his article originally titled “Cultism in Ebubu: The Way Forward” was first published on the website, www.ollorwi.com.ng on Monday 13 January, 2014. It is modified and reproduced here to move us to ask ourselves what we have done as a people since then to provide solutions to the lingering cult clashes in Ebubu.
Cultists are group of persons or illegal gang that operates underworld and without public recognition that may be violent in nature against nonmembers especially when a member or group inordinate needs and demands are not met. Cultism is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society and has shattered the once serene Ebubu clan. In recent times we have recorded over thirty painful cult related deaths. While some were shot dead; others were strangled to death, yet others died in cult associated fatal road mishap during the burial of a victim of cultists’ outburst.
Apart from the display of shame, the Ebubu Cult Crisis from August 8 to September 29, 2013 resulted in the dead of over 30 people; a hundred families and two hundred and twenty individuals were displaced; about 10 others were injured; properties worth over 1billion Naira were damaged and the socio-economic life of Ebubu completely paralyzed.
The recent clashes between two rival cult groups have killed more than 10 people and completely shut down Ebubu as the place has been totally evacuated by both indigenes and residents. All shops and businesses in Ebubu have been forced to close as the cultists adopt new strategy of robbing and raping, in addition to terrorizing law abiding citizens. All markets in Ebubu have been under lock and keys for the past two months. The doors of most schools in Ebubu have remained close since the resumption of schools in the state this term.
There have accusations and counter-accusations between the Chiefs and the Police. While the Police are accusing the chiefs of not giving them enough information and help in their fight against cultism, the Chiefs are pointing accusing fingers at the Police for aiding and abetting the crime of cultism in Ebubu. A Chief was recently quoted as saying, “… anytime we call them (the Police), the team of policemen will switch on their siren about two kilometers away informing the people (cultists) they were coming.
“Many of them bought lands from these boys and so any policeman that has served up to five years in Eleme needs transfer in order to bring peace in Eleme because they have been so used to these boys….”
The Ebubu Youth President, Comrade Atonseobari Ojinga, corroborated the allegations of complicity in the war against cultism in Ebubu leveled against the Eleme Police. He observed that “the time lag in responding to distress calls by police from Ogale or Onne provides opportunity for these criminals to operate and escape before the arrival of the police”. He went on to repeat the call on the Rivers State Government to provide a Police Station in Ebubu.
Severally, the Chiefs of Ebubu have been arrested and severally they have been released for lack of complicity in the cult clashes that has sacked the community. What next? Going back to the basis is suggested. We must understand what cultism is all about. The environmental and social factors that give rise to cultism, the foundations and nurturing processes; the motivations and perceived benefits that attract and sustain recruits, and give them the morale to commit atrocities.
Of the five categories of cults in Nigeria namely: classical confraternities, mafia cults, female cults, godfathers’ cults and terrorists’ cults, two are present and operational in Ebubu. These are godfather’s cults and terrorist’s cults. Godfatherism is fast growing secret cult in Eleme, that s usually prominent before, during and after elections. The godfathers lure these innocent youths with drugs and monetary inducement and further promises to shield them, give them political appointments and huge monetary rewards which usually turn out to be ruse. And for fear of reprisal these guns and ammunitions are never withdrawn but left in the hands of these criminals and bandits with which they perpetuate violence in the community.
The cultists in Ebubu concern themselves with perpetuating crimes and fear of crimes by constantly terrorizing law abiding citizens, disposing them of their properties, rape and killing. The ancient city became deserted when the cultists introduced robbing and rape into their operating formula.
The chiefs and elders’ attempt to use “Ogbe” to control arms bearing and other violent crimes failed due to high level of insincerity displaced by the traditional rulers, Chiefs and Elders. The fear by some of these chiefs that their family may be victimized due to their complicity in the cult crisis necessitated the quick removal of the “Ogbe”. And the secret revocation of the “Ogbe”, brought about the collapsed of traditional authority as things felled apart.
However, during the 2013 cult clashes, efforts marshaled by few traditional rulers who were at home with the assistant of the then Executive Chairman of Eleme Local Government Council, Hon. Oji N. Ngofa to use intelligence and law enforcement resources to control these youths yielded positive results and provided the platform for the majority of the Traditional Rulers, Chiefs, Elders, citizens and residents on self-exile to return home.
It is clear that the Ebubu Youth Council Caretaker Committee have failed to address the Ebubu Cult crisis, the major problem it was created to solve. This failure is a clear manifestation of the rot in our system and the danger in politicizing youth leadership.
I predicted thus in 2013, ‘As peace is gradually returning, it will be disservice to the Eleme nation, if we wait until these young boys and girls get further loose, relocate to “Ɔpε” or into the creeks and consolidate to unleash greater havoc on the masses before we act. The invocation of “Ete Ɔpᴐᴐ” (Traditional Mace) and “Nkpᴐrᴐ” (Traditional Staff) are but temporary measures likely to fail as did “Ogbe”’.
