Fraternities Are Viruses in Nigeria: Part 4

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 off 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 big 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 are infectious.

The initial 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 simply by their present 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, manager in a multinational corporation etc.

It must be strongly emphasised that as the initial chapter heads were doing well in their careers, they had a reasonably or even respectable professional approach to doing things. The administration of graduate chapters then was not serious work. The administration of the chapters quickly became extensions of the personalities of chapter 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 inordinate 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 became 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” or new members whispered “we have been duped”. The exodus of serious minded members began and those who stayed were not willing to aspire to becoming 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 on dealing with squabbles or infighting, preventing mutinies, dismissing truth tellers and meting out punishments. Nothing else.

It is most interesting that the widespread disaffection among members was quickly exploited the megalomaniacs and psychopaths (i.e. the Hard Men) within the UCGFs who would not have been able to aspire to positions of power; they took over completely. The Hard Men with very rare exceptions never did well at school, never did well in their careers, were never been known to be worthy of respect and many never ever had a formal graduate-level job even as self-employed.

The Hard Men who mostly joined UCGFs for exploitation reasons started to use the office of power within to make illicit money without. They craftily exploited the “mystique” of the UCGF to connect with public officials (some who were also UCGF members) in the public and private sectors in Nigeria and their psychopathic charm and calculations came in very handy.

While the Hard Men heads were loudly and ostensibly touting the message of “fighting the ills of society” and “sworn supporter of good causes” to the public and 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. This 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 a growing capacity and sophistication.

The victims of the Hard Men heads were members the unwitting public, naive funders / donors and their own members  who did the hard work volunteering and sacrificing much to achieve goals without any reward even moral. It all turned out to be an exploitation of strong beliefs members had in the tenets of UCGF.

Who will be the next victim or collaborator with the UCGF Hard Men? Is it you or your organisation?

Grimot Nane

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