CULTISM IN NIGERIA TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS, A CASE STUDY OF LAGOS STATE UNIVERSITY
Background of the Study
The emergence of cult activities in tertiary institutions in Africa can be traced back to the early 1950s. According to Opaluwah (2000), what is known as campus cultism in tertiary institutions started at The University College, Ibadan, Nigeria in 1952. It was formed by Nigeria’s only Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and six others who founded the Pyrates Confraternity. The other six are Olumuyiwa Awe, Ralph Opara, and Tunji Tubi, Aig Imokhuede, Pius Olegbe and Olu Agunloye. Their main objectives included the abolition of convention; the revival of the age of chivalry and to end tribalism, to elevate the social life of the university campus where orderliness and discipline could be planted in the mind of students/youths who were expected to be future leaders in Nigeria and elitism. Adejoro (1995) lamented that little did Soyinka and his friends realized that they were making history nor did they come to terms with the fact that students and indeed youths radicalism was being given a national boost and the unleashing of a national vanguard. The development was paradoxical to the extent that they little realized that they were laying the foundation for what was to be transformed eventually into gansterism.
In defining cultism, Azelama, Alude and Imhonda (2000) noted that “cult is an assemblage of people united by certain ideals, or symbols and whose rites and ceremonies of veneration are unique and shrouded in mysteries with a secrecy that cannot be broken.” Maxey (2004) traces the meaning of cult from the Latin word
‘cultus’ which means ‘to worship or give reverence to a deity.’ Thus, in its original usage, it was simply applied to a religious worshipful group of people regardless of the object or person they venerated.
Furthermore, Rotimi (2005) cites the anthropological definition of ‘cult’ by Oxford Concise Dictionary of Sociology (1996) as ‘a set of practices and beliefs of a group in relation to a local god.’ The same dictionary gives a sociological definition of a cult as ‘a small group of religious activists whose beliefs are typically secret, esoteric and individualistic.’ Aguda (1997), Ogunbameru (1997) and the Free Encyclopedia (2006) define cult in a similar manner. Langone (1988) indicated that cult leaders have absolute control over the members of the movement and as such they use force to subdue them under their command. The author concluded that because cults tend to be leader centred, exploitative and harmful, they come into conflict with and threatened by the rational open and benevolent system of members’ families and society at large and that it is an exploitatively manipulative and abusive group in which members are induced to serve the group leader(s). From these accounts, it can be deduced that cults and cultism have certain elements in common. They are esoteric, shrouded in secrecy, usually made up of a small group of people with a charismatic leader, and may or may not be religious in nature.
Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria defines a secret cult as any association, group or body of persons (whether registered or not) that uses secret signs, oaths, rite or symbols and which is formed to promote a course, the purpose or part of which is to foster, the interest of its
members and to aid one another under any regard without due regard to merit, fairness or justice; whose oaths of secrecy and, the names and activities are held in secret. The numerous and diverse activities of campus cults and confraternities have gained undue and unwanted popularity in institutions of higher learning and the society has borne brunt of their existence. In the tertiary institutions today, these cults are involved in activities that could destabilize the smooth running of academic work in higher institutions. In the tertiary institutions, there are reported cases of murder of students in clashes between rival cults. In some cases, non cult members are murdered for reasons of provoking a cult member or group. Also female students are raped, disfigured for refusing to yield to love advance from cult members.
Despite the fact that many view cultism as abode of evil, where all manners of evil such as maiming, murder, examination malpractice, robbery, rape, arson, intimidation of fellow students and lecturers for good grades, forceful love (girl friends) and clashes of rival cults groups, some students find it fashionable to blend or join cults groups for different reasons. For this reason, social problems associated with campus cult activities calls for further investigation. In the normal school situation, people feel comfortable as the academic environments in the campuses are usually very conducive without disturbances. As reported by Arogundade (1994), Amachere (1992) and Oriaku (1992), every student was supposed to know why he/she is in the higher institution and as such his/her academic pursuit (aim and objective) must be achieved for he/she has no negative motives.