CAUSES OF CULTISM IN EBUBU
The problems of rising cases of cultism and insecurity in Ebubu in particular and Eleme in general can be traced to so many factors. Some of these factors are:
1. Intermittent Communal Crises between Eleme and Okrika
These crises encouraged the procurement of guns and knives proof charms for majority of the youths to protect them during these wars. The cessation of hostilities did not terminate the potency or otherwise of the charms. Majority of these youths still believe that they are invisible, that they are guns and matches resistant. The crises also exposed the youths to places where they can procure these charms.
The police and other law enforcement agencies should step up their intelligence mechanism and expand their investigative tentacles to uncover these native doctors/medicine men as part of the processes of containing the menace of cultism in Eleme. The traditional rulers can be helpful in this regard.
2. Chieftaincy Tussle and Acrimony among the Chiefs
Chieftaincy tussle and acrimony among the chiefs of Ebubu have assumed an alarming state. It is a cold war that many do not know it exist yet its impact is being fetched in the activities of these young boys and girls who are being misled for their sponsors’ selfish goal. Government must address the emerging time bomb in Ebubu and in other clans and communities of Eleme before it explodes and consume us all.
Government must step in to solve the problems of acrimony among the chiefs in Ebubu to avoid total breakdown of law and order. The rising fire can be felt by careful observers, especially security experts who cannot claim ignorance of the danger posed by increasing chieftaincy tussle and acrimony in Ebubu.
3. Rivalry Among Youths’ Bodies
The way and manner most of the youth’s bodies in Ebubu were elected and inaugurated left much to be desired. In most communities that constitute Ebubu due processes were not followed. Besides, political considerations and personal interests took prominence over transparency, common sense, and community interests. The results are rising cult related killings, crimes and general fear of crimes. The government owes it a duty to check undue rivalry among the youths by ensuring that where due processes were not followed to elect and constitute a youth body, something is done to address the shortcomings so as to carry everybody along and promote the spirit of comradeship and brotherhood among the youths.
The politicians should reconsider their present stand of seeing youths and youth bodies as standing armies with which to win elections; and therefore must manipulate youth elections’ processes so as to install cronies and empower them in preparations for elections. This mindset has robbed Elemeland of peace and purposeful leadership. Community leadership, at all levels, is the purview of Council of Chiefs and Elders. The earlier we understand this the better it will be for Eleme.
Also, towards this end, the traditional rulers should wake up from their slumber or sleep and invoke appropriate traditional instruments in exercise of their powers. Traditional stool is not met for those alienated from what makes the people unique in their own way.
This trend, if left unchecked, the politicians will soon usurp the powers of Ogbo Nkpᴐrᴐ in the selection and installation of traditional rulers; they will decide who becomes a Land Priest/Traditional Prime Minister); and they will also choose who leads Egbara Eta and Mba Eta. Developments that will further provoke our ancestors, split our generation, and retard our civilization.
4. Social Decay
The general collapse of the value system, disregard for human life, lack of respect for elders and constituted authorities, absence of the once cherished spirit of communal love and peaceful coexistence, and total alienation of the youth from customs and tradition of the people of Eleme due to rapid industrialization and shameless display of ill-gotten wealth are major contributory factors to the uncontrollable incidents of cult induced killings and wide spread terrorism in Ebubu that needed urgent remedy through reorientation and reawakening.
An idle mind is the devil’s workshop says a popular adage. The rate of unemployment in Ebubu is alarming. You need to take a walk around the community any afternoon and see for yourself the number of youths idling away doing nothing. Something need to be done and quickly too to address the problem of unemployment in Ebubu.
The level of illiteracy in Ebubu is very high compare to other clans of Eleme. This may sound embarrassing and unacceptable to some of us, but, we must tell ourselves the truth for once. There is urgent need for the government to device ways of getting our youths back to school. An educated mind cannot be easily convinced into carrying weapons to terminate the life of a fellow human being or destroy properties maliciously. Government should look in this direction as part of long term solutions to insecurity in Ebubu and Eleme generally.
7. Desperate Politicians
It may seem myopic or even unspeakable, but the fact is that some desperate politicians are behind the cult crises in Ebubu either during the preparation for the launch of their political ambition or to propagate their popularity or to wrestle political mandate from opponents, or to keep stolen mandate. Whatever way, ignorantly, though, they should be told in clear terms that what they are doing tantamount to building terrorists cell and is against the law of this country especially the provisions of the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2011.
8. Laxity on the Parts of Law Enforcement
The laxity on the part of law enforcement arises from the failure of intelligence security and the gap existing between the Police, Neighborhood Guards and the citizens. The State Security Service (SSS) as plain clothes force should as a matter of priority sit up to its responsibility by gathering real time intelligence that will help check these cultists and criminals. They can create a local ruse force to conduct pseudo operations among these youths. There is urgent need for greater presence and interactions in the communities, use of non-law enforcement resources that breaks cultural, language and information barriers and promotes trust and common goal.
