting juvenile delinquency and unrestricted unrestrained, senseless, masochism. Least of all, it was never intended to become an avenue to take or jeopardise life with impunity.

Fraternity promotes active intellectualism. It demands a lifetime of sacrifice for the sake of humanity. It requires fraternal members to place all others over and above their own narrow ego considerations. It aspires to define and sustain a noble, sometimes utopian vision for society. It seeks to help create an environment in which all can achieve their potential without let or hindrance. It seeks to destroy artificial barriers that stand in the way of each and all fulfilling his or her worthy aspirations in life.

Fraternity is about challenge and how to meet those challenges of life squarely. It is about pulling up those who are down and providing succour to the downtrodden. Fraternity is not about curtailment of rights, it is about expansion of opportunity. Fraternity does not survive on fear, it flourishes on respect earned.

Fraternity is about brotherhood that lets each one be his brother's keeper, it is not about parochialism and narrow mindedness. It is not about secrecy, neither is it about cultism. It is a clear manifestation of weakness and inferiority complex to result into cultism. No one aspiring to leadership does anything noble under the cloak of secrecy or cover of darkness. Whatever anyone does that cannot be subjected to public scrutiny and emerge unscathed is not worth it. Nobility does not thrive on empty bravado.
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And Cultism?
The term cultism as currently popularly used in Nigeria will seem to refer to any students' organisation engaged in physical violence either on self or others and is suspected to engage in ritual or quasi-ritual practices. Some wide opinions suggest members are charmed, drink blood and have no fear of anything or anybody. For these and other reasons, anything cult is seen as bad.

In reality, this is not necessarily so. Not all cult groups are bad. Even in those cults that are considered bad, some of the frightful ritually inclined activities they are alleged to engage in are more myth than reality. There are Religious cults, Traditional cults, Social/Professional cults, and now Students cults. Universally, there are two broad categories of cults namely:
Benign Cults - the good guys.
Destructive Cults - the bad guys

On our campuses we have the two types. All usually set out as benign cults while some especially those of concern to us today slip into the destructive category. We should not make any mistake in our evaluation and classification of which category various students groups belong. There are clearly several religious groups on campuses which on the surface appear benevolent but deep down are far more destructive than those we currently associate with violence. If you are in doubt, read Professor Femi Osofisan's analysis of the cult of ignorance in his article in The Comet of Sunday, September 12, 1999. Religious fundamentalism enjoys more prominence today on our campuses than scholarly activities, sports and research. We are all waiting on the Lord!

But let me use the following true-life stories to warn our fundamentalists and those encouraging them over and above vigorous pursuit of academic liberalism and excellence on the potential problems they might have to deal with in future if care is not taken.

Heaven's Gate which was founded by Marshall Applewhite, had 37 of their members commit suicide in 1997. They regarded their bodies as mere containers of their souls. Theirs was a curious mix of Christianity and unusual belief in UFO. Their suicide mission was seen as a journey to the next plane of blissful existence.

Solar Temple which was founded by Luc Jouret in 1977 was a form of Christianity mixed with New-Age philosophy, homeopathic medicine and high finance. Their leader, Jouret, believed he was Christ. Believing the world was coming to an end and the need not to be part of the apocalypse, a total of 43 of their members transited voluntarily or by force in 1994 in a well-coordinated international suicide enterprise.

Branch Davidians, Students of the Seven Seals was a group founded by David Koresh out of Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1942. It's own doomsday theory anticipated a major battle when Christ comes back to earth. Thus when 76 heavily armed officers of the American Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) visited them in 1993 in Waco, Texas, they saw the invasion as the start of the Battle of Armageddon. After the initial battle, 51-day siege and the final battle, 81 members and 4 ATF agents lost their lives.

One group that really shook the world was The Peoples Temple founded by Rev. Jim Jones. After facing harassment in the US, the group moved to Jonestown, Guyana where they set up an agricultural commune. The group's philosophy evolved from a social gospel that preached human freedom, equality and love to what they later called Translation, a belief that all members must die together in order to move to another planet for a life of bliss. In November 1978, this group murdered a US Congressman, Leo Ryan, and four members of his entourage following which the group embarked on mass suicide and murder that claimed the lives of 914 members.

At home, we know of our own "Jesus of Oyingbo" whose edifice at Maryland stands today as a monument of religious pervasion and moral decadence. They called on the Lord, yes; but clearly it was in vain. That was a clear example of a destructive cult in action in Nigeria.

