RIGHT TO REPLY – “We regret forming Pirate Confraternity”
On 23 February 2005, you published an article headed “We regret forming Pirate (sic) Confraternity”. The article was written by one Adebayo Aderoju and appears to be anchored upon views that emerged from an interaction with Professor Muyiwa Awe. Professor’s Awe’s historical connection, from 1952, with others that led to the formation of the Pyrates Confraternity is common knowledge. So is the revered Professor’s own publicly expressed view about his parting of ways with the organisation. Adebayo Aderoju’s article, we may note in passing, also relies on yet another source, namely the book: Ibadan Voices: Ibadan University in Transition. This makes it all the more surprising that he failed to make use of the correct spelling of the word ‘Pyrates’ as deliberately adopted by the founders of the organisation, and maintained till now.
We have allowed some time to pass since the publication of that article in order to see whether there would be any further clarification from source, since we were at a loss to understand just who or what initiated this abrupt interest in the original fraternity. Since none has been forthcoming, we must conclude that the article sets out the views both of Mr Aderoju and Professor Awe. Our intention here is principally to draw attention not only to the inaccuracies in the said article but also to observe that it is a defamatory and irresponsible journalism. We believe that it would have been appropriate to have sought our views in order to present a corrective account of what has been gratuitously distorted by your writer.
We are sure that you are fully aware of this organisation’s distinguished antecedents particularly as you have, yourselves, covered several of our activities in the past. We remind you of some recent instances. In November 2004 you carried details of the petition we wrote and served on the Senate Presidency; Speaker of the House of Representatives and Governor Donald Duke of Cross River State urging the Federal Government to conduct a plebiscite to determine where the people of Bakassi wanted to belong (see This Day November 2004). On 31 December 2004, you covered our activities in relation to the memorial of 6 of our members who were slain by the police in unlawful circumstances in December 1983. This involved contributions made at a public lecture on that occasion in relation to the Police in Nigeria (see This Day, 31 December 2004). On 14 February 2005, you published our press release on the ongoing National Political Reform Conference entitled National Dialogue; How National? On 28 February 2005, you published coverage of our annual Feast of Baracuda in Enugu, Enugu State where the theme, Nigerian Criminal Justice System was extensively discussed and the case clearly articulated for an urgent intervention into the dehumanising conditions of prisons and prisoners in the country. The examples we cite are only within the last 12 or so weeks. We continue to declare ourselves ready, in the future, to assist you in presenting, as fully as possible, accounts of our activities that will truthfully educate the public regarding just what we are, and what we stand for.
Now, to the inaccuracies. First the claim that apart from Professor Wole Soyinka none of the founding Seven remains active in the organisation is, to say the least, astonishing. This, with respect, is a crass lie. We confirm that two other original members of the organisation continue not only to be linked with but also associate and remain active within the organisation. We can also affirm that the departed three – the most recent of whom was the famous broadcaster, Ralph Opara – died ‘in active service’ and was given a befitting send-off by the Confraternity, as can be attested by his widow and family.
Your writer’s comments that represent personal opinion strike us as narrow, unsubstantiated and sensation seeking. We are concerned however where such opinions are conveyed as seeming facts and create the unpleasant impression of an attempt to confuse issues in the public mind. We take issue with some of the factual accounts upon which the article is raised only to the extent that they appear to represent views other than the opinions of either the writer or his sources.
From that position, we call attention to two issues that have given rise to this article. The first is discernible from the attempt to closely identify the organisation that was formed in 1952 in the University of Ibadan, one that now enjoys both national and international membership, with those unspeakable entities that exist in the tertiary institutions. The National Association of Seadogs has consistently proclaimed that it has no existence in schools or universities of any description. The decision to withdraw from campuses was made in 1984 and embraced both primary (campus) and national bodies. Do note also the national body of NAS came into being in 1978.
From 28 July 1984, the primary arm of the organisation was proscribed completely. The whole nation was put on notice as advertorials and news announcements were made. Simply put, our organisation does not exist in any form in schools, universities or any institution of higher learning and we challenge anybody to produce evidence to the contrary. Any campus organisations that claims association with NAS is illegal and should be firmly dealt with by university authorities. Since any such have no connection to us, we have no control over such a situation. To contend, by some perverse quirk of reasoning, that we could stop the acts of pervert clubs on campus is to arrogate to us responsibilities and control far beyond rational comprehension. It is illogical to suggest that there is any situation in which one can be held responsible for impostors. NAS deplores the existence of those organisations and, together with anyone else whose interest it is to see that this situation is brought to an end, would support any measures that are designed to achieve this result. As we stated recently (see The Sun of 28 August 2004); -
“it is illogical to expect that we can bear any responsibility for those who illegally put themselves forward as our members. That is a law enforcement responsibility. It is also incumbent on the institutions to take proactive steps to deal with those whose actions offend their rules and regulations. Those who break the law must, we have always insisted, be prosecuted to the full extent of the laws of the land, without exception”.
