Tackling Cultism and Youth Violence in Ugep: Some Political Possibilities

Mr.  Obasesam Okoi 
By Obasesam Okoi

Yesterday, Facebook was inundated with photographs of a young man allegedly murdered by cultists in Ugep community.

In the past few years, Ugep had been the epicentre of cult related violence and clandestine activities that pose a serious threat to security and social order, undermining the capacity of both traditional and government institutions.

This dangerous trend is arguably the result of many factors including the failure of political leadership, the absence of youth mentorship programs, the transformation of Ugep from traditional to modern society influenced by the social processes of globalization, the youth unemployment crisis rocking the community, the collapse of family structures, the failure of religious institutions, the loss of purpose among the youth, and the deliberate wickedness of so-called political leaders.

Gradually, Ugep is ransforming into a community where competition among youth is not driven by acadenic excellence or entrepreneurship or which group of youth have greater potential to facilitate community development,  but which young man or group of young men have  the monopoly of violence.  Today, young people take pride in being identified as killers, as butchers, and as gun-tottering hooligans rather than leaders and change agents. This madness must stop.

We need therefore to move beyond palliative measures to promote transformative solutions that address the root of cultism in Ugep.

I believe the funfamental solution to cultism must proceed through education. Educational programs should be designed to promote self awareness by transforming the thinking that produce violence as well as the violent actors yourselves.

Second, politicians must be held accountable for manipulating youth unemployment and idleness to promote cult related violence in Ugep. I recall that groups such as "Isakabar," "Operation B 2" etcetera that terrorized Ugep with violence, were created by former political leaders in Yakurr who we expect to model good examples. Today, we are reaping the consequences of their actions.

Third, the Police must be equipped to recognize warning signs and  identify and respond rapidly to cult related threats in the community.

Fourth, the church has a responsibility in the processes of violence transformation in Ugep. The church cannot be seeking public donations through tithes and offerings without contributing to community development. Where possible, the church should combine spiritual development with social empowerment to transform cultists into leaders and change agents.

Fifth, the traditional institution has a strong leadership role to play in violence prevention in Ugep by ensuring that perpetrators are identified and handed over to the Police for custody and necessary punishment.

Finally, public intellectuals indigenous to Ugep and resident within and outside the community have responsibilities to the community and can no longer continue as bystanders in the face of tremendous violence that threatens our collective existence.

In the past, our disunity was generated by the suspicion that some people have political ambitions. Its time we look beyond what divide us politically to build bridges towards the development of our community.
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