The most essential problem facing tertiary institutions in Nigeria is the problem of cultism here and there. There is no long existing single institution of higher learning that has not experienced the menace of cultism for one time or another. As we have today, the menace and the aggressiveness of cult members and cult related violent clashes and activities on most tertiary institutions campuses have caused the sudden death of lecturers and students.
The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Sociology (1996) gives the sociological definition of cult as a small group or religious activities whose beliefs are typically secret, esoteric and individualistic. Lexican Webster’s Dictionary defines secret cult as a group of people who share a common cause and whose mode of meetings and agenda are unknown to the public and where initiation into rank and file is usually done in secret. Ogunbameru (2004) defines cultism or secret cult 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 everyday life.
Oxford Advance Learners’ Dictionary defines cultism as a system of religious worship especially one that is expressed in rituals. In summary, cultism can be defined as a ritual practice by group of people whose membership, admission, policy, and initiation formalities as well as their mode of operations are kept secret with their activities having negative effects on both members and non-members alike.
WHY STUDENT ENGAGE IN CULTISM
Despite the fact that all manners of evil (such as examination malpractice, rape, robbery, arson, maiming, murder, killing, intimidation of fellow students and lectures for good grades, love (girlfriend), clashes of rival cult group among others) has become of cultism, some student of tertiary institutions still find it fashionable to engage in it for different reasons.
Ivor Ogidefa, an educationist, in his article “Cultism in Educational institutions in Nigeria: causes, possible solutions and counseling implications” published in 2008, identified Eziali’s reasons why students join cults. According to Eziali (2000) in Ogidefa’s article, the following such as search for responsibility, search for satisfaction of ones aspirations and needs, search for security and search for social identity are the reasons why student engage in cultism. These reasons can be explained below.
- Search for responsibility: some students join cults group in order to perform certain services for the members. For example, some students may engage in cultism in order to fight for perceived injustice in their campuses against their members.
- Search for satisfaction of ones aspirations and needs: some students also engage in cults group in order to satisfy their desires, aspirations and needs. Example of this is that a student may belong to a cult group which part of her objective is to ensure the success of her members in academic examinations.
- Search for security: Many students of tertiary institutions, especially the female students join cult groups in order to protect themselves while some male students join to secure their girlfriends.
- Search for social identity: There are also students who join cult group for popularity. They want to make name and to be regarded as powerful people. For these students, to belong to a cult group is a way of achieving prestige and greatness. They belief that they could influence decisions on campus and that they could as well dictate the pace during the student union and students representative elections.
To Oshodomo (1999) in this same article by Ivor Ogidefa, some students join campus cults to gain respect and recognition and to acquire protection against sanctions from members of the community. He also added that students join cult groups for reasons based on past negative experiences at the family level. There are others who join cults because they want to create avenues to exhibit and diffuse frustrations from the family, schools and society. There are students who join cult group for reason of wealth (financial assistance) while others join cults to hide their weaknesses (inferiority complex) – academic or social. Some are forced to join while others feel that the objectives of the cults are landable and worthwhile.
Other reason why students engage in cultism might be influenced by parental and home background, because parents who are members of secret cult may not see anything wrong in their children’s involvement in cultism. Students who have emotional sickness who are possessed by the demon may join cult groups to unleash terror on the society that has caused emotional distress and can grow up to become criminals because of the evil spirit in them. Some students also become cultist because their friends are members. Some students join cult because certain lecturers and administration are members of secret cults. Unconducive learning facilities, environment and inadequate welfare programmes for students can also encourage students to engage in cultism and inadequate religious and moral instructions and education can lure students to embracing cult groups and cult activities.
THE EFFECTS CULTISM HAS ON THE STUDENTS
The attendant effects of cultism on the learning process cannot be exhausted as both intra and inter-cult clashes negatively affect the students in a very high proportion. It sometimes leads to incarceration, rustication or expulsion of both innocent and student members (Opaluwah 2009) or they may spend more than the required number of years for graduation (Ogidefa 2008).
Cult activities (which include killing, maiming, raping of fellow students and even lecturers) may disrupt the academic calendar of the nation institutions of learning (Ogidefa 2008). The peace on campus is adversely affected whenever there is cult invasion, this may result in suspension of academic activities for sometime (Opaluwah 2009). This singular activities can affects the years of graduation of students and may discourage students towards continue studying in the university concern.
A lot of lives and properties have been destroyed through cult violence (Mgbekem 2004). Young undergraduates who are supposed to be leaders in future have fallen victims of trigger-happy cultists (Jamiu 2008).
Another effect of cultism is that, before and during examinations, students are always organizing night vigil and prayer for a successful end of exams and or semester. They always sleep with one eye closed (Ogidefa 2008). And because of (this) frequent cult disturbances and insecurity, some parents now prefer off campus accommodation for their children in tertiary institutions for fear of being victims of campus cultists’ rampage (Mgbekem 2004).
Some members of cult groups are caused bodily harm that may result to physical injuries and or death especially during their initiation ceremonies. Closely related to this is the fact that some of them risk health problems because of harmful drugs such as marijuana, cocaine among others they take.
Cult group often subvert (or undermine) the genuine students’ unionism and destabilize university administrations, which do not condone their nefarious activities (Ogidefa 2008).
HOW TO CURB THE MENACE OF CULTISM
Over the past two decades, various attempts have been made to deal with the problem of cultism. The various measures taken include the enactment of decree 47 of 1989 that pronounced a number of jail term for any cultist found guilty (Fasanmi 2006). Also the Federal Republic of Nigeria under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000 issued a three- month ultimatum to all vice-chancellors to eradicate cultism from the campuses. Some higher institutions also set up anti-cult groups consisting of the student body itself and some security agents to monitor and check the activities of cultists on campus (Ajay I.A, Ekundayo H.T and Osalusi F.M).
Despite the various measures, it appears the proliferation of cult groups and their dastard acts continue unabated. However to curb this menace, the following are veritable.
Government and non-governmental agencies and the media should step up their campaigns against cultism and its destructive tendencies. The evil nature of cultism should be explained to young people in schools at all levels through sensitization, seminars, workshops, symposium, posters, handbills and public lectures.
Parent should desist from being members of secret cults and also prevent their children from joining bad group. Religious and moral instructions and education should be re-introduced in all spheres of lives and the decadent society should be spiritually reawakened by joint effort of parents, religious organizations, and government. Parents should be more vigilant concerning the activities of their children within and outside the home.
Also, there must be improved facilities and improved living conditions on campuses so as to minimize perceived strain in the social system which underlines cultism on the campuses (Adewale 2005).
The school authorities of higher institutions of learning must show their readiness and determination to eradicate cultism. They must brace up to the challenges of the cultism, which as become one of the most potent evils of the recent time. To Adewale (2005), it is very necessary for the committee of vice chancellor of the Nigerian universities to adopt a common and uniform approach to solving the problem of cultism. The issue of former cultists who sometimes return to universities as staff must be looked into.
Students who do not belong to cults and some security agents can be organized into anti-cult vanguards or groups to watch or monitor and check the activities of cultists on campus and report cult members to the university authorities or to law enforcement agents. This means that school authorities as posited by Jamiu (2008) must intensify armed patrol and surveillance on campuses.
Having established in the course of dealing with the topic: various scholarly definitions of cultism, various reasons why students engage in it, various effects that cult groups and their activities has on students and various measures that should be adopted to curb the menace. It is therefore imperative on the part of parents, university authorities, religious groups, government and non-governmental organizations and agencies to let all hands be on deck to combat this ugly trend that is gaining ground in most tertiary institutions.