Tertiary education institutions include Universities, polytechnics and teachers training colleges. They have been known to provide the social atmosphere which allows students, administrators and academics alike to enjoy peaceful co-existence and excellence in education. In the case of students, the existence of and participation in clubs and organizations on campuses ensure that they become well rounded and well adjusted individuals at the conclusion of their course of study. This scenario applied to institutions of higher learning in Nigeria until when cultism reared its ugly head on campuses.
Education is a crucial factor in the social, economic, political and technological development of a nation. The universities are abridged version of the larger society, as school is for academic excellence, which shapes an individual to the world of honour and dignity (Rotimi, 2005). Ones values and aspiration is conditioned and structured by his academic excellence. Before the 1970’s, the socio-cultural environment of Nigeria was conservative and non-aggressive.
According to Hornby (1995), tertiary means third in the order, rank or importance while tertiary education (at university or college level), therefore, tertiary institution involves Universities, Colleges of Education, and Polytechnics that provide education for people at higher level. The greatest asset to any society is her citizens and their various abilities. These abilities can be acquired through quality education (Thompson, 2000). Unfortunately, despite all concerted effort by the Federal Government to provide its citizens with quality education, the reverse is the case. Nigerian educational institutions are beset by many social vices. Undoubtedly, one of such social vices confronting Nigerian institutions today is
cultism. Cult activities have been very much on in our tertiary institutions, leading to the constant harassment of students, staff and destruction of properties. The nefarious and nocturnal activities of secret cults have also led to the untimely death of cultists and innocent students and staff/lecturers of our institutions of higher learning.
It has been observed as stated by Thompson (2000) that students join cult for certain factors such as protection, sense of identity, deception, family background, the Western media and role models. The researcher observes that there should be more to this than meets the eyes. It is only further investigation that can establish these reasons. Higher institutions should be centres of academic excellence and moral uprightness, academic pursuit cannot be achieved in an atmosphere painted with blood shed and hooliganism. Furthermore, what are the social problems associated with secret cult activities in tertiary institutions? Arogundade (1994), Amachere (1992) and Oriaku (1992) observed that cultism in our tertiary institutions have brought about riots, maiming, raping, rival, robbery, looting and radical student bodies. The extent of their ugly trends needed to be further established and if not checked, may cast serious doubts on the future role of our universities.
The crusade on cultism is to create awareness among parents, encourage students to join approved religious groups such as Scripture Union in schools for morals and spiritual awareness and security in God. Moral upbringing is very essential in ones life for there is a saying “Direct the child the way he/she should go and he will never depart from it” (Olabisi, 1993). Another way is referring
members of secret societies to guidance and counselling units for counseling. Indeed, education is an all round efficiency that focus on the child not just as he is but as he can be. Therefore, disciplining of wards from childhood and organizing periodic counselling of students will make them realize their past mistakes and become ashamed of it. In addition to these, Ugbendu in Olabisi (1993) explained that most new intakes in higher institutions belong to the adolescent age bracket, a stage they are subjected to psychological fluctuations, while searching for their personalities.
The researcher embarks on this study as a result of observation by meaningful individuals and the media who point out that the issue of disturbances of secret cults in contemporary Nigerian tertiary institution is becoming a progressive social menace and a national question. One may ask if location of the University constitute a factor of secret cult activities happening in tertiary institution. Rotimi (2005) stated that students are attracted to cultist groups for a variety of reasons. He noted that generally, the social atmosphere prevailing in Nigeria Universities provides an inspiring environment for secret cults to thrive. These may include lack of virile student unionism, individual/private universities where the security system is not tight, erosion of the traditional academic culture; absence of intellectual debates and all other activities that are components of traditional campus culture. The researcher is investigating whether the higher institutions cited in urban areas are more involved in cultism more than those in rural areas that is to say what is the influence of location on secret cult activities.
