Tempo (Lagos)

19 August 2001

Nigeria: Campus Goons

Ago-Iwoye — To them, guns and axes are more important than pen and books. Swoting is for those not man enough. They are the kings of the campus cult groups who run the nation's campuses.

To the students of Olabisi Onabanjo University, incidence of cultism and its attedant problems have become a daily thing. Talking of cultism in the university on daily basis is like discussing about their course works. Though many of them did not hear of the arrest of four of their colleagues by the Ogun State Police Command, the news did not come to them as a surprise. This is because they have lived with it for over six years. Messrs. Segun Ogunsanya, 400 level Sociology; Kasim Azeez, 200 level Business Administration; Wale Ogunbade, 200 level Geology and Ayodele Feyisola, a new intake were arrested last week by the men of the Ogun State Police Command.

Investigations reveal that, though, cultism in Olabisi Onabanjo University exists like it does in other universities, it took a different dimension when Professor Yinusa Olatunji Oyeneye became the Vice Chancellor of the university in 1995. According to a student who did not want to be identified, " on assumption of office, representatives of all the confraternities on campus were invited to a meeting by Prof. Oyeneye". This meeting, according to our source brought the different confraternities together until early 1996 when things went sour and the cults started attacking one another. The Eye Confraternity was able to have the upper hand for two reasons. One, unlike the other two cults-Buccaneers and Black Axe that were formed and rooted in the Eastern part of the country, Eye was formed in the West, so it has its roots in the Western part of the country. Second, the Eye boys have lecturers as backers. The name of a lecturer was specifically mentioned as a patron of the Eye Confraternity in the university. This lecturer is also said to be very close to the former Vice-Chancellor. With all these to their advantage, the Eye boys became part of the Vice-Chancellor's security outfit.

According to a source, the lecturer later became a Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Social and Management Studies. The appointment and promotion were later reversed by the visitation panel set up by Governor Olusegun Osoba in 1999 when he assumed office as the Executive Governor of the state. With the official recognition of Eye Confraternity by the Vice Chancellor, the Black Axe and Buccaneers joined forces to attack the Eye cult. And for the four years that Oyeneye held sway in the university, there were attacks and counter attacks that led to loss of lives and maiming of innocent students. TEMPO's investigation reveal that after every attack, the cult boys would be apprehended, while the Eye boys walk out of police custody, the Black Axe and Buccaneer boys would remain in detention. A source disclosed that the Eye boys not only enjoyed the Vice Chancellor's recognition, they also received grants on a regular basis. The other confraternities for lack of financial backing resorted to robbery to sustain their struggle. Their regular victims are fellow unprotected students. They storm hostels to unleash terror, rob them of their personal effects, rape them and maim them if they resist.

This robbery did not exclude the Eye boys. Our findings reveal that occupants of King's Hall, De Millennium, Yankari (now Zion), Zone B at Ayegbami and Senate Hall, Onabamiro Road have gory tales to tell of their experiences in the hands of the conscienceless cultists. At Yankari Hall during one of their raids, two female students were seriously beaten and later raped. The same feat was repeated at Senate Hall. At Zone B, Ayegbami,(all in Ago-Iwoye) after the raid, while most of the occupants evacuated the place, some went back after about five months. As they attack and rob their fellow defenceless students, at least a life is lost in any of their clashes. In 1998, the immediate past head of the Buccaneers, left the law school to take part in an attack, he got himself killed in the process. In 1999, another student (names not given) was killed on the convocation day at Scorpio Inn, Ago-Iwoye along the University Road. The cult member had dared the Eye boys obviously relying on the potency of his charms. According to a source, he was shot severally without any effect, the Eye boys then hanged him with his necktie, after certifying him dead, he was buried at the back of the fence of the Scorpio Inn. In February 1999, Oyeneye while addressing students who went to him on protest was almost kidnapped by the rival cultists. He was however taken away by the members of the Activist Forum, a group of progressives formed by Dr. Kola Babarinde, former chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities (OSU). The forum had led other aggrieved students to the Vice Chancellor but when they saw that the protest was to be hijacked by the cultists, they quickly took the VC away. He was taken to Sagamu into the home of one Onafeso Olumide, a student.

