19 Oct 2012

The Big Bad Wolf

Courtesy nixxphotography/freedigitalphotos.net
Something all fresh-faced first-year undergraduates in Nigeria never fail to hear on a loop from their parents and other appropriately nosy adults is “Don’t join a ‘bad gang’” It is as much a mantra to the parents, who love their offspring more than life, as it is balderdash to said offspring who are poised and ready to fly away from the confines of Mommy’s onion scented hug.

When they get into the great ‘Uni’, they realize that their parents’ fear is very real and quite unexpectedly, it becomes theirs. They swerve between
adjusting to uncomfortable living quarters, getting the most education they can amidst the fresher bustle and making new friends.  Friends, that if chosen right could turn the remaining years into a lifetime adventure; full of lessons and joy or full of character destruction and personality slander.

The mind of the young dreamer is as fragile as it is fertile. Dreams of world domination and innovative invention could easily be turned sour with the introduction of one factor; influence. Influence could come in any form; from the smart friend who makes you work harder to the sly smoker who turns you into a party animal and the most dangerous of them all; the one who makes you join a cult.

Cults didn’t start out as a collection of morally degraded, skull and bone-tattooed, gun wielding youth.  The very first ‘cult’: The Pyrates Confraternity, was created as a social organization for promising students. However, as new confraternities were formed, they became increasingly violent through the 1970s and 1980s. By the 1990s, many confraternities largely operated as criminal gangs and became known as "campus cults".  For the last twenty years, tertiary education in Nigeria has been tainted by the presence of these cults. Promoting ruthless behavior and feeding violent egos, they have birthed riots that took lives and scarred many others.  They’ve driven intelligent minds so far into chaos that redemption rarely ever returns their brilliance. Sadly, the anonymity that comes with being a cultist is also a great weapon. They often stand out with their curfew-defying ways and dangerous appearances but no one really knows one, until ‘it’s’ standing above you with persuasive eyes telling you to come on over to the dark side.

The only way to avoid joining a cult despite the delicious platter of benefits (sex, money, protection, a sense of belonging) is to have the strongest sense of self; know who you are and where you are going and the rest will fall into place as you subconsciously separate social chaff from seed. Cultism remains a giant blood red stain in the fabric of Nigerian education that will probably remain for as long as a feeling of being ‘bad’ bring thrills to the human mind.

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