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Since I posted the Wole Soyinka videoWole Soyinka on The Menace

of Cults in Nigerian Universities]there have been several comments

as to whether we should blame Wole Soyinka or not for pioneering

campus fraternities in Nigerian universities.



Wole Soyinka and Cults Among Nigerian Youth

 By Uche Nworah


I attended Okechi Precious Osuala and his lovely bride Cordelia Ogbu’s wedding in Abuja recently. The groom, a childhood friend and fellow student at the University of Uyo (Uniuyo) also invited some other friends from our university days. Such occasions usually provide a good opportunity to relive memories of the good old days and to catch up on each other. The wedding served as a reunion of sorts for many of us that attended.  

During our days, the University of Uyo didn’t quite fit into your typical Nigerian ‘Ivy League’ university bill; that exclusive title was reserved for the University of Ifes, the UNNs and the University of Ibadans of Nigeria. Uniuyo was a fairly new university at the time we joined in the late 80s and was later taken over by the federal government of Nigeria in 1991 leading to the re-branding of its name from University of Cross River State (Unicross) to University of Uyo (Uniuyo) to the delight of thousands of students who felt that a University of Uyo degree certificate, rather than a University of Cross River state degree certificate will be more sellable in the job market.

What Uniuyo lacked in terms of physical structures, facilities and resources was equally compensated by the calibre of first class brains we had as lecturers. Perhaps this may be the reason why Uniuyo graduates believe that they could hold their own anywhere in the world. We also did not lack social activities during our days, if there was any university in Nigeria that believes and practices the credo of not only going through the university but also letting the university go through you, then it must be the University of Uyo. Little surprise then why visitors from Aba, Eket, Port-Harcourt and Calabar always invaded the university at weekends in search of fun.

At Okechi’s ‘bachelor eve’ party which was organised by the Chigbos (Annie and his twin brother Uche) who are close friends of the groom, it looked something like an alumni meeting, or rather an old boys and old girls meeting. It was nice seeing everybody again after all these years. In the course of the enjoyment, we began to reminisce about the Uniuyo we used to know long before cultists overran the university. We remembered Itu road and all the parties hosted usually with a bottle of Chevalier brandy by the campus famed ‘Uptown’ crowd or Itu Road boys. We remembered the Plaza and one of its famous shop operatorsJerry whose shop was the most patronised because of his nice guy personae and American wannabe accent rather than for his fry ups.

We did not forget Mr Vees and Esma restaurants where we took our dates to impress them. We laughed over our former chancellor, the Ooni of Ife’s antics with his entourage during yearly convocation ceremonies. Nnamdi remembered how I was famously stood up by Ifeoma (not her real name) who chose instead to attend an Ooni party while I waited for her at my off-campus residence. As we laughed and teased each other, the story suddenly moved towards campus cults. It must have been Esther (not her real name) who had her hubby in tow that swung the gist to cult activities and the extent of involvement or non-involvement of the ‘old boys’ present in nocturnal activities during our Uniuyo days.

Back then, campus fraternities existed for sure but they hadn’t started committing the atrocities that later characterised such organisations after we left. Uniuyo students did not kill, maim or brutalise fellow students, the sanctity of the human life still meant a lot to most of the students. Stories of such atrocities only filtered into the campus from places like Oko polytechnic and ASUTECH.

The societies that existed at Uniuyo were mainly of a social nature such as Rotaract, Jaycees, and Kegites etc. The other ones such as Wole Soyinka’s National Association of Seadogs (NAS), Friends of Friends etc which adopted the name of fraternities refused to be classified as cults and had much more elaborate and vigorous recruitment regimes. Back then, any student that wanted to come up on the social stakes in the campus had to rely on his brains rather than brawns, the few students who were known openly to belong to the so-called cults (Black Axe, Vikings, Buccaneers, Black Berets etc) were treated as outcasts and considered weaklings. They were not feared but were instead demeaned. You got invited to parties on your own merit, and got dates from female students based on your social status rather than on your being a member of a secret cult i.e. how heavy your wallet was, how well you dressed, the sharpness of your ‘lingo’ etc.

