SUPER EAGLES: REFLECTION OF THE NIGERIAN STATE
The Super Eagles' misadventure and fiasco has come and gone. Due to the incredibility of this fiasco to a nation that has all it takes to succeed or celebrate in the comity of nations, many Nigerians believe that sabotage may be the underlying factor of our early exit at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Before the mundial, Yakubu Aiyegbeni boasted that he was in a 'killer' form and planned to score the highest number of goals in the tournament. Alas Yakubu did not only fail to score a single goal of 'his own' but kicked out a ball that was almost inside the South Korean net. And Yakubu Aiyegbeni was smiling and chewing gum to trivialize the situation and batter the Nigerian psyche. Why was Aiyegbeni so much favoured when the likes of Odewingie and Martins were glued to the bench? Why did Sani Keita resort to fist-cuffs and kicking the Greek midfielder on a football field?
In the last group game between Italy (the former world champions) and Slovakia, the Italians played 'their hearts out' to win the game scoring 2 goals in 10 minutes but went ahead to lose the game 2-3 to Slovakia in the 'dying minutes' of the game. The Italian F.A immediately announced that the team's early exit at the mundial will be probed. President Goodluck Jonathan did the right thing by his 2-year ban on all National football teams from playing any FIFA or CAF organised competition. The President's presence in South Africa was enough tonic to give our players a big boost, but it did not. The President's presence was enough pep to rev up their game to the next level but unfortunately, the players (and maybe NFF) had their own agenda.
The problem with Nigerian football is the same problem with the Nigerian nation. The Nigerian nation is a beehive of solvable problems including (a) a fundamental problem of the love of region or state. (b) Lack of renaissance spirit or culture (c) Corruption and (d) an irredeemable spirit of unpatriotism. Its not that these are the only problems in Nigeria but these are the foundational ones and they breed all the accessories that ensnare and stifle Nigeria like an octopus strangles its prey.
It was not for the love of the peoples that made Britain amalgamate the Northern and Southern protectorates to form the country called Nigeria. Britain needed a seaport for the evacuation of Northern produce. And the rail system was perfected to Britain's economic interest. From Kano-Sokoto Zungeru-Enugu-Ibadan and to the busy seaport of Lagos from where Britain 'stole' our cheap exports to feed their industries and returned comparatively expensive finished products for our consumption. 1914 was also the year of the 1st World War and Britain needed Nigeria's very brave war heroes to fight on their side and these Nigerian heroes were also shipped' via the Lagos Port.
So Nigeria was created solely to Britain's economic agenda inspite of all the irreconcilable socio-cultural incongruities that divide the former Northern and Southern protectorates. And so on amalgamation, our leaders then were fighting for state protectionism rather than nationalism or the survival of the Nigerian nation. The then 3 regions of North, East and West were identified with 3 very powerful and great leaders who fought not for the survival and growth of the Nigerian nation but for the accelerated but disproportionate growth of the regions. While Chief Obafemi Awolowo (the greatest President Nigeria never had) introduced free and compulsory education in the West, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the then Northern Premier had to plead for a deferment of independence to 1960 to enable the North catch up with the West and the East.
And so almost a century after amalgamation, what touches us most is the avid pursuance of state interests and growth over that of country. Nigerians are therefore not primed for nationism or patriotism because of this unabashed struggle for the survival of the states or regions within the nation.
A follow-up to the above is the problem of zoning. Why do we rave and crave when the Ministry of Sports, the National Sports Commission and the Nigeria Football Federation are all zoned to a particular region of the Federation. Why do we fret and feign ignorance of what is so obvious? This is the outcome of jettisoning knowledge for ignorance, excellence for mediocrity and common sense for folly. Nigeria is blessed with thousands of experts in the soccer arena but we prefer duds in all fields of human endeavour.
Zoning boomerangs in several ways. When you zone a position to the South whereas the best material for that position is in the North, you have deprived the whole country of the services of an excellent performer in that field. And the trickle-down syndrome of such a gaff is usually irreparable and immeasurable.
Corruption has eaten deep into the Nigerian fabric as a cankerworm and it would be unfair to say President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida introduced corruption into the Nigerian polity. Corruption will continue to take centre stage in Nigeria's cultural development as long as corrupt officials are not prosecuted and these officials become models and pacesetters who are cheered and celebrated for their ill-gotten wealth. So the chairman of the Nigerian Football Federation went to South Africa with all his wives and children. This was not investigated. About 700 Nigerians attended the last mundial as official representatives from the NFF, NSC, Senate, House of Reps, State Government and their Assemblies with about N3 sunk into this senseless and frivolous jamboree.
Even South Africa which hosted the whole world spent only $5 to build 5 new stadia and refurbish 5 other existing ones. In Nigeria such an enterprise will not cost less than $2 as all the Ministers and Legislators will receive gratification a la Halliburton and Siemens. And so if Yakubu Aiyegbeni receives gratification from South Korea to kick out a ball that was already goal bound, who will hold him responsible for 'selling' a match that means so much to the international standing and egotistic placement of Nigeria as a nation?
The problem with our national football team as with Nigeria is the lack of renaissance spirit or attitude. The culture of nationalism and patriotism were not imparted to us at amalgamation in 1914 and even on independence in 1960 as emphasis was placed on the love of state or region. Apart from this regional impetus and fever, nothing at the central government encouraged a yearning or grooming for future nascent renaissance that would launch the youth of the nation into an unprecedented bout of nationalism and patriotism.
Today Ghana was only unlucky not to have qualified for the semi-final of the World Cup as an Uruguayan player brought out a ball that had already crossed the goal line with his two hands. Today Ghanaians are Africa's soccer heroes. This Ghanaian success in football is a graphic reflection of the new spirit of nationalism, patriotism, renaissance and revolution that has swept through Ghana in the wake of its new socio-cultural political awakening. Ghanaian leaders have embraced true democracy and even erring ministers have been sent to jail in the new spirit of transparency and true democracy.
In Ghana there is only one law for the rich and the poor, for the minister and the messenger and for the high and the low alike. Ghanaians now have a reason to live and die for their country as they exhibited on the football fields of South Africa. Did you see Gyan Asamoah's winning goal against USA? That is the spirit. That is the attitude.
The way forward for Nigeria is as simple as ABC. We must de-emphasize regional cohesiveness and emphasize Federal and fiscal federalism and democracy. This includes distancing ourselves from anything that will tear us apart at the central or federal level. Perhaps we may have to resort to the Freudian theory of psychoanalysis to 'free associate' among the ethnic groups that form this great country to decode a final solution which could be embedded in our subconscious through a Sovereign National Conference for the ultimate stability and permanent sovereignty of our great country Nigeria.
The long term measure is to turn Nigeria into a developed nation, and this is possible by frankly taking stock of our potentialities and resources to maximize their fullest utilization for the greatest glory of this potentially gigantic flagship of the African continent. Then this massive importation of technically faulty Chinese generators with a maximum 6 months life span will stop. Then it would be odd to import finished petroleum products into a country where the rush of crude oil under our beds makes it impossible for us to sleep.
Then elections will be free and fair and democracy will be complementary to socio-cultural and political renaissance. Then there will be no North/South dichotomy to feather the neats of greedy, corrupt and selfish politicians. Then there will be light water and free medical facility for all to live a comfortable and healthy life.
Nanagban writes from Lagos.
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