Osagie Ize-Iyamu Was A Pyrate, So What?
There are few people on record who have been more critical of University Campus Grown Fraternities (UCGFs) in Nigeria, including the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) a.k.a. the Pyrates Confraternity (PC) than myself. I have written a score of articles [on this publication] that question the existence, motives, evolution and modus operandi of UCGFs. The conclusions are damning. I am neither a defender nor a supporter of UCGFs. We may, however, take strong exception to Governor Adams Oshiomhole (APC) using the [former] membership of NAS in a smear campaign against Osagie Ize-Iyamu, from an opposing party (PDP). A ploy just to get him disqualified/discredited in the dying minutes of the (now postponed) 2016 Edo State gubernatorial elections. Such an act hitting far below the belt. Bianimikaley!
In President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet of ministers, there is at least one former Pyrate. And at least one member of other UCGFs. The same is true for Buhari’s special corps of bureaucrats. Again, the same is true for All Peoples Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators, representatives, assembly persons and appointees (federal and state) in varying proportions.
Ever since the First Republic of Nigeria, Pyrates have held the office of Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Commissioner (federal and state), Minister. Also held by Pyrates are the offices of Senator, Representative, Permanent Secretary (federal and state) General, Admiral, Governor (military and democratic). And Director-General (federal and state), Vice-Chancellor, Ambassador / High Commissioner, Justice etc. What has Adams Oshiomhole got to say about such a reality?
In this our partial constitution of Nigeria’s elite corps in government with current and former UCGF members is not surprising. We must consider that these organisations recruit members at universities and other tertiary institutions of learning. Originally, the initiations by Pyrates were for only the best academically performing and the most independent-minded students. Those are the kinds of people who usually end up occupying a high office in any land. Later on, UCGFs would recruit mostly trash. Trash who could pay an ever-increasing subscription. Thus, results of such was unfortunate for universities, students, students’ families and the wider society.
Now, there was the infamous incidence of a student being bathed with acid at the University of Benin (UniBen) as a result of UCGF rivalry during the 1983/84 academic session. It is not by coincidence the Prof Itse Sagay was one member of the committee that rusticated Ize-Iyamu and others for suspected involvement in the “acid bath” incidence. The incidence was a terrible one, especially for the victim. It was a heinous act society should never tolerate in any of its spaces.
Nevertheless, there are some questions we are yet to answer about the event even after three decades. Why was the matter not handed over to the police at the time and the suspected culprits appropriately prosecuted? Can Prof Sagay stake his towering reputation as a truly outstanding legal expert and say he could categorically declare that Ize-Iyamu was directly or indirectly involved in the acid bath incidence with concrete evidence? We need to know.
First, no names of culprits or evidence of a victim of the acid bath incidence was ever published in the media or by the university authorities. And they issued no punishment under due process in court for the crime. That should raise many further posers. Second, did the committee rusticate Ize-Iyamu and others based on irrefutable evidence? Or was it based on the common trend that was happening at several universities at the time? The trend was to rusticate students after a violent incidence primarily because their names were “found” on a “compiled list” of UCGF members? Rustications were never alternative convictions of a crime. The university authorities had to look in control, and multiple rustications were a good tactic to them back then.
The wrongful rustication of many innocent students in such a manner (with often disastrous effect) was merely based on suspicion. Though were many were usually members of UCGFs. These facts and inquiries will not sit well with the members of the committee that recommend the rustication sanction at UniBen. If we equate suspicion to the burden of proof, it is because it is Nigeria. Interestingly, we are neither judge nor jury, but we know what justice is all about.
In contrast, we have murderous coup plotters and ‘mad dog syndrome’ military commanders with blood on their hands. Nevertheless, the constitution allows them to contest elections because they “were military men” at the time and “it is past”. Why should the constitution of public opinion disqualify a Pyrate or other UCGF member from contesting elections for being a member of an organisation. Moreover, it is an organisation he has not associated with for at least two decades., maybe three. If someone has quit an UCGF and never looks back, it is a plus for the moral fibre of society. The motive with which Adams Oshiomhole seeks to discredit or get Osagie Ize-Iyamu disqualified from contesting elections because the latter was a former Pyrate is desperate and weak. Fear.
If having former or current membership status of UCGFs is grounds for disqualification from holding office or contesting elections, the government should establish it as such. Yes, through proper due process. We cannot rely on mudslinging, scandal and chance revelations to handle such matters. That said, most people joined UCGFs as teenagers / young men in their early twenties. Such times are the prime age of adventure, experimentation, peer imitation. But similarly, countless members ceased their participation completely after graduating from university 30, 40, or 50 years ago.
And that’s about it.
Osagie Ize-Iyamu Was A Pyrate, So What? Let us ask the question again. And again.