Cultists were so detested at the time that the story of Jude (not his real name), a man-about-town who was generally considered to be a ‘happening’ guy in campus who had arranged with his ‘guys’ (he was rumoured to be a member of the Vikings) to pour a bucket of shit on Udeme for refusing his love advances became the story of the decade in the university. While the very act itself was distasteful, it however was not as deadly or dastardly as the later acts of the so-called campus cultists.  

Incidentally, Jude was also at the bachelor’s eve with his lovely wife. Esther wanted him to tell us if indeed it was true that he poured shit on Udeme, or arranged to have it done on his behalf by his friends.

Jude who is now a company executive in Abuja laughed and wouldn’t bulge; he denied any wrongdoing probably because of the look of disbelief on his wife’s face. Eventually the couple left perhaps in a bid to avoid unearthing other can of worms. I still had this incident very much on my mind when a friend of mine forwarded a documentary to me depicting the gory sights that are now the order of the day in Nigerian universities. Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka had fronted the documentary.

Since I posted the Wole Soyinka videoWole Soyinka on The Menace of Cults in Nigerian Universitiesthere have been several comments as to whether we should blame Wole Soyinka or not for pioneering campus fraternities in Nigerian universities. Majority of the commentators chose to blame the Nobel laureate for initiating what could be considered to be the fore runner of campus cults in Nigerian universities but I totally disagree. In blaming the professor, we might as well blame for example the Wright brothers for inventing the aeroplane since aeroplanes do go down/crash and take passengers along leading to death and pain. We may as well blame Henry Ford for the death of all the passengers that may have died behind the wheels of a Ford vehicle.

There needs to come a time when young adults should have to own up and take some responsibility for their actions. I fail to see the connection between the National Association of Seadogs founded by Professor Soyinka which presently concentrates in doing good deeds across the world, and the mayhem that cult members unleash on their fellow students in the campuses today.

Young people have a choice, but perhaps they are too lazy to be bothered to engage their minds with more creative and enterprising endeavours. I will never accept the argument of boredom on their parts as the reason for their opting to chase each other about with machetes and guns. In our days, we never had enough time to pursue all the many projects our young minds always came up with, when we are not completing term papers or assignments, then we are running campus publications, promoting campus pageants and musical shows trying to raise additional income to supplement the little we were getting from home.

Perhaps times have changed, but still this is not enough justification for young men and women to waste their youth pursuing deadly agendas. If today’s youth lack direction, then society should think about forging stronger mentor–mentee links between graduates who have been there, done that and seen it all, and those still in the university system.

The Wole Soyinka videoWole Soyinka on The Menace of Cults in Nigerian Universitiesis coming out at the right time and gives us all the opportunity to examine not only what has gone wrong with our youth, but also what has gone wrong with our society since it appears as if we are not providing engaging alternatives to the youth, or platforms through which they could constructively engage their young, active and restless minds.  

December 2007.  / Wole Soyinka on The Menace of Cults n Nigerian Universities

Uche Nworah is freelance writer, lecturer and brand strategist. He studied communications arts at the University of Uyo, Nigeria and graduated with a second class honours degree (upper division). He also holds an M.Sc degree in marketing from the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus and obtained his PGCE (post-graduate certificate in education) from the University of Greenwich where he is currently enrolled as a doctoral candidate. His articles have been published by several websites and leading Nigerian newspapers. He received the ChickenBones Journalist of the Year award in 2006.

posted 4 December 2007

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#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
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#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times.

What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? What scares non-Muslims about openly supporting liberal voices within Islam? How did we get into the mess of tolerating intolerable customs, such as honor killings, and how do we change that noxious status quo?

