1st February, 2022
By Tayo Ogunbiyi
It was on a fateful Thursday morning. I could still vividly recollect the ugly episode. It was a tormenting experience, one that I don’t even wish for my enemy.
It was around 6:00 am. As usual, I set out early from home with the intent of beating the early morning traffic build-up.
However, by the time I approached the main road, it was going to be a different kind of day. It was, indeed, a day that Satan came visiting and hell was literally let loose.
Pandemonium was everywhere. Looking from a reasonable distance, I saw young men, in their early 20s, brandishing different assault weapons- cutlasses, pistols, broken bottles, hammers and knives among others.
As it could only be imagined in movies, they were having a go at one another. It was a free-for-all combat. They were quite daring; going for the kill in the manner of someone whose life is meaningless.
Blood was flowing ceaselessly. Not to be caught in the melee, commuters, including yours sincerely, were running helter-skelter.
From my account, the whole incident lasted for over one horrible hour. What was, however, amazing was that, till the madness lasted, no law enforcement agent was seen in sight.
After the whole insanity ended, it was gathered that the satanic show of shame was produced and directed by rival cult groups enmeshed in an evil battle for supremacy.
Sadly, the dreadful incident has become a pattern across the country, in both cities and villages. It is clear evidence of how dreadful the menace of cultism has become in our nation.
It has become so bad that, aside from the universities where it has become an institution of sorts, cultism is already gaining inroad into primary and secondary schools.
It has also become deeply rooted among artisans, transport workers and even people who work in corporate offices. It has gotten so bad!
No doubt, cultism is one of the social vices that have been tormenting our society. It has been in existence for quite some time and has gotten so bad that it is almost becoming something we have to live with.
It is a ritual practice of a group of people whose membership and mode of operations are shrouded in secrecy.
Their language is that of violence, which makes their activities to have negative effects on both members and non-members.
Although the history of cultism in the country dates back to some fifty years ago, its violent trend became really evident some two decades ago.
Today, cult groups in schools and communities are brutally violent. They maim, kill, destroy and rape among other dastardly acts.
In most cases, their evil activities have led to the closure of many schools, thus leading to the disruption of academic calendars.
A number of factors account for the increasing nuisance of cultism in our society. These include family background, peer pressure, unemployment, poverty and decadence in societal moral value among others.
Considering its metropolitan status, Lagos has its own fair share of the nuisance of cultism.
But then, the government has been investing heavily in the beefing up of the State’s security architecture, just to ensure that cultists and other such reprehensible groups do not have a field day of terror on the society.
Toward this end, the Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration has rebranded and repositioned the State’s special crime-bursting outfit, the Rapid Response Squad (RRS).
Not only this, the administration donated security equipment worth N8.7b to the State Police Command.
The equipment, which was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari for the use of the police and other security agencies in the State, includes 150 double cabin vehicles, 30 saloon patrol vehicles, 1000 ballistic vests, 1000 ballistic helmets, 1000 handheld police radios/walkie talkies and 100 security patrol bikes.
It also comprises security patrol bikes; two Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), four High-Capacity Troop Carriers and two Anti-Riot Water Cannon Vehicles.
As massive as this intervention is, the Sanwo-Olu administration has continued to promote the course of public security in the State.
Similarly, Governor Sanwo-Olu has signed the bill for the Prohibition of Unlawful Societies and Cultism of 2021 into law, which stipulates a 21-year jail term for convicted cultists in the State.
The State’s House of Assembly, in February 2021, passed the anti-cultism bill, which also stipulates a 15-year jail term for anyone found guilty of abetting cultists and residents who willfully allow their property to be used as meeting points by cultists.
The anti-cultism law repeals the Cultism (Prohibition) Law of 2007 (now Cap. C18, Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2015) and provides for more stringent punitive measures, as well as makes its application all-encompassing and applicable to the general public, as against the restriction of the previous law to students of tertiary institutions.
According to Sanwo-Olu, the State had suffered the negative effects of unlawful societies and cultism.
He, thus, stressed that the new law sought to make parents more responsible and show more interest in the upbringing of their children and wards to ensure that they do not become a burden to the society.
It must, however, be stressed that all the efforts of the government might not really achieve much results except every stakeholder in the society join hands with the government in the war against cultism.
Parents, in particular, are enjoined to play a more active role in the proper upbringing of their children and wards. They should create and spend quality time with their children.
Also, they should become more vigilant concerning their children’s/wards’ activities within and outside the home.
The schools also have a role to play. There must be a renewed effort to inculcate moral and civic education into the academic curriculum.
More emphasis should be placed on the need for peaceful co-existence as well as the rewards that await good and evildoers in the society.
In the same vein, the services of professional counsellors should be engaged in schools to properly counsel the pupils/students on the right path of life
No doubt, many parents have failed woefully in their parental duties. All in the name of trying to eke out a living for the family, most parents rarely have time for their children again.
To stem the tide of cultism, schools, religious bodies, community leaders, traditional rulers, the media and Non- Government Organisations (NGOs) must step up their campaigns against the peril and its destructive tendencies.
This is not the time to sit on the fence. The evil nature of cultism makes it a terrible whirlwind that does no one any good. The social-economic and emotional traumas caused by cultism are enormous.
It is, therefore, important that all hands are on deck in the battle to surmount the menace in our society. Everyone has a role to play.
Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.