There is something about being involved in secret cult activities best known to members but baffling to non members. Why membership of cult groups holds so much attraction to students, lecturers, youths and even miscreants in villages, with all the bloodletting associated with it, is really difficult to fathom. What do members really gain if not sorrow, tears and blood or even death in worst case scenarios, as has often been the case?
A case in point was the recent situation at the University of Calabar when two students were shot dead on campus following a clash between rival cult groups. One of the victims, Oko Sylvester Ayide a.k.a. Davido, was a final year student of the department of theatre, film and carnival studies, while the second victim was identified as Wilson Augustine Ebina, a 2nd year student of the department of education science.
According to a statement by the university's registrar, Moses Abang, “investigation revealed that prior to his death, Oko Sylvester who was shot on the stomach has been on suspension for his involvement in various acts of cultism and robbery while Wilson Ebina was shot dead at a building under construction opposite the Faculty of Education Twin Theatre Hall. Both are said to belong to the Vikings Confraternity.”
Eleven suspected cultists were arrested in connection with the incident. Although the identities of those arrested were not disclosed, a final year student of the faculty of law resident in Hall 4, Nkanu, Augustine Ebri a.k.a. Abacha and Obimbua Obey Joseph a.k.a. Obe, another final year student of the department of geography & environmental science, are on the run following the alleged discovery of dangerous items in Nkanu's room by operatives of the security unit of the university.
The items recovered from their room include one locally made pistol, one small axe, one face mask, live and expended cartridges, military camouflage, military sweater, one long dagger, one machete, assorted bottles of concoctions, charms/finger rings, assorted phones, cult regalia, drugs/wraps of Indian Hemp and a host of others. The items were handed over to the Anti-Cultism Unit of the Nigeria Police, Cross River State Command for further investigation.
The university's authorities moved swiftly to avert further bloodshed by going after the suspected perpetrators of the gruesome act. It would have been a different story altogether if the situation was allowed to escalate. How would the parents or guardians of those students that were slain feel now that such a cruel fate befell the students? The grief-stricken parents may not have known that the students belonged to a cult group and were looking forward to the day their children would graduate. But see how they ended up. And for the students arrested, what would become of their academic future? Was this what they bargained for or why they were sent to the citadel of learning to drink deep from the spring of knowledge?
Almost at the same time in March last year shortly after the 40th Convocation of the institution, cultists struck. They assassinated a lecturer of the institution, Dr. Emmanuel Igbeng, in front of his house. His death resulted in a cult war in Calabar that lasted several days, leaving many dead in its wake. The lecturer who was in the Department of Accounting was shot dead in front of his house at Asuquo Abasi Street, off Uwanse Lane in Calabar-South. The unidentified gunmen suspected to be cultists killed him barely a week after he bagged his doctorate degree. At least, seven persons lost their lives in reprisal attacks that ensued between KKK and Vikings. The night Igbeng, who was alleged to be a member of the KKK was gunned down, two other persons suspected to be members of the KKK group were also killed.
The killing spree continued 24 hours later when on Friday, members of the rival Vikings group went on a reprisal attack at a popular bar around Atekong Drive, off Marian Road, and shot dead two persons.
That same Friday night, another person was killed along Queen Duke Street, while one person was gunned down at Harcourt by Lugard Street. The following morning, Etim Edem Park was the scene of another killing. With the senseless killings not abating, the military had to be deployed to restore normalcy in a city under cult siege for so long.
In September last year, another lecturer at the University of Calabar, Dr. Joseph Odok, was almost killed by people alleged to be cultists in Calabar. The lawyer cum activist was attacked by the people who inflicted deep machete cuts on him. He barely survived the attack.
Also last year, five young men were killed by cultists in Calabar South local government area during a clash between Vikings, Mafians and KKK. Among the dead were a-200 Level student of the University of Calabar, and a graduate of the Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH).
The street battle took place along Ebito, Mayne Avenue, Orok Orok, Palm Street, Chamley, Bedwell, Watt Market Axis, Ekpo Abasi, Hawkins, Atakpa, Atu and Goldie by Mount Zion and several.
On another day the cultists were so brazen that they openly took over the streets of Calabar with dangerous weapons. Over twenty suspected cultists took over Egerton/Watt market brandishing guns, machetes and other dangerous weapons, disrupting economic activities while the audacious attack lasted.
In years past authorities of the university have put mechanisms in place to stamp out cultism on campus but it keeps rearing its ugly head from time to time like a hydra-headed monster. It is inconceivable that cultists could go on a killing spree for a flimsy reason as a member of another group snatching a girlfriend of a member of their group. Or killing one another in demonstration of their bravado or how tough they are. And by the time the madness called reprisal attacks ends, many lives would have been lost because of a girlfriend over whom bloody scores were settled. No lesson is ever learnt from such folly and wanton destruction of life. If only students could focus their attention on their books and shun cultism, the society and campuses would be safer for all. Violence does not pay. It only brings about sorrow, tears and blood. Every member of the university community needs to be a part of a broad coalition to end cultism and violence on campus and in the larger society. Big banners should be mounted at strategic parts of the campus denouncing cultism. This would awaken the consciousness of students and discourage them from joining cult groups.