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CRIME

Innocently Led To Cultism

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As cultists in the country are intensifying their recruitment drive among teenagers, GABRIEL EMAMMEH in this report reveals the tricks they adopt

Just last Tuesday, 10 students including a final year medical student, Dr. Chibudum Eistein, had their lives cut short by a gang of cultists at the Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, Edo State. The students were said to be at a graduation party organized by one of the graduating students of the institution when one of the students who lost in a fight for a girl at the party, left only to return with his gang and shot into the crowd killing 10 students.

That was just one of many such cases in the nation’s institutions of higher learning and even on the streets perpetrated by teenagers many of whom do not even know that the group they belong to is a cult group.

While the nation is still at sea as to the solution to the problem of cultism in the country, the cultists are fortifying themselves to make sure that cult activities in the country continues generation after generation.

This they are doing by the recruitment of young unsuspecting teenagers into their groups. Sometimes forcefully and some other times with promises of a better life.

What many people do not know is that not all cultist members join the confraternities out of their own volition. Many of the cultists who have either been killed in the course of perpetrating the heinous crimes for which cultists are well known, or apprehended by law enforcement agents and sent to jail, were simply lured into the group by friends with promises of better life. While some others were coerced into joining by those who threatened them gravely.

The story of Tobi Adegoke, a 25 year old undergraduate, readily comes to mind when looking at the many cases of cultists who joined cultism against their will. He was lured into the Black Axe Cult by a friend who took advantage of his ignorance. His friend knew how much he adored and wanted to meet David Adeleke a.k.a Davido, the young Nigerian music superstar, and told him that his music idol was a member of the Black Axe and promised to facilitate his meeting with Davido on the condition that he joined the cult.

Fascinated by the incredible promise, Tobi quickly jumped on the offer and joined the Black Axe (Aiye Brotherhood). He has however, recanted his membership of the Black Axe.

While being paraded by men of the Lagos State Police Command recently, Tobi narrated his ordeal and expressed deep regret over his joining the cult. He said the promise of facilitating his meeting with Davido, was the bait with which his deceitful friend lured him into cultism. He added that his desperate desire to become a popular musician was also another advantage that his friend cashed in on, to deceive him and drag him into the underworld.

He was one of the 27 cultists who were arrested at Lekki, in Lagos. He said he had never committed any crime since joining the cult, and that he only joined the Black Axe to enhance his chances of making it big in the music industry.

“I am an Aiye (Black Axe) member. I have been in the cult for about two years. I was told that Davido was a member and that if I join I’ll be able to meet him,” said Adegoke.

“It was the guy who initiated me that said so. He said he worked for Davido, and that it will be easy for me to meet Davido by joining the group. But since I joined, I have not met Davido. They told me I’ll become a popular musician, but see where I am now.

“I am renouncing my membership of Aiye. I will never belong to any cult again. They should look at my face very well. They will never see my face again.”

Tobi’s case is only one among the many other cases of recruitment into cultism through deception. There are many other instances where unsuspecting teenagers and young adults were dragged into cultism through the use of decoy.

Biodun Alade, a 22 year old resident of Ajah in Lagos, was tricked into becoming a member of the Aiye Cult. The Aiye Confraternity is notoriously popular in the South-Western part of Nigeria.

Biodun confessed that he was invited to a party by an older friend whom he had deep respect for, with the promise that he would be made to meet exotic young girls from outside the country, and be allowed to spend the night with any number of girls he desired.

Narrating his bitter experience, Biodun said he was offered cold drink at the party which he accepted without suspicion, but became unconscious after consuming the drink. He said he was afterwards taken into the gathering of cultists blindfolded, and beaten to pulp by a group of six cultists after the blindfold had been removed from his eyes.

He explained that he was made to eat some concoction which tasted very unfamiliar to him. He added that his finger was immediately pricked with a sharp razor blade and his blood taken and added to a drink which was shared by all the members of the cult present at the meeting, including himself. He further said that he was afterwards welcomed into the cult by the cult leader who simply said to him, “Now you are blended. Today, you have become a man.”

He said he was afterwards shown the person from whom he would be taking instructions and to whom he would be reporting his activities. He added that it was only when he got home in the early hours of the next day that it dawned on him that he was drugged at the party.

Biodun who revealed that cultists always held their meeting in the wee hours of the night and at very remote locations far from civilization, also revealed that the first task that a ‘newly-blended’ cultist is usually assigned is to go in search of a member of a rival cult whom he will kill and bring a proof of completion of the task to the person he reports to.

Across the Nigerian federation, cultists have continued to pose a huge threat to the peace of the nation. Cultism is not new to the Nigerian state as it has become endemic in higher institutions of learning across the nation, but what is now a new development that has become a cause for great concern is the recruitment of teenagers and young adults into the confraternities.

The 27 young cultists referred to earlier were actually apprehended on their way to Eko High School in Lagos, to carry out a reprisal attack on members of a rival cult in that school. About 23 of those arrested were found to be between 13 and 18 years, and were even surprisingly clad in school uniforms, an indication that they were still in school. Instead of carrying bags full of books and study materials, the teenagers carried bags full of very dangerous weapons such as axe, cutlass and assorted knives.

