This Day (Lagos)

14 March 2002

Nigeria: Let's Stop This Terror On Our Campuses

opinion

Lagos — All quarters that have a thing to do with the well-being of the Nigerian nation have expressed genuine concerns about the unabating spate of cult killings in our institutions of higher learning. Sermons have been preached in both the Churches and Mosques on this issue. In fact, many churches hold special deliverance sessions to cast out demons of cultism from students of higher institution.

Laws and strategies aimed at reaching a final solution have been initiated by government. Non-governmental groups have been most relentless in their campaigns against the evils of cultism. Authorities at the various institutions now devote greater time to the issue of cultism than any other issue in the day to day running of the schools.

Parents themselves have been most alarmed. Some fast, pray and keep night vigils in churches on behalf of their wards. Within the period that the child is in school, the average Nigerian parent is apprehensive. She never ceases asking God to direct the child, especially the male child off the temptation of joining secret cults.

Just when one thinks that these concerted efforts are yielding some results and the monster is being effectively tamed, one nasty incident of cult operations will happen to posit the contrary and stop us from raising a victory song. The most recent case is the killing of the students union leader of Lagos State University by suspected cultists. The immediate consequence of that murder was yet another disruption of the epileptic school calendar as the university authority had to order a closure to forestall reprisal acts by sympathisers of the slain student.

It is bad enough that a man kills another which is a clear violation of the sixth commandment of the Almighty. It is however more disturbing when such act is being incessantly pepertrated in a university environment. The university aggregates the best

that man and his civilisation can offer. It is created to sharpen in man those God-given attributes that present man as a true image of God. The university is a community of peace where strength lies not in the size of the biceps but in the quality of the brain. It emphasizes the supremacy of the intellect as the driving force in man's quest to bring his environment under control.

If for any reason, the university loses this all-important virtue as it is being witnessed in Nigeria, then humanity is doomed. It is in the university that we train those that will direct the future affairs of the society. We cannot recruit leaders from a bunch of murderers or cultists who by their heinous crimes constitute the greatest barrier to the future development of society; given that the greatness of tomorrow lies in the quality of today's youngsters. Reasons have been adduced as to why the campuses have turned open grounds for youth gangsterism. Fingers have been pointed more at the military whose long stay in power has heavily polluted the polity with the culture of violence. Indeed many of the young people who wreck violence on the campuses were born in the early eighties and have not known since birth any other form of government outside military dictatorship. Their closest contact with parliamentary democracy is perhaps in their government text books where facts about the supremacy of civil over military authority may have sounded to them like some fairy tale from an Arabian story collection.

Others have argued that the decay in the university system occasioned by incessant disruptions of the academic calendar encourages students to look elsewhere outside academics for practices that are engaging. In their search to get busy, the devil steps in to provide jobs for them. And so instead of reading, researching and writing term papers, they are killing and maining their fellow students in the new found past time of cultism.

Since two wrongs do not make a right, crime cannot be justified. We can only talk of extenuating circumstance which in itself does not constitute enough grounds for discharge and acquittal in felonies under any Judicial system. Which is saying that a student that kills another cannot hide under any nebulous cloak of bad military influence on our sociology or whatever factor to escape with murder. He must be made to face the law.

As it is, it does not pay any longer to continue with the debate of situating how the monster called secret cult crept into and became established in our institutions of higher learning. If the military accepts responsibility and the debate is won, it will not change anything because we cannot go beyond that point and invite the military back into power to undo the wrong it has caused. A better reality is therefore for us to see cultism as a problem that is not in any way larger than us. By us, I mean all stakeholders; parents, school authorities, government and the students themselves.

But by far the most important in the chain are parents. They should do more to mould the child when it is most auspicious to do so. The Bible acknowledges that if a child is taught the way to live she stays by that way when she becomes an adult. The exigencies of modern living tend to make fathers and mothers to abdicate their primary role of ensuring norms within the family system. It is very good for parents to spend time on their daily runs to earn enough for the up-keep of the family. It makes little sense however if in the end the essence of that struggle-the child-is lost to the corrupting influence of the environment. Society will be better off if greater premium is placed on humans than material wealth. The sustenance and even the continued enlargement of the later depends almost entirely on the well-being of the former. Human beings create wealth and not the other way round. Thus, if better time is spend on nurturing good human beings, good wealth shall follow naturally.

Schedules are tight. But I will appeal to parents to squeeze out time to attend to their wards. The teen years which is about the time the child passes through higher school are most trying. It is the period when the child is overwhelmed with the illusion of strength that precipates in him a strong desire for independence. Incidentally, this is also the period that the child needs parental guidance the most to ensure his smooth transition from adolescent to adulthood. It is the turning point when it will be possible for the child to turn right and become a proud child of his parents and citizen of Nigeria or turn left and constitute a burden on his parents and country.

Schools, churches and mosques may only come in to reinforce now and again in the child, values already acquired at the family level. This further underscores the appropriateness of the decision by some state governments including Edo State to hand over schools hitherto owned by religious bodies back to such bodies. The return of strong moral instructions in schools especially at the primary and secondary levels is a welcome development that will imbue in growing children the right values that will keep them steadily on the straight path through out life.

Anti-social behaviours are mainly acquired somewhere along the line in the developmental stages of the individual. They represent the often negative pressures that a polluted social environment impact on the impressionable mind. It is therefore the duty of all acknowledged agents of proper socialisation beginning from the family through schools to places of worship to design protection against these pressures. The so-called peer group pressure will be invalid if every child reflects good home upbringing. That is, 10 children for instance with the proper family, school and religious orientation will come together to form a peer group that will not put negative pressure on the society.

It may sound simplistic because psychologists will plead other infiltrations like heredity and even the media in character formation. But even when a monster is born unto us, it is the duty of the wider society to tame him so that we do not in time wittingly or unwittingly create a society that will be populated by monsters prostitutes and other social deviants.

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