Revisiting the University of Port Harcourt ‘Gang War’

On the 3rd of June, pandemonium erupted at the University of Port Harcourt. The next day, The Sun came up with the broad headline GANG WAR, describing the incident as cult related. The truth of the matter of course is that the incident of that fateful day was cult related. It eventually led to the death of Dr. Ikezam of the Education faculty, a market woman, and two members of the cult team that struck. It was a very sad day in the history of the University of Port Harcourt that showed mindless and aimless shooting by the cultists. Prior to that particular incident, other cult activities in the school unfold by the cultists focusing their firepower on selected individuals. This senseless and targetless shooting has become a new dimension to the cult activities in the University of Port Harcourt.

A few weeks before the incident that led to the death of Dr. Ikezam, and during this year’s matriculation exercise (precisely on the 20th of May), UNIPORT had witnessed a similar incident on a more psychopathic level. A security official of the school informed me that during the night of the matriculation day, that some cult members had tried to force their way into the Unipark, Abuja campus of the school, but were stopped by security officials of the Abord Security Services. Later, they engaged the Chief Security officer of the school in a shootout. Checked, the cultists had taken another path through the Aluu area of the school, and had come out at the Nelson Mandela hostel area where they started shooting indiscriminately. That particular action resulted to two fatalities with some others injured. It is yet unconfirmed if the other injured students eventually made it.

It is interesting that the matriculation day incident was not made official. It is also interesting that, according to The Sun the school’s Public relations officer Mr. William Wordi had initially denied that the 3rd of June incident took place. One of the questions that one feels called upon to ask is; why this resort to indiscriminate shooting? Why this new trend of wanton disregard for the sanctity of human life?

Cult activities of course, are not new in this country. After all, one seldom witnesses a cult-activity free semester in any of our institutions of higher learning. Only the other day, the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (a school that I term the home of cult activities in the country) witnessed the determined and high on the scale murder of a young man by cultists who had began by first taking his car, seizing his phones and laptops, persistently warning him to stay clear and finally, deciding that since he had refused to budge, that he must be eliminated. Reports on the manner in which this young man was murdered are benumbing.

Cult activities as I said earlier are not news any longer. I am however more concerned with the new trend that I have identified that seems to be emerging from UNIPORT. It is that resort to indiscriminate shooting that makes me panic.

I have been made to understand that Ikezam’s murder was not inadvertent. It has been said that the murder was purportedly prompted by his victimization of some students who felt that they needed to pay back hatred for hatred. If that is the complete truth, then one can say that Ikezam has paid the price for the hatred he planted. It does not matter if he was legitimate in perpetrating the hatred. What matters is that he had failed to convincingly show that his motives were not banal victimization as most University lecturers are wont to do. I know of a certain professor from the same university who had ruined the dreams of a student by denying him of opportunities that were granted to another student. It is hard to believe that the professor’s action was officially motivated since it is clear that all official motivations must occasion the same treatment to all students. Where exceptions are visible, then it is easy to see that victimization has become the case. It is possible that since the victimized student cannot pick up arms and fight the professor, that he would have executed the professor in his heart. If he was able to pick his gun and seek redress(which seems to be the only viable means of getting redress for wrongs perpetrated by the high and mighty) for the professor’s victimization, perhaps either he or the professor would be dead by now.

What is evident then is that the violent activities of most of our youths are prompted by the need to pay back hatred for hatred. What baffles me though is the emerging case of indiscriminate shooting which results to the death of innocent bystanders. I am concerned particularly with the current loss of respect to the dignity of human life which has led to some indiscriminate shootings. It seems to me that this new style is a result of a sense of growing frustration that has continued to eat up our youths thus making them perceive senseless violence as a means of releasing the smouldering fumes of anger and frustration that we have all helped build perhaps inadvertently (I rather believe we have consciously planted this hatred, and carelessly fanned it to its current state).

Recently, one notices a gradual destruction of youth hood. Thus most of our children grow from childhood, straight to adulthood. This is clearly because while we show love to our little children, and respect and tolerance to the adults, we reserve only disgust and contempt for our youths. At the most, all we can feel for them is a strong sense of evaluation, with a ready made criticism of failure at hand. We easily forget these words of advice handed down by a youth some years back:

I told ya last album, we need help cause we dying

Give us a chance, help us advance cause we trying

Ignore my whole plea, watching us in disgust.(Tupac)

Our youths are endangered species. The symbolic thing about this class of endangered species is that its extinction does not exclude the extinction of other species. The extinction of this specie must be followed by the destruction of all humanity. This is because, in destroying themselves, our youths must drag both the older and the younger generations with them. Take for instance the emerging trend of indiscriminate shooting. If this becomes rampant, one can only shudder at the results that will follow.

This situation is what America passed through many years back but failed to address properly. Today, the VaTech shootings, the recent shooting spree in Washington which claimed about six lives, and other similar incidents of psychopathic and indiscriminate shooting point to the price that country is paying. We have always been a country of people who address dire issues only when they get out of hand. Perhaps, we should allow this to blow out of proportion before we become committed to checking it.

Now is the time to show some love to the youths of this country in general. It is not the time to focus on the youths of particular ethnic groups. A little love and care for their travails will go a long way in restoring the respect for human life that our once communal society championed. Alternatively, we could let the hate destroy us all. As the late black American rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur would avow, “The Hate U Gave Little Infants F-U-C-K-S Everybody.” (Shakur used this to form the acronym THUGLIFE).

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