April 4, 2006
The escalation of inter-fraternal violence in our tertiary institutions remains an intense disappointment and embarrassment to the nation. The latest wave of inter-fraternal violence is damaging to the good image of Nigeria abroad. The actions of these frat members, on the other hand, portrait cowardice and needs to be addressed immediately.
In spite of the fact that the Federal Government of Nigeria has donated millions of naira to all the government-owned tertiary institutions to fight and tackle cultism on their campuses, these groups continue to flourish. Many Nigerians don’t understand the differentiation between a fraternity and a cult group. A fraternity is a group of individuals or society formed by people who share common interests, while a cult is adherents of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices. Today, what we have in Nigeria are fraternities not cult groups like the Reformed Ogboni Society or the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC).
The United States of America has more than 400 fraternities on their college and university campuses. These fraternities have produced U.S presidents, senators, governors, CEO’s, military generals, scientists, medical doctors, attorneys, accountants, and other successful law abiding citizens. These fraternities are well organized and controlled by the U.S. Government, and legislative supports are established through the “Inter Fraternity Council (IFC)”. IFC is made up of fraternities and they regulate and coordinate the activities of all recognized fraternities such as Kappa Alpha Order, Tau Epsilon Phi, etc.
Therefore, we are advocating that the Federal and State Governments of Nigeria should implement the recommendations of Ben Oguntuase (former Capone, National Association of Seadogs – Pyrates Confraternity) issued during the Anti-Cult Week Symposium at the University of Lagos on November 3, 1999. He proposed that the leadership of all the fraternities in Nigeria should get together with representatives of the university community and then the Ministry of Education should constitute a National Inter-fraternity Council (NIFC). NIFC should be charged with the following responsibilities:
Identify all fraternities in Nigerian tertiary institutions and prepare a comprehensive registry of representatives of all fraternities. Initially, we would advise that all individual fraternities should keep the names of their fraternity member’s secret. However, the representatives of the fraternities at the campus, state and national level of NIFC should publicly disclose their names and contact information.
Establish NIFC at the campus, state, and national level to enable NIFC register, approve and monitor fraternal activities, while using annual fraternity dues and government funding to run their day-to-day activities.
Establish guidelines for the existence and operation of fraternities on campuses. However, all fraternities must be accredited by the NIFC and their respective institutions can have additional conditions for recognition of the fraternities.
Develop appropriate framework for minimizing and dealing with inter-fraternity conflicts as well as formulate programs that will enhance inter-fraternity harmony through collaborative activities aimed at providing service to the communities, and competitive activities in sports and academics.
Develop framework to monitor and report on the composite academic performance of each fraternity and recommend appropriate rewards for academic excellence.
Develop programs to disarm all fraternities and surrender all weapons to NIFC or the appropriate authorities.
The Federal and State Government of Nigeria need to educate the society that these fraternities in Nigeria can be an essential part of student life, if it is properly managed and regulated. The solution to the problem is to open-up the secrecy of fraternalism, whereby making it unattractive to students who join for the wrong reasons. As long as we continue to mystify “cultism” in Nigeria, students with ulterior motives will continue to join and use that platform for violence. There are a number of benefits for students in Nigeria to belong to a fraternity. They range from:
· Philanthropy — Fraternities give back to their communities in their own way. For example:
- The Atlanta Chapter of the Buccaneers Association of Nigeria (BAN) made financial donations to the United States victims of the hurricane Katrina disaster.
- The London Chapter of the Buccaneers Association of Nigeria (BAN) held a Health awareness event for Nigerian community on August 27, 2005 in Hampstead, North London.
- The Northern California Chapter of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) aka Pyrates Confraternity paid a charity visit to the San Jose Family shelter in San Jose, California on December 22, 2003 where clothing items, toys and cash were donated.
- The Southern Africa zone of the Pyrates Confraternity embarked on a charity outreach project on December 12, 2003 where members donated gifts and cash. The South African members visited Nazareth Children's Home in Johannesburg while Botswana members visited the SOS Village, Gaborone.
- The Warri zone of the Pyrates Confraternity embarked on a week long program from 21st - 26th of July 2003. A visit was made to the St. Anne's Orphanage of the Mother of the Redeemer Catholic Church where cash and food items were donated.
- The National Association of Seadogs (NAS) International, Netherlands Chapter held the first of its Annual Seminar at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), The Hague, Netherlands on May 22, 2004.
- The Onitsha zone of the Pyrates Confraternity provided free eye examinations for police officers and men in the Awka Command, the Central Police Station and the Police Mobile Force, all in Awka metropolis. Blood pressure measurements were also taken as well as donation of free drugs.
- The Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the Pyrates Confraternity hosted a seminar titled THE NIGERIAN CHILD AS AN ENDANGERED BEING on December 19, 2004 and visited the ONNA Motherless Babies Home.
· Social — Being part of a fraternity gives you the chance to take part in great events and even plan new ones.
- Buccaneers Association of Nigeria (BAN) aka Buccaneers Confraternity celebrates their annual end-of-year convention for fellow members and family friends.
