By CrossRiverWatch Admin
The idea of cultism is not strange to the human community. This phenomenon has existed for centuries in various forms and capacity.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, “Cultism is a great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement or work.” A cult is a group of people with same ideology.
It is often referred to as a secret cult, mainly because its activities are hidden from the public or out of public knowledge.
However, the idea of cultism has changed in recent times considering its mode of operations. Mostly practiced among the youths, cultism is now associated with gang violence and organized crime who according to Nigerian history, differs from the ideologies of the founding fathers.
The youths caught in the web consider it a way of exercising some sort of authority. It gives them a sense of security, validation and belonging as they get to relate with other youths of similar interest, who have a radical approach to life.
This sense of belonging or unity comes with a sort of protection that requires the members of the cult groups to go to any length to defend their brothers, territory and pride, by any means necessary.
From time immemorial, youths have always been at the forefront of cultism as associated with gang wars.
The various violent acts that have occurred in the society caused by rivalry between cult groups are mostly, carried out by youths.
Sadly, most of these youths are students in higher institutions, whose primary goal should be to get an education and contribute meaningfully to the society rather than constitute nuisance, wreak havoc and laying waste of their potentials.
In some climes, cultism is considered a norm. It permeates certain areas so much so that it becomes the referential point of that area, making it famous for violent activities.
In Cross River State today, the Southern part of Calabar popularly known as ‘Calabar South’ has attained prominence due to its association with this negative trend.
Over the years, there have been several occurrences of cult killings in the area, ranging from brutal gunfights to bloody street slaughters, instigated by certain grievances between cult groups.
In the past four years, these killings have been on the increase such that the level of vigilance in the areas had to be heightened to ensure citizen protection and safety.
There have been cases of people running helter-skelter in search of refuge from incessant gunshots. Sometimes, innocent citizens become victims of stray bullets or stampede as they struggle to escape from the heated scenarios.
Authorities in Calabar South, have been fighting this plague for years, to be precise, from year 2000. Regardless, the neighbourhood has become a safe haven for criminals and a hideout for gang activities; you name them, killings, fighting, armed robbery, drugs, rape, molestation, abuse of all kinds.
Cultism as is practiced today has its numerous effects, both positive and negative, on the individuals involved as well as the community at large.
As much as some youths consider it a form of security, its negative effects far outweigh any seemingly positive aspect there may be.
It is a known fact that violence is not the most trusted form of conflict resolution. It should never be considered as an option as it never ends well.
Many cult groups resort to gang violence as the only means of conflict resolution. Their members often carry around dangerous weapons and are ready to use these weapons on others without fear or remorse.
They sometimes reveal their identity as cultists in order to oppress and threaten others into doing their bidding.
This gives them a false sense of entitlement, such that they are not open to any kind of mental engagement that would result in positive change in the society.
They even get involved in other social vices like armed robbery, kidnapping, etc. On this note, the consequences of cultism cannot be over emphasized.
They range from rustication from school, serving jail time if caught to acquiring severe injuries and most grievously, death. The community as an entity in the end bears the final burden of this menace.
With all of these consequences to consider, many youths still find the courage to join these horrible groups, not because they are ignorant of the consequences, rather because they consider it a necessary risk they must take in order to survive in the society.
More so, they take pride in the knowledge that they belong to a cult group. While for some, it is a meal ticket.
They tend to focus on the immediate benefits they may derive as members of the group, such as fear and respect from others, power and security and so on. It is no wonder many youths still fancy cultism irrespective of the bloody reality.
In some cases however, there is usually the bait of acquiring some form of financial assistance thrown at the prospective members in a bid to lure them in.
The less privileged youths often take this bait and are caged in, as they may have no other means of financing their education or catering for their basic needs. They are later disillusioned by the reality of the trap they blindly fell into, when the consequences begin to weigh in.
What then is the solution to this decadence in the society?
In addition, whom does the responsibility to fix this fall to?
This can be considered from two major facets; the family and the society.
These two play very vital roles in the upbringing of children or should I say mold the society.
First, every youth started out as a child and every child is brought up by someone who acts as an authority and determines how the child turns out to be by the training they give to the child at that early stage.
Therefore, if there is no solid moral foundation, there is a tendency for the child to cultivate negative habits as he/she grows.
The parents/guardians should be aware of the negative trends that are prevalent in the society in order to properly direct the youth on the right path.
They should be able to orientate the youth about life and the way not to go, sharing their own personal experiences and life lessons to help the youth have a better sense of judgment.
In this way, when they get into the real world as adults, they can take the right choices and make right decisions.
The society, which consists of the educational, religious, cultural and environmental sectors, is also a contributory factor to the conduct of the youth daily.
They each have roles to play in guiding the youth and providing a safe positive breeding ground for the youth to become a responsible member of the society.
In the case of the Southern Calabar situation, when there is proper orientation, motivation and guidance, in form of flexible job opportunities and loans the youths can easily access, empowerment schemes and capacity building conferences, they will see reasons to desist from cultism and other cult related activities.
Finally, the youths need to know they can survive in any society without succumbing to the need to be part of any cult organization or gang activity.
They have to make up their minds to be different, to be agents of positive change in the society by engaging in positive thinking and focus on laudable attitudes and conduct.
This way, they can achieve great feats and be the pride of the state and by extension, the nation.
Cross River State is a pivotal State in Nigeria with so much to display to the world, and its youths are crucial to its success.
With the right guidance and motivation, they can bring the state to the forefront of the nation.
Therefore, youths in Calabar owe the State a responsibility to give it a positive story.
But the bulk of the job depends on government’s political will and the rest you know will fall in line.
Lack of political will got us to where we are now!
Margaret John is a CrossRiverWatch Reporter and writes from Calabar.
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