To place the burden of impersonation on the victim of such criminality is so warped as reasoning that we can only wonder that any thinking individual can attempt to sustain it. The nation is riddled with impersonators of police, military, customs, and religious entities. No one has yet taken the authentic bodies to task for the acts of such criminals. Those who seek to assert the opposite face merely raise question marks on their rational competence.
The prevalence of violence in the educational system in the country is to be seriously deplored and systematically confronted. It was the prevalence of this situation that constrained us to dissolve our existence in those institutions, remembering that at the time, membership of the fraternity on campus was less than 30 percent of the total membership nationwide. Our organisation foresaw the recent situation as long ago as July 1984, over 20 years ago. Those who suggest, without evidence, that there is connection between the formation of our organisation and what developed in the early 80’s and has prevailed, to date in waves of terror and wanton violence have failed abysmally to explain, with any lucidity, how our organisation has contributed to this process. The real reason for this failure is obvious, as Professor Wole Soyinka so aptly put it in the "Descent of the Barbarian and the end of the Collegial", a lecture he delivered in honour of the then retiring Justice Kayode Eso, when, in commenting again, upon the persistent linkage of the PC with the "cult culture", he said
"...Those who blame today’s advent of the barbarians on the first college fraternity –the Pyrates - that was founded in this nation, perhaps on the entire continent, merely advertise themselves as moral cripples who try to ward off bad news by fabricating distant alibis. It is far more honest to confess a failure of social will than to seek excuses in some distant origin, one that bears virtually no resemblance to the conduct of mimic upstarts. Such commentators may believe that they know their history, but it is fragmented and superficial history, distorted by the psychosis that goes with surrender to evil forces. Even more critically and relevantly to the collective responsibility of finding a solution, they acknowledge a dangerous ignorance of the society they live in, or the ability to situate a malaise in its appropriate social context. They ignore the contextual workings of social decadence, such as how even time-honoured institutions - philanthropic, cultural, all the way to the modern NGOs - are being impersonated by corrupt versions in tune with the total collapse of society. Nothing lasts in this nation, nothing. Religious institutions – be they Moslem or Christian – are filled with charlatan offshoots, many of which are demonic variants, or else purely commercial ventures, marketing sanctimoniousness with the same sales patter as the vendor of designer clothes or cosmetics…"
We take the view that this comment is one of the most mordant responses to those who hold those views about our organization delivered by its most influential advocate.
Professor Awe’s right to entertain regret about his involvement in the formation of the organisation is a position to which he is entitled. What we as an organisation do resent, in the strongest possible terms, is the attempt to create the impression that the organisation formed in 1952 metamorphosed into those responsible for perpetrating some of the most bestial acts ever experienced in our tertiary institutions. We will never tire of refuting this position or continue to demand the strictest proof from detractors. We have said enough in this respect to enjoy the entitlement of being left alone to continue to pursue our extremely noteworthy social objectives.
Let the nation also take note that it is on record that our organisation has spent time and resources in seeking to assist successive national and state governments by providing what we consider to be workable suggestions which, taken in tandem with others, would have introduced a more effective method of combating the problems of criminal campus cults. We expect to be making additional contribution to the ongoing national conference in this and a number of other respects. We also feel, additionally, that those who believe that the seriousness of the problem is such that functional measures should be implemented can and should be encouraged to do so without the necessity of demonising references to our organisation. Such activities are mere distractions, a cover-up for the lack of workable ideas. We are confident that such reference will have little significance on the viability of the proposals that emerge from such an exercise.
In this connection - and we state this in all responsibility - the government may wish to demand of our institutions how the funds that were disbursed to them some years ago for the eradication of campus cults were utilised. We shall have more to say directly on this issue. It is important that the nation be made aware how serious, frivolous or cynical has been the approach of some our institutions of learning to a menace that constitutes the greatest internal challenge that has ever confronted the university idea.
We express, in advance, our gratitude to you for giving this response the same prominence that you gave to the original article.
ANDREW OBINNA ONYEARU
National Association of Seadogs (NAS)
7th March 2005