Fraternities Are Viruses in Nigeria: Part 4 – The Deviation

Gang members Trig and Mack photographed on the council estate where they live in east London Wednesday, 16 September 2009. Ph: Rebecca Reid

Most University Campus Grown Fraternities (UCGFs) started as idealistic brotherhoods with the reverie of changing some aspects of society. Most founding members never really believed it would achieve its aim, become a prominent phenomenon or even become a menace to society (which they have become). Most of the young founders were academics and intellectuals, but none were good organisers; “Frankenstein’s monster” came too early. The plethora of organisational failures that came to plague UCGFs is infectious.

The first heads of the UCGFs’ “graduate chapters” (i.e. members who had graduated from university) were able to mask the irredeemable organisational incompetence and failures of the UCGF that emerged from the founding days only by their immediate career success. And it was very flattering to the UCGF to have a “chapter head” that was a senior lecturer at a university, assistant commissioner of police, magistrate in a court, lieutenant colonel in the army, under-secretary in the ministry, or a manager in a multinational corporation.
It should be an issue of note that as the first chapter heads were doing well in their careers, they had a reasonable or even respectable professional approach to doing things. However, the administration of graduate chapters then was not serious work, and it quickly became extensions of the personalities of their heads and not entrenched in any all-inclusive written code and constitution. It was bound to end in amorphous leadership for the UCGFs and failure.
However, mostly due to the excessive lust for money and power, which most founding members did not mind, UCGFs went in the direction of the mass initiation of countless new members. The consequences were twofold. First, the quality of the new initiate was increasingly far below that of the founding members. Second, the organisation became increasingly complex to manage since the reasons for new members joining were increasingly self-centred, and the [collective] interest of members grew increasingly disparate. The convergence and consensus enjoyed by the founding members and their immediate successors became elusive.
The immediate and enduring response to complexities and organisational failures was many members complained: “this is not what we or originally joined”. New members whispered, “we are marks of a grand deception”. The exodus of serious-minded members began, and those who stayed were not willing to aspire to become chapter heads or officers. The serious-minded members had their families and careers to manage. Furthermore, being chapter head or officer meant spending at least 90% of their administration inputs (time, money and energy) on dealing with disputes or infighting, preventing mutinies, dismissing truth-tellers, collecting money, initiating substandard members and meting out punishments—nothing else.
The widespread disillusionment among members was quickly subject to exploitation by the bad guys and psychopaths (i.e. the Cheaters). Within the UCGFs, many who would not have been able to aspire to positions of power took over completely. It was an unfortunate vacuum that needed was open for a filling. The Chaters with rare exceptions never did well at school, never did well in their careers, were never known to be worthy of respect, and many never had a formal graduate-level job even as self-employed.
The Cheaters who mostly joined UCGFs for exploitation reasons started to use the office of power within to make illicit money on the outside. They craftily exploited the “mystique” of the UCGF to connect with public officials (some who were also UCGF members) in public and private sectors in Nigeria and their psychopathic charm and calculations came in very handy.
The Cheaters were loudly and ostensibly touting the message of “fighting the ills of society” and “sworn supporter of good causes” to the public. They were also busy coercing most members under their watch to do the hard work necessary for their unachievable quests; they were busy lining their pockets, securing contracts and positioning themselves in the political machinery. It was mostly on behalf of the UCGF that never saw a kobo of the money. Chapter heads and officers thus became a permanent minor part of the corruption structure in Nigeria and with growing capacity and sophistication.
The victims of the Cheaters in power were often members of the unwitting public, naive funders/donors and their members. They did the hard work volunteering and sacrificing much to achieve goals without any reward or even moral satisfaction. It all turned out to be an exploitation of fanatic beliefs members had in the tenets of UCGF.
Who will be the next victim or collaborator with the UCGF Cheaters? Is it you or your organisation?
Grimot Nane

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