Impacts of Cultism in Eleme
Chief Osaro Ollorwi
What are the marked effects or influences of cultism on Eleme and Eleme people? Are there any physical and nonphysical consequences of cultism in Eleme? How are Eleme people and residents coping with cult activities in the area? This article will attempt to examine the results, repercussions, or aftermath of cult activities in Eleme.
The ongoing cult activities have strong effects on every aspects of life of the average Eleme indigene and resident. These include impacts on Economic life; Education life; Religious life; Social life; Death, Burial and Other Ceremonies; Political life; Psychology of the people; and Development in Eleme.
The economic life of Eleme has been driven to a halt. Almost all businesses have been grounded as criminals waylay businesses on daily basis at gunpoint in broad daylight. Businessmen and their family members are made object of regular kidnap for ransom, armed robbery, rape and other violent crimes . These situations have forced many businesses to close shop or relocate.
Another worrisome aspect of this development is that the few people who choose to remain in Eleme have to spend more money by traveling to neighbouring communities to shop for their daily needs.
National and multinational companies in Eleme now spend more resources on security, compare to other cost units, to keep their operation going. With increasing cost of security and associated risks, many companies are now retrenching. Intels Services have sacked over 1,000 staffers. Daewoo Nigeria Limited has sent packing over 200 employees. Eleme-INDORAMA Petrochemicals Company Limited is not left out.
This situation is already having negative impacts on the already congested labour market in the area. It is also contributing to the already existing army of unemployed youths which are ready source of supply of personnel for cult groups.
Many other companies that have acquired landed properties and indicated interest to come to Eleme for their operations are now skeptical of coming down due to rising insecurity perpetrated by organized cult groups.
The Rivers State University of Science and Technology Onne Campus has been relocated to Port Harcourt. Several private primary and secondary schools have followed the trend.
As parents relocate, they also carry their children and wards along and the population of Schools in Eleme continues to nose-dive.
It is equally disappointing to note that insecurity made JAMB to cancel its entire centers in Eleme during the recent 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) in the country. Parents have to spend huge amount of money to transport their children and wards to write JAMB in other towns. Some of these candidates arrived late and have to write their examinations under stress, limited time and tight condition. The outcome was poor performance or outright failure as revealed by the results released by JAMB.
The impacts of cult activities on religion in Eleme are more worrisome. Our young men and women now see nothing wrong in patronizing native doctors, medicine men, shrines and secret societies. These people who have charms given to them tie around their waists or have them cut into their chest and back also take front seats in the churches and lead processions in their various places of worship.
The ongoing cult activities in Eleme have lured many people to abandon God for worship of Satan in search for protection from gunshots and knife cut. As pastors testify, the number of worshippers who attend church services in Eleme today is daily on the decrease and the commitment of those who managed to attend is also doubtful. Eleme is visibly being drifted back into the prehistory era by cultism. This is not only disturbing but equally disheartening.
The social life in Eleme has collapsed. Night activities are now things of the past. Hoteliers in Eleme are already counting their losses. Many operators of Night Clubs and Recreational Centers have been forced out of business by the activities of cultists. People now prefer to stay at home after work than go out for leisure and meet death.
While married women are happy because their husbands now spend more time at home, the unmarried ones, especially sex workers are complaining of poor patronage, loneliness and abandonment.
HRH Chief I. O. Agbara observed that hospitality business in Eleme is passing through hard times. In his words, “Night life in Eleme has deteriorated; people rarely go out for relaxation and leisure for fear of being attacked by hoodlums. Nothing is happening in hotels nowadays. Business has gone down. The night club section is no longer functioning. Our rooms that before now usually record fully booked capacity is today empty. The hospitality industry is suffering more than any other in Eleme. Few customers that managed to come to the hotel normally leave as early as 7pm, and this affects sale and return on investment. Cultism is killing the hospitality industry in Eleme.”
Ms. Nneka (not real name), a sex worker in one of the hotels have this to say, “We are feeling the pains of cultism more than any other group of people in Eleme. Customers are no longer forthcoming. When they show face, they hurriedly take one or two bottles of beer and rush back home immediately and we are left alone stranded. When we call, they neither answer our calls nor return them. Our business is at its lowest ebb now in Eleme. We are already finding it difficult to pay our house rent. Except something is done and urgently too many of us will soon be thrown out of business.”
Also speaking, an expert in the hospitality industry Chief A. A. Yanwi said, “Hotels rely on rooms to finance salary bills and operating costs. Where rooms are not subscribed or grossly undersubscribed as in the case in Eleme now, hotels find it very difficult to breakeven. Every hotel needs to operate optimally to be in business. Unfortunately, cultism, violence and other crimes have made the situation in Eleme unwise and very dangerous for people to lodge in hotels. And if people don’t lodge in hotel rooms, foods will not be sold, drinks will not be bought; there will be no service charge because no service is provided. Worse still the hotel is expected to maintain its staff, pay salary, settle electric bills, run generators, service vehicles and pay relevant local authority revenue bills and other charges.
This scenario was vividly captured by Chief Engr. Paul Obele, the former Managing Director of Warri Petrochemical and Refining Company Limited when he delivered a lecture titled, “Roadmap to Achieving the Eleme of Our Dreams” at the Eleme People’s Congress at Rivers State Golden Jubilee. He said, “Night life in Eleme is dead. People no longer go out after the day’s work for relaxation and leisure due to the activities of cultists”. He recollected when he used to walk alone from Ogale to Alesa by 2am without fear of molestation or attack of any kind. “These are good old days when cultism was unknown to Eleme. But, today, as early as 7pm you are not safe on the streets in Eleme. It is pathetic!” To him, cultism is not only destroying businesses in Eleme but also damaging the people’s once cherished culture.
