Premium Times (Abuja)

8 February 2013

Nigeria: I Have a Grin!

opinion

"Do not take your palace bad luck of injustice to jinx our boys," Victor tells Nigerian leaders.

I am excited to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration of sportsmanship in the history of our motherland.

Five weeks ago, a great Nigerian, in whose football shadow we stand today, put together the Super Eagles Redemption Team. This doubtful congregation came as a flicker of light of hope to millions of Nigerians who had been seared in the flames of withered opportunity and lost matches. Early draws and wins came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of hopelessness.

One more game remaining, we are still not quite there yet. One more game remaining, the laughs of Nigerian fans are still sadly crippled by the manacles of fear of losing to Burkina Faso and the chains of discriminating referees. One more game remaining, the Nigerian fan lives on a lonely island of doubt in the midst of a vast ocean of trashing melted on Mali. One more game remaining, the Nigerian fan is still languishing in the corners of the beer parlour of our society and finds himself drinking too many bottles of paraga and alomo bitters in his own land out of fear.

So I have come here today to dramatize a hopeful condition.

In a sense we have gone to South Africa to cash dollars. When the leader of our republic made that magnificent call and wished our boys good luck, he was promising them dollars, he was signing a promissory note to which every Super Eagles was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all teams, yes, black coaches and white coaches, should be beaten thoroughly and be alienated from the football field and liberate Nigerians from doubt and award them the happiness they deserve.

It is obvious today that the Super Eagles have not defaulted on this promissory note insofar as all other teams have crumbled under their feet. Instead of honouring fellow African teams and losing to them, the Super Eagles have given them a check-out note with a mark "Return to Sender". And we refuse to believe that the referee of injustice will hinder them to move forward. So the Super Eagles have come to the finals to cash the check the President promised them - a check that will give them upon demand the AFCON gold. We have also come to this hello sport to remind Nigerians of the fierce urgency of winning the last game now. This is no time to engage in luxury of colouring hairs or to take the tranquilizing dose of Fufu and Egusi. Now is the time to rise from the dark unqualifying and goalless valley of jests to the sunlit of goals too many to believe. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sansan of unjust referees to the solid podium of good sportsmanship. Now is the time to make football a reality for all God's children in Nigeria.

It would be fatal for the Super Eagles to overlook the kia kia of this moment. This harmattan February of Nigerian's doubt and discontent with their leaders will not pass until there is a sound legitimate trashing of Burkina Faso and no equalizer. AFCON 2013 is not the beginning but the end of winglessness. Those who think Burkina Faso will blow the steam out of the Super Eagles and will go home with the trophy will have rude awakening when Nigerian players return to business as usual ala Mali. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in Nigeria until the Super Eagles grant us the rightful pride in Africa. The ojabenebe of football will continue to shake the foundations of Burkina Faso until the Super Eagles emerge as winners.

But, there is something that I must say to our leaders who have flown in their air-conditioned private jets to cheer our boys. Do not take your palace bad luck of injustice to jinx our boys. In the process of gaining estacode, you must not be guilty of making the Super Eagles lose. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for outlandishness and reckless spending by drinking from the full cup of the spirit meant for good luck.

We must strive to conduct ourselves in this struggle to bring back the cup on a high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow Burkina Faso to kiss that trophy or allow them to degenerate into playing violent football with us. Again and again we must score the ball, in every possession and rise to the majestic heights of the king of Africa football. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed our country must not distract us or lead us to trust any referee. Let us not distrust the officials of the match; they have come to realize that our winning is inextricably bound to their officiating. We cannot work alone.

As we play, we must make the pledge that we shall score way ahead of the opponent. We cannot come back without the trophy. There are those other African countries who are asking our players "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Nigerian fan is a victim of unspeakable horror of seeing a game slip out of our hands in the past. We can never be satisfied as long as our budget, heavy with the fatigue of government travellers who gain lodging in five stars hotels of the cities, is squandered in vain. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Nigerian fan's basic mobile phone in the ghetto yells it's a goaaaalll...Nigeria don score. We cannot be satisfied until our coaches who are stripped off their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "Only White Coaches Can Win Tournaments," win this cup. We cannot be satisfied until the Nigerian in Maiduguri believes he can play in the cup of nations and the young boy in Sagbama can also play.