- National Association of Seadogs (NAS) aka Pyrates Confraternity organize monthly seminars, conventions, workshops, lectures and symposiums on national issues affecting Nigeria and they seek public opinions on critical issues.
· School Spirit — Fraternities owe their existence to the respective university to which they belong. As such, you will rarely find a group with more school spirit than a campus Fraternity.
· History — Many Fraternities have longstanding and proud traditions spanning decades and in American even centuries. Fraternity Brotherhood/Sisterhood means belonging to something much larger than yourself.
· Leadership — Learning opportunities are abound in the administration of a Fraternity. Though you may be part of a longstanding tradition, it is you who will take that tradition into the future.
· Lifetime Membership — Friends come and go. Cliques rarely stand the test of time. A Fraternity can be a continued source of friendship and guidance long after your University career is over.
· Scholastic Achievement — Fraternities can teach the skills necessary to succeed in University through study groups and various other support mechanisms. For example, when the Pyrate confraternity existed on campuses, many individuals broke away from them because of their tradition that members must maintain high academic grades and similarly, the Buccaneers confraternity would discipline any of their members that take their academic studies unserious.
· Networking — Lifetime membership insures that there is a large pool of alumni with whom many real world contacts can be made. These contacts can prove quite useful when the university days are over.
· Ritual — Most fraternities have traditions or secrets that are not shared with the general public. This is often the most personal and loyal part of life in a Fraternity.
· Sport and Athletic Skills – Fraternities can peacefully engage each other on fair sports like football, basketball and tennis, whereby creating an atmosphere of peace and unity, and nurturing friendship and sportsmanship among fellow fraternity members. While a student activist at the University of Ibadan (UI), we had an Inter-Fraternal Council (IFC) comprising of all fraternities operating at UI and every session, the fraternities organized themselves into football teams. Then they would compete against themselves and prizes were awarded accordingly. During the last Inter-Fraternity Football Competition, the Eiye confraternity won the first place, Black Axe confraternity (second place), Buccaneers confraternity (third place) and Pyrate confraternity (fourth place). Even, professors and non-teaching officers, who are members of these fraternities, provided advisory and other assistances. Then, IFC-UI chapter was responsible for maintaining and ensuring that all fraternities were observing peace and harmony. That was the order of the day, until the Federal Government issued a directive instructing the university authority to insist on all fraternity members to renounce their respective membership and suddenly, the fraternities went underground and became more secretive.
· Brotherhood — The one element that no other scholastic organization can give you. The feelings of togetherness and support cannot be easily described. They must be discovered for oneself.
Unfortunately, no matter how bad the reputations of fraternities are in Nigeria, we have to realize that they are there to stay and they can be a wonderful part of educational experience if managed and controlled properly. Countries such as the U.S, Canada, Britain, France, Philippines, Japan, and Switzerland all have fraternities that have contribute to the growth and advancement of their societies.
Today, the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) aka Pyrates Confraternity and Buccaneers Association of Nigeria (BAN) aka Buccaneers Confraternity have both evolved into international organizations with branches in Africa, Europe, Asia, America and Canada. Today, the Pyrates Confraternity and Buccaneers Confraternity have become well-known organizations in those branches for their charitable giving’s and contributions to societal development. The Northern California chapter of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) was issued a "certificate of special recognition" by the state Congress because of their contributions to "social development, stability and prosperity" of the city of Oakland, California, United States. Indeed, Congresswoman Barbara Lee described the organization as an association of noble men and professionals. Besides, in recognition of its "outstanding and invaluable service to the community", the congress has also declared February 14 as "National Association of Seadogs Day" in Oakland, California.
Within the scope of this article, we have refused to discuss about other Nigerian fraternities like the Black Axe confraternity, Eiye Confraternity, Mafia Confraternity, Vikings, Black Cats, Daughters of Jezebel, Amazons, Black Beret, Burkina Faso, Vipers, Maphites and others because they have degenerated into violent gangs, whose main reason for existing was to terrorize campuses in mindless orgies of destruction and rape often fuelled by alcohol, sex, money and drugs. Today, the impacts of these violent gangs are being felt in the political arena and they are increasingly available to be hired by politicians with scores to settle. However, some of the violent gangs were initially created for the good reasons like fighting for social justice and equality for all. However, there are members who belong to these violent gangs but refuse to participate in any destructive or violent activities and they continue to advocate for true fraternalism among members. Just like the Black Axe Confraternity (Neo-Black Movement), their aim and objective were to redirect all minds towards Black realism, determinism and the inculcation of discipline in individual both in the body and mind and prevent acts that seek to tarnish the image of members of the Black race.
Nigeria is one of the largest and most advanced country in Africa, it is imperative that it remains competitive and relevant on the continent. At the same time, we as Nigerians have to set the pace for others to follow. If anything, we cannot afford to be left behind in the scheme of things on the continent and the ever-changing global society.
Roy Chikwem is a member of Amnesty International, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and founder of Chikwem Foundation, Inc. He is a socio-political activist based in Delaware, USA. His contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org