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Thursday, June 23, 2011

The New Faces Of The Nigerian Student Fraternity In The Diaspora

The New Faces Of The Nigerian Student Fraternity In The Diaspora


Roy Chikwem

The Nigerian student fraternities have been imported over the years into countries such as United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, South Africa, and other European mainland territories. These Nigerian student fraternities operating in the Diaspora have been able to successfully market and sell themselves to their respective host communities through charity work, community development and other social programs. It is not uncommon to notice the physical structures of the Buccaneers Confraternity and Pyrates Confraternity in notable American cities and states such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, Oakland, Kansas, Houston, Maryland, Florida, Washington DC, New Jersey, New York, Chicago, and Wisconsin. The Nigerian student fraternities are well organized, managed, and controlled by graduate fraternity members that have since relocated to the Diaspora because of a better standard of living and other personal reasons. These fraternity graduates are made-up of professionals ranging from medical doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, bankers, certified accountants, civil servants, teachers, religious leaders, information technologists, professors, politicians, law enforcement agents, engineers, and other noble professions.

These Nigerian student fraternities have been able to provide their members with communal resources they would not have access to as individuals. These include planned events; investment opportunities, membership discount programs, newsletters, mentorship programs, job coaching programs, and acculturation for the new arrivals into the America society, membership directories, and financial aids. These initiatives enable members to accomplish their personal and professional goals and to meet other fellow professionals across the country. They encourage and foster close association and fraternity among members. Fraternities can mean many things to many people. They can mean academic benefits, varied social life, personal involvement with others, chances to develop personal and group leadership capabilities, the opportunity to make friends for a lifetime, or a balanced combination of all these elements. Fraternity life offers the types of social living you have looked forward to in school, the companionship of close friends, the feeling of "belonging," a home away from home, and many other benefits.

But a fraternity is much more than simply a feeling of belonging. A fraternity is a way of life. Sharing common experiences in the pursuance of a college education can be fun but the first job at college is academics. While other factors, both of social and academic nature, are of value in your development into a well-rounded individual, it is the knowledge gained through diligent study, which can reap the greatest rewards. In most national fraternities, each in-take has at least one mentor, commonly known as a "big brother," whose responsibility is to help provide the confidence and influence in making the college experience successful. In many cases, your "big brother" will become one of your closest friends and someone you can always count on being there when you need him. Fraternal brotherhood is an opportunity. It's an opportunity to meet a lot of different people who have varied views, maybe like your own, and maybe completely different. Brotherhood is being able to get along with various people and appreciating each person for his own opinion.

Recently, the Buccaneers Confraternity - United States Chapter known as the Alpha-Beta Galleon hosted by its branch in Dallas, Texas held its 2007 Annual Convention. The occasion lasted the entire weekend and it attracted Buccaneers and non-members from every part of the United States of America. The Buccaneers, who referred to themselves as “Sealords” were composed of highly educated professionals and their spouses and/or their significant partners attended the occasion. They were all dressed in business suit and tie including their yellow berets as they made their way to the 5-star hotel. They exchanged complimentary greetings among each other as fraternity handshakes were freely given and the introduction of their spouses was the order of the day. They joked about life in general and their school days in Nigeria. On that Friday, they had a get-together referred to as “Shiptail”; drinks and food were all in the surplus. The Buccaneers sat in small groups with their spouses as they laughed and talked about diverse issues ranging from family life, fatherhood, marriage life, health, business, politics, and especially the brutal and senseless violent activities of student fraternities in Nigeria. Many Buccaneers openly condemned the violence in Nigerian campuses by so-called fraternity groups. They expressed how shameful and embarrassing, it has been to read about the negative fraternity stories coming from Nigeria because they strongly believed that fraternity is all about brotherhood and bond of friendship of people of like minds coming together to fight the ills militating against the society and they resounded that violence should not have any part in fraternities.

They openly shared with non-members and spouses about the “good old days” on campus as Buccaneers and how it was all about social justice, academic excellence, friendship and brotherhood. They added that violence was never a part of their operations and they shared mutual inter-fraternal relationships with other fraternities without any bloodshed. They discussed what they needed to do as an organization and individuals in fighting the cursed menace called “student cultism”. The Buccaneers ranged in age from their twenties to sixties and they were all proud to openly and freely wear their yellow berets. Many Buccaneers were busy sharing their fraternal experiences with non-members while they talked about the history of the organization and its evolution within the years. They exhibited utmost maturity, professionalism and respect as they carried themselves around the hotel. Literally within hours, the hotel was filled with hundreds of Buccaneers including their spouses and family members.