Besides, the animosity and struggle for supremacy between the SSS and the Police in Eleme which is visible and which has robbed them the sharing of intelligence and other information over the years, must be resolved now if the security agencies must deliver on their mandates.
9. Drug Abuse and Addiction
A walk along any street in Ebubu in particular and Eleme in general will reveal immediately the harm hard drugs has done to our young boys and girls. There is virtually no street in Ebubu without at least three to five drinking joints and a hard drugs dispensing closet. Most cult related violence is traceable to effects of hard drugs. Security agencies must brace up to the fight against drug abuse in the area. Identification and rehabilitation of addicts is not out of place as part of immediate solution.
10. Arms Proliferations
The proliferation of small arms in Eleme is of great concern to security practitioners. While many of these arms can be traced to the Eleme and Okrika/Ogu communal conflicts as pointed out earlier, others are linked to the recent Niger Delta “militants for negotiation for development” operations. Still others were purchased by the criminally minded to terrorized innocent citizens and residents and dispose them of their belongings. There is therefore urgent need for the government to put all necessary machinery into motion to mop-up these arms. Arm for money strategy is recommended here propelled by the spirit of conditional amnesty.
11. Influx of Displaced Waterfronts’ Residents
The demolition of waterfronts in Port Harcourt and its environs and the sacking of the residents created hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Rivers State. This development resulted in mass movement of different types of people into Ebubu and contributed immensely to rising cases crimes in the area. The social decays which prompted the sacking of these waterfronts are known to all of us. These evils find their way into Ebubu and the result is increasing cult cases, armed robbery, rapping and other crimes.
The inability of the Rivers State Government to provide alternative settlements for these internally displaced persons coupled with the lack of adequate arrangement to mitigate the diverse negative impacts of unplanned mass movement of people into Ebubu is worrisome, and therefore calls for immediate attention to addressing the increasing security challenges arising therefrom.
It is therefore not out of place to call on the authorities of Eleme Local Government to do something about “Trailer Park” in Ejamah Ebubu which has become the den of criminals in the area. Attention should also be focused on the security red spots in Alesa, Agbonchia, Akpajo, and Onne that are fast emerging as criminals breeding centers in Eleme.
Cultism is a thorn in the flesh of the people and a clog in the wheel of progress of Ebubu Clan. To eradicate this monster, the family, school and church must accept their responsibilities of providing good basic home training, moral and spiritual orientation to the children. The government must eradicate those issues that give rise to crimes and social decay, while law enforcement agencies should ensure that any person who falls short of the law faces the rod of the law. This will create and sustain sanity in our society.
It is now the duty of the various stakeholders in Ebubu Clan to avoid a repetition of the ugly experience of the past which led to breakdown of law and order, and work towards ensuring lasting peace in the area. This, they could do by constantly and continuously monitoring the youth bodies in the area and calling them to order whenever they are derailing.
The chiefs on their part are also advised to institute an effective and efficient peer review mechanism to prevent what might be detrimental to the fragile peace in the area.
The Rivers State Government should also consider the request of the traditional rulers, chiefs, elders and opinion leaders of Ebubu Clan concerning establishing a Police Post in the area. Considering the rapid industrialization that is taking place in the area and uncontrollable influx of people from various parts of the world and the country into Ebubu the request for a police station in the area is not out of place but a priority. Police presence is a good deterrent.
Let it be pointed out here that a place have been donated by the people, it has been inspected and confirmed suitable by the police authority in Eleme. What is delaying the approval and take off of the Police Post in Ebubu?
While appreciating the efforts of the Council Chairman and Chiefs and Elders of Ebubu to checkmate the menace of cultism, it is pertinent to call on all concerned stakeholders to ensure that the passion and zeal demonstrated in the course of searching for workable solutions to the problems of cultism is not abandoned midway as that will be more disastrous.
It is also important to call on the Federal Government to consider addressing those long term factors that gave rise to cultism in the areas such as illiteracy, unemployment, and frustration in addition to the short term solutions being implemented.
The Wike government should not tolerate cultism in any part of Rivers State. The government should as a matter of priority encourage the communities to implement zero tolerance to cultism and other vices. The government can only do this by ensuring that anybody caught, no matter from which home he comes, gets an appropriate punishment. Community leadership needs the support of government, law enforcement agencies, and parents to ride the villages of cultists and other bandits. That is, to solve social decay, all stakeholders must cooperate with community leaders so that they can maintain the required discipline.
If parents monitor their children well, they will be under their control. Besides, the government should improve on deliverance of the much talk about dividends of democracy by ensuring that security and welfare of the people are given prominence. Rivers Youths deserve quality education and employment, uninterrupted electricity supply, water and roads, quality health facilities, clean environment and other social infrastructures that guarantee acceptable standards of living for all.