All these groups were characterised by:
1.      A strong charismatic but highly morally perverted leader well versed in mind control techniques. This leader ultimately is usually seen as the Christ or even God.
2.      A strong intra-group apocalyptic belief
3.      A rabid obsession for eternal celestial purity even if that is to follow a life of moral bankruptcy on the terrestrial plane. For them, an exalted end justifies whatever unorthodox means are employed in arriving at that end.
4.      Mostly intra-group directed violence arising happily from their selfish arrogation of celestial bliss to only their members.
5.      A secluded existence accompanied by an arrogant belief in their chosen superiority over others including family members outside their group.
We should all look out for these traits in our religious fundamentalist groups we today epitomize as the ideal students we would want all our students to become.

I therefore say that the challenge before us today is how to eradicate all forms of violence in our higher institutions without destroying the student’s constitutional right of association. At the same time, we will like to see our campuses restored to their status as citadels of learning and development of character based on the principle of liberal academic pursuit.

CURRENT SITUATION OF CONFRATERNITIES
Fraternities and Confraternities explained simply is a brotherhood, |They exist to foster brotherhood, collect aspirations and pursue noble goals providing platforms with opportunities for active participation building. Fraternities encouraged in our higher institutions are suppose to promote active intellectualism with demand for a lifetime of sacrifice for the sake of humanity.
he term cultism which is mostly used in our institutions seems to have sadly lost their founders ways derailing from a Benigan cult (i.e. the good guys) to a destructive cult (i.e. the bad guys). They engage in physical violence either on self or others and are suspected to engage in rituals and quasi-ritual practices. They are now marked with shame and have become secret as no legal system supports them and their activities. Some of the names that comes to mind when cultism in our higher institutions of learning is mentioned are:-The Pyrites confraternity, The Buccaneer confraternity, Eiye confraternity, Neo-Black Movement of Africa, Vikings, The Mafia, Daughters of Jezebel, Black Braziers, Mgba Mgba, Amazon.

With respect to the founders of the groups, you must know that not all was founded on blood and violence, but some started with noble ideas, for example:-

1.      The Pyrites which was the first in Nigeria was formed to fight moribund convention, neocolonialism, tribalism and at the same time defend humanistic ideals while promoting comradeship and chivalry amongst its members
2.      Buccaneers broke out of the pyrites for reasons unclear to me but maintained the same goals.

3.      Eiye came to promote a balance for physical and mental development with emphasis on sports and academic excellence.

4.      Neo-Black was formed with determination to hold and restore the culture, dignity and pride of the black man.Their catalyst was the Sharperille and Soveto Massacre in South Africa. They established a newspaper called “the black axe” (named euphemistically as the axe with which to cut the white man and those keeping the black man bondage) this name is today the synonym of the movement but not the goals
5.      Vikings and The Mafia were believed to have been created by the government during the regime of General Babangida for the purpose of fighting student unionism and of the self succession program of Gen. Babangida and that of late Gen. sani Abacha; the truths of this claims though, I am yet to confirm.

6.      The daughters of jezebel and the Black Blazers (Bra) were both female responses to the pervasive male chauvinism and determination on campus combined with the coincidental interest of the girl friends of members of the male groups.
Today these groups have clearly lost the virtues of their founders as recruiter no longer go for scholars with great potentials but for the criminally minded, they are today known for violence and all manner of indecent characters like smoking, robbery, rape, intimidation etc.  The best decision of any student has been to stay away from such groups and their activities, although they would come with empty promises and tales of the founders that they no longer honour, expulsion is now only the genesis of the consequences that follows such association.

