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1.1 Background to the Study
Tertiary institutions in Nigeria are expected to play a major role in the country’s human resources development and to serve as vibrant centers of productive research and academic excellence. In recent times, cult violence has become a serious bane among tertiary institutions in Nigeria; and intensely so in the last two decades. Quite unfortunately too, tertiary institutions in Nigeria are the major critical target point where the bulk of adolescent offenders are either students or stakeholders who constitute the high risks and also pose challenges to institutional managers who are at the receiving ends of youth violence and psycho-pathological carnage in university campuses (Austin, 2009).
Most of the extant literatures that have ventured to study the phenomenon have been preoccupied mainly with magnifying the implications of secret cult activities in Nigerian universities which includes youth carnage on campuses commonly referred to as cult wars, thuggery at political events/activities, motor parks “overthrows”, rivalry for the same girl/woman referred to as macho-violence, gang rape, drug-related violence, assault on lives and property, indiscriminate use of light weapons, dangerous arms, and the resultant disruption of academic calendar(Austin,2009). According to Austin (2009, p.1) “a major factor working in the favour of cult groups is mass ignorance on the part of students especially the new students who are hoodwinked and deceived in joining their dead cemeteries”
Secret cult activities have and are still causing hindrance in the smooth flow of academic curricula in Nigerian tertiary institutions. There is no doubt that the phenomenon of campus secret cults is negative development in tertiary institutions and has destroyed and still destroying the value of academic life, meaningful co-existence, the pursuit of academic excellence and inter-personal relations required in academic community. However, students are not prevented from forming social groups like clubs and other social gatherings but when the groups turn into culture of violence; posing as factors detrimental to democracy and inimical to the development of manpower required for the emancipation of Nigeria, then they should be discouraged.It is against this note that this research study is anchored on investigating how public relations management of conference could be used to eradicate cultism in order to create acceptable social order in Nigerian tertiary institutions with a focus on Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
In doing this, the researcher drew inspiration from George Santayama’s quotation that “those whocannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”.For the purposes of empirical analyses in the later part of this study, a secondary survey of the history of public relations, cultism, and its various names, mode of operations, objectives and modes of initiation has been conducted.
1.1.1 Origin and Development of Public Relations in Nigeria
The development of public relations practice in Nigeria originated from the British colonial government. As a result of the unpopularity of government policies and measures (conscription, taxation, scarcity of essential goods, etc.) and growing tension among the populace, the British colonial government felt the need for an organ to create a favourable local image for its war efforts. During the colonial period, a lot of government activities were shrouded in secrecy, which made the words and actions of the government very suspicious. Consequently, it established the first information office in Lagos in1942 with the aim of disseminating war messages in which many Nigerian service men were involved. As a result, the colonial government deemed it fit to establish public relations unit known as War Information Office.
In 1944, the Information Office was renamed Public Relations Office under the leadership of D.C. Fletcher. In 1947, the Public Relations Office was renamed Public Relations Department under the leadership of Harold Cooper. The Public Relations Department introduced regular press briefings and issued news releases frequently. It also published magazines such as the Nigerian Review, etc.
According to Asemah (2011), the public relations department established branch offices in the regional capitals of Ibadan, Kaduna, and Enugu in line with the regional set-up brought about by the Richards constitution. The aim of the public relations department was to calm the tension of Nigerians and to create an atmosphere where British colonial policies could face no resistance. During this period, 64 Nigerians (most of whom were former journalists) including Cyprian Ekwensi, Peter Enahoro, Ayo Lijadu, and Sam Epelle were employed as publicity officers. In 1954, the public relations department was also renamed to Nigerian Information Service and this was the predecessor of the present day Nigerian Ministry of Information.
British colonial government led the way in setting up public relations practice in Nigeria. This was closely followed by statutory corporations and agencies, The Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was one of the first government parastatals and agencies to establish a public relations unit when in 1950 it established public relations department to carry out its mutual relationship with customers. The Nigerian Railway Corporation set up a public relations department with late Sam Epelle as the public relations officer. Other government institutions that contributed to the development of public relations in Nigeria included the University College Hospital, Ibadan (1956) with Scott Emuakpor as the first PRO, the Customs and Excise (1960) with Alex Akinyele as the PRO (Asemah, 2011).
Within the private sector, the United Africa Company (UAC) played the pioneering role in establishing public relations departmentin 1949. The department was located at the old Niger house, Marina Lagos, and from there, it spread out to other branches of the company at Kaduna and Enugu. Contributions of UAC to the growth of public relations is reflected in the fact that most of the public relations experts in Nigeria and who can be referred to as the foundation members of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations once worked for UAC (National Open University of Nigeria, 2010).
Asemah (2011) posited that the enviable position that public relations has attained in Nigeria today can be ascribed to the efforts of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). To help create ethical standards in the fledging profession,Sam Epelle, one-time director of information in Nigeria, Tonye Willie-Harry, IlhazYakubu, H.K Offonry and Bob Ogbuagu founded the Public Relations Association of Nigeria (PRAN). With the formation of PRAN, public relations developed and assumed professional status (Asemah, 2011).
