The menace of cultism in Nigerian tertiary institutions calls for diligent analysis and pragmatic remedy.
A few weeks ago, the Obafemi Awolowo University administration handed over 12 suspected cult members (students and ex-students that have refused to graduate) to the Osun State CID, Osogbo.
While it is a commendable development, it is equally clear that the university may only be interested in cheap populism and cosmetic face-saving drama, as the concerned individuals have been released.
Obviously, the scenario is dangerous to the university community and the country at large.
For the sake of records, this scenario is recurring and the scenes are playing out like the 1999 brutal attack that claimed the lives of five Obafemi Awolowo University students. For students of history, the events preceding the July 10, 1999 massacre is grossly similar to the current events.
The university administration has forgotten that he who fails to learn from history is doomed to repeat it, as a farce.
George Iwilade Afrika (Secretary General of the Great Ife Students’ Union 98/99) alongside other bold students got the hint of a cult-initiation going on at the University staff quarters and mobilised to arrest the cultists with different arms and ammunition. They were interrogated and later confessed to being members of the Black Axe Confraternity.
The arrested cultists were charged to the Magistrate Court, Ile-Ife, but the Students’ Union (the Complainant) was not at once invited to give evidence till the case got buried.
The then Professor Wale Omole university administration was said to have influenced the prosecuting counsels, demobilised them and the case struck out.
The same cultists were seen on campus again, boasting and waxing stronger.
Strangely, whenever the management was at loggerheads with the union leadership, the cultists that were freed by their shenanigans and hanky-panky were mobilised. The climax played out on July 10, 1999, when cultists allegedly sponsored by the Vice Chancellor (within and outside the campus), massacred five students, among many other casualties, with the then Union President, Lanre Adeleke escaping by whiskers.
The brief account of events before/on July 10, 1999 will bring to the fore the issue of university administrations politicising serious security issues, just like the days of the 1999 sacked Vice Chancellor, Prof. Wale Omole.
It is no coincidence that the university administration seems always swift to prosecute student-activists who mean no harm to the university community. A perfect example is the recent case of OAU5 who were remanded in Kosere Prison with the alleged conspiracy of a particular Magistrate in March 2018. The swift suspension of students who participated in a peaceful protest in October 2017, and also the unlawful deactivation of five students’ e-portal pages are fresh in our memories.
Till now, the university administration has refused to issue out a release on what led to the arrest, detention and also sudden release of these cultists without prosecution.
It must be noted that the only solution to the present cult crisis on campus is for the university to recognise and encourage radical, vibrant, ideologically-guided student unionism.
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Eyitope Ogunbodede, should be called to order by members of the public, activists and labour unions to expose and demand the public profile of these cultists in the Obafemi Awolowo University.
It is only with our collective demand that we can pressure the university management on what seems to be the continuous victimisation of innocent student-critics and taking security issues seriously, without politicising it.
Alawode Afolabi Samuel (Afoo Revo) is a member of the Alliance of Nigerian Students against Neo Liberal Attacks (ANSA), and a penultimate year student of the Department of English.