By Agatha Emeadi

Buchi Atuonwu is a popular reggae gospel artiste, song writer and author who is set to unveil “a new Buchi, the writer, from Buchi the singer” as he turns 60 on June 24. 

Though he is not stepping down on singing, he now wants to raise the bar by writing books, articles, tracts, and journals. 

In this interview with Sunday Sun, Atuonwu who hails from Abia State regretted his yester-years cultism activities, saying that the school is, indeed, where minds are molded. 

He is, therefore, embittered with the general poor of the country’s educational system, the government, religious institutions, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the media for not living up to expectations in discharging their duties. 

Even as he had renounced and repented from activities of drugs-related offences and cultism many years ago, he advised mothers to keep their knees on the ground and pray for their children because they have the natural power to do so.  Excerpt:


What do you think about the present moral decadence among the youths?

When I talk about certain issues, I am not about exposing anyone. I am interested in exposing a system. A system that is recognizable when a young man sees and knows where the line is drawn. He should not cross it because many have crossed such lines and did not have the opportunity to come back. Honestly, there are many people languishing in jail whose crimes were negligible, but because they were found in the wrong company, there was no way they could absolve themselves. Such people would have done far less than what people in government and authority have done and got away with it. They have done far less than some of their friends, but they are still roaming the streets. In many ways we are responsible for the presence and sustenance of many vices, including cultism.

Who are the we: parents, school management/environment or society at large?

Blame it on the government, parents and society at large. There is culture being fed. When culture is fed, one sustains the culture. One cannot be encouraging me in a certain direction and at the same time discouraging me from wailing, then see the consequence of that direction. While not trying to give in to music, only God knows whatever that has happened to the censorship boards. Before something goes on air, it goes through some sort of vetting. When such standards are not met, one then should not go on air. Today, all kinds of things are now allowed on air. Things that are freely aired while the children listen and watch them. This freedom of airing allows rape, drugs and substances being mentioned and showcased to the hearing of the youths thereby promoting culture of violence, rivalry, debauchery, and chaos being celebrated. The videos of these are made and circulated. When private parts of a woman is made public and approved on air by the standard of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Truth be told, because on our screens, they are freely aired. How does one turn around and tell his children not to be involved in rape? After aggravating his imagination on TV, how do we celebrate cultist and think our children will not emulate them?

How do we celebrate cultism?

Cultists are people who have been known to be involved in cultism. We celebrate them in the entertainment industry, politics and government. The cultism we are seeing today, did we inherit it from our forefathers? No. It started once upon a time. Even if it was unintentional, even if it this was not the intention, what effort have we made to speak up and condemn the act? We have a National Orientation Agency (NOA) in every state, what efforts has it made to have repented cultists speak to the nation, expressing remorse at least in a bid to let the people know that they made mistakes. Instead, they and their lieutenants have held and hold positions in high places. When one celebrates evil, good is mocked. That is what is happening. We were being told by the action of many, inaction of the government that it is okay to be in cult, just don’t be caught. And even if you are caught with the right connections, one is out. When elected leaders submit to other forces that are not seen, one then asks who are those invisible king makers? What power do they wield over the elected officials? when faceless people exert power, using the people that we see as puppets and it is considered normal, one is saying that it is more important to control the person who sits on that seat remotely.

Is this all about God-fatherism?   

That is what one sees in God-fatherism, turn-by-turn government, when power is rationed according to an agreement that you and I are not aware of. That is what one sees when people who have been indicted before now, come back and hold positions of power and authority.

Is there any solution you could proffer as a blue-print for the government and people in authority to work with towards ending the era of cultism in high places?

The salt has lost its taste. One word I would have given is the word of God because the church hold so much power on the people. But because the salt has lost its taste, anarchy is looming. On daily basis and increasingly, one finds out that the voices against the church are getting louder. People are getting bolder in condemning and speaking against the church.

What activities of cultism could you recall, even though it’s in the past?

The greatest weapon and strength of cultism is its secrecy. I suggest the secrecy be removed and the cults be registered. If you want to be a cult group, register your members. There is no place that cults are registered which includes killing people, torturing, raping or getting people drunk; it’s not there. Instead, they would say, they have noble ideals, will fight ills of the society, fight against operations, protect the rights of the people and the weak. Let them be registered and do that which they said by legal and known means. It is just like asking an elected officers to be accountable, declare with their campaign funding. If we know who gave you money for campaign, we will know who you will be responsible to.

