5 April 2019

Nigeria: Anthony Joshua's Punch As a Reminder of the Naija Spirit

opinion

In the decade his fatherland faced crushing economic blows, his fistic exploits in foreign land became a source of consolation and succor for his folks back home. "Zoom!--zoom!!", millions of Ghanaians in Accra and other provinces in the West African nation would roar by their TV or radio sets watching images or hearing commentaries by satellite as the homeboy Azumah "Zoom" Nelson slay opponent after opponent on the other side of Atlantic, to establish a dominion in the world featherweight boxing category.

So magical, so mesmerising was he that, till date, he is still rated by world bookmakers as the 17th greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time.

Elsewhere in Asia, Manny "Packman" Pacquaio infects his own native country with a different hypnosis on a typical fight night. According to official statistics, crime rate practically crashes to zero level in the hours before, during and after the iconic boxing champ takes on an opponent in the world ring.

Then, Phillipine - Asian by geography but seen as more Latin American in temperament - literally moans at every blow Manny suffers; just as she roars in delirious excitement at each punch he detonates on his quarry.

In Nigeria, the same nationalistic fervour is gaining momentum. At least, this consciousness is what is somewhat highlighted by the sequel TV commercial showcasing the footprints of the reigning world boxing king, Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua (AJ), powered by Glo, the nation's leading telecommunications company.

Of course, this collaboration has been hailed as a perfect union of two big brands with wide appeals to tell a new Nigerian story to a global audience.

Just the way Glo is widely hailed as the "Grandmaster of data", AJ is seen in world boxing community as the new "people's champ", combining the charisma of legendary Mohammed Alli with the ferