“A major factor is that many Parents have abandoned the moral development of their children to the schools. Many parents are too busy attending to economic matters to attend to issues bothering on the welfare and development of their children. They believe that their responsibility starts and ends with the payment of tuition and the provision of such amenities like uniforms and books”.

Last week I began an examination of the prevalence of drug abuse and cultism among Nigerian youths. I stated that there is a link between the two and gave a brief history of how Nigerians became prominent in the distribution and use of narcotics. I will conclude this week with a look at the evolution of cultism into a national problem and why concerted effort is needed to curb these social ills.

The beginning of cultism in our tertiary institutions has been traced to the activities of some young undergraduates of the then University College, Ibadan.  This group of people, all of whom in later years became prominent citizens, included Wole Soyinka, now a retired Professor and Nobel Prize winner, Pius Oleghe, Ralph Opara, Aig Imoukhuede, Nat Oyelola and Prof Olumuyiwa Awe. The people founded an association called the Pyrates Confraternity.  Their mission, they stated, was to abolish convention, revive the soul of the university and end tribalism and elitism. However, with time, their noble objectives were hijacked by our society’s delinquent young adults.  Secret cultism now has become a way of unleashing terror on student groups and the society at large. The cultists kill, maim and instil fear on several campus communities. In the book titled, “This Present Darkness: A history of Nigerian Organised Crime” Professor Stephen Ellis stated as follows about the evolution of these cults:

…The first rival to the Pyrates was the Eiye group, founded in 1965, which in 1969 instituted the Supreme Eiye Confraternity (National Association of Air lords). During the 1970s, there was a multiplication of student confraternities that had a direct genealogical connection to the Pyrates. In 1971 or 1972 an internal disagreement led to a dissident group leaving or being expelled from the Pyrates and founding a new confraternity at the University of Ibadan, known as the Buccaneers or the National Association of Sea Lords. The Buccaneers claimed to have ideological differences with the Pyrates, whom they accused of elitism. With student numbers increasing rapidly, there were further splits. Among new cults were the Vikings, Red Beret, Mafia, and dozens of others. Colleges in the Niger Delta region seem to have been particularly fertile ground for new campus groups, such as the Klansmen Confraternity, instituted at the University of Calabar, and the Supreme Vikings Confraternity, Formed in 1984- at the University of Port Harcourt…

…Holding their meetings at night and in secret, some of the new groups became associated with violent attacks on university campuses. Their behaviour moved far beyond the rather light-hearted mock-sinister that had been the original style of the Pyrates. One ex-member of a student group recalled initiation as consisting of three Weeks of what he called “rigorous and heartbreaking activities”, Whose purpose was “to toughen the heart of the otherwise innocent looking boy”, similar to military basic training or initiation into one of the traditional secret societies that were so important in many parts of Nigeria since precolonial times. Many of the new confraternities made use during their induction ceremonies of religious objects, universally referred to in Nigeria as juju, which further strengthened the resemblance with initiation into a traditional power society. So worrying did campus violence become that the leadership of the Pyrates announced its intention to withdraw from university campuses entirely, and to relaunch the group as an adult society called the National Association of Seadogs. Nevertheless, student Pyrates continued to operate on Nigerian campuses in disregard of the national leadership.

Many reasons have been adduced for the high prevalence of drug abuse and cultism among the youth. A major factor is that many Parents have abandoned the moral development of their children to the schools. Many parents are too busy attending to economic matters to attend to issues bothering on the welfare and development of their children. They believe that their responsibility starts and ends with the payment of tuition and the provision of such amenities like uniforms and books. Many children therefore grow up without receiving any form of moral education from their parents who as decreed by God are their first contacts with humanity. These children grow up and consider their parents to be virtual strangers. Such circumstances make them susceptible to peer pressure. This way they pick up anti-social habits. By the time the Parents realise their error it is often too late.


As Societal values are important for the survival of any society, the approach to solving the problem must be multi-faceted. It must involve all stakeholders. As Njoroge wrote again:

 “…discipline involves all stakeholders, programmes as well as personality and school climate…if the family background is not good, different social classes are present in the school, school is located in a socially disadvantaged area and there is bad influence of peer groups it will have a negative effect on discipline…“

Thus Government must reappraise its attitude and policy to issues bothering on education. There should be increased funding of the educational sector as with better pay teachers and other stakeholders in the sector will be motivated to carry out their jobs effectively and with zeal rather than in a perfunctory manner. Such increased funding will also ensure that schools are better equipped to impart learning. As overcrowded classrooms have been identified as one of the factors causing teachers to lose control of the classrooms, better funding will ensure that there are more classrooms to accommodate students. A situation in which 50 or more students will be assigned to a classroom will be avoided. There must also be an improvement in the teacher student ratio. Assigning few teachers to a huge student population only contributes to the problem.

Government must also continue to pay attention to the urgent need to tackle poverty. As studies have shown, the environment in which children grow up or in which their schools are located play some part in their moral development and whatever disciplinary issues they may pose later in life. Tackling poverty will also ensure that more children are not forced to grow up before their time. Their parents will also not be forced by economic stress to relegate to the background, issues pertaining to the upbringing of their children. Parents on their part must bring about a change in their attitude to the moral training of their children. The home must be made conducive for such training. A child who is raised in dysfunctional home can hardly be expected to receive the best of moral training. Nothing will be achieved where emphasis is placed on academic training alone without commensurate attention to moral upbringing.





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