The National Association of Seadogs, otherwise known as the Pyrates Confraternity, in a recent public outing, cast aspersions on the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 election, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The seadogs were captured in a video, making a mockery of the health condition of the prominent politician in a manner that suggested that, based on that imagined health issue, he was unfit for the high office he is aspiring.
The video trended for some days and attracted the displeasure of many including non-political actors who considered it, rightly, as un-African and a deliberate effort to take indecency and intolerance much too far. One of the prominent Nigerians who reacted angrily to that public show of shame was the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka. In his reaction, he confirmed that he co-founded the confraternity decades ago.
Describing the display as acidic, Soyinka said that it “is clearly a new and bizarre development, fraught with unpredictable consequences.” His reaction, in the opinion of this newspaper, is germane at this time so as to eliminate any misconceptions about his possible connection with the ill-advised outburst by a bunch of youths unmindful of their indiscretion.
He said that “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.”
Any where else in the civilised world, it is considered inappropriate behaviour to make a jest of someone who has some form of disability or health condition no matter how debilitating it may seem to be. In all cultures, stigmatisation of such an individual on the basis of that identified health condition or disability is frowned at. It can bring a curse on whoever is inclined to the derisive attitude.
Politically and socially, there are laws prohibiting discrimination against people on account of their disability or health condition. Actually, special provisions are made for their welfare just to ensure that they are not alienated from the rest of the society on account of their condition which, in fact, is not of their own making.
The reason for this is not far to seek. All humans are susceptible, at one point or another, to an illness, disability or impairment as they evolve in their growth and development processes either due to age, disease or even accident. That understanding makes it incomprehensible when any person or group begin to play God by assuming that they may be immune to such condition.
Recent events, especially in sports, have proved that there is ability in disability. In social life, business and politics, personalities have soared over otherwise health challenges to distinguish themselves in their areas of calling. It is on record that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States of America (USA), ruled that country at a most difficult time in her history and for an unprecedented three terms, from 1933 to 1945 on a wheel chair where he was consigned by Poliomyelitis. He initiated new deals that conquered the Great Depression and made his mark as a leader during the Second World War
To buttress the argument that no one knows what fate and time has in store all of us, he was not crippled from birth. Actually, he was an Assistant Secretary of the US Navy at the time he contracted the virus. Still, Americans focused their attention on his mind and intellectual abilities and not on his legs.
In our opinion, that is the way to go. If political actors, such as the APC flagbearer, are of sound mind, then they deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt, a fighting chance to prove their worth, to convince the rest of the people that they are human and can contribute their quota to societal upliftment regardless.
Having said this, it is the considered opinion of this newspaper that those aspiring to public office, owe it as a duty not to take the people for granted on matters relating to their health condition. Such disclosures will save the nation and even the individuals concerned the embarrassment of later discovery that may likely put to question their credibility and integrity.
However, we assert that what the Pyrates Confraternity did was decidedly unconscionable and deserves the public condemnation that has trailed it. Members of that group, who are all young people, needs to be reminded that the future is like a sealed package which no one can say with any measure of certainty what it contains. We commend Professor Soyinka for his elderly response to that situation which helped to calm the supporters of Tinubu. Who would have known what their reaction could have been if the respected Nobel Laureate had not intervened so timeously?