There is a keen fascination among young men particularly at leading schools and universities around the world with the “captain-pirate” mode of rebellion or disobedience against the injustices and excesses of the status quo in society. This is not surprising. While the literal meaning of a pirate and the piratical life is one of thieves and the means of thieving, respectively, its meaning in the context of fraternal orders of young men is consanguineous with the metaphor of Robin Hood – stealing from the rich or powerful to give to the poor or weak. The young or seasoned pirate, as he solemnly swears at his initiation, under the direction of his captain is thus necessarily an agent of social justice in society. The evolution of the captain-pirate mode of fraternal organisation has failed in Nigeria to remain relevant, even facing obsolescence and has become no better a than a ship that lost its rudder, ripped its sails and steered by the mercy of the tides and winds of the sea. This is tragic since more and more competent actors and voices are needed to help Nigeria’s struggling democracy mature with the hands of the masses holding it. But how have captain-pirate groups in other parts of the world remained very potent political entities in their democratic societies, whether for good or for bad?
In some democratic societies fraternal organisations with captain-pirate backgrounds perpetrate a theft that is neither illegal, immoral nor inordinate. In fact, it is admirable. The theft of “political space” is what captain-pirate fraternities use to fight for social justice on behalf of the general society, robustly. Balfour did say “democracy is the governance by discussion”, no one denies this, but many 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, if not impossible. Captain-pirate entities have meagre resources, so they steal political space [by temporarily occupying it when necessary] and project their voice through unorthodox methods. This is possible because they are supposed to be intellectually and socially “liberated” and possess “liberated minds”, they are able to solve serious problems with minimal resources within a democracy.
Some might question that, elsewhere or in Nigeria, what effect will stealing valuable political space or getting a groups’ collective voice, heard where it matters, have on securing significant social justice for the wider society? Firstly, all changes in society start with discussion, even in autocratic or totalitarian ones [that is why they silence it]. Good information and misinformation are used to achieve this goal by creating “memes” that persuade broadly. The captain-pirate entities have a duty to start “meme battles” that are equally, if not more persuasive than those of government and the vested interests that back them. If the government produces a meme that insists the current youth drug epidemic in Nigeria is not their fault, the captain-pirate folds have to produce a counter-meme that it is the government’s fault, factually and persuasively. If the government launches a meme that it cannot create jobs because of low oil prices, the captain-pirate entities should sponsor a meme that the government must diversify the economy immediately with practical and winning approaches. The powerful lose space to the weak through piratical action, democracy within grasp.
Secondly, captain-pirates folds are capable of staging civil disobedience coups and occasionally do only to be undone by the very leaders of the group. The reasons for such self-sabotage are never consistent with the purpose or tenets of the organisation.
Any group that can operate constantly and consistently to gain considerable political space and voice will have considerable influence in the governance of society. Trade unions, though now seriously hampered, once were able to agitate very successfully for the rights, welfare and well-being of workers through political space and voice. African nationalist movements achieved independence from colonialists also through political space and voice. However, the goal of the captain-pirate outfits is improving social justice. With proper focus, the captain-pirate people can achieve this in Nigeria. Furthermore, the captain-pirate leaders are supposed to be shrewd enough to know his theft of political space and projection of voice may not succeed but like the Opintar he labours on with vision and hope and determination and responsibility. It is not about reward, no, but the necessity he swore to enable.
Some might question, again, if captain-pirate outfits are gaining political space and projecting the [consensus] voice of the people? 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.