Pirate-Captain Entities and Democracy
There is a keen fascination among young men, most at leading schools and universities around the world, with the “captain-pirate” mode. Its germ is of rebellion or disobedience against the injustices and excesses of the status quo in society. It is not surprising. The literal meaning of a pirate and the piratical life is one of thieves and the means of thieving, respectively. Its contextual significance is in fraternal orders of young men and is consanguineous with the metaphor of Robin Hood. Stealing from the rich or powerful to give to the poor. The young or seasoned pirate, as he swears a solemn oath at his initiation, under the guidance of his captain, thus becomes an agent of social justice in society. Political means not excluded.
The evolution of the captain-pirate mode of fraternal organisation has failed in Nigeria to remain relevant. It even faces obsolescence and has become no better than a ship that lost its rudder, ripped its sails. And steered by the mercy of the tides and winds of the sea. Such is tragic since we need more and more competent actors and voices to help Nigeria’s struggling democracy mature. That is, with the hands of the masses holding it. But how have captain-pirate groups in other parts of the world remained potent political entities in their democratic societies, whether for good or evil?
In some democratic societies, fraternal organisations with captain-pirate backgrounds perpetrate a theft that is neither illegal, immoral, nor excessive. It is admirable. The theft of “political space” is what captain-pirate fraternities used to fight for social justice and other goals on behalf of the general society. Balfour once said, “democracy is the governance by discussion”, no one denies this. Several observers recognise that for one to get a significant piece of space on the political turf and have one’s voice heard untrammelled is a problem.
Captain-pirate entities invariably have meagre resources, so they must steal political space [by temporary occupation within it when necessary]. From there, they can project their voice through unorthodox methods. Such is possible because they are supposed to be “liberated” and possess “liberated minds.” They must muster a mindset that can solve serious problems with minimal resources within a democracy.
Some might question, elsewhere or in Nigeria, what effect will stealing valuable political space or getting their collective voice heard have on governance? Or How it matters in securing significant social justice for the wider society? First, all changes in society begin with discussion. Even in autocratic or totalitarian ones [that is why they silence it]. Useful information and misinformation are instruments that achieve this goal by creating “memes” that have broad persuasion. The captain-pirate entities must start “meme battles” that are just as, if not more persuasive than those of government and the vested interests that back them. The unfortunate thing is pirate-captain entities in Nigeria are often autocratic themselves.
The government may produce a meme that insists the current youth drug epidemic in Nigeria is not their fault. In contrast, the captain-pirate folds have to provide a counter-meme that will hold the government to account, with facts and persuasion. If the government launches a meme that it cannot create jobs because of low oil prices. Again, the captain-pirate entities should sponsor a meme that the government must diversify the economy soon. And with practical and winning approaches. When he powerful lose space to the weak through piratical action, democracy becomes less captured by entrenchment within.
Second, captain-pirates’ folds can stage civil disobedience coups. These coups happen and sometimes do only to be undone by the very leaders of the group. The reasons for such self-sabotage contradict the purpose or tenets of the organisation.
Any group that can operate with regular and consistent commitment to gain considerable political space and voice will have a significant influence on the governance of society. Trade unions, though now hampered, could once agitate with much success for the rights, welfare and well-being of workers through their activities within political space and their voice. Time is the overall challenge and logical conclusions are necessary. African nationalist movements achieved independence from colonialists, also through political space and voice. However, the goal of the captain-pirate outfits, as they claim, is improving social justice in society. With the proper focus and energy, the captain-pirate people can achieve this in Nigeria.
The unfortunate thing is pirate-captain entities in Nigeria are often truly autocratic themselves. Autocrats in families tend to sympathise with autocrats in groups, public service, politics and corporations, vice versa. It is an unintended mirror-effect. That become yet another challenge to surmount. How easy or difficult it is, we do not know. But it has and can be done.
The captain-pirate leaders are supposed to be intelligent. Intelligent enough to know their theft of political space and the projection of their voice may fail. Still, be like the Opintar, who labours on with vision and hope and determination and responsibility despite the much higher probability of failure. It is not about reward. No, but the necessity he swore to support and enable.
Some might question, again, if captain-pirate outfits are gaining political space and projecting the [consensus] voice of the people in Nigeria? My answer is “by their fruits, you shall know them.” We hope those fruits will feed a greater democracy with most hands [of the people] on deck.