Recent activities of secret fraternities in Edo and Anambra States of Nigeria have once again brought to focus the impact of the activities of the nefarious groups on the polity. Not too long ago, the menace of the fraternities reared its ugly head, when two prominent movie stars were brutally assassinated in Edo State in what was alleged as a frat-related offensive, which culminated in the death of about twenty individuals. Most recently inhabitants of Anambra state were terrorised by frat men, who held the state capital hostage in a brutal frat war between members of two rival groups, which has claimed the lives of many. Like volcanic mountains littered round the country, frat wars intermittently erupt around the country with devastating consequences.
Secret fraternities, sororities, and corporations have been among the prominent landmarks that have dotted the landscape of world history.
Ranging from the various corporations or nations in Europe to the North American fraternities and sororities, such as Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Gamma Delta, Kappa Kappa Psi, to the Ivy league fraternities, such as the Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and the Wolf’s Head Society at Yale; the fraternities have one way or the other been used to define and determine various future outcomes in the world. It is a common knowledge that most United States presidents have been members of one fraternity or the other, and the presidents had as well used the services of their mates in powerful organisations such as CIA, State Department, and Pentagon to sustain the development of their country. Fraternities are basically formed to foster formidable social groups through which various community and humanitarian services could be delivered. Such groups also help to foster professional advancement, and encourage scholastic achievements of members.
No doubt that it was in view of these noble ideals that the first fraternity was brought into the Nigerian landscape in the early fifties to combat elitism and colonial ideologies. In the fifties and sixties, when the existing higher institutions in Nigeria were more or less controlled and dominated by Whites and colonial ideologies, various forms of machinations were employed by the Whites to intimidate and lord things over the black staff and students of the institutions. Victimization, oppression, nepotism, and violations of rights were among the tools used by the Colonialists to carry out certain pro-colonialist agenda.
At the height of this, few black students gradually began to rally round each other to draw strength and support, in order to check the perceived excesses of the Colonialists, who dominated and oppressed them in their very homeland.
The need for the establishment of a fraternity was also heightened by the rising political tension in the country. The 1950s also marked a heightening of the nationalist movement and the sad recourse to tribal alignments in the country. “Quick as always to absorb the worst tendencies of many nationalist movements, the University College, Ibadan, itself became a breeding ground for the worst kind of tribal clubs. The Students’ Representative Council, all forms of students’ activity, including sports; became mere expressions of tribal pettiness” (National Association of Seadogs website, 2005).
It was not long before some of the students who felt energised by the need to turn things around for the positive; by fighting the perceived anti social tendencies both within and outside the university environment, seized the bull by the horn, and began to transmute some of the already existing social clubs into opposition groups – to resist the unwholesome acts and the negative effects on the Nigerian polity.
In the frontline of these crystallizing opposing groups was the Pyrates Confraternity, founded by the renowned Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka in 1952 at the University College Ibadan, in collaboration with six others – Ralph Okpara, Pius Oleghe, Ikpehare Aig-Imoukhuede, Nathaniel Oyilola, Olumuyiwa Awe, Sylvanus U. Egbuche, who made up the Original Seven that became the initial members of the first officially recorded fraternity in Nigeria (Seadogs website, 2005; Eguavon, 2008).
The fraternity, which started in the then University College Ibadan, nicknamed Jolly Roger 1, was set out to fight among other perceived ills: moribund convention, neo-colonialism, and tribalism and at the same time, defend humanistic ideals, while promoting comradeship and chivalry amongst its members (Oguntuase, 1999). It blossomed in the sixties, and began to spread its tentacles and Decks to other higher institutions in the country. However, it was not long before rancour and acrimony crept into the confraternity, and began to threaten the unity of this family.
