After two students were beheaded in Abia State University, We had an Interview with Anthony Atata, a Practising Lawyer who graduated from the school many years ago . His opinion of cultism is thought provoking.

Nigerian Lawyer,law news
Anthony Atata 


My take is the take of any right thinking person. Such an act is barbaric and wicked. It puts the school in bad light.


There is little the higher Institutions can do. The nature of tertiary education makes it impossible for school authorities to successfully micro manage students.


That is another wrong step in the wrong direction with good intentions though. I heard the landlords who own students residential houses have been instructed to conduct due diligence on students seeking to rent houses. How will that work? Do you expect a student to admit his membership of a cult group as you people call it or do you want the landlords to abandon what they are doing and start playing fathers to the students?

Anthony Atata
Anthony Atata


See, we have continuously made these students more dangerous by calling them dangerous names. Cultism in the Local understanding has an element of diabolism and is usually associated with illicit activities of older people(Ritualists). The first thing we should do is to call it by its name which is  Confraternity. It gives it a social outlook. When we go back to calling it confraternity, we will change the perception of those who belong to the group to something less bloody

Anthony Atata
Anthony Atata


Yes. With good intentions though. We have since time immemorial been making mistakes in the fight against cultism like you call it. The question is, where do we have a problem ? We have a problem with the activities of some members of the organisations and not in the organisation itself. I can tell you that if we have for example a hundred members in a confraternity, about 15% or less cause problems. Again, if you dig into the aims and objectives of this organisations, I can assure you that none of them have killing and maiming as their aims and objectives. Will it be right to ban politics or say that politics is bad because a few people kill themselves in the name of politics and elections?

Again, before we put up a proper fight, we should ask ourselves why students join such organisations. More than 90% join for social reasons and not to become killers. To be seen as tough and correct on campus. For a very long time,we have been using religion, sermon and threats to fight “cultism”. I have bad news for you. Those measures won’t work. They will instead make the whole thing more interesting. It is in every boy’s DNA to want to be seen as a tough guy even the ones heading fellowships in schools. They smile in acknowledgement when you refer to them as tough. Even men in their sixties and seventies feel cool when you refer to them as tough. The more you preach religion to the boys, use threats or law enforcement agents to go after them, the more you make the whole experience more interesting. At that age,being a deviant is heroic.


You see don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with students having and belonging to confraternities as long as they remain social and peaceful. It is important we remain open minded about this conversation. Like I said, there are aims and objectives of these organisations or call it values and tenets. You won’t see killing as part of the aims and objectives of confraternities. The aim of Political parties is to take government through elections however people kill and maim in the course of elections, do we now ban elections? Do we now say that Political Parties are cult groups? Do we now Judge political parties by the activities of a few?

Belonging to such groups help boys in grooming, in learning the act of loyalty,solidarity and especially team work.

It also helps in building a network which can be used positively after graduation and for a life time.

Anthony Atata

In terms of the weapons you are talking about, take it or leave it, after recharge cards, pure water and sex, the most available thing on the streets are weapons unfortunately. As a matter of fact you don’t need to belong to a cult to have access to weapons.


First of all legalise it. Like I said, it is like the drug business. When you ban it, it becomes more dangerous and adventurous thereby adding value in the wrong direction. Refer to it by its name which is confraternity not cult so that it will have the perception of a social group. This so called cultism is like a flood. The best you can do is to channel it to the right direction rather than stopping it.

Now when you bring it within a legal framework, it is easier to regulate. It is easier for people both members and non-members to see it as a social group. It is easier to know what they are doing at every point in time. A blue print can be drawn and in Ten years we will have peace in the tertiary institutions and violence will become old fashioned.

20 thoughts on “Anthony Atata wants “cultism” legalised in tertiary institutions-An interview

  1. Good and interesting advice you have given. If wole soyinka did it with pirates then it can be done.

  2. I agree with Mr Atata’s proposals. Whereas his proposals may seem bizarre to most, it makes better sense that anything else that has been suggested. This is because we always first stigmatize these things first and thereby make rebels of individuals who otherwise are as intelligent and as good natured as their non-cultist peers.
    Confraternities/Fraternities exists in almost all universities in the West and some very well known leaders, including some past and serving heads of governments are known to have belonged to fraternities while in university and yet nobody has bothered to ask, “why is our own different?”
    As they say, one is an incomplete student if all you did was to ‘pass through university.’ You must let the university to pass through you before you are complete. The question then becomes, what constitutes “university passing through someone?” Well, Confraternities have become the most popular means of fulfilling that part of tertiary education in Nigeria.
    Regulate it as proposed by Mr Atata and let them register these Fraternities with the school’s administration. Let them publish their list of members. Let them have support and direction from the school’s administrations and you will be surprised at how enterprising these young men are.

  3. Well said. ..well written. Totally agree with this. Fraternities and clubs should be encouraged as is the practise overseas and in some of the Universities in Western Nigeria.
    Back in school i only heard of the Human Race in Uni.of Nig.Nsukka and Enugu Campus which encouraged some sort of bond amongst young men and has translated to a greater bond between grown men and there families.

  4. Mr Atata made very reasonable advice. It might take some time for it to be effectively turn around. One problem we usually have in Nigeria whenever there are organized rally, protest is that hoodlums usually hide under the platform to perpetrate evil. These hoodlums in the first instance might not fully understand the intrinsic objectives of the rally or protest but they capitalize on the weakness of the law enforcement agencies to vent their frustration with the society.
    The Palm Wine Club popularly called Kegites club has been socially accepted in campuses as peaceful and relevant to the social ambience of the Universities. They can hold their outings, dance around to the admiration of those who cares to observe them. In the same way these so called “cultism” could be socially re-branded as confraternities and their method of operation fully defined and catalogued by the School Authority. Membership fully documented and open to the authorities of the school.
    In this case there would be nothing secret about operation of these groups. If done well we would have removed the mysticism behind the so called secret cult.

