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Wole Soyinka: I am not involved in the Video of Pyrates Confraternity Mocking Tinubu

Wole Soyinka
Wole Soyinka

By Uche Amunike

Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka has outrightly dissociated himself from having anything to do with the trending video clip of a group of people said to be members of the Pyrates Confraternity,  mocking the Presidential Flag bearer of the APC, Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu, and making jest of his physical afflictions.

Recall that the National Association of Seadogs, also known as the Pyrates Confraternity was founded by Prof. Wole Soyinka and six others, at the University of Ibadan in 1952.

In the video, the members of the Confraternity were seen using Tinubu’s popular phrase, ‘Emi lo Kan’ to mock him. They chanted the song in the pidgin English, saying : ‘Hand dey shake. Leg dey shake. Baba wey no well, e dey shout Emi lo kan’. This can be translated to mean that a man with an unstable hand, leg, and frail health is saying that it’s his turn to be Nigeria’s president.’

Soyinka, in his reaction to the video, released a statement, Monday, stating that he was dissociating himself from it,  because he was not taught to mock people with challenges, right from childhood.

Hear him: ‘The display acidly targets a presidential candidate in the awaited 2023 elections. Since the whole world knows of my connection with that fraternity, it is essential that I state in clear, unambiguous terms that I am not involved in that public performance nor in any way associated with the sentiments expressed in the songs’.

‘Like any other civic group, the Pyrates Confraternity is entitled to its freedom of expression, individually or collectively. So also, is Wole Soyinka in his own person. I do not interfere in, nor do I attempt to dictate the partisan political choices of the Confraternity. I remain unaware that the association ever engages in a collective statement of sponsorship or repudiation of any candidate. This is clearly a new and bizarre development, fraught with unpredictable consequences’.

In addition, let me make the following cultural affirmation. I have listened to the lyrics of the chant intently and I am frankly appalled. I find it distasteful. I belong to a culture where we do not mock physical afflictions or disabilities. Very much the contrary. The Yoruba religion indeed designate a deity, Obatala, as the divine protector of the afflicted, no matter the nature of such affliction. This sensibility is engrained in us from childhood and remains with us all our lives. It operates on the principle of mortal frailty to which all humanity remains vulnerable.

The 88year old Poet added: ‘One of my favourite authors, about whom, by coincidence, I had cause to write quite recently, was CLR James, author of The Black Jacobins, Beyond A Boundary etc. I called him my ideological uncle. He suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, but remained alert, lucid and combative for decades after the onset of the disease’.

‘We interacted politically at the Tanzanian pan-African Congress, the Dakar Festival of Negro Arts, and a number of other cultural and political fora. We met frequently in his lifetime, dined together in restaurants, despite his challenge. It would be unthinkable, and a desecration of his memory to be part of any activity that mocked his affliction’.



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