There are very 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 with conclusions that are damning. I am neither a defender nor 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), to get him disqualified/discredited in the dying minutes of the (now postponed) 2016 Edo State gubernatorial elections.
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, assemblypersons 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, Commissioner (federal and state), Minister, Senator, Representative, Permanent Secretary (federal and state) General, Admiral, Governor (military and democratic) Director-General (federal and state), Vice-Chancellor, Ambassador / High Commissioner, Justice etc. What has Adams Oshiomhole got to say about this state of affairs?
This partial constitution of Nigeria’s elite corps in government with current and former UCGF members is not surprising considering these organisations recruit(ed) them at universities and other tertiary institutions of learning. Originally, UCGFs initiated only the best academically-preforming 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 started to initiate mostly thrash who could pay an ever-increasing subscription which was unfortunate for universities, students, students’ families and the wider society.
There is 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 of the members 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 and a heinous act that should not be tolerated in any space in society.
Nevertheless, some questions have not been answered 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.
Firstly, no name or evidence of a victim of the acid bath incidence was ever published in the media or by the university authorities, and no one was punished for the crime officially. It should raise many further questions. Secondly, 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. It 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 do something to look in control, and multiple rustications was a good tactic to them back then.
Many innocent students were wrongfully rusticated in such manner [with often disastrous effect] merely based on suspicion, though the majority were usually members of UCGFs. These facts and questions will not sit well with the members of the committee that recommend the rustication sanction at UniBen. If suspicion is equated 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.
Murderous coup plotters and ‘mad dog syndrome’ military commanders with blood on their hands are allowed to contest elections because they “were military men” at the time and “it is past”. Why should a Pyrate or other UCGF member be disqualified from contesting elections for being a member of an organisation he has not associated with for at least two decades? If some have given up on the UCGF, it is a plus for the moral fibre of society. The motive with which Adams Oshiomhole seeks to successfully discredit or get Osagie Ize-Iyamu disqualified from contesting elections because the latter was a former Pyrate is at best desperate. Fear.
If having past or current membership status of UCGFs is grounds for disqualification from holding office or contesting elections, it should be established as such through proper due process. We cannot rely on mudslinging, scandal and chance revelations to handle the matter. However, most people joined UCGFs as teenagers / young men in their early twenties, but similarly, countless members stopped their participation completely after graduating from university 30, 40, or 50 years ago.