Nigeria’s literary icon and elder statesman, Prof. Wole Soyinka has condemned an act said to have been carried out by some members of the National Association of Seadogs popularly known as Pyrates Confraternity, mocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as shown in a video that went viral over the weekend.
The video displayed a group of people purported to be members of the Pyrates Confraternity wearing red and white apparel dancing and singing a song suggestive of mocking the APC presidential standard bearer. They chanted thus: “Hand dey shake, leg dey shake, baba wey no well he dey shout Emi Lokan.” The song, which is a mixture of pidgin English and Yoruba, roughly translates to mean a man with unstable hands and legs and in poor health condition is clamouring that it is his turn to be the president of Nigeria.
Recall that Tinubu had while having a meeting with APC delegates in Ogun State in June 2022, ahead of the party presidential primaries, made use of the phrase “Emi Lokan”. He took the audience down memory lane, stating how he had worked hard for the success of the party since its creation and that it was his turn to grab the opportunity of being president and urged the delegates in the state to support his ambition.
Prof. Soyinka in a statement on Monday titled ‘Interim statement on a dubious political outing,’ expressed disgust about the song saying that even the culture of the Yoruba land where he came from abhors the use of one’s afflictions against them.
The literary giant and social activist said the act is totally condemnable, adding that as someone globally known to have an affinity with the Pyrate Confraternity, he was neither involved in the outing nor associated with the sentiments expressed in the song.
Part of the statement reads, “My attention has been drawn to a video clip making internet rounds, of a dancing and chanting group, in red and white costume, purportedly members of the Pyrates Confraternity.
“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 designates 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.”
“One of my favorite authors, about whom, by a coincidence, I had cause to write quite recently, was CLR James, author of The Black Jacobins, Beyond A Boundary etc. 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, and 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.”
The Nobel laureate said he would issue further statement on the development after he had made further inquiries into the matter which he said was a “strange, uncharacteristic outing of the association.”