After PRAN was launched in Lagos in 1963, it gradually spread to regional headquarters beginning with Enugu and Port Harcourt. The effort put in place bySam Epelle in 1961 when he initiated the formation of a body that would “professionally think, plan, practice and live public relations in Nigeria” finally bore fruit with Sam Epelle as the Coordinator of PRAN. As the number of practitioners increased with better objectives, PRAN widened and developed into the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations in 1972, again with Sam Epelle as the first president. The promulgation of the institution’s decree No. 16 of 1990 under the leadership of Mike Okereke placed public relations on a higher status. The practice of public relations is so important that every corporate social responsible institution now take the operation of public relations seriously including tertiary institutions (Asemah, 2011).
1.1.2 Background of Nasarawa State University, Keffi
The Nasarawa State University, Keffi, was established under the Nasarawa State Law No. 2 of 2001, as promulgated by the State House of Assembly. It officially took off for effective academic activities in March 2002, following the appointment of the pioneer Vice Chancellor, Professor Adamu Baikie. According to the University Act (Sections 4 and 5) cited in Mass Communication Department Students’ Handbook (2015), the purposes for which the University was established are:
1. To encourage and promote the advancement of learning of all persons without distinction of race, creed or sex
2. To provide courses of instruction and other facilities and to make available those facilities for the pursuit of learning in all its branches and to make those facilities available on proper terms to such person(s) as equipped to benefit from them.
3. To serve as both a teaching and examine body, subject to the provision of the University Law specifying the functions of the University
The University is located in Keffi, headquarters of Keffi Local Government Area. Forty five kilometres separate the town from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria. Since early 2014, the University has been headed by Professor Muhammad Akaro Mainoma. The University has more than 2000 academic and non-academic staff and a student population of about 20, 500. It has 44 departments grouped under the seven Faculties of Arts, Agriculture, Administration, Education, Law, Natural and Applied Sciences and Social Sciences.
Vision: The University offers education for the liberation of the body, soul and spirit for the development of a great, human and egalitarian society.
Mission: Its objective is to encourage and enable individuals to develop their full potentials by providing qualitative and stimulating environment which involves a wide range of relevant educational activities for efficient, dedicated and selfless service to the state, the nation and the world at large. This commitment hinges on its philosophical belief in constructive thinking, positive action and freedom of conscience.
1.1.3 Emergence of Cultism in Nigerian Tertiary Institutions
Cult,according to Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary (1990) means the system of religious worship, especially one that is expressed in rituals. It has its rituals, which comes up to sacrifices with animals and sometimes human beings resulting to killings and destruction of property that are rife in the society.
According to The Anchor (1999), a pamphlet on secret cults, in the late 40s, the higher institutions in Nigeria were not associated with secret societies. The first secret cult in Nigeria came into existence in 1952 when a group of seven students led by WoleAgunloye founded the Seadogs Confraternity also known as Pyrate in the University of Ibadan. The sole objective of founding the cult was to fight colonialism, ensure the dignity of man and to rid the Nigerian society of elitism and tribalism. Members of the confraternity engaged in humanitarian services such as donation of blood to hospitals to save lives and presentation of food items to less privilege. Although they left school for different locations, yet they remainedmembers of the organization. Twenty year later, the Pyrates Confraternity witnessed a significant change. Rancour led to factions and divisions that broke the monopoly of the Pyrates. It began with the breaking away of a faction of the group known as the Buccaneers confraternity in the campus scene in the year 1972
According to The Anchor (1999), there was a great deal of rivalry among members of the Pirate Confraternity that led to the formation of another group known as the Buccaneers or Sea lords. The Great Split of the 1980’s witnessed the formation of more groups which include the Black Axe, Black Cats, Maphites, and Vikings among others
Some of these cults, which describe themselves as “Black this” or “Black that”, are characterized by militancy and daredevil objectives. With the liberalization of admission to institutions of higher learning, the adoption of the “carry over system”, the entrenchment of military rule and easy access to weapons of violence, the campus cults in the 1990’s became very dangerous movements. The Black berets and Black T-shirts are insignia of the Black movements. There were, of course, bloody clashes among the rival cults. The notoriety of a cult became too obvious as its members engaged in activities that celebrate violence. Today in Nigeria, there is hardly any tertiary institution which has not suffered the adverse effects of the activities of secret cults which are characterized by violence (Hamza, 2012).
According to Hamza (2012) there are many reasons students join secret cult groups on campuses. Some of these reasons include search for security, popularity, power, peer group pressure, poor home training, and indiscipline among others. New initiates are always eager to taste the feeling of expressing ‘protected power’ by indulging into fight, rape, stealing, and killing. And the end result usually indicates destruction of lives and property thereby straining an already existing peace and mutual relationship in the society. This research study is therefore timely because it is anchored on investigation how public relations management of conference could be used to eradicate cultism especially in Nasarawa State University in order to foster peaceful co-existence.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Ritualistic tendencies, display of acts of terrorism and the wanton destruction of lives and property perpetrated by members of secret cults have become grave social malady on and outside university campuses. According toHamza (2012) cited inEgwu (2003, p.4)
the phenomenon of campus cult is negative development in tertiary institutions and has destroyed the value of academic life, meaningful co-existence, pursuit of academic excellence and inter-personal relations required in academic community.
