Nathaniel Oyelola: 1928-2021

May 31, 2021 | Articles

Many remarkable people exit this earthly plane everyday, but not all of them reassure our faith in humanity the way Engr Nathaniel Oyelola did. From the maiden voyage of the Pyrates Confraternity in 1952/1953, at University College, Ibadan, till his last days, he remained stoically committed to the eternal humanistic and chivalric ideals to which he and the rest of the Original Seven founders swore, and upon which our great confraternity was built.

Engr Nathaniel Oyelola was a very dependable pillar of support as the Pyrates Armada navigated its unique history, mostly dealing with uncharted waters in its evolution from Nigeria’s first campus fraternity to an international organisation committed to global social advocacy. The timeless creed he and his peers formulated as young men in an era of African renaissance, at the peak of the struggle against colonialism and at the height of agitations for political independence by Nigeria and many other nations across Africa, have continued to inspire altruism and a culture of service both to our nation Nigeria, and humanity in general.

What indeed started off as an effervescent radical reaction of seven young and idealistic young men at University College, Ibadan, armed with a tint of genius snowballed gladly, in his lifetime, into a global movement irrevocably committed to the advancement of a fairer world for the entire humanity.

Through the power of personal example Engr Oyelola continued to mentor generations of Pyrates on our fraternal commitment to selfless service to disadvantaged and oppressed communities, and to the protection of the weak and the defence of the voiceless who are on the fringes of society. He had compassion for education particularly that of underprivileged children all over Nigeria. A review of his life is a study of humility, compassion for the weak, self discipline, personal accountability, and the courage to resist passivity, but rather intervene compellingly and cause a change where and when necessary. His life was indeed a testimony to an unyielding commitment to the common good. His principles of moderation is central to the lessons he taught us, including the recognition of our conscience as the ultimate compass that should guide our actions. More importantly, in living true to these principles, he has left behind an eternal legacy of moral and social accountability that will inspire generations of people, Pyrates and non-pyrates alike, in many years to come.

During our visits to fraternise with him every now and then as the years wound down, and the frailty of age conquering as it is wont to do, we will not forget the advisory on the need for the rare silent deference for the other in times of conflict. These cherished lessons continue to shape our understanding of forbearance and tolerance, and keeps reinforcing the need to subdue ego beneath the deck, in conformity with the timeless doctrines that he and the other members of the Original Seven bequeathed to us.

Papa’s strength of character and sterling insight were a gift so rare. His patience and profound wisdom will be an eternal spring from which we will gulp endlessly as we make our way without him. The Pyrates Armada will never be the same without him, but the memories of his words and deeds will never fade, just like the inspiration of his leadership and personal examples will never wane.

Broken as we are on his final anchor, we count it an immense blessing to have experienced him. His contributions in shaping the pyratical essence will remain evergreen in pyratical memory for all time. As we say goodbye, be assured that the struggle for the attainment of a just, humane, egalitarian and progressive society will continue undeterred for generations to come, chiefly because he came along and dared to do!

As a result of the privilege we had to have encountered him, and through the enduring lessons we have learnt from him, it will remain crystal clear to us and to generations yet to come, that it is neither silver nor gold that sets the pyratical sail, but it is the pursuit of a just, egalitarian and progressive society that raises our black jacks, and that it is the quintessential courage to “dare and do”, which his life came to typify, that sets the pyratical sail.

Aye Captain! As we sayled on earth, so shall we sayle in heaven! Sayle on till we meet again around the bonfire in Elysium.

Abiola Owoaje 
NAS Cap’n
National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity)

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