No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until penalties roll down like waters and Burkina Faso fall like Victoria Falls water tumbling down.

I am not unmindful that some of you are going to watch the match out of great trials and tribulations melted by epileptic power supply in our nation today. Some of you have gone as far as traveling to your neighbour who has generator in another part of the country in quest of light. NEPA left you battered under the brutality that cannot even be carried out by our police force. Continue to walk to your neighbour's house being the veterans of creative suffer-head you are. Continue to work with the faith that the Super Eagles will redeem and reward your sufferhead.

Go back to Iyana Ipaja, go back to Ajegunle, go back to Surulere, Ikeja, Sabon Gari, go back to South South, go back to Otuoke, to Ekpoma, Uromi, Okrika, Yenagoa, Gwagwalada, go back to Lagos, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern states, knowing that somehow the situation of winning is imminent. Let us not wallow in the valley of doubt and fear, nor in despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even if we face a football federation that is wrecked by corruption and may not change tomorrow, I still have a grin. It is a grin deeply taprooted in the Nigerian hope.

I have a grin that Sunday this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its name, Giant of Africa, and of its creed: "We hold these strikers to scorelessness: That our men are not created to play equalizer but win clearly."

I have a grin that Sunday on the dream mountains of South Africa, the sons of former colonizers and the sons of former colonized will be able to sit down together in a booth and scream NIGERIA HAS SCORED AGAIN O!

I have a grin that Sunday, even Maiduguri, a city sweltering with the heat of bombing, heat of poverty and neglect, will be transformed into an oasis of rejoice.

I have a grin that our street children will on Sunday live in a nation where they will not be judged by the tattered jersey they are wearing or the ringworm the size of an AFCON football on their head, but can watch their country beat another African nation senselessly the same way sun beat them mercilessly when they are looking for daily bread.

I have a grin today.

I have a grin that on Sunday, down in South Africa, with its past vicious racial tensions, with its Apartheid rulers having their lips drip with words of hatred for little black boys and black girls, men of other race will be able to join hands with Nigerians who helped free them from such debilitating shameful regime and sing OSE, OSE, OSE O BABA!

I have a grin today.

I have a grin that on Sunday every valley shall be raised, every hill and mountain of pounded yam leveled, the rough patches of the playing field will be made plane for the Super Eagles (only), and the crooked places will be reserved for Burkina Faso, and the glory of the Lord shall shine and all doubters shall see it together as Nigerians lift the cup.

This is our hope. This is the faith that the Super Eagles will come back from South Africa with. With this faith, the Super Eagles will be able to level Mountain Bance and turn him to an immobile stone. With this faith we will be able to play our jingles which Guinness and Nigerian Breweries have spent millions of naira in producing, a beautiful symphony for media buyers and media house owners. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together, play together and win together and avoid sending Keshi back to beg for assistant coach position in Mali.

This will be the day when all Nigerian children will be able to swagger with new meaning, "My motherland, all I want is your sweetness, of you I boast to Ghana. Land of my fathers, we refuse to die, we can now go to pilgrimage with pride, from mountainside let goals ring into Burkina Faso net."

And if Nigeria is to be a great nation, this cup must come home. So let goals rain from the prodigious hilltops of Akoko Edo. Let goals rain from the mighty squalors of Lagos. Leg goals rain from the frightening creeks and mighty mountains of Erin Ijesa Waterfalls in Osun State.

Let goals rain from the locked gates of Aso Rock.

Let goals rain from the curvaceous hotels of Cape Town!

But not only that; let goals rain from the First Lady's kitchen!

Let goals rain from the swamps of Bayelsa!

Let goals rain from every hill and molehill that has been paved by Governor Babatunde Fashola. From every area boys' corner, let goals rain.

And when this happens, when we allow goals to rain on Burkina Faso's net, when we let goals rain from every Nigerian village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day toward 2015 when all of Nigerian children, black men and fair men, oyinbos and Chinese, Pentecostal and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Nigerian spiritual, "Good governance at last! Good governance at last! thank God Almighty, we have good governance at last!"

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