The menace of cultism which was once confined to Nigerian tertiary institution campuses has no doubt taken a new trend as it now holds sway on the streets in various communities across the country.
The activities of these cult groups have led to unrest across major communities. More worrisome is the upsurge of the activities of these cults which include robbery, rape, street unrest, killings, amongst other crimes which have continued on the rise.
While attempts are made to eradicate this hydra-headed monster, there seems to be a geometric progression in membership and many cult groups, as the trend seems to be a fad among youngsters in the country. Today, almost every street in the country now has one form of cult group or the other.
Some days ago two people were killed by gun-wielding cultists who invaded the Kabangha community in Khana local government area of Rivers State.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered one of the deceased called, Let-Them-Say Nwinee, was killed by unknown assailants on Easter day.
Also, one Mr Emeka Erasmus, was gunned down by cultists on March 28, by some cult boys who cut off his hands before he was shot in the eyes.
Recently students of the Benue State University scampered for safety following the broad day activities of suspected cult members in the school and its environs which led to the death of a female student identified as Jessica Agee.
Our correspondent gathered that the cult members who were on rampage were operating freely with guns and other weapons in the school and shooting sporadically in the air.
Recently a man identified as ‘Pepper’ was killed following a clash between two rival cult groups at Ita-Olookan area, Osogbo.
Pepper was said to be a leader of Eiye Cult and his group was warring with another group after they killed someone from their camp.
Those that killed him were said to have stormed the house where he sat with guns, axes, cutlasses and other weapons. They came to the area on motorbikes. They launched an attack on him and shot him dead. Then, they left the scene hurriedly.
Just last weekend, to be precise, on 28 March, 2021 these unscrupulous elements engaged themselves in supremacy battle.
The warring groups, the Eiye and Aiye cult confraternities locked horns and caused mayhem again in Osogbo which led to the death of one Akinwale Rotimi around Arikamlamu area and one Sogo Owonikoko popularly called “Marley” around Obate area.
And the gory tales run on and on.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that cultism has become almost like a status symbol among teenagers and young adults, cultism while being entrenched in the psyche of people. This is even as members at the slightest provocation easily go violent or kill other perceived non-members for reasons as flimsy as wearing a colour of clothes similar to their acclaimed colour code.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend the father of late Mathew Agbor, who lost his life following his alleged involvement in cultism, Mr Agbor Tambo, regretted that he did not stop his child from walking with bad company.
“They were coming to my house, they used to visit my late son and each of them visited under the guise of being a classmate. I should have stopped them because my instinct one told me the boys were not good children. Only for me to allow them to corrupt my son. Parents should always monitor their wards and know the kind of friend that they keep,” he lamented.
An associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Demography, University of Calabar, Mike Ushie, while reacting to the renewed spike of cult clashes in Cross River State, said that cultism is of different types and however comes in a different dimension.
He said in those days when a confraternity was introduced at the university campus by Prof. Wole Soyinka, his intention was not for evil but to check the excesses of government.
The don stressed that over time, things began to change, adding that people began to use cultism to relate to blood, victimization and punishment.
He said that the development is not in any way good for the society adding that the dimension cultism has taken is not a good one at all since the direction that it originated from has completely changed.
Ushie expressed shocked that nowadays young people are not afraid to see blood, adding that they even boast about the number of persons they had killed.
Speaking further, he said that cultism reduces the value for life and that it is not a thing that any right thinking individual should associate themselves with.
On what to do to put an end to cultism, the sociologist charged both state and federal governments to be serious with laws on illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
“There should be a deliberate plan that once you split blood this is your punishment no matter how highly placed the individual is in the society. The law is for everybody. You don’t take blood into your hands, you cannot create blood.”
On the dangers of cultism, the sociologist said that if not controlled, the society would stand a risk of losing people on a daily basis.
Also speaking, a security expert, Major Bassey Effiong (Rtd), called for the mobilization of local vigilante groups who can put an eye on the movement of all young people residing in any given environment to spot when young people make moves to join bad associations.
The Police Public Relations Officer of the Benue Police Command, Catherine Anene, while speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend explained that most parents and caregivers leave their children in wrong hands without monitoring the kind of language they are taught, and friends they keep, thereby leaving them at the mercy of these people who expose them to so many societal ills.
She said cult groups have adopted new strategies of catching them young, and have gone ahead to initiate children right in primary and secondary schools.
According to her, during the COVID-19 lockdown, over 250 cult members from the age of 14 were arrested from their various initiation meetings, especially in the rural areas.
Anene who described cult activities as one of the major criminal activities in the state appealed to parents and caregivers to always be vigilant to monitor activities of their wards, by watching out for the kinds of friends they keep, caution their use of the internet, and not allowing them to be keeping late nights.
On his part, the Head of Department of Psychology, Benue State University Màkurdi, Professor Elvis Ihaji, said most young men are lured into cultism on many grounds including but not limited to lack of parental care, broken homes, personality disorder among other things.
“These mostly happen to children from broken homes whose parents are not together to give them good moral upbringing. But psychologically, there is what we call personality disorder that makes some children to be aggressive right from childhood. They fight at any slightest provocation and if there is no one to control them at that stage they will grow up being wild and be eventually wooed into cultism by their peers,” he said.
Speaking on cult membership, a sociologist, Dr Kola Adeyemi, said peer influence is a veritable factor that determines human behaviour.
According to him, ‘’Behavioural pattern of a personality of influence can adversely affect an upright person and transform him to waywardness if care is not taken.’’
But a psychologist, Dr Smart Adebisi, maintained that no matter the fake life a person may tend to live, a good sensitive and painstaking observer will decode the true behavioural pattern of an individual that is close to him.
He blamed parents for their lackadaisical attitude to the kind of lives their children live, adding that their success in life is more important to them than what their children will become.
He noted that there are many parents that are living with their children who harbour dangerous weapons under their roofs.
Adebisi urged parents to be more proactive in their concerns for the day-to-day affairs of their children adding that an untrained child would sell the house built through the sweat of their parents.
He further submitted that a father that belongs to a confraternity can though quickly fish out a cultist child but lacks moral justification to bring him to justice.
He also cautioned parents on the way and manner of handling a cultist child because they may endanger themselves if care is not taken.