In what he alleged as violations of the confraternity’s creed, and what others claimed as his expulsion from the Pyrates, Dr. Bolaji Carew – a.k.a Ahoy Rica Ricardo, decided to correct the observed ills, by pulling out of the Pyrates Confraternity, with some like minds – Kunle Adigun, and Tunde Jawando, to form the Buccaneer Confraternity, in late 1972 (Alora website, 2005). In 1976, the Buccaneers Modaship gave birth to numerous Decks, established in various parts of the country.
The Supreme Eiye Confraternity, which emerged from the University of Ibadan, more or less as a tribal action group, was allegedly founded in 1965 as the Eiye Group by a group of students among whom were Professor Jide Osuntokun, Dele Nwakpele, Bode Sowunmi, Goke Adeniji, Bayo Adenubi, Bode Fadase, Tunde Aluko, Kayode Oke, and Delu Lipede; and later blossomed into a full blown confraternity in 1969 with the University of Ibadan serving as its Mother Nest (Supreme Eiye Confraternity website, 2008, Rotimi, 2005).
As these went on, other fraternities were as well founded. The Neo Black Movement of Africa (Black Axe Confraternity) sprang up from the University of Benin in 1977, allegedly out of their determination to fight for the restoration of the culture, dignity and pride of the black man. Its establishment was perceived as a response to the Sharpeville and Soweto massacres in South Africa. Its newspaper called “Black Axe”, literally stands as the axe with which to cut the white man and those keeping the black man in bondage (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2005; Black Axe website, 2004, Oguntuase, 1999).
The Supreme Vikings Confraternity was founded at the University of Port Harcourt in 1982 in the then eastern region (Vikings Confraternity website, 2008). Followed by the Klansmen Konfraternity founded in 1983 at the University of Calabar (Welligthon, 2007). The Mafites Confraternity came into existence almost within the same period.
It was not long, before the country was engulfed in the phenomenon – lined north to south, east to west was a plethora of confraternities. As the years went by other notorious campus fraternities were as well formed. At the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), the Brotherhood of the Blood, (Black Beret – Two Two) was formed. Needless to say that countless groups appeared among the male folk, including: Second Son of Satan (SSS), Night Cadet, Sonmen, Mgba Mgba Brothers, Temple of Eden, Trojan Horse, Jurists, White Bishops, Gentlemen Clubs, Fame, Executioners, Dreaded Friend of Friends, Eagle Club, Black Scorpion, Red Sea Horse, Fraternity of Friends, and Victor Charlie Boys – allegedly formed by Professor Augustine Ahiazu during his tenure as vice-chancellor of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (Welligthon, 2007). As the race for supremacy intensified among the fraternities, different sororities began to spring up amongst the female folk; to curtail what they alleged as victimisations and intimidation from both the lecturers and the male folk. Prominent among the sororities are the Amazons, Black Brazier (Black Bra), the Viqueens, Daughters of Jezebel, and the Damsel. Thus, the proliferation continued till date, with ugly dimensions continuously added with each formation.
The emergence of the Buccaneer Confraternity could be perceived as the starting point of the derailing of the various fraternities. That singular action could be viewed as the point where the first seed of discord was sowed and the origin of contention between fraternities. It also marked the initial point of proliferation of fraternities in the polity, as members with dissenting views realised they could easily pull out of an existing fraternity to form an opposing one.
As at 2001, there were over 33 secret fraternities and associations operating in universities across the country, according to a study conducted by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
The spark ignited in 1952 began to spread like wild fire! Violence gradually crept into the campuses through the fraternities during the early eighties. Buoyed by the support and complacency of the various military regimes, the fraternities lost focus of their original cardinal points and violence soared among them. A couple of years later, it became glaring that the fraternities had derailed from their original course – navigating anticlockwise with neither the guiding sight of the Polaris nor the Orion – engaging in activities contrary to the dictates of their creeds. The Pyrates and Buccaneers, realizing what had become of their brainchild, were among the first to publicly denounce and dissociate themselves from the nefarious activities of the modern day frat men, operating in the various higher institutions. The Pyrates, in July 1974, following the Odas of Captain Blood, officially closed down all ‘ABC’ Decks (undergraduate fraternities) all over the country, bidding farewell to active campus affairs. The Buccaneers, during their “DOUBLOON” in 1982 by the Odas of the Grand Eye submerged all the Buccaneering Decks in the country, in a bid to have a grip at the organization once again.