After the said “Shiptail”, the Buccaneers Confraternity hosted their members including friends and spouses to all night party at an elegant banquet hall. An executive bus shuttle was freely provided to transport Buccaneers including friends and spouses to the party. The party was attended by hundreds of guest from the American, African, Nigerian, Caribbean and Spanish community including community leaders and local politicians. The DJ played Nigerian music mixed with 70s, 80s, and 90s urban songs. The dance floor was totally filled, food and drinks were in abundance and all hands were on deck, as Buccaneers volunteered in coordinating the event. Professional caterers, photographers, bartenders and security officers can be easily seen around the event. During and after the party, no single Buccaneer was seen drunk or misbehaving; truly “Odas is Odas” as one of the Buccaneers Confraternity mottos says was fully observed and followed. Friends and spouses were freely seen as they showed off their dancing moves on the floor and others were busy with sidebar discussions. Especially spouses, they were truly proud to be seen and associated with the Buccaneers because many non-members were impressed with the ways the Buccaneers conducted themselves and the good public services, they stood for. The party ended successfully and gracefully.

The next day, Saturday, the Buccaneers Confraternity hosted all members, friends and spouses to a free breakfast buffet. Many sat down at the breakfast buffet talking about their school experiences as Buccaneers and the atmosphere was much relaxed and calm. Later, in the afternoon, Buccaneers Confraternity held a closed-door meeting and presentation strictly for Sealords, where important issues affecting the organization was debated and discussed. Also, they had a solemn Requiem service to honor and memorialize their fellow Buccaneers who have sailed to the land of the great beyond. Towards, the evening, Buccaneers Confraternity transported their members including friends and spouses to the shipyard to set sail into the sea to celebrate the end of their annual convention. The ship hired by the Buccaneers Confraternity was the biggest and most expensive ship docked at the shipyard. Buccaneers including spouses and friends boarded the multi-story ship. The Buccaneers were fully dressed in their traditional yellow regalia’s and berets. Then, the ship did set sail but not after the Buccaneers Confraternity Flag was flown at full mast. They sang their traditional songs while spouses and friends were busy in the lower deck enjoying the music and the all Nigerian style dishes from fried rice, moi-moi, vegetable soup, suya-meat, fu-fu, goat-meat, fried chicken, fried turkey, bitter leaf soup, egusi soup and all brands of beer and tropical wine. At the end of the voyage, Buccaneers including friends and spouses were transported back to the hotel. The next morning, Sunday, Buccaneers Confraternity hosted Buccaneers, friends and spouses to a free breakfast buffet while many others had to board flights at the Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport to their respective destinations. There were exchange of business cards and Buccaneers Confraternity Souvenirs were distributed at the end of the convention.

Nevertheless, the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) known as Pyrates Confraternity also celebrated their 11th Annual Area Zero convention. The event was tagged UNO Memorial Tribute to celebrate the lives of three fallen Pyrates, Umeadi, Nwachie and Oji. They lost their lives to an auto accident while traveling to Oakland from Southern California 10 years earlier on their way to a NAS meeting. The three-day convention included a memorial for the lost Pyrates, a dinner dance, a colloquium discussion and the group ceremonial “sayling” a boat trip where Pyrates members pass on the heritage and tradition of the organization. The event was hosted by the NAS branch located in Inglewood, California (8Quake Zone).

However, the Buccaneers Confraternity has evolved into an international organization with branches in Africa, Europe, Asia, United States of America and Canada. Today, the Buccaneers Confraternity - United States Chapter known as the Alpha-Beta Galleon have become a well-known organization in their branches for their charitable giving’s and noble contributions to societal development. They donated over two thousand U.S. Dollars to the Katrina victims when the deadly hurricane went through New Orleans, Louisiana. Their current project is a book drive to freely supply Nigerian tertiary institutions with over one hundred thousand text and reference books as well as other school supplies. At the Dallas Annual Convention, they raised over one thousand dollars towards the shipment cost of the books to Nigeria. The Buccaneers Confraternity was born in University of Ibadan (Modaship) with Dr. Bolaji Carew as its first head in 1972. The confraternity remained in the University of Ibadan from 1972 till 1976 when the idea of a national outlook was conceived. This led to decks being established in various institutions of higher learning around Nigeria and aboard.

Roy Chikwem is a member of Amnesty International, American Civil Liberties Union and the Executive Director of Chikwem Foundation, Inc that is dedicated to the communities we live and work. We believe in the education of every Nigerian and African child and the mantra that “Education is the key to success”. E-mail:
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