Tempo (Lagos)

Africa: Campus Terrorism: Time To Act

Lagos — The National Association of Seadogs is alarmed at the spate of lawlessness in our institutions of higher learning. These acts of lawlessness have been blamed on misguided students who for want of better ways of employing their apparently excessive energy, have gone on a maiming, burning and killing spree.

In the last few weeks, we have read of shooting and killings at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Delta State University, Lagos State University, University of Calabar and the University of Lagos. These are apart from the other isolated acts of petty terrorism that have been occurring all the while in most other institutions of higher learning in the country.

It is worrying that government seems unable to contain these social miscreants who hide under the umbrella of darkness and membership of shadowy students groups otherwise known as secret cults to unleash mayhem in our schools. The situation is now such that there is a genuine fear for the life of every single student, faculty and staff of institutions of higher learning.

Way back in 1990, worried at the rise of juvenile campus violence, the National Association of Seadogs organised the first ever national seminar/workshop on campus secret cults -the way out. The exercise attracted top members of this association, members of the diplomatic community, representatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and other government agencies, including the police. Student bodies and universities also sent their representatives. The papers presented were well researched, the contributions from the floor, frank. The proceedings and recommendations of that exercise were printed, bound and copies submitted to government.

It is nine long years since those documents were passed to the appropriate arms of government. We are afraid they have as usual been left to gather dust in some disused corner of a shelf. Over that period unfortunately, we saw (we are still seeing) an unprecedented increase in incidences of blackmail, arson, kidnapping, torture, and outright murder on our campuses.

Indeed, government, under General Sani Abacha saw in these misguided, visionless teenagers, a willing tool to use in its bid to smear the name of Professor Wole Soyinka, one of the founding members of the National Association of Seadogs. Apart from their unsuccessful bid to paint him with the tar brush of godfather of the little campus terrors, Sani Abacha also had the long-range aim of using them to achieve the infamous self-perpetuation agenda. So, morbid agents of the apocalyptic General Sani Abacha, armed these sons and daughters of evil and gave them the mandate to unleash unrestrained violence on our campuses. The so-called protective intervention of security agencies under Abacha, were just a red herring. Anyway, they were at best isolated interventions designed from the beginning to be ineffective.

We also recall that it was a near-prescient reading of the current turn of events that made the National Association of Seadogs to formally put a stop to all its campus activities and pulled out in 1984. Even then, we warned the nation of what was to come, but the authorities preferred to let these bands of juvenile hoodlums grow wings. The nation is a shocked witness to what is happening in our institutions, which rather than become places of excellence in the pursuit of development of humankind, especially in character and learning, have been turned to mini theatres of war among secret cults. These unfocused groups we can categorically say, are on sponsorship of their real godfathers in government and at headship of some universities' administrations.

We call on government to take immediate measures to sanitise our institutions of higher learning. As we noted in our 1990 proposal, which we recommend, once again to government, over and above the fire brigade approach to tackling the problem of cultism on our campuses, the government must seek to immediately restore the standards, dignity and environment of scholarship. Also all groups should be encouraged to come forward for registration with the school authorities. Their goals, membership and leadership must be known. We also implore these shadowy groups to bury the hatchet; they should let off on the destructive reign of terror and allow peace and scholarship to reign on our campuses.

Furthermore, we call on the Government to immediately put in place a genuine programme to disarm the student populace. Too many dangerous weapons are free floating among the students. They perhaps more than any other group imbibed the fascistic cultural imperatives of prolonged military governance in Nigeria. The students are today setting themselves out as the last symbol of the militarisation of the civilian populace. This cannot be an honour our students will be proud of. The student body needs to be urgently de-militarised and re-positioned for civil decent conducts. Present cult activities pose a serious threat to the well-known universal freedom enjoyed in all citadels of learning. If care is not taken, these students may be unwittingly setting the stage for the establishment of specialised campus police units. I'm sure they should know what that could lead to.

We like to appeal to the media to play a stronger role in exposing these agents of evil on our campuses by denying them the cloak of anonymity. For example, when these students perpetrate their evil acts, their identities must be revealed. References such as "(names withheld)" should not be part of the style in reporting these issues. Nor should something like this: "The police has had a shootout with known members of a campus secret cult which led to the death of two members of the gang that has been terrorising members of the university community". We ask, why can't the names of the dead members be used when reporting the case?

President Olusegun Obasanjo, the time to ACT is NOW!

Ben Oguntuase

Capn, National Association of Seadogs

Publication Date: July 22, 1999

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