Are Fraternities in Nigeria Cults? Try a Validated Checklist

It is almost a rule that is a member of the public you will encounter UCGFs (University Campus Grown Fraternities) and their members vehemently deny that they are cults or cult members, respectively, in any personal or media platform available to them. One would think that such is a practice of mere or strong ‘cult denialism’ because of the negative image it conjures in the minds of members of the public? Wrong.

In everyday Nigerian parlance, the dreaded word “cult” is habitually conflated and interchanged with the word the “occult”. It is where the mistake begins. As such many UCGF members and members of the public have not taken the time to find out what a cult is and are not aware they or those they love may be members of cults by proper definition and implication. Many cults are very secular and do not practice any religious, spiritual, magical or esoteric beliefs. Occultism is not a core characteristic of a cult at all.

Below, an authoritative checklist is presented, which demonstrates the core characteristics of cults that are readily identifiable by members of UCGFs and non-members. After reading through the checklist and ticking the boxes for cult characteristics, you can readily identify with a particular UCGF; you can then make up your mind by yourself if it is a cult or not. You might be amazed at what you discover.

Checklist of Cult Characteristics [1]

1.‪ The group displays an excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

2.‪ Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

3.‪ Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

4.‪ The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry. Or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

5.‪ The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a unique being, an avatar—or the group and the leader are on a special mission to save humanity).

6.‪ The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the broader society.

7.‪ The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

8.‪ The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

9.‪ The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

10.‪ Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

11.‪ The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

12‪. The group is preoccupied with making money.

13.‪ Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

14.‪ Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

15.‪ The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.


[1] Lalich, J & Tobias, M (2006), Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships; Bay Tree Publishing, Berkeley

Grimot Nane


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