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How Cultism Has Depreciated The Reading Culture - ETCSINES

This topic will focus on how the development and evolvment of cultism has depreciated the reading culture in Nigerian educational institutions.

I will present a summarized evolvement of cultism in Nigeria so as to properly put this topic in perspective and help us to narrow down to the effects it has had on the reading culture in Nigerian universities.

In the early 1950's, future-Nobel Prize winning author Wole Soyinka and a group of six friends formed the Pyrate Confraternity at the elite University College, Ibadan (now University of Ibadan), it was then treated as a part of the University of London. They called themselves the "Magnificent Seven", their observation was that the university was populated with wealthy students associated with the colonial powers and a few poorer students striving in manner and dress to be accepted by the more advantaged students, while social life was dictated by tribal affiliation. The Pyrates wanted to differentiate themselves from the wealthy that were seen as the elite and the poorer student that were always striving to live up to the standard expected of a university student.

 The organization adopted the motto "Against all conventions", the skull and crossbones as their logo, while members adopted confraternity names such as "Cap'n Blood" and "Long John Silver". The Pyrates Confraternity proved popular among students, even after the original members moved on. Membership was open to any promising male student, regardless of tribe or race, but selection was stringent and most applicants were denied, High academic grades and intellectual prowess was a mandatory criteria. For over two decades, the Pyrates were the only confraternity on Nigerian campuses.

In the early 1970's Bolaji Carew and several others were expelled from the Pyrates for failing to meet expected standards. In reaction to this and other events, the Pyrates registered themselves under the name National Association of Seadogs (NAS) and pulled the confraternity out of the universities. Carew went on to found the Buccaneers Confraternity (also called the National Associations of Sea Lords), largely copying the Seadogs' structure, symbols and ceremonies.

A major reason for the creation of new confraternities was the fact that members of the new groups simply did not meet the high academic and intellectual standards erstwhile set by the Seadogs, and thus considered the original organization to be elitist. This point for me was a turning point for the intellectual emphasis initially placed on membership by the SeaDogs. New groups were formed mainly because a lot of applications were rejected from interested members for failure to meet intellectual standards, it would obviously not be a surprise if intellectual prowess would never be made a consideration for the new groups.

As new groups formed, inter-group tensions led to fighting, though these were initially limited to fistfights. The Supreme Eiye Confraternity (also known as the National Association of Air Lords) was formed in the University of Ibadan in 1965. In the 1980s confraternities spread throughout the over 300 institutions of higher education in the country. This time period saw a drastic change in the role of the confraternities. The coup of Ibrahim Babangida in 1983 caused a large degree of political tension. Military leaders, beginning in the 1980s, began to see the confraternities as a check on the student unions and university staff, who were the only organized groups opposing military rule. The confraternities were thus provided payment and weapons to use against student activists, though eventually the weapons were often used in deadly inter-confraternity rivalries.

A Sociologist noted that some university vice-chancellors protected confraternities which were known to be violent and used them to attack students deemed troublesome. During this period the confraternities introduced a new tradition of carrying out traditional religious practices and initiation ceremonies before any other activity.

In the early 1990s, confraternity activities expanded dramatically as confraternities engaged in a bloody struggle for supremacy. The Family Confraternity (the Campus Mafia or the Mafia), which modeled itself after the Italian Mafia emerged. Shortly after their arrival, several students were expelled from Abia State University for cheating and "cultism", The consolidation of confraternity activities outside Nigerian University campuses was boosted by the nationwide renouncement of cultism by university students and the breakdown of traditional campus cults all over the country as a result of amnesty granted to all renounced cultists at the onset of the  newly ushered in democratic government sworn in to power in 1999. This led to migration of cultists from the campuses to residential neighbourhoods and streets as campuses were no more safe haven for them. Incompetence of government officials and inadequate facilities to police campuses by University Authorities led to the resurgence of cultism in the campuses as renounced cultists who could not be protected by the Law, went back to their cult groups to seek protection from rival groups who had discerned their identity as a result of the renouncement ceremony. This resulted in a situation where cult groups were now well established in- and outside the campuses.

The normal recruitment style was that during the first weeks of every new academic session, confraternity alumni and members swarm campuses recruiting new members. Initiation ceremonies were said to normally involved severe beatings, in order to test their endurance, as well as ingestion of certain concotions. Male initiates may sometimes be required to pass an additional hurdle before becoming full members, including raping a popular female student or a female member of the university staff.

Frequent criminal activity for cults include intimidating professors into giving high grades, burning their cars or briefly abducting their children. The majority of confraternities, after the year 2000, were engaged in a variety of money-making criminal activities, ranging from cybercrime to armed robbery and kidnapping. Cult members may also get money from political figures, who wish to intimidate their opponents or use them in formenting trouble during elections or any other political gathering. 

Campus cults also offer opportunities to members after graduation thus creating an external network of support, Confraternities also had extensive connections with political and military figures.

 I would stop at this point to ask the question ' in the midst of all this self imposed activities, will there be any chance to diligently read?' I do not think so. The flurry of activities invariably made members of the cults to be high handed and of course not disposed to reading when they can conveniently coarse a lecturer to award them high marks at the pain of threatened violence. The nocturnal activities of the cult groups also made it unsafe for student to venture to isolated places to read and assimilate.

We can ultimately conclude on the kind of effect this scenario will have on the diligent student who after hours of diligent study and reading ends up having the same grade as another student who he knew did not even attend lectures of burn any candles reading, it is ultimately discouraging and even the strongest is bound to become frustrated in the face of this reality.

Cultism has indeed turned an institution of higher learning into an avenue of organised favouritism and preferential treatment, it makes a vivid mockery of diligence and hardwork, it makes even the brightest student to doubt the necessity of studying hard, it is an effective morale killer. 

I remain Tola Arawomo
Thank you.

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