Pyrates Confraternity: Tinubu silent on allegation of Parkinson’s disease affliction

THE Tinubu Campaign Organisation (TCO) has kept mum over allegations that Bola TInubu, All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate for the 2023 election, has Parkinson’s disease. 

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years. Symptoms of the sickness include involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body (tremor), slow movement, stiff and inflexible muscle.


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The NHS notes that a person with Parkinson’s disease can also experience a wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms namely depression and anxiety balance problems (this may increase the chances of a fall) loss of sense of smell (anosmia), and having problems sleeping (insomnia) as well as memory problems.

Multiple videos have shown how Tinubu’s hands and legs shake intermittently, with his aides supporting him at public functions.

Tinubu, 70, seeks to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, 79, who leaves office on May 29, 2023.

His health crisis became more glaring when he was shown on national television struggling to hold the papers from which he addressed Nigerians after he picked his party’s presidential ticket in Abuja on June 8.

Apart from his age, many Nigerians criticise the APC candidate as not agile enough to face the pressure of leading a heavily-challenged country like Nigeria. 

His critics argue that the incumbent Buhari had spent months attending to his health abroad, and the nation is on the precipice under him, even when he is healthy.

Buhari had confessed that old age affects his performance as President.

Following a string of criticisms that have trailed Tinubu’s shaky hands and legs, The ICIR reported the diseases associated with shaky hands in March.

On Monday, Novel Laureate Wole Soyinka, a professor, reacted to a viral video which showed a procession by members of the National Association of Seadogs, popularly known as the Pyrates Confraternity. In the video, the Pyrates were seen mocking Tinubu and chanting that he had Parkinson’s disease.

Members of the confraternity, a group Soyinka founded with six others while at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, in 1952, dressed in white and red costumes and trooped out in hundreds on the street to deride Tinubu for claiming to be the next in line as Nigeria’s President after Buhari.

They had chanted, “Emi lo kan, emi lo kan, papa wey no well, e dey shout emi lokan, hands dey shake, legs dey shake, papa wey no well, e dey shout emi lokan.”

The chant means, “It’s my turn (x2); a sick old man is screaming it’s my turn. His hands and legs are shaking, yet he’s shouting it’s my turn,” to be President.

As the video went viral online, Soyinka issued a disclaimer distancing himself from the group’s condemnation of Tinubu’s aspiration to be President.

Soyinka, who described the confraternity’s action as appalling, distasteful and “clearly a new and bizarre development, fraught with unpredictable consequences,” said he was unaware that the association ever engaged in a collective statement of sponsorship or repudiation of any candidate”.

He then went on to speak lengthily on Tinubu’s alleged affliction.

“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.”

The 88-year-old recalled how one of his “favourite authors” and “ideological uncle,” CLR James, author of “The Black Jacobins, Beyond A Boundary,” lived with Parkinson’s disease.

“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,” Soyinka added.

He promised to issue another statement after making further enquiries into the procession.

The ICIR contacted the spokesperson of the Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Bayo Onanuga, to get his principal’s reaction to the allegations that he is afflicted with the disease.

Onanuga, a former Managing Director of the New Agency of Nigeria (NAN), did not respond to calls, texts and Whatsapp messages from The ICIR’s reporter hours before this report was published.

Like Buhari, Tinubu abandoned Nigerian hospitals and travelled to the United Kingdom in late July 2021 after reportedly having surgery. 

    There were rumours that he died in early August, but his media aide debunked the claims.

    In August 2021, Buhari visited him in London after attending the Global Education Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education (GPE 2021-2025).

    Besides the controversy over his health, Tinubu is facing criticisms and stiff opposition from sections of the country for picking Kashim Shettima, a Muslim like himself, as a running mate in a country largely believed to have a 50-50 Christian-Muslim population.

    He faces former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), among other presidential candidates, in the election slated for February 25, 2023.

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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