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 Federal Republic of Nigeria. It must be noted that Islamic Northern Nigerians particularly of the Hausa-Fulani stock rarely ever join University Campus Grown Fraternities (UCGF) since their ethos goes against the plain sensibilities of Islam. Sambo’s (and others) interest as an 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 then was purely based 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 really determined if you were admitted into the Confraternity or not. Sambo was a bright student. On initiation day, Namadi Sambo and a few others were given “Bloody Mary” to drink and it made them become comatose. Miraculously, Sambo self-revived, the rest of the others died. Sambo was not yet 20 then. 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 originally a cocktail of gin and tomato juice / pulp in th beginning. 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. To make up for increased volume lighter alcoholic beverages like Guinness stout, palm wine, burukutu, pito were also added and to make up for taste favourings were mixed in. However, it was not the Ribena, alcohol or flavourings that almost killed Namadi Sambo and certainly did others. It was the narcotics and aphrodisiacs that were added; a routine practice.

All manner of narcotics and psychoactive drugs are added to Bloody Mary in the brewing stage which is often overnight. Barbiturates like Merital S, sedatives like ketamine and anti-psychotics Lagactil (perhaps to prevent vomiting) were commonly used. 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 mere public relations. Some members have been expelled for smoking goof but no more than 0.01% of all users. In a very very special way, marijuana is reputed to give poetic and dramatic inspiration, seriously. Nevertheless, marijuana has been a popular additive to bloody Mary Bloody; easy to detect, difficult to complain about.

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 being 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 contacted. This 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.

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