What do you think is the rate of cultism in schools now? Do you think their hit activities are over? 

To an extent, the rate seems to have reduced. Now, remember that these things are secret or supposed to be secret. It is only when trouble bursts you realize that the people you knew are members. One of the biggest shocks I had when I joined the cult was the faces I saw. All kinds of people across the society. They were people who, some I have interacted and related with. People whom I found to be nice boys around. I was shocked to find that all along as I was trying to join, they knew and they gave nothing away. I published a book entitled ‘Cease Fire’. Cease fire gives one a very clear understanding of the system across cults whether they are campus cults or societal cults. They are children of the same father, only by different mothers. There are relationships between all of them.

Kindly analyse that video that trended last year, where a group of men who tied red scarf in a long queue and sang Hand-de-shake, leg-de-shaken, Baba-wey-no-well, he-dey-shout-Emilokan… from that video, one can see that these weren’t student cultists?

They were the Pirate Confraternity who say they are not cultists anymore. They said they are not secret and not into violence. Again, they said they have wrapped up and folded all university campus chapters and totally out of the volatile areas and so to an extent that may be true. I know that long after they said they had done that, some elements in schools belonged to that fold. It is possible that now they are totally out, but there are new ones. If you have renounced, you have the responsibility to educate the people and admit when you make mistakes. A man can create a monster and the monster would outgrow him and he would no longer be able to control the monster. The cults have moved from the universities downwards to secondary schools and streets and even upwards too. It has gone into the streets such that people who are in possession of weapons now are people who do not have the mind to control them. A gun in the hand of an educated person is very different from a gun in the hand of an illiterate. If you give arms to someone whose mind is not prepared for self-control; if you give arms to someone whose mind is not educated to know when to draw the line, someone whose temperament is not circumcised, you are asking for trouble. Now we have weapons in the hands of people who do not understand restraint, who do not know where the lines are drawn, who seek their own and not any corporate interest, its chaos out there. If it is not happening already, I hope we do not get to the point where it would not cost mere N5,000 to hire an assassin because of the proliferations of arms.

When, as an undergraduate and cultist, was your mind trained?  

Not necessarily by the cult, but at least, we were students in school and subjects to the structure of the system. We had received some level of education and even the cult themselves had their system of training, very strong orientation.

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What are these orientations?

The dos and don’ts. When not to fight, not to reveal your identity no matter the provocation. When to disappear from the school, where to go underground, where to converge.

Can one reveal his cultism identity to his parents?

How can you do that? So many parents do not know their children because they do not have a real relationship with their children. They do not have rich communication with their children. If parents know and begin to communicate richly with their children, they would go a long way to safeguard their children and to guide them. Parents, please be involved in the lives of your children. Parents can still be friends with their children, yet, have no inkling about what goes on in their lives. When your children know they can tell you the truth without being killed, they will tell you the truth; you will be their biggest confidant. And that child will be saved from so much. It is likened to the word of God, if someone has the word of God, have constant communication with the spirit of God, it is difficult to err with daily direction and guidance. But when someone is away for two, three days, it becomes easier to stray away further. When one has not spoken to the Lord for a period, it becomes easier to do certain things that you would not have done; you will even be surprised yourself with the kind of things you could do. When one uses only governmental regulations to challenge cultism, you are carrying a knife to a gun-fight.

What then should the government do?

Very little. One might not understand the implication of what they are doing. In my book ‘Cease fire’, I see that there is a relation between the school cult and mermaid cult. There is a relationship between all of them. They are all children from the same father, but different mothers. When our children enter into all these, it becomes difficult to come out of it because when one talks about all these, they sound gory, but when you, a cultist, you will not believe it. There is nothing gory about him or her. He is a nice boy, gentle, well-spoken, seemingly harmless because there is no way to gauge the capacity of the mind to do evil. It is when it’s time to do evil, that is when to know the capacity of that good looking boy.

Are you saying nothing can trace a cultist physically?

No. Except they carelessly give themselves away. That is why they get to strange places and easily identify themselves. You will be shocked the way they identify each other.

Why do cultists who promise to save the weak and do noble things turn around and perpetrate evil?

It is the same way political parties give manifesto, and fail to live by it. It is all about public-sweet-talk. Again, concealing the evil that is within with a beautiful front. It is the pattern of satan and very consistent.

As a cultist then, did you have close shave with death?

