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A Visit To The Strange World Of Pyrates

Pyrate Confraternity
Posted: Nov 13, 2016 at 6:31 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Nicholas Uwerunonye
The National Association of Seadogs (NAS) has said that people have wrong impressions about them. These wrong impressions have gone unchallenged. Who really are these Pyrates?
Whether you hear them in snatches or monosyllables, a first timer to any Anchor Point (AP) may feel lost in the lively banters around him. You may catch the word, ‘lobber’. That could be you being referred to.  Or exclamations like, ‘Jazz away.’ Well, that may not be you being referred to.
As a ‘lobber’, it means you are not an initiate. When you are told to ‘jazz away’, chances are that you are not the one being referred to because whoever it is meant for understands it to mean the colloquial equivalent of ‘piss off’.
You may also be lucky to hear of one being given the ‘black spot’. Now this may sound familiar if you have read the classic novel, Treasure Island. Yes, it is a punitive measure among pirates you must have read about in that classic novel as it is with this strange talking men you find in any AP.
In name, this group of men is not different. It is only spelt slightly differently as Pyrate. The Pyrate Confraternity, or, properly referred to as the National Association of Seadogs (NAS). All these details barely scratch the surface of the real enigma of the confraternity.
Anywhere you have an AP, there will always be that soft rhythmic beats of folk songs, accompanied usually with Afro-centric drum beats. For most APs, this happens three times at least in a week. For many not too familiar with the jolly moods of the Pyrates, their gyrations may be passed off as some regular drunken revelry of some ill advised grown-ups or so, the first timer to that AP, tucked somewhere off Akowonjo Road, Alimosho, Lagos, may think.
Except for the array of exotic cars neatly parked outside the entrance, an AP entrance looks ordinary like this one. There are no neon sign calling attention to the place, even though it has an open bar facility, serves peppered delicacies like roasted fish, ponmo, grilled meat and barbeque.
As a Pyrate explained to Independent, “AP, for men of the NAS, is more than a bar, club house, restaurant, guest house or any similar resort.” He said it is a conclave where the ideals and virtues of what brought the confraternity into being is celebrated.
Created by Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, in his days at the then University College, Ibadan, members of the NAS remain as arcane and quite esoteric, like his (Soyinka’s) writings. Soyinka and six others at the university, created the Pyrates Confraternity to challenge prevailing stereotypes that tended to suffocate learning and scholarship.  ‘Capn Blud’, as Soyinka is called in the confraternity, created NAS explicitly to challenge stereotypes.
NAS attracts only men and women of high intellect, who are accomplished in their chosen career, yet appear ordinary like their various APs. Many years after its creation and at various designated resorts like the AP, men of the fraternity converge in a new mode of entertainment called ‘sailing.’
While they may not literally sail on the high seas like the legendary pirates in Treasure Island, they do it right at the club with drum beats, gongs and simple musical instrumentation while singing to songs with various themes bordering on happenings around them.
It is not uncommon to see some of them wearing an item of their regalia: a panama hat or a cap, bandana, muffler or any other piece of clothing coloured red with the Seadog insignia of skull and crossed bones. Like the pirates, they are often referred to as Seadogs and they also have their love for ‘rum.’ In this case, however, any alcoholic drink could pass. But this is where the comparison with the legendary men of the high seas, often believed to be robbers, end. NAS members drink, but with a strong sense of discipline.
Prof Soyinka, one of the seven founders of NAS, is believed to be one of the best connoisseurs of wine in the country. Members of the organisation also have abiding interest in intellectualism. Little wonder NAS draws membership from highly influential members of the society. At the AP in Akowonjo, a first timer is readily confounded with the number of top professionals who come into the resort.
Medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, architect, the list is endless. They come in and sit in groups, discussing with deep insight on matters bordering on policy implementation or other issues that catch their fancy. More often, the talks are not frivolous.
NAS is somewhat a misunderstood organisation. Often confused with cultism, violence prone confraternities, the members of the organisation have been victims of attack, both on the media and sometimes through inquisitions, like what happened at the Oputa Panel in 2001.
But, explaining the focus of the Pyrate Confraternity, Arthur Boje, President of the NAS, said the impression is quite unfortunate. According to him, “it is unfortunate that some of these pseudo groups that are involved in cult war have been linked to Pyrates Confraternity. That is not what we stand for.  We have secured court judgments stating that the Pyrates Confraternity is not a secret cult. Maybe what we will keep doing is to sensitise the public on this.
“We will also let media organisations and publishers know that we will not entertain the grouping of PyratesConfraternity as a secret cult and we may start taking legal actions against such misrepresentation. We will start creating more awareness on this.”
Boje also explained that NAS is very much into humanitarian activities. According to him, “The organisation is guided by its four compass points, namely: against moribund convention; against ethnicity; for humanistic ideals; and for comradeship and chivalry.
“You will see that there are two that are ‘against’ and two that are ‘for’. There were periods that we faced the two that were against. We moved on to the stage that we faced the humanistic ideals which experienced massive medical missions across the country and donations of items to homes for the needy and provision of water boreholes for institutions and establishments such as the police, among others.”
Boje maintained that at a moment, NAS shall be looking at the advocacy area, adding, “We will sensitise the public on the ills in the system with a view to finding solutions out of these problems.”