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The New New Deal

The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

By Michael Grunwald

Time senior correspondent Michael Grunwald tells the secret history of the stimulus bill, the purest distillation of Change We Can Believe In, a microcosm of Obama’s policy successes and political failures. Though it is reviled by the right and rejected by the left, it really is a new New Deal, larger than FDR’s and just as transformative. It prevented an imminent depression, while jump-starting Obama’s long-term agenda. The stimulus is pouring $90 billion into clean energy, reinventing the way America is powered and fueled; it includes unprecedented investments in renewables, efficiency, electric cars, a smarter grid, cleaner coal, and more. It’s carrying health care into the digital era. Its Race to the Top initiative may be the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It produced the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, a broadband initiative reminiscent of rural electrification, and an overhaul of the New Deal’s unemployment insurance system. It’s revamping the way government addresses homelessness, fixes infrastructure, and spends money.

Grunwald reveals how Republicans have obscured these achievements through obstruction and distortion. The stimulus launched a genuine national comeback. It also saved millions of jobs, while creating legacies that could rival the Hoover Dam: the world’s largest wind farm, a new U.S. battery industry, a new high-speed rail network, the world’s highest-speed Internet network.  Its main legacy, like the New Deal’s, will be change.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

"Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies. As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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It's The Middle Class Stupid!

By James Carville and Stan Greenberg

It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! confirms what we have all suspected: Washington and Wall Street have really screwed things up for the average American. Work has been devalued. Education costs are out of sight. Effort and ambition have never been so scantily rewarded. Political guru James Carville and pollster extraordinaire Stan Greenberg argue that our political parties must admit their failures and the electorate must reclaim its voice, because taking on the wealthy and the privileged is not class warfare—it is a matter of survival. Told in the alternating voices of these two top political strategists, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! provides eye-opening and provocative arguments on where our government—including the White House—has gone wrong, and what voters can do about it. 

Controversial and outspoken, authoritative and shrewd, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! is destined to make waves during the 2012 presidential campaign, and will set the agenda for legislative battles and political dust-ups during the next administration.

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Aké: The Years of Childhood

By Wole Soyinka

Aké: The Years of Childhood is a memoir of stunning beauty, humor, and perceptiona lyrical account of one boy's attempt to grasp the often irrational and hypocritical world of adults that equally repels and seduces him. Soyinka elevates brief anecdotes into history lessons, conversations into morality plays, memories into awakenings. Various cultures, religions, and languages mingled freely in the Aké of his youth, fostering endless contradictions and personalized hybrids, particularly when it comes to religion. Christian teachings, the wisdom of the ogboni, or ruling elders, and the power of ancestral spiritswho alternately terrify and inspire himall carried equal metaphysical weight. Surrounded by such a collage, he notes that "God had a habit of either not answering one's prayers at all, or answering them in a way that was not straightforward." In writing from a child's perspective, Soyinka expresses youthful idealism and unfiltered honesty while escaping the adult snares of cynicism and intolerance. His stinging indictment of colonialism takes on added power owing to the elegance of his attack.

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The Prophet of Zongo Street

Stories by Mohammed Naseehu Ali

Vivid images of African life and familiar snippets of expatriate life infuse this debut collection by a Ghana-born writer and musician. On the fictional Zongo Street in Accra, young children gather around their grandmother to hear a creation story from "the time of our ancestors' ancestors' ancestors" in "The Story of Day and Night." In "Mallam Sille," a weak, 46-year-old virgin tea seller finds soulful strength in marriage to a dominant village woman. Other stories take place in and around New York City, depicting immigrants struggling with American culture and values. A Ghanaian caregiver vows not to "grow old in this country" in "Live-In," while in "The True Aryan," an African musician and an Armenian cabbie competitively compare tragic cultural histories on the ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn, achieving humanist understanding as they reach Park Slope:

"I looked into his eyes, and with a sudden deep respect said to the man, 'I'll take your pain, too.' " Several stories close in a similarly magical, almost folkloric epiphany, as when sleep becomes an attempt "to bring calm to the pulsing heart of Man" in "The Manhood Test." Ali speaks melodiously but not always provocatively in these tales of transition and emigration.Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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