Statement of the Problem
Universities as higher institutions are places for teaching, learning and researching into the problems of societies and the world. The existence of campus cult activities in our tertiary institution is a serious threat to the realisation of this noble objective. It has been observed that cult activities have led to the death of students and even lecturers on campus. Many other tertiary institutions in Lagos State, according to Newspaper reports, live in perpetual fear of cult activities on campus. Observers point out that if these ugly trends are not established and measures taken to check them, the future role of our tertiary institutions as agents of social change and national development will be seriously threatened.
It is against this background that this study was faced with the problem of establishing validly the social problems associated with campus cult activities in tertiary institutions in Lagos State, Nigeria and possible measures that can address the problem. Thus, the problem of this study put in a question form is: what are the social problems associated with campus cult activities in tertiary institutions in Lagos State.
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study is to identify the social problems associated with campus cult activities in tertiary institutions in Lagos State, Nigeria. Specifically, the study sought to:
1. Find out the social factors that lead to students’ campus cultism in tertiary institutions in Lagos State.
2. Identify the social problems associated with cult activities in tertiary institutions.
3. Determine the influence of school type on cult activities happening in tertiary institutions in Lagos State.
4. Find measures that can effectively control campus cult activities in tertiary institutions in Lagos State.
Significance of the Study
The result of this study will benefit university authorities, parents, counsellors, researchers, government and corporate bodies. This study will be beneficial to the university authorities in the various institutions to assess their shortcomings in their bid to check this menace. It will also help students to take a more rational decision concerning joining/associating with campus cultists.
Parents will also benefit from this study because it will provide them with greater knowledge on the level of involvement and viciousness of the operations of the campus cultist problem. Such improved awareness will enhance their advisory role performance to their wards vis-à-vis the consequences of associating with cultists. Parents will also become more co-operative with the appropriate authorities in the handling of issues of secret cults in schools.
The findings of the study will be beneficial to the academic community as a whole, since it is a research effort and reference material. Based on the results of
the study, the Federal Government will be able to appraise their altitude and reactions to incidents of campus cultism in tertiary institutions in promulgating Decrees in planning and formulating Education Policies and providing adequate study equipment and environment conducive for teaching and learning as well as recreational facilities in the university campuses which in turn necessitate the attainment of school objective. This will help to establish a firm and cordial relationship among the students and lecturers in other to minimise social and emotional conflict arising from frictions and bickering in order to jointly attack a common problem.
The study will be beneficial to the students because when there is peace and harmony in the school, effective teaching and learning will take place. This will enhance high performance of students in examinations. Further, the findings bring out the ills of cultism and its effect on students, the learning process and the communities, thus creating awareness in the minds of all stakeholders in education; ministry of education, other educational agencies, and galvanizing them for positive action to end the menace and create awareness for change of attitude and behaviour.
The study also provides information for law enforcement agencies in order to improve existing laws, rules and regulations regarding students engaged in
cultism and violence on tertiary education institutions and the public. Also, the study is significant because it provides suggestions on how to combat the problem of cultism on campuses and engender and inject good values and practices into the minds of those students who might be supporting cultism on tertiary education
campuses. Finally, communities associated with cultism will find significance in the results of the study because it will create awareness about the ills of the menace and collective effort will be made to end it.
Scope of the Study
The study will be limited to the tertiary institutions in Lagos State. The content scope will include social factors leading to students’ campus cult activities, social problems associated with campus cultism and measures that can effectively control/reduce campus cult activities.
The following research questions guided the study;
1. What are the factors that lead to students’ cultism in tertiary institutions in Lagos State?
2. What are the social problems associated with campus cult activities in tertiary institutions in Lagos State?
3. What is the influence of institution type on campus cult activities in tertiary institutions in Lagos State?
4. What measures can effectively control campus cult activities in tertiary institutions in Lagos State.
The following null hypothesis were formulated and tested at 0.05 level of significance to guide the study.
Ho1: There is no significant difference between the mean scores of lecturers and students with regards to the factors that lead to students’ cultism in tertiary institutions in Lagos State.
Ho2: There is no significant difference between the mean scores of lecturers and students with regards to the social problems associated with campus cult activities in tertiary institutions in Lagos State..