NewsARTS/BOOK REVIEW: Cults and Gangs - Before the Rooster Crows

ARTS/BOOK REVIEW: Cults and Gangs – Before the Rooster Crows


Cults and Gangs: Before the Rooster Crows by Cosmas Eze 11, Vicosy Books, 151pp

No week passes without Nigerians reading in the newspapers or seeing on television cult related killings somewhere in Bariga, Ikorodu, Mushin, Port Harcourt or Uyo. There have been gory tales of rival gangs in neighbouring streets attacking one another on revenge missions or spontaneous gang wars resulting in fatalities through direct shootings to the face or back of the head, decapitations and acid baths.

Last May, the Metro Section of some Nigerian newspapers reported how a rival gang trailed a certain Daniel One aka D1 in a tricycle near his home by Fenton Street in Calabar, hacked him to death with machetes and then hung around long enough to ensure he was dead before leaving.

D One’s death, the papers reported, was a result of supremacy struggle between two rival cults (Black Axe and KKK) in the capital of Cross River state. Recently, Delta State Police Command foiled an attempt by some cult members in a mission to kill one hotelier in Sapele.

In well-laid out plans you might call an anatomy of a plot starting from Sapele to Port Harcourt, complete with a photograph of the victim, guns bought, oiled and serviced, cash already paid with promises of building houses for the assassins after the job, the victim himself trailed from week to week down to an uncompleted building near his home in Sapele, it all crumbled just when they were about to strike.

Fortunately for the hotelier, and for whatever reason, one of them squealed to the authorities whereupon they were all arrested. Nothing, anyone would imagine, could be handier for any serious crime fiction writer looking for materials for a sizeable thriller.

If readers hope to read any of such encounters in this book, they will be disappointed not because the author, Cosmas Eze 11, a senior police officer, has failed in his duties but because he looks at cults from an entirely different perspective – from the time cults, confraternities originated in Nigerian universities. In that sense, there is something to glean from Cults and Gangs: Before the Rooster Crows.

A serving police officer, Eze writes like an insider. He knows his game, giving the reader a blow by blow account of the history of the pioneer confraternAities, their organisations, when they founded them and in which institutions of higher learning. (A major flaw older readers would notice right on is the policeman/ author’s lumping together some of the confraternities mentioned in his book.)

For instance, when Wole Soyinka founded, along with six others, the Pyrates Confraternity way back in 1954 at University College Ibadan, it was a union of like-minds meant to fight injustice in whatever guise. There were cases of malpractices aided by lecturers who favoured female students during exams, not unlike the sex-for-grades today in some Nigerian universities.

From that year, confraternities have been formed by either breakaway factions from existing ones or by completely new members and for different reasons. In his tiny book with bullets as part of the illustration, the author avails the reader with all the relevant information about the history of cults in Nigeria.

Also at Ibadan, a second confraternity was formed by a group of 10 students who wished to live unrestricted lives like birds in the air. The year was 1965. The name is Eiye. Like the first and those that came after, all the frats have their signs and dress code and colours. These are marks of identification supposedly known only to initiates. They also have their unique songs sometime made into anthems, also known only to members to distinguish them from rival fraternities.

The Buccaneers Association of Nigeria which came after The Seadogs and Eiye was a breakaway faction led by Bolaji Carew, Tunde Jawondo and Kunle Adigun in 1972, citing lack of “comradeship and patriotism” where they belonged before.

The Black Axe Organization aka Neo Black Movement is the only one whose formation was influenced by the apartheid regime in South Africa. As the name suggests, the frat’s aim was basically continental. As the author writes, “in solidarity with the oppressed black people of South Africa and in protest against the murder of Steve Biko, a chapter of the anti-apartheid movement, the Neo-Black Movement was formed.”

This time, it was not the premier university but the University of Benin, where Maphites was also formed the following year. Big Vikings, Maphians, Ku Klux and Trojan Horse Organization are some of the confraternities the author writes about in Cults and Gangs, and has the good sense to include one formed by a female confraternity – the Black Bra.

All through, the author shows his disdain for cults. Like a modern day Pentecostal evangelist condemning sinners to the pit of hell, Eze has the same message for cult members. A secret cult/ criminal gang, he scoffs, “is a cobweb of bloody intrigues, unholy bonds and sacrilegious alliances, where all is permissible and nothing is forbidden.”

And its members, he insists, live “in a world of make believe, a region of stupid fantasy and a universe of insane illusion…whichever direction it is appraised from, either as a member of the phylum of the reptilian or from the state of the deranged personality, the adherent is unwholesome but he is unaware. He believes that he is normal and he is oblivious of the fact that he has been baptized into a family of beasts, a clan of monsters and a village of vampires.”

Despite all that vituperations from the police officer, the allure of being a cult member is as strong to some teenagers today as having a tattoo on their biceps or midriffs. In reported cases, for instance, youngsters barely out of their britches in secondary school and touts on the streets routinely boast of their membership of one cult or the other.

Though published six years ago, Cults and Gangs is a handy digest for lubbers on how confraternities came to be in the country. What is lacking, however, is the author’s disinterestedness in exploring how an association of radical lecturers with progressive ideas and idylls for society morphed into the belligerent and notoriously violent clique of today. Again, sensitive readers may be less keen to read the book because of the errors and haphazard page planning.

Moreover, Cults and Gangs is an annoying example of gratitude that grates. Eze devotes seven long pages to acknowledging a whole battalion of people ranging from retired military personnel to serving senior police officers, dozens of chiefs and traditional rulers in his community and elsewhere, a gaggle of businessmen and politicians, his siblings and cousins, his wife and other relatives.

The police officer that he is, Eze does however offer one possible solution to deter youngsters from becoming cult members – and that is by seeking knowledge. To that end, he culls several quotations by authors ranging from the language expert, Noam Chomsky to the book of Corinthians and Mahatma Ghandi. There are also quotations by some politicians in Nigeria to help his cause – all of them in support of knowledge.

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