I cannot count how many times. God’s grace was upon me, maybe I didn’t know or I knew, but all I know was that my mother’s knees was on the ground praying all the time. I have said to women severally, your knees on the ground for your children before your maker is stronger than the machinations of the enemy against them. Mothers can pray back their children because they have the spiritual jurisdiction over them. Mothers have the power to do it. Whenever I share my story, I am not surprised that what people picks out will always be the sensational part of the story. That gave me an input that people are not listening to learn, instead they are looking for something extra-ordinary to use. I am speaking to the generation who watch a man in his 70s trying to jump into the lagoon to death, instead of rescuing him, his jumping video would trend on social media and it is termed content creating. Today, our society is breeding animals; if one wonders how people in Sierra Leone and Liberia were able to amputate their fellow countrymen, do not look far. They are here with us. The people who glory in blood are here being celebrated by the social media for us. A whole lot of people who are reading you are looking for some sort of sensation. This must exactly be what Jesus saw and called those people a generation of vipers.

What are the regrets in joining cultism?

The regrets is that we lost it in schools and that is why the issue of cultism hurts me so much. What happens in the universities hurt me so much. I am pained, concerned and interested in it because that is where minds are molded. I was very happy to hear that JAMB is being written to accommodate police academy. I have been requesting for a Police university to be created, so that people who carry gun to secure us would have a certain level of intellectualism and enlightenment. When these armed minds are not educated, it is a problem. The only institution that would have made a difference is the church. I have seen churches re-culture minds. I saw people I left in cultism repent and regret. I have seen the word of God break, remold and re-culture people and so my faith in the church grew to believe that this is one remaining hope for the people until our educational system is restored.

What finally do you think is the way forward?

Strengthen the church, national orientation agencies and our education. Let them not just be political positions, let them be out with information that can re-culture the society. Strengthen the carriers of information. The word of God educates, enlightens and equips the mind. So, when the church is desecrated and the teaching is taken away, being replaced with other diabolical, pecuniary transactions and kill the word. Such people might be getting it all wrong.

Was there any gain in being a cultist or rather why do people join cults?

People have risen to power through cultism. When a cultist heads any leadership position, his members definitely would be his key people. Some may have left the university, diversify, reformed, renounced violence, but arming the members is akin to arming cultists because then if they’re in power, guns, fighting tool find their ways into their members in schools, there may be mayhem. They need alliance when there is face-off in school, other campuses would join to do the dirty job. Educating our children remains one of the key solutions. Educating them is not only to teach in classrooms, but to let them see what their society do. Strengthen the National Orientation Agency, purge the media of the various slang that has spread across. It is through the media especially the radio which is a powerful tool for communication that most of the slang thrives. Years ago, there was a song like “Time na money oo, use your time well, do better thing, money no dey fall from heaven, do better thing, money go come, na true word I dey tell you so, orimando.” I do not think anyone owns a cassette or CD to this song, it was a radio jingle, but decades later, the lines could be remembered. Such lyrics form some decision-making. The national orientation, media, television, movies, arts have spread poor and bad influence across border; educating our public negatively. National Orientation Agency has work to do. Every society has a soul, and as the soul is fed, progress comes with it.

Do you think we can still save the society?

What happened to when Andrew was about checking out? But someone stopped him from checking out, but we are in the era of Japa where no one remembers the Andrew of the 80s. People can still agree, understand and believe that stealing could change and positivity replaces the stealing.

What suggestions and solutions would you like to proffer?

If I may suggest, I will invest money in education not necessarily in the university, but Nollywood could be one. Nollywood could be that school where someone would deliberately write scripts to educate the mind, make movies that would re-write mindsets. Television stations told musicians that nudity is the brain behind the music, it will not sell because that is not what people want to see. They are no longer structured to give the people value. And all these are the ones speaking into the lives of our children. The growth of the gospel is very slow because the strategies are wrong. But the battle is not outrightly lost.

Advice to the young boys?

Stay away from drugs, weed and violence. Again, stay away from anything that could make you unaccountable for your time. The biggest damage that drug could do to a child is not just the scientific deterioration of the capacity of the mind, it is also the company it could bring them into. Drugs would bring you into company you did not plan for. The kind of people you will meet through drugs will be the exact people that your parents warned you against. Drugs slow one down, if you stay on drugs, your mates will be far higher than you. Drugs slow one down. Make your parents your friend. At 60, it will be the unveiling of a new Buchi the writer from Buchi the singer. His major focus will be on writings. Will write books, tracts, articles and journals.