Oyeneye was later traced to the Sagamu hideout and with the assistance of the police, the Activist Forum boys were arrested, Onafeso Olumide who was attending to the needs of Prof. Oyeneye at the time of the police/Eye onslaught lost his right arm. The boys, Femi Nuberu, Laide Raji, Tunji Sakine, Onanuga Femi, Jamiu Alabi and Onafeso Olumide are still facing charges of kidnap.

A source disclosed to TEMPO that between 1997and 1999, cult activities in the university were on the increase "it was at the highest point, those incidents we hear in other universities were like child's play to our own," he said.

According to a student, Oyeneye deliberately killed student unionism to create an enabling environment for his boys to operate and the caretaker committee set up was hijacked by the Eye boys. The Olabisi Onabanjo University case is not unique afterall, most university authorities now employ the services of cult members to unleash terror on perceived enemies, especially union members.

Lecturers like Dr Kola Babarinde, Dr Biodun Ogunyemi, Akinyemi Onigbinde were among those who were harrassed because of their stance against the Vice-Chancellor. A similar case is rearing its head at the University of Ilorin where death threats have been issued to ASUU leaders. The timely move by the authorities of Tai Solarin College of Education in 1996 put paid to the nefarious activities of the cult boys who were beginning to rear their head then. The incidence of cultism in the Ogun State University, now called Olabisi Onabanjo University did not start there. Cases of cult attacks had taken place in some other higher institutions before now. One classical instance was the February 1991 massacre at the University of Ibadan.

This attack led to the death of three students and was believed to have been master minded by the members of Eye Confraternity. According to eye witnesses account, an attack on a Muslim student led to a counter attack by the entire Independence Hall students. The Muslim student was hacked down for daring the Eye who took over the Muslims' praying ground for their 'sailing.' The fracas recorded more casualties on the part of the students who were not armed. In return many suspected cultists were apprehended. John Soyoye, Students' Union President, and two sons of a retired Air Force Commodore, who also served as chairman of the Nigerian Football Association (NFA)were among those arrested.

While the arrested students were left in police custody, the retired military officer withdrew his sons and flew them abroad to continue their university education. The situation is also the same in the Eastern part of the country.

Students in University of Uyo hardly stay a day without hearing gun shots or watching live combats.

It is not different at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma; University of Benin, just to mention a few. In most institutions nowadays it is a common thing to see students with firearms. And cult-free instituions are catching the cult virus.

Unilorin, Unimaid and Kwara State Polytechnic, for example are now habouring the cultists. In 1999, it was death at dawn on 10 July at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

The jinx of Great Ife being a no-go area for cultists was broken that day, not even the students aluta spirit could scare the dare devil gunmen who came calling.

Numbering about 40, the gunmen made for the famous Awolowo Hall that parades virtually all the campus activists. By the time they left, seven students had been cut down in their prime. George Iwilade (aka Afrika) 300level Law,Tunde Oke 100 level Philosophy, Efe Ekpede,final year medical student; Yemi Ajita and two others fell to the bullets of the assailants. A female student said 'as far as I am concerned the whole world ended this morning.

This kind of carnage has never happened before on this campus.' The report of the panel of enquiry set up by the government is yet to come out after over two years.

In time past, cultists were known for unleashing terror on their victims through attacks. They do this to assert their authority and to create fear in the minds of non-members and in some cases we see inter-cult attacks, but in recent times their activities have moved from such 'trivial'matters to robbery attacks. The situation was so bad in University of Jos that they snatch cars on the campus.

Investigation reveal that they resorted to robbery because most of the wealthy parents have withdrawn their childen and taken them abroad thereby stalling the finances of their operations. And to sustain their activities, they have to use what they have, that is, firearms to get what they want. Investigations also reveal that the reason why none has never been prosecuted is because they found comfort in the company of some law enforcement agents who were members in their undergraduate days. These people provide cover for them and in most cases get them out without facing trial. In most cases, the school authorities that hire them too get them out unscathed.

While Segun Ogunsanya and co are unlucky today, Akeem omo Alhaja and one Debo are still at large apparently enjoying their borrowed freedom until the hands of the law catches up with them. Akeem, a reliable source said is on the wanted list of the Ago-Iwoye Police station, while no one is sure of Debo's real identity, not even the university authority can vouch for his studentship.

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