  5. This is exactly what Prof. Wole Soyinka has been trying to teach Nigerians about Pyrates confraternity. By now they should copy the Pyrates system and apply it.

  6. Nwanne, you are on point. Confraternities exist in almost every university in the world and they function within the ambit of their objectives and ethos. Like you said, the toga ‘cultism’ and the non-legal and/or institutional recognition of these groups in Naija is the problem. Over the ages, men have belonged to confraternities which helped them in building useful networks, learning about what it means to be a responsible adult and citizen, learning loyalty and solidarity. Like you said, there should be a paradigm shift in the way the whole thing is viewed and handled in Naija. Other confraternities in overseas universities are proud ‘midwives’ of plenty world leaders, captains of industry etc and these ‘confrats’ continue to contribute to the development of their institutions and nations. But sadly in Nigeria, when one canvasses the position you are canvassing, the ‘myopic/ignorant mind’ will say that such a view is been canvassed by the proponent because he/she probably was a cult member during his/her time. We really need serious personal and institutional re-orientation in this regard.

  7. Very well said!!! Could not agree more to this proposition. Hopefully, this article will get to the right people/ authorities to be reviewed intensely. There most definitely needs to be a paradigm shift !

  8. lets face the truth he was right. One problem with us here in Africa is claiming to be too religious
    thereby making most cases of simplicity look strange. I go with his opinion on first rebranding the name.

  9. Atata well done very apt and precise. This is the hard truth about the matter. Will any one conclude that a church is a criminal gang because Mr. A and Mr. B are both armed robbers and both members of one Christian Church. That will be highly illogical.

  10. This is highly plausible article by erudite Lawyer of our time, the proposed change of name/substitute of cultisms for fraternity is as good as anything if our legislatives welcoming it, though different people has been speaking in different perspectives towards this deadly organisation but the solutions profer were nothing to write home about…thank you for helping Nigerians in finding magnificent solution to long rowdy issues, we hope this convey individualistic and student’s behaviours in this regards. Solidarity, peaceful co-existence will emerged amongst students.

  11. I disagree that it shouldn’t be called cults, if they’re conducting themselves the way they are now; stealing, raping, beheading, murdering, and other nefarious activities, then that’s what they are. Calling these violent groups confratenities, fraternities or whatever in the hopes of making the perception of them more palatable is absurd. If they want to be perceived as social clubs, then they should act like social clubs, ie volunteering in the communities, mentoring young men and participating in other positive activities. Until their actions match what we want them to be, they’ll remain cults inhabited by cultists.

  12. The entire security system in Nigeria is porous, so the universities are no exception. The nomenclature “cult” could actually be part of the problem. But then, I wish to say that orientation and reorientation of students would also help. Let me also remind us;when we compare schools in Nigeria and the western world…yes these fraternities exist there but not without the eagle eye of the security operatives. When you commit a crime in the western world, the possibility of catching you is very high(cctv). But in Nigeria, these boys are ready to commit these crimes because they know they would go untouched. Students abroad are not any better but for the fear of losing their freedom, they respect themselves, hence you land in jail.Having said this, in as much as it would be okay to recognize and refer to them as confraternity/fraternity, the security system has to improve in general or there would still be crime.

  13. Those recent beheadings in ASU were gruesome and I shudder just to think about the pictures I saw. Be that as it may, I agree with the learned counsel. man by nature is a social animal and this need manifests more in young adults who want to be rated highly among their peers. If confraternities are legalized, they become de-mystified and the members cannot easily perpetrate crime because they know they will be easily identified. Schools like UNILAG and UNEC have organized ‘clubs’which are recognized and which have become so glamorous that everyone wants to belong. In my opinion, its is such clubs that have made secret cults insignificant in those schools.

    We really need to find a lasting solution to this menace especially in our Eastern Universities

  14. To be frank, if done like this it will be better because every student will know what is what and as well violence will be minimize and eventually be eradicated from campus walls. According Atata if enshrined in law it will turn to a peace gathering because no one will like law to catch up with him/her. For me, this is a good idea because I saw what happened in my school and won’t like to see it again

  15. Well said! I totally agree with Atata. If only we can stop empowering them by substituting the “bad guy” and “cult” title with something less frightening, say confraternity/fraternity just as Atata proposed, there will definitely be peace in our tertiary institutions.

  16. I regret the state of affairs in our tertiary institutions. Uni life in my days was fun, where ‘dogs’, BAN, Mafites etc. each had their affairs and were socially and academically competitive. Most importantly, irrespective of your view point/ s we were all friends. Who was superior academically, had the best parties and involved our girlfriends in the annual end of year parties was the fun. The end of year parties were for each group to tell everyone what they were about, I remember the referral as fraternities not cults. This identity played on the psyche of young men giving pride to your conduct. Well put my fellow alumni, fraternity is the way forward. As a fraternity we were able to host pageants and shows on campus. My advice to current undergraduates, remember why you want university education, don’t get sucked in by idiots that encourage you to harm fellow students. If you unable to tell everyone on campus about your group’s activities, you shouldn’t join in the first instance.

  17. Well said Atata. Back in the day, confraternities were just social and peaceful. Sometimes they provided a form of security for those living in their neighbourhood. I hardly experienced clashes amongst the confraternities.

    I sincerely hope this submission by my learned friend would be adopted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *