Are Nigerians Dancing to a ‘Cult Anthem’? RxNews 17 December 2021

Criticism of ‘Ameno Amapiano’ has coincided with a documentary on cultism in Nigeria that The BBC’s Africa Eye aired on 13 December 2021.

‘Ameno Amapiano Remix’, a 2021 song by Nigerian musician, Goya Menór, and Ghanaian DJ, Nektunez, has gone viral months after its release. The original ‘Ameno’, was produced by French musician, Eric Lévi, and part of an album, ERA, released in 1996.

Released in June 2021, Menór’s amapiano remix has garnered mixed reactions. It has been danced to by Nigeria’s top celebrities, with musicians such as WizKid sharing the song on social media. The song has also hit the Top 20 Nigeria chart on Apple Music. Listeners have reacted on social media through a trend of dancing videos emphasizing the song’s chorus, with many now wondering what the song actually means.

According to a culture critic we spoke to, ‘the same people outraged about cultism are same people dancing to cultist anthem on TikTok. What was said on the track is “You want to Bam ba?” “Bam” is a “street term” for the initiation process for cults in Nigeria’. The source, who prefers to remain anonymous, told The Republic that he does not believe the song is cautioning people against cultism, as many have assumed. ‘It sounds like warning,’ the source said, ‘but it is really bragging.’

However, Menór’s Manager, Iyaji Stephen Adejo, told The Republic that: ‘The song is actually to warn people against cultism, and that cultism doesn’t guarantee your elevation in the society and you being successful.’

Criticism of the ‘Ameno’ remix has coincided with a documentary on cultism in Nigeria that The BBC’s Africa Eye aired on 13 December 2021. The BBC’s 50-minute documentary investigated the Black Axe cult’s operations in Nigeria. In the video, several Black Axe members broke their oath and confessed to their activities, including being involved in multiple murder cases and receiving political backing.

The BBC documentary has sparked a public debate about cultism in Nigeria. Cultism in Nigeria is generally believed to have emerged in the 1950s, loosely descending from the Pyrates confraternity founded at the University of Ibadan by seven students, including Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka.

Between 1996 and 2019, according to Ike Onyechere, founding chairman, Exams Ethic Marshall International, approximately 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in cult-related violence within and outside Nigeria’s tertiary institutions. As of 2019, Nigeria had over 40 different cult groups and over 12,000 cult chapters operating across its universities.

Cult groups recruit new members in various ways, including psychological manipulation and threats in universities and with teenagers often recruited from the streets. Nigeria’s ‘criminal code act’ penalizes cultism with three years in prison, while the ‘penal code act’ penalizes cultism with seven years in prison, and state governments are enforcing more stringent anti-cultism laws. Rivers State and Bayelsa State’s governments, respectively, imposed a 10-year prison sentence without the option of a fine in 2004 and 2012.

Earlier this year, the Lagos state government signed into law the ‘prohibition of unlawful societies and cultism of 2021’. This law calls for a 21-year prison sentence for convicted cultists in the state and seeks to punish the parents of any convicted cult members. The anti-cultism bill passed by the state’s house of assembly also mandates a 15-year prison sentence for anyone found guilty of abetting cultists and residents who willingly allow their property to be used as meeting places by cultists

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