That’s the positive spin on this:
A YOUNG man whispers a confession: as a university student, he
killed six or seven of his peers. He cannot be sure of the number,
since his shots were fired in gun battles. He intimidated professors,
burned their cars, and helped kidnap—briefly—their children to force
them to give good marks to certain students. He did it all as a member
of a campus cult. When he renounced his membership, he got death
threats and moved to another city, where he lives today.
Nigeria’s university system used to be the finest in west Africa,
but today’s classes are overcrowded, buildings are crumbling and the
curriculum has remained unchanged for years. The cults emerged from the
shambles. Having started life as confraternities for the most academic
students, they have deteriorated into gang violence. The Exam Ethics
Project, a lobby group, says that inter-cult violence killed 115
students and teachers between 1993 and 2003. The real number may be
As their strength grew, the cults’ influence on the universities
became more malign. They exacerbated the corruption that had already
bred in unmanageably big classes and deteriorating facilities. Today,
older students and alumni flood campuses in the first weeks of the new
academic year to recruit for the cults. Omolade Adunbi, an
anthropologist, says that some students, fearing that they are going to
be failed in exams, believe the only way to protect themselves is to
belong to a cult where they can “harass professors”.
How did the cults become such a problem? Wole Soyinka, a Nobel
prizewinner for literature, helped found the Pyrates Confraternity, the
first such group, in 1952 at the elite University of Ibadan. Slowly,
splinter groups emerged: the Black Axe, the Klansmen Konfraternity, and
countless others. It was harmless fun to begin with. But military
leaders of the 1980s and 1990s saw the groups’ growing membership as a
chance to confront the leftist student unions, often aligned with
pro-democracy movements. So the confraternities were given money and
weapons. They turned against student activists—and against each other.
By the mid-1980s, violence had become so fierce that Mr Soyinka tried
unsuccessfully to disband his former creation.
Read the rest here.