Cult related activities have taken the lives of not less than 2000 students in two decades across the nation's higher institutions of learning and more than five percent of students who joined were killed either before or at graduation.
Cultism today, is one great challenge to our institutions of learning as the menace they pose to society is increasingly getting out of hands yearly. I advise you SAY NO TO CULTISM; I believe if its secret, then it can't be good. 
During the first weeks of the school year, confraternity alumni and members swarm campuses recruiting new members. Initiation ceremonies normally involve severe beatings, in order to test their endurance, as well as ingestion of a liquid mixed with blood. Male initiates may sometimes be required to pass an additional hurdle before becoming full members, including raping a popular female student or a female member of the university staff. Among the all-female Jezebels or Amazons, prospective members may be required to undergo six rounds of rough sexual intercourse or fight with against a group of women or against a much stronger man. Cults also charge annual membership fees of between 10,000 (US$80) and 30,000 naira.
Frequent criminal activity for cults include intimidating professors into giving high grades, including by burning their cars or briefly abducting their children. Since the 1980s, confraternities have murdered people who are thought to have 'stolen' a member's girlfriend, or "sugar daddy" in the case of female groups. Female groups began operating as prostitution rings relatively early. The majority of confraternities, as of 2005, were engaged in a variety of money-making criminal activities, ranging from cybercrime to armed robbery and kidnapping. Cult members may also get money from political figures, who wish to intimidate their opponents. The exact death toll of confraternity activities is unclear. One estimate in 2002 was that 250 people had been killed in campus cult-related murders in the previous decade, while the Exam Ethics Project lobby group estimated that 115 students and teachers had been killed between 1993 and 2003. However those figures pale into insignificance when compared with recent cult activities in Benin city, the Edo state capital in 2008 and 2009, with over 40 cult related deaths recorded monthly.
In the Niger River delta, confraternities are deeply enmeshed in the conflict in the oil-rich delta. Most of the campus cults have been accused of kidnapping foreign oil workers for ransom, while many of the militant groups, such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), employ confraternity members as combatants; Soboma George, head of street and creek confraternity The Outlaws, is also a MEND commander.
Campus cults also offer opportunities to members after graduation. As confraternities have extensive connections with political and military figures, they offer excellent alumni networking opportunities. The Supreme Vikings Confraternity, for example, boasts that twelve members of the Rivers State House of Assembly are cult members.

Eradicating cultism in Nigeria’s higher institutions
Cultism has remained a problem for tertiary institutions in Nigeria and the larger Nigerian society since the first decade of the existence of university education in Nigeria. There is no existing single institution of higher learning that has not experienced the menace of cultism at one time or another. As we have today, the menace and the aggressiveness of cult members and cult-related violent clashes and activities in most tertiary institutions campuses have caused death of students, lecturers and destruction of properties.
According to Ogunbameru (2004), cultism or secret cult is defined as any form of organisation whose activities are not exclusively kept away from the knowledge of others but such activities are carried out at odd hours of the day and they often clash with the accepted norms and values of every day life.
Despite the fact that there are many evils associated with cultism, many students of tertiary institutions still find it fashionable to engage in it for different reasons such as search for responsibility, security, social identity, satisfaction of one’s aspirations and needs, among others.
It is therefore imperative that all hands be on the deck to combat this ugly trend that has become firmly entrenched in most tertiary institutions as the attendant effects of cultism on the learning process are enormous because it tends to disrupt prevailing peace in tertiary institutions, discourage students from furthering their studies, results in expulsion of innocent students while a lot of lives and properties are destroyed.
The inherent evils associated with cultism should be explained to young people in schools at all levels through sensitization, seminars, workshops, posters and handbills. Parents should desist from being members of secret cults and also prevent their children from joining bad groups. Students who do not belong to cults and some security agents can be organised into anti- cult vanguards or groups to watch or monitor, and then report any cult activities to university authorities or law enforcement agents.
However, there must be improved facilities and high standard of living conditions on campuses so as to minimise perceived strain in the social system which underlines cultism on the campuses and also, religious and moral instructions should be reintroduced in higher institutions and the society at large.
Conclusion

Realising the havoc which cultism has wrecked on both members and non-members of the academic community, all hands must be on deck to check their activities. It is therefore imperative on the part of the society and the university communities alike to de-emphasize thuggery, brigandage, and celebration of violence and shift attention to positive societal values which will enhance positive growth. The authorities should focus attention on the real cultists and not exploit societal sentiments against cultism to send student Activists out of the campus by stigmatizing them with cultism.

References:
Makanjuola, O. A Psychologist, A Parent and A University Teacher Takes a Look at Cultism in Nigerian Tertiary Institutions Paper delivered at NAS Annual Converge on 21.8.99
Oguntuase, Ben Violence and Cultism in Tertiary Institutions: The Way Out Paper delivered at NAS Annual Converge on 21.8.99
Oguntuase, Ben Open Letter to Nigerian Students on Campus Banditry 13.7.99
Baird, William R. 1920 Manual of American College Fraternities Menasha, Wisconsin: Banta, 1968
Robson, J. The College Fraternity and Its Modern Role. Menasha, Wisconsin: Banta, 1966
Ritchie, Jean The Secret World of Cults Angus & Robertson, 1991.
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