Cultism has created a dangerous sense of insecurity due to destruction of lives and propertyin Nigerian tertiary institutions.Secret cult activities in Nigerian universities are creating fears in the social interactions among students and lecturers. Many researchers have suggested ways in which cultism can be eliminated in tertiary institutions and the society at large but the problem of cultism keeps increasing. Therefore, the problem this study seeks to resolve is that how can public relations management of conference be used as a tool for eradicating cultism in Nigerian tertiary institutions especially Nasarawa State University, Keffi?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The aim of this research study is to use public relations management of conference to eradicate cultism and its activities in Nigerian tertiary institutions especially in Nasarawa State University, Keffi. In order to achieve this aim, the following objectives were formulated to:
1. Investigate how public relations management of conference can be used to eradicate cultism in Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
2. Find out the extent to which public relations has been used in eradicating cultism in Nasarawa State University.
3. Investigate the factors that can hinder public relations management of conference as a veritable tool for eradicating cultism in Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
4. Ascertain other means in which cultism can be eradicated in Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
1.4 Research Questions
To guide this research study, the following questions were used:
1. How can public relations management of conference be used to eradicate cultism in Nasarawa State University?
2. To what extent has public relations been used as a veritable tool for eradicating cultism in Nasarawa State University?
3. What are the factors that could hinder public relations management of conference as a veritable tool for eradicating cultism in Nasarawa State University, Keffi?
4. What other PR strategy could be used to eradicate cultism in Nasarawa State University, Keffi?
1.5 Scope of the Study
According to Asemah, Gujbawu, Ekareafo and Okpanachi (2012) there are two types of scope of study. The first scope of study in any research work is content scope while the second scope is the geographical scope. Thus, this research study has public relations conference and cultism as its content scope while Nasarawa State University stands as the geographical scope.This study is anchored on Nasarawa State University as a scope because cases of cultism have been seen around High-Court and Angwan-Lambu residential areas of the institution.
1.6 Significance of the Study
According to Asemah (2011) knowledge is gained in every research work because researchers in no small measure add value to existing knowledge in different fields of studies.As the study investigated how public relations can be used to eradicate cultism in tertiary institutions, the results of the study are of significance to the myriad of groups and individuals whom are exposed to these activities and practices. The implications for education and human resource development in tertiary institutions, their communities, the law enforcement agencies, policy makers are that the cult activities and practices undermine the functions and activities of these institutions and policy makers would be in better position to formulate and enforce preventive measures to cultic activities.
For tertiary institutions especially Nasarawa State University, the findings provide information on cultism and violence which they may need to come up with informed policies to address the issue of cultism on their campuses.
Further, the findings bring out the ills of cultism and its effect on students, the learning process and the communities, thus creating awareness in the minds of all stakeholders in education and galvanizing them for positive action to end the menace and create awareness for change of attitude and behaviour.
The study also provides information for law enforcement agencies in order to improve existing laws, rules and regulations regarding students engaged in cultism and violence on tertiary institutions and the public.
Also, the study is significant because it provides suggestions on how to combat the problem of cultism on campuses and engender and inject good values and practices into the minds of those students who might be supporting cultism on tertiary campuses.
Communities associated with cultism will find significance in the results of the study because it will create awareness about the ills of the menace and collective effort will be made to end it.Students, lecturers and other researchers may find this study useful in the area of research.
1.7 Operational Definitions of Significant Terms
The following terms are defined as applied in the study:
i. Public Relations: A communication practice that establishes and maintains mutual understanding and relationship between two parties in order to have a peaceful co-existence.
ii. Management:This refers to a combination of human and material resources in order to achieve either a self or institutional goal
iii. Conference: This is a well-planned and organised discussion in a particular place between or among two or more parties for the purpose of arriving to an agreement on how to live a better life.
iv. Veritable:This refers to something that is special.
v. Tool: An instrument or implement either real or abstract that can be used to achieve a goal
vi. Eradicating:literarily, this means putting an end to something such as cultism
vii. Cultism: Cultism refers to a group of people who indulge in worship activities that is not part of any established religion. Their activities include occult practices such as initiations, blood covenant, oath taking, and stealing, killing, raping and other demonic activities.
viii. Tertiary:This refers to an advanced level of a practice or course.
ix. Institution: A large important organization that has a particular purpose, for example, a university or bank.
Asemah, E. (2012). Understanding Public Relations. Jos: Lizborn Press.
Asemah, E. (2011). Selected Mass Media Themes. Jos: Matkol Press.
Asemah, E. Gujbawu, M, Ekareafo, D. & Okpanachi, R. (2012).Research
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