Background of the Study
The emergence of cult activities in tertiary institutions in Africa can be traced back to the early 1950s. According to Opaluwah (2000), what is known as campus cultism in tertiary institutions started at The University College, Ibadan, Nigeria in 1952. It was formed by Nigeria’s only Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and six others who founded the Pyrates Confraternity. The other six are Olumuyiwa Awe, Ralph Opara, and Tunji Tubi, Aig Imokhuede, Pius Olegbe and Olu Agunloye. Their main objectives included the abolition of convention; the revival of the age of chivalry and to end tribalism, to elevate the social life of the university campus where orderliness and discipline could be planted in the mind of students/youths who were expected to be future leaders in Nigeria and elitism. Adejoro (1995) lamented that little did Soyinka and his friends realized that they were making history nor did they come to terms with the fact that students and indeed youths radicalism was being given a national boost and the unleashing of a national vanguard. The development was paradoxical to the extent that they little realized that they were laying the foundation for what was to be transformed eventually into gansterism.
In defining cultism, Azelama, Alude and Imhonda (2000) noted that “cult is an assemblage of people united by certain ideals, or symbols and whose rites and ceremonies of veneration are unique and shrouded in mysteries with a secrecy that cannot be broken.” Maxey (2004) traces the meaning of cult from the Latin word
‘cultus’ which means ‘to worship or give reverence to a deity.’ Thus, in its original usage, it was simply applied to a religious worshipful group of people regardless of the object or person they venerated.
Furthermore, Rotimi (2005) cites the anthropological definition of ‘cult’ by Oxford Concise Dictionary of Sociology (1996) as ‘a set of practices and beliefs of a group in relation to a local god.’ The same dictionary gives a sociological definition of a cult as ‘a small group of religious activists whose beliefs are typically secret, esoteric and individualistic.’ Aguda (1997), Ogunbameru (1997) and the Free Encyclopedia (2006) define cult in a similar manner. Langone (1988) indicated that cult leaders have absolute control over the members of the movement and as such they use force to subdue them under their command. The author concluded that because cults tend to be leader centred, exploitative and harmful, they come into conflict with and threatened by the rational open and benevolent system of members’ families and society at large and that it is an exploitatively manipulative and abusive group in which members are induced to serve the group leader(s). From these accounts, it can be deduced that cults and cultism have certain elements in common. They are esoteric, shrouded in secrecy, usually made up of a small group of people with a charismatic leader, and may or may not be religious in nature.