Welcome Message by Dr. A. Omozuwa, NAS Cap’n at the Inaugural Wole Soyinka Lecture held at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos on Saturday 20th March 1994.
Nautical Greetings, and welcome to the 1st Annual Wole Soyinka Lecture. This is our own way of acknowledging the achievements of our founder and Supreme Head, Professor Wole Soyinka on the occasion of his 60th birthday. An erudite scholar, author, playwright, Nobel Laureate and social critic, Professor Soyinka has served as a veritable beacon to those adrift on the high seas and the guiding spirit whose infusion has enabled this organization to endure.
The Annual Wole Soyinka Lecture Series is to be supported by a Foundation for the purposes of perpetuating what we recognize as a very laudable cause. Individuals of note with impeccable credentials as social commentators in both word and deed will be invited to make presentations on topics of their choice. Such papers we have no doubt will be germane to issues of interest and will serve to enlighten us further on the speaker’s world view and opinions.
First however, I would like to highlight a few facts about the National Association of Seadogs and briefly visit one or two issues that touch the heart as it were. The Pyrates Confraternity started in 1952 with the original 7, aboard the Mother Deck, University of Ibadan. In the intervening years, the PC (as it was known) grew like any other organization – through a natural process of evolution – from a loose-knit association to a nationally representative body with chapters in all states of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory; though not without its own peculiar growth pains.
Now known as the National Association of Seadogs and duly registered under the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Land (Perpetual Succession Act) Cap. 98, NAS has every intention of making its presence felt socially and economically by all legal means available. We feel we have come a long way. Your presence here attests to this.
The Pyrate has always been a watchdog of society. Traditionally the Universities provided the crucible within which Pyracy as we know it was nurtured. Ten years ago, NAS voluntarily banned the conduct of any of its activities on all University Campuses nationwide, a policy that remains in force to date.
The 7 Rudder Blades and the 4 Compass Points of the PC Flagship form the ethos which all Seadogs are required to live by. In our world view, the piratical aims of fighting all social ills and conformist degradation within and outside our midst not only stand supreme but have become increasingly relevant to modern day Nigeria. The Pyrate is AGAINST CONVENTION; AGAINST TRIBALISM; FOR HUMANISTIC IDEALS; FOR COMRADESHIP AND CHIVALRY – NO LESS. This organization is not a secret cult. The Minister of Justice should take note. This organization is NOT a secret cult, neither has it ever been one. Like any legally constituted body it can sue and be sued.
NAS has grown in leaps and bounds since its establishment 42 years ago. Today it has taken on international proportions, with full-fledged chapters in the Pyratical Diaspora, specifically in Great Britain, the United States and most recently, Japan. The process of evolution is a function of time such that NAS began to re-assess its relevance to society over a decade ago by first looking inwards, sanitizing and re-organizing in order to meet the challenges of Nigeria in the 90’s. Although educating the public on our activities has never been our raison d’etre, the Pyrate however must be seen to be DOING NOT YAPPING. To those who now stand against accepted societal freedoms as guaranteed by the 1979 Constitution, our activities may have no endearing qualities. We make no apology; the Pyrate is NO SLAVE TO DOGMA.
On the domestic front, the effects of the ever declining socio-economic system in the last decade have led to the stagnation of national growth, the physical and mental impoverishment of Nigerians. The more immediate cause of this is the unbridled frittering away of our nation’s resources by a decadent ruler ship, aided by an incorrigibly corrupt, inept and moribund political class, abetted by sycophants of the worst ilk.
Is it not rather poetic that Nigeria, the Giant of Africa and champion of the fight against apartheid has been overtaken by events in South Africa? Students of International Relations know that Nation States are acceptably hypocritical in their interpretation of and statements on international issues, their articulated standpoints often being at variance with their actions on similar domestic issues. Respect for the Rule of Law, Probity, Accountability and Human Rights immediately come to mind, not to talk of Justice, Good Governance and the Supremacy of the General Will. In Nigeria, these tenets have been elevated to the realms of the absurd. We find ourselves unwilling participants in the danse macabre and like rams awaiting the butcher’s knife we have thus far obliged.
Recent events in our polity give the impression that a departure from this ominous trend is in the offing, although it is still early in the day. The National Association of Seadogs has consistently supported the call for a Sovereign National Conference as contained in our Anniversary Statement of October 1st, 1993. This is a position we unflinchingly maintain and reiterate that anything less is just another exercise in planned wastage. NAS finds it highly reprehensible that those who ought to know better continue to hope that a regime whose antecedents are at best dubious has anything of worth to offer.
We want a Nigeria where relationships are based on Justice. Equality, Freedom, and respect for one another’s views and opinions. Only a broad based and acceptable system of governance can address these yearnings. A Sovereign National Conference will create an avenue for the establishment of true democracy in Nigeria. We have all witnessed the charade in the guise of the elections of the past few weeks. The seeming repudiation of the regime’s stand on no-go areas in the face of public opposition and condemnation shows that its conference must hold, by all means. What guarantee do we have that it has any intention of keeping its word or that you and I will still be free this time to-morrow?
Yet the military junta fools no one least of all those it now claims to legally govern. It would have us believe that the Augean stable it has set out to clean is to be found in the society at large. All intelligent Nigerians can smell the stink and the direction from which it emanates. Those who inhabit a rubbish top remain unaffected by its odour. The miasma that overshadows this nation can no longer go unnoticed, like the refuse heaps that threaten our streets and neighbourhoods. In a nation with abundant mineral resources especially petroleum, we still labour under the yoke of incessant fuel scarcity. Petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene now rule our lives, the disruptive effects of their ebb and flow cannot be overstated. Still, a few people continue to reap fantastic profits generated by the illegal sale of petroleum products internally and across our borders whilst the regime sits content and its minions chase shadows.
We are a nation besieged on all sides, even by the Atlantic Ocean. In the face of overwhelming antagonism to its policies the junta espouses its benevolent disrespect for the inalienable rights of the citizenry as its goon squads hunt down agents of freedom and progress. This is done with unabashed shamelessness “rudely and crudely” all under the guise (so the regime claims) of its determination to keep Nigeria a unified entity.
Perhaps the unfolding events in South Africa WILL prove to be one tonic that may ginger us into more meaningful activity the likes of which our children will regale their children with. These are tales of great deeds and derring-do in the face of oppression, high crimes and misdemeanours by those we have had the misfortune to be ruled by. If there has ever been the need for the speedy resolution of our national problem, (not drugs or 419 but the demise of a regime of diabolic proportions) the time is now. Thank you.