However, just as before, Odas were no longer Odas and the fraternities continued to flourish in the universities, and other higher institutions, while stubbornly insisting that they were still part of the mainstream and were enjoying uninterrupted patronage from the Lords. Apparently due to the misconceptions of the frat men doctrine of ‘Broda Deliver Broda’; the various fraternities ran amok and went on rampage, killing and undermining each other. Rivalry among the various fraternities became the rule of the day, turning the fraternities into social nuisance.
As their counterparts in the world especially in North America were making inroads into the political sphere and bringing about positive changes, our fraternities were busy formulating means of undermining each other as they battle for supremacy.
The main objectives of the first fraternity founded in the country, were thus thwarted from the original plan of fighting social injustice and academic corruption, to fighting and struggling for supremacy and domination, among the different fraternities.
Whether marooned or submerged, the efforts made by the senior frat men to extinguish the already flaring fire in the fraternities in Nigerian higher institutions have failed to achieve the desired results. The horrifying activities of the various fraternities in the schools have pricked the conscience of the nation. It is very shameful that almost six decades after the first fraternity emerged in the Nigerian scene, tertiary institutions in the country have turned into dens for brutes, vandals, assassins, armed robbers, and misguided felons, with close to forty percent of male and twenty percent of the female students belonging to one fraternity or the other.
The alarming resurgence of violence and killings associated with cult activities in the country in the past few years, and their patronage by politicians and university administrators call for serious concern and demand drastic action to combat this repulsive menace. It has become quite obvious that the menace of fraternities, which has eaten deep into the polity – weaving frat men, university administrators, politicians, and high-level government officials into an intricate underground and dangerous network; with the ugly potential of wrecking the nation should not only be submerged, but also entirely torpedoed.
There is no doubt that the current spate of armed robbery and kidnapping in the country is a direct offshoot of the derailing of the fraternities, as most of them have extended their tentacles beyond the fore walls of the institutions into the streets and creeks of the nation. One wonders if most of the present frat guys still understand the creeds that guided their founders and forbearers, which was based on human dignity. Most have been turned into money making ventures, where members are mandated to pay outrageous sums of money as annual dues, which usually forces them into various criminal activities in order not to default; criminal gangs for the intimidation and extortion of fellow students and university staff; political thugs used by unscrupulous politicians to achieve their unwholesome ambitions; as well as participation in a wide range of other anti social activities.
In order to secure the future of the country, urgent attention needs to be paid on how to tackle the derailing of the ‘one-time-commendable’ groups, as the level of insecurity, currently being witnessed in the country is just a tip of the iceberg of what might become of the country if these groups are left untamed. This cankerworm attacking the very base of national development should not be kid-gloved any further.
One fact, which currently seems very obvious to almost every Nigerian, is that confraternities as they exist in the universities and other higher institutions in the country at the moment, are no longer focusing on the purposes or aims for which they were founded; which were basically to fight social injustice and pro-colonialism, but instead have transmuted into deadly antisocial monsters that ought to be curbed without hesitation. Every well-meaning Nigerian needs to stand up and fight it. There is urgent need for a sincere rehabilitation and reorientation of already sworn members, as well as the need for measures to be put in place to adequately punish the criminal elements in them, and dissuade others from falling prey to these groups. If we do nothing to stop the outpouring of blood that has been ongoing in our higher institutions and environs now, the stench will definitely increase to a level we just cannot withstand, even with our nostrils covered.
Obinna Anejionu is a lecturer and the author of the new blockbuster; Last Oda – An exposé of the dangerous activities of fraternities in Nigerian Universities.