The CTC Chairman of Eleme Local Government Area Chief Hon. Obarilomate Ollor was not left out as he added his voice to the condemnation of the negative impacts of cultism in Eleme stressing that cultism is dismantling the very pillars of Eleme society and advised parents to warn their children and wards as government is out to deal with the situation squarely.
Death, Burial and Other Ceremonies
Other worrisome aspects of these negative impacts of cult activity in Eleme are its influences on death, burial ceremonies, marriage ceremonies, naming ceremonies, birthday parties and so on. Cult-related dead in Eleme are buried within minutes or hours thereafter without any fanfare to evade law enforcement query.
Burial of non-cult related dead in Eleme today attracts extra costs as security agents have to be informed and engaged to provide security and maintain law and order during burial.
Marriage ceremonies are not left out. Marriage ceremonies require the presence of armed soldiers, police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps officers for people to attend thus adding extra cost to the overall expenses; a burden on both the groom and bridegroom.
Naming ceremonies, birthday parties and other ceremonies also attract expensive security bills except done at the family level and/or in an exclusive area.
Increased Stress Related Sickness and Death
There is no doubt that the number of stress-related sicknesses and deaths in Eleme are on the rise. Stress occurs when the human body experiences a lack of equilibrium that is perceived as threatening by that individual. There is widespread fear in Eleme. Fear of the known and unknown. Fear of being robbed, fear of being raped, fear of being kidnapped, fear of being assaulted, fear of being murdered or killed, fear of being victimized. Fear! Fear all over the place. Parents of cultists have loss control over their children and wards. Their fates are unpredictable; a very serious threat to their ego; the situation remains ambiguous with increasing anticipation of negative consequences. The entire environment is perceived by the parents as threatening. And these have given rise to such illnesses like tension-related headaches and backaches, weakened immune system, missed period, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, increased depression, heartburn, fertility problem, heart attack. No week passes with Eleme recording one or more stress-related death; apart from deaths caused by inhalation of toxic and other deadly chemicals wickedly emitted by companies around Eleme.
The activities of cultists in Eleme are stressful not only to the parents of these cultists and their relations but also to every indigene and resident. Over 30% of women in their early 40s in Eleme are already suffering from missed period. Many parents have also died of heart attack and other stress-related illnesses.
The political life of Eleme can be described as nonexistence. Democracy was murdered in Eleme on arrival. Politicians of Eleme extraction have succeeded in truncating the political life of Eleme. They have divided Eleme youths into groups of cultists for their selfish political gains. They armed these young men and women and use them to:
a. Assassinate political opponents and their strong supporters.
b. Kidnap political rivals, their close associates or members of their immediate families.
c. Disenfranchise the electorate by intimidating and terrorizing them with guns, knives and axes.
d. Snatch ballot boxes.
e. Snatch result sheets and other sensitive electoral materials.
f. Adopt electoral officials and force them at gunpoint to allocate votes to candidates and announce concocted results.
The result of this is continues mismanagement, directionless, corruption and waste of Council resources. The impact of cultism on the political life of Eleme can be described as total disaster.
Psychologically, the average Eleme man or woman lives in fear of being murdered, kidnapped, robbed, assaulted, etc. These conditions have forced many indigenes and residents alike to relocate to Elelenwo, Port Harcourt, Ogoni, Okrika, Oyigbo and other neighbouring communities. Others seek the help of armed soldiers, NSCDC officers and policemen to move around Eleme. Both ways money is leaving Eleme, development is also truncated.
The atmosphere into which one enters as you approach Eleme from outside is that of darkness and panic even in broad daylight. The ether of Eleme has been saturated with blood and cry of innocent people cut down in their prime.
In the spiritual realm, it is like Eleme is being driven by the demand for more bloodbath, crime and violence. Worse still, those who are supposed to harness resources and pull their efforts together to address the ugly situation have fled from Eleme leaving the area porous and more vulnerable.
On the other hand, the prevailing insecurity in Eleme has helped the people to abandon luxurious life for simple living. Wealth is no longer indiscriminately displayed. So many car owners now prefer using public vehicles and mtorcycles popularly known as “Okada” to move about; and expensive dressings are now giving way to simple wears. Flamboyant life is gradually becoming history in Eleme.
One area that the impact of cultism has been felt greatly in Eleme is on development. Security propels development while insecurity retards it. As the former Permanent Secretary, F. N. Oguru rightly said, “Cultism has taken Ebubu over ten years back”. In other words, cult activities have taken Eleme ten years back. There cannot be development in an environment of insecurity and violence.
Cultism is decimating the population of Eleme and this has negatively affected Schools intake, tenants’ population, and small businesses. Many houses which hitherto provide sources of regular income to landlords/landladies are now vacant as residents’ pullout by the day. Those who still have one or two tenants in their houses do not have the will to demand for house-rents as tenants’ income continue to dwindle.
All public and private ongoing projects in the area have been halted due to cult activities. Movement of people is also restricted between the hours of 7pm and 6am without official curfew. It is worse in places like Ebubu, Eteo, and Alode where as early as 7pm no vehicle will agree to go in for fear of being victimized.
The worse is that Eleme is gradually becoming synonymous with senseless killing, kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, extortion, gun running, cultism, etc. The Eleme society is worst for it due to dwindling revenue, rising crime wave and fear of crime. This should border every well-meaning Eleme son and daughter irrespective of where you stay or reside. It is no gainsaying that indigenes and residents of Eleme are living in perpetual fear and many are being imprisoned in their own home or sent on exile by the ongoing cult activities in the area.
There must be concerted efforts and proper will on the part of indigenes and residents of Eleme to reverse the trend and put Eleme on the course of progress and development. This can only be achieved through value reorientation, equal rights and justice.