Namadi Sambo is yet another victim of Wole Soyinka’s and the Pyrates Confraternity’s mischief. As an ambitious and bright student, in 1974 Sambo as an architecture undergraduate at Ahmadu Bello University (Nigeria) chose to join the Pyrates Confraternity. Namadi Sambo later became Governor of Kaduna State and subsequently the 13th Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We must understand that Islamic Northern Nigerians, particularly of the Hausa-Fulani stock rarely ever join University Campus Grown Fraternities (UCGF) since their ethos goes against the everyday sensibilities of Islam. Sambo’s (and others) interest as a Hausa-Fulani to join the Pyrates Confraternity seemed like a breakthrough in expanding the network of membership among Northerners. Nigeria is lucky today to have him alive considering the consequences of his initiation into the Pyrates Confraternity.
Initiation into the Pyrates Confraternity back then in the 1970s had an extreme emphasis on machismo and good grades. Severe beatings, trying endurance tests, and psychological humiliation was one part of the initiation. The other part was a test of intelligence which was slight since it was good exam grades that determined if you were admitted into the Confraternity or not. Sambo was a bright student. On initiation day, Namadi Sambo and a few others had the “Bloody Mary” to drink, and it made them unconscious. Miraculously, Sambo self-revived, the rest died. Sambo was not yet 20 years old at the time. If you think about it, the trauma and its memory is one thing Sambo could perhaps never live with comfortably even though it was in no way his fault or responsibility; the initiators were culpable. Sambo was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bloody Mary, the sally drink, of the Pyrates Confraternity was initially a cocktail of gin and tomato juice/pulp. Tomato juice/pulp did not keep well in tropical climates without refrigeration which was not common at the time. Ribena, the undiluted blackcurrant drink, soon replaced tomato juice as the main ingredient in Bloody Mary for convenience and other spirits were also used. In an attempt to increase the volume of the drinks, lighter alcoholic beverages like Guinness stout, palm wine, burukutu, pito were also added and to make up for taste flavourings were also mixed in. However, it was not the Ribena, alcohol or flavours that almost killed Namadi Sambo and certainly did others. It was the narcotics and aphrodisiacs that were the active ingredients; which was a routine practice.
All manner of narcotics and psychoactive drugs are present in the Bloody Mary at the brewing stage, which is often overnight. Barbiturates like Merital S, sedatives like ketamine and anti-psychotics Lagactil (perhaps to prevent vomiting) were common additives. These drugs were and are still readily available over-the-counter without prescription from the local chemist in Nigeria. The addition of the drugs was primarily to increase the intoxication potency of the drink.
There are the popular tales in the Confraternity of how in the 1970s Pyrates en masse would descend on Ashawo [Prostitutes] quarters after a sally, all of them seriously horny. The reason for that was the notorious aphrodisiac “yohimbine, popularly known as “Buran Tashe” [raised penis] would be added to the overnight brew of Bloody Mary. Some who experienced it would say it was the “Brotherly love” that made them think alike also made them all randy at the same time. In reality, it was the depersonalisation due to the effects of the narcotics and yohimbine. Today the Pyrates are more affluent and hire rooms in hotels and have women accompany them for sallies.
The Pyrates Confraternity maintains that it forbids members to smoke marijuana. Such is merely public relations. Some members have suffered expulsions from the Confraternity for smoking goof but no more than 0.01% of all users. In a very very special way, marijuana has the catholic reputation that it gives users poetic and dramatic inspiration, seriously. Nevertheless, cannabis has been a popular additive to bloody Mary Bloody; easy to detect, most find it difficult to complain.
Namadi Sambo since his initiation never returned to the Pyrates Confraternity; he was no ideal victim. It is interesting to know that after a 36-year absence and is the Vice President of Nigeria, the highest body within the fraternity, the Tortuguarde-in-Council led by Wole Soyinka personally appointed Sambo a member; he never showed up once nor allowed himself to be accessible. His cold-shoulder necessitated some Pyrates to call for him to be expelled permanently from the Confraternity. What bemusement! How do you expel someone who rejected you decisively for over three and a half decades, a person you nearly murdered. Such is the power of cult groupthink.
It is perhaps time to look at some non-high profile victims of the Pyrates Confraternity.