The News (Lagos)

Africa: Guns For Roses

Lagos — The Pyrates Confraternity's annual converge confronts campus gangsterism and offers the way out Seadogs from "Zanas", "Ben Bow", "Olympus Marino", 'Umaluko', "Samba Matanga", "Jokaina", "Zuma", and a host of other zones in Nigeria sayled to Gateway Hotel Abeokuta for the 23 Annual Converge of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) on 21 August.

The young and not so young Pyrates, most of them in their traditional black and white, walked with a noticeable swagger, and although some of them were on the big, burly side, they sure didn't look the violent type.

"Cap'n Blood", Nigeria's Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, who was attending his first converge in six years mainly as a result of his forced exile during the late General Sani Abacha years, was chairman. His presence electrified the venue, as the entire hall shook with a thunderous "Oh capon", when the enigmatic founder of the Pyrates Confraternity hailed, "Ahoy Seadogs!" Guest academics from the University of Lagos and Lagos State University, two hot-beds of student hooliganism, were present. Mr. Owolabi Amisu registrar of LASU represented the Vice-Chancellor, while Professor Onwaka of the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and Professor Odumosu Dean of Students Affairs of LASU were present. The registrar of the Lagos State University (LASU) who represented the vice-chancellor confirmed that LASU was organising a workshop on cultism, to which NAS would be invited.

The colloquium focused on "Fraternity and Nation Building", and looked at ways to stamp out violence, bloodletting and gangsterism on Nigerian universities and college campuses. It was in "recognition of a growing menace to which society preferred to remain blind to and pretend it does not exist," said Soyinka. He regretted that even though they were invited and intimated about the talkshop, Students' union representatives, university authorities, military, clergy and parental representation were pitifully absent . That, simply underscores part of the cynical attitude of the community to the problem Soyinka suggested. He complained that he is tired and fed up with the constant waste of concern and recommendations of volunteer groups, by the authorities, and accused the society of suffering from the syndrome of "deliberately diverted fear," a disease that blinds it from confronting actual fears and problems.

The NAS Capn, Ben Oguntuase's paper touched on the need for immediate attention to the problem of monumental proportion. The paper covered the necessity for an understanding of the problem of campus fraternities and their definition, as against the public misconception. According to Oguntuase, the campus associations of today are not cults or fraternities, but gangs. But why do students join such blood thirsty gangs? Professor Makanju, a psychologist at the University of Lagos offered a parent, teacher and psychologist's perspective at understanding the working of the mind of a gangster. The first craving, according to Makanju, is the need for affiliation. He also fingered a lust for power as another longing of gangsters. Makanju blamed the explosion of cultism on the prevalent environmental conditions on Nigerian campuses, ranging from obsolete utilities and deplorable living conditions, to the boom in university admissions which makes the university a place for all comers. Soyinka canvassed summary closure of all universities for at least one year while congregations will seek terminal solutions to the problem.

Parental guide to proper socialization of students and children; private sector and media participation in demystifying secret cults were called for. Among other reactive ways, to make gangsterism unattractive, canvassed were, rehabilitation for those who repudiate gangsterism and strict registration regulatory regimes for student associations on campuses.

Publication date: September 6, 1999

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