The Internet is inundated with a pathetic display of dead bodies portrayed as victims of cult related violence in Calabar.
No young person with a clear vision for their life will be walking the streets with a gun, looking for targets. We lose our true purpose for living once killing becomes our passion and cultism our identity.
It seems plausible that thousands of young people indigenous to Calabar, and by extension other communities in Cross River, who identity with cultism, have lost the essence of living and their role in shaping the destiny of a state that was once described as the most peaceful place in Nigeria.
But what are the causes of cultism? Theoretically, we can debate cultism from both a psychoanalysis perspective and a constructive perspective.
Psychoanalytic theory is the view that violent behavior is genetically programmed and driven by unconscious biological impulses inherent in the human DNA.
On the contrary, constructivists will argue that no individual is born a cultist, and that cultism and the violence it produces, is not genetically programmed but a learned behavior acquired through processes of socialization.
Therefore the solution to cultism is to transform the thinking that produce violence as well as the violent actors themselves and their practices through self awareness.
As a conflict analyst, I do not underestimate the psychological origins or violent behavior that manifest in cultism because such perspective point to the systematization of human behavior, which can be theoretically correct, depending on the context.
However, I tend to align with constructivist views because so long as cultism remains an act that originate from socialization with a group of people who are committed to beliefs and practices that promote a culture of violence, education is needed to help them unlearn violence. This calls for violence transformation through social empowerment.
This is where I believe the government can step in to tackle the root of cultism in society beyond the prevailing quick-fix solutions.
But it seems to me that the government is attempting to manage violence rather than transforming the problem, the actors, and the mind set that conceive, manipulate and promote violence including the institutions that sustain violent behaviour in our cities, villages, universities, colleges or high school campuses.
I understand that those running the government are not stupid. They are smart. They know exactly what they’re doing. And their decisions are strategic at best. However, I struggle to understand why it has taken this long to liberate our society of cultism.
Perhaps, the government of Cross River State needs to rethink its’ strategy by promoting more transformative solutions that move beyond speeches and threats to address the root of the problem at the psychological and sociological levels.
Education should move beyond depositing knowledge in people as empty receptacles to actually transforming their minds and helping them to experience self awareness.
More than ever, the church has a responsibility in the processes of violence transformation in society.
Where possible, the church should combine spiritual development with social empowerment to transform cultists into leaders and change agents.
Obasesam Okoi writes from Canada
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