Controlling Cultism

Cultism is a social menace that has become a source of concern to the government, educational institutions, parents, and society at large. It is a phenomenon that involves a group of people that share similar beliefs, ideologies, or interests, and are under the control of a leader or leaders. The group exerts undue influence over its members, often leading to negative behaviours such as violence, drug abuse, and other criminal activities. Controlling cultism has become a critical issue in many countries, especially in Nigeria, where it has taken a more dangerous dimension. 

Meaning of Cultism

It is defined as a religion or religious sect that is often considered to be extremist or false, and whose followers typically live in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian leader. They usually gather in secluded areas to conduct their activities. In Nigeria, the history of student cultism, which is now known as a confraternity, can be traced back to the literary icon Professor Wole Soyinka. He established The Pyrate Confraternity as a social organization for promising and brilliant students.

However, as new confraternities emerged, they became increasingly violent. Today, cult activities in Nigeria are gradually shifting away from higher institutions of learning to the streets and creeks. Examples of cult confraternity groups in Nigeria include the Pyrate Confraternity (Ahoi-Seadog), Buccaneers Association of Nigeria or BAN (AloraSealords), and more.

Presently, there are over fifty cult groups for both males and females in higher institutions of learning and on the streets of Nigeria. These groups often engage in violent and criminal activities such as extortion, rape, and murder, which pose a serious threat to the safety and well-being of individuals and society as a whole. The fight against cultism in Nigeria requires concerted efforts from the government, educational institutions, and the society at large to curb the menace and ensure a safer environment for everyone.

Causes of Cultism

  1. Enumerating the various reasons for the emergence and prevalence of cult groups is a challenging task as the list can be extensive. Nevertheless, some factors can be identified as potential causes of cultism, including:
  2. Inadequate family background: Children from dysfunctional families or deprived of basic necessities like proper education and healthcare may feel marginalized and thus drawn to cultism as a means of gaining acceptance.
  3. Peer group influence or pressure: Adolescents are often vulnerable to peer pressure, which may drive them into conforming to the lifestyle of their peers, even when it is deviant or harmful.
  4. Exposure to negative foreign cultures: Negative foreign cultures and values, such as gangsterism, have been found to be contributing factors to the rise of cultism.
  5. The proliferation of arms and ammunition: The availability of arms and ammunition has made it easier for cultists to carry out violent activities.
  6. Uncontrolled drug abuse: Substance abuse, especially hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, has been found to be a contributing factor to the emergence and prevalence of cultism.
  7. Poor leadership: The failure of leadership at various levels of society, including families, educational institutions, and government, has led to a lack of direction and guidance for young people, who then turn to cultism as a way of finding a sense of belonging.
  8. Inadequate security: The breakdown of security and law enforcement in some areas has allowed cult groups to operate with impunity, which has encouraged their proliferation.
  9. Injustice: Injustice in any form, whether real or perceived, can be a catalyst for social unrest and violent reactions, including cultism.
  10. Marginalization: Social and economic marginalization can drive people to join cult groups as a way of seeking power and status within their community.
  11. Poverty: Economic hardship can lead to desperation, which in turn may lead some individuals to resort to cultism as a means of survival.
  12. Parental negligence: Neglectful or absentee parenting can leave young people without proper guidance, leading them to seek acceptance and guidance from other sources, including cult groups.
  13. The desire for protection: Some individuals may join a cult group as a means of protection or security, particularly in areas where there is a high level of insecurity.
  14. Identity crisis: Cult groups may provide individuals who are struggling with their identity or sense of belonging with a sense of purpose and identity.
  15. Quest for power: Some individuals may join cult groups as a means of acquiring power or influence, particularly in cases where there is a power vacuum or lack of opportunities for social mobility.
  16. Peer recruitment: Cult groups may actively recruit new members through existing members, particularly in cases where the group needs to increase its numbers or influence.

Consequences of Cultism

  1. Violence: As the majority of cult members are young people, they possess the physical strength to cause social unrest and engage in violent activities.
  2. Decay of Social Norms: Cult members often have a disregard for the law and social order, due to their access to dangerous weapons.
  3. Criminal Behavior: Some cult members are utilized by politicians for their own advantage and provided with arms, only to later escape with them. These individuals may then use these weapons to commit robberies and other crimes.
  4. Moral Decline: Cult members tend to lack morality and self-discipline, leading them to engage in harmful behaviours such as rape, all-night partying, smoking, and drug abuse. Some of them may even consult traditional healers for protection.
  5. Death: Cultism often leads to death, particularly among its more notorious members. They believe in the power of amulets and charms, which can result in armed confrontations with security forces during robberies. When hit by bullets, death is usually the outcome.
  6. Economic Burden: Cult-related violence and criminal activities can have a significant impact on the local economy, as businesses may be forced to close and people may become afraid to spend money in affected areas.
  7. Education Disruption: Young people who are involved in cults may miss school or drop out altogether, causing long-term consequences for their education and future prospects.
  8. Political Instability: Cult-related violence and crime can disrupt the stability of communities and contribute to political instability.
  9. Community Division: Cultism can create division within communities as families and friends may be torn apart by conflicting allegiances and fear of violence.
  10. Psychological Trauma: The effects of cultism can extend beyond physical harm, as victims, witnesses, and families may experience lasting psychological trauma as a result of their experiences.
  11. Increased Drug Use: Cult members may be more likely to engage in drug use and drug trafficking, contributing to wider drug problems in the community.
  12. Corruption: The influence of cults can also extend to the political and law enforcement sectors, leading to corruption and the undermining of justice.

Solution to Cultism

To address the issue of cultism in our society, the following measures should be considered:

  1. Disbandment of all fraternity organizations and declaration of their illegal status.
  2. Strict penalties should be imposed on those involved in cult activities, such as expulsion from educational institutions.
  3. The promotion of parental guidance and discipline in the home.
  4. Resistance to peer pressure and resistance to recruitment efforts.
  5. Improved leadership and fair distribution of resources and wealth.
  6. Enhanced security measures, including increased surveillance.
  7. Disrupting the flow of financial and arms support to cult groups by blocking their sources.
  8. Educating the public, especially young people, about the dangers and consequences of cultism through campaigns and programs.
  9. Providing alternative programs and activities for young people to engage in, such as sports, arts, and community service, to discourage them from joining cults.
  10. Encouraging community members to report any suspicious activities to the authorities and creating a safe environment for them to do so.
  11. Working with religious and community leaders to promote unity, and peace, and discourage cult-related activities in their communities.
  12. Providing support and rehabilitation for individuals who have been involved in cultism, including counselling and job training programs to help them reintegrate into society.
  13. Collaborating with law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute individuals and groups involved in cult-related crimes.
  14. Strengthening the justice system to ensure that those found guilty of cult-related activities are punished accordingly and in a timely manner.
  15. Implementing programs to help prevent the spread of extremist ideologies and promoting religious tolerance and understanding.
  16. Encouraging people to speak out against cultism and promoting a culture of respect for human life and dignity.
  17. Supporting research and development of strategies to address the root causes of cultism, such as poverty, lack of educational opportunities, and social exclusion.

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