By Ofonime Honesty
The hydra-headed scourge of cultism is unarguably one of the dreaded problems confronting Nigeria. Its malignant effects are felt in every segment of the society. These days, the media space is saturated with gory reports on evil acts masterminded by cultists.
When Professor Wole Soyinka and others founded Pyrates Confraternity in the University of Ibadan, the aim was to safeguard the interest of students against the tyrannical tendencies of the institution’s management and government.
Unfortunately, members of The Pyrates that couldn’t cope with the group’s high standards and ideology left to form some of the violent and criminally oriented confraternities holding sway today.
Nigeria with over 400 active confraternities is a notoriously dangerous terrain given the fact that incessant cases of cult wars, killings, gangsterism, drug peddling, smuggling, prostitution etc. are on the rise. Some of these confraternities have formed alliances with their counterparts in Europe to engage in illicit drugs trade and prostitution.
The seeming lack of determination to tackle the scourge has aided the rise of cultism but efforts dissipated by voluntary bodies like the School to School Peace Initiative (SPI) have helped greatly.
Worried by the senseless antics of cultists, SPI was born roughly three decades ago in the University of Uyo under the auspices of a movement coordinated by Armed Forces Students.
It later evolved into the Peace on Campus Initiative (PCI) before arriving at its present status as School to School Peace Initiative (SPI). The metamorphosis into SPI was occasioned by the need to extend our reach beyond campuses.
We realized that the primary /secondary school system is being used as a breeding ground for cultists. Presently, there are over 400 cult groups in Nigeria with roughly forty percent of them domiciled in primary/ secondary schools.
Realizing the need to curb the menace, the Akwa Ibom State Government via the Ministry of Education has approved a statewide anti-vices sensitization campaign to all public secondary schools. The soon-to-be-commenced campaign shall be run in collaboration with the Department State Services (DSS) and the Akwa Ibom State Police Command. Plans for similar programmes are underway in other states of the federation.
SPI as a network of security operatives, repentant cultists, professionals in different fields, students and other volunteers who share the belief that a cult-free society can be achieved, has over the years been the best platform for sensitizing, combating and rehabilitating victims/repentant cultists.
As a formidable security intelligence network, SPI has been offering tangible support to security agencies. We offer safe landing by rehabilitating ex-cultists and ensuring that they are fully reintegrated into the society. We also possess a capable Quick Intervention Team (QIT). SPI also operates via rallies, seminars, workshops and providing enlightenment through publications.
Students aspiring for elective or appointive positions in institutions are made to undergo security screening in a bid to stop cultists from emerging as student leaders. We appoint Community Surveillance Directors to aid in gathering intelligence in the host communities of institutions.
Our acceptance and spread from the South-South zone of Nigeria to the South-East, North-Central and the Federal Capital Territory gives credence to the belief that SPI’s competence is not in doubt. Worthy of note is the fact that more states, after appraising our operations, have decided to partner with us. The latest state to grant us approval to operate is Kogi State. We are spreading!
SPI is headed by Comrade Oliver Cromwell, a retired Naval officer. His commitment in this mission is unrivalled, and the series of endorsements, partnership agreements and commendations are quite voluminous.
From humble beginnings, SPI has grown to become a vibrant and widely accepted anti-vices advocacy organization.
Our unique model is achieving desired effects. And now that our horizon is expanding, we can’t afford to relax on our oars. The task ahead is huge, therefore we must redouble efforts till cultism and its evil relatives are defeated.
Honesty writes from Abuja