While confessing their atrocities, the teenage boys fingered one Mayowa Rauf, a 23 year old artisan, as their leader who always supplied them with arms before they embarked on their operations. One of the boys told the police that the cutlass he always carried with him was for self-defence, and this caused many onlookers to wonder what the young lad was defending himself against since such display of paranoia is typical of the behaviour of cultists who are always watching their back for possible attacks from their rivals.

What is known today as cultism did not actually start as the menace that it has presently degenerated into. It actually started in 1952 at the University of Ibadan as a pressure group with clearly spelt out interests. It was christened the Pyrates Confraternity by Prof. Wole Soyinka and his co-founders, and was meant to address societal ills, not to intimidate or victimize innocent people as it has become today.

The Pyrates Confraternity later disintegrated into splinter groups which afterwards became the different cults that abound today.

Cultism later became the in-thing in higher institutions as students who ought to concern themselves with their studies and academic pursuits found other frivolous reasons to get into school.

Records have shown that many students who join cult groups at the higher institutions had interests such as gaining influence and seeking protection from cultists as their reason for joining the confraternities.

Malcolm Eze, an ex-cultist, confessed that he joined the Black Axe Cult while he was an undergraduate of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT). He said he was compelled to become a member of the group after it became clear to him that it was the only way he could resist the incessant threats and harassment that he was being subjected to at the hands of the Mafites, the arch rivals of the Black Axe cultists.

Cases such as Malcolm’s abound today. Even some of the young cultists who are today members of diverse dangerous cult groups, have reasons such as Malcolm’s as their excuse for joining cultism. In some cases, these young adults go in search of older cultists who will help them get into the cult systems, especially when they are faced with overwhelming threats from members of their age group.

As cultism continues to pose a huge threat to society, many still hold the opinion that it would one day be curbed or completely nipped in the bud especially if parents begin to do their work well. But there are those who conversely argue that the menace can never be contained in so far as it is being fueled by the people in power.

They strongly hold the view that it is the political class and their ilk that give teeth to the menace to bite hard by engaging cultists in their political rivalries, and using them to foment trouble.

The case of Philip Adegoke who was murdered during a political rally last August, readily comes to mind. The story was told that some politicians organized a party for members of the Aiye Confraternity at Bariga, in Lagos, and money was doled out for sharing among members of the group. As is expected, a fight broke out among the cultists and Adegoke overpowered one Lukman Agboola, another radical member of the cult, who contended for a larger share of the money than Adegoke.

Feeling pained, Agboola decided to carry out a reprisal attack on Adegoke. Few days later, Agboola laid ambush for Adegoke around the latter’s home and on that fateful day, Adegoke was returning home in the evening not anticipating any trouble, but was stabbed on the neck by Agboola who jumped out of his hiding place on sighting his victim. Adegoke died shortly after he was rushed to the hospital.

The case of Chibuzor Amadi is a typical one. The 18 year old lad had gone to seek a driving job from one rich car dealer who hired drivers for his transportation business. According to Chibuzor’s confession, the rich car dealer promised to offer him a special job, other than the driving job he had requested for.

He said he was invited to a meeting by the car dealer, and was afterwards introduced to the notorious Badoo Cult. He said he was initiated into the cult by the well-known Fatai Adebayo, the herbalist who was arrested last December and alleged by the Police to be the juju priest that prepared charms for the Badoo cultists.

Chibuzor further confessed that he didn’t actually intend to join the Badoo Cult, but was hypnotized and lured into the cult against his will. He pleaded to be allowed to return to his former job as a bus conductor.

“When I was elected students union leader back at the University of Benin then, I was having issues with some boys who attacked me at one point because of my constant attacks on the school authority over students welfare,” Okosun Osahor (real name withheld) told LEADERSHIP Weekend.

“Then I was approached by some friends, though I knew they belonged to a particular cult group, who assured me of protection after the attack that landed me in the hospital bed. “A year after, I joined the Black Axe,  the dominant cult group then in Benin thinking that I have gotten all the protections I needed but it was like moving from frying pan to fire for me.

“My ordeal even became worse that within the same group that was supposed to protect me, now became the very enemy I was running from.

He said there is nothing in cultism but trouble, fears and the temptation to commit crimes. “I renounced my membership of the group a year after my graduation,” said Okosun.

Johnson Andrew, a teacher, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that joining cult is “something about the mindset of the individual in the first place. Yes I know there is peer pressure, particularly in environments where the-would be victims find themselves in a situation where those putting them under pressure to join are in control, but then your will is your will. If you don’t want to join, you will not join.

“For instance, if I suspect the pressure is on me, I stay away from such environment or report them to the relevant authorities. This could be dangerous but most time it’s the best way to go.

“It is also the duty of parents to monitor the behavior of their children or wards. When you start noticing your child behaving strangely, particularly when they just joined higher institutions, call them to question and advise them.

“Always remind them of the dangers of joining bad groups, while putting it straight to them why they have been sent to school.”

Many parents are getting worried as they are not sure of what will become of their children especially those in boarding schools. But the Police say parents who commit more time to checkmating the activities of their children have nothing to worry about because they will always be able to detect changes in their children’s behavior early and advise them properly.

Dr Albert Ugorji, a social affairs commentator, averred that the recruitment of young adults and teenagers into cultism can conflagrate into a much bigger problem than the already subsisting adult cultism. He projects the possibility of having a society that is very unsafe for habitation if cultism is allowed to become consolidated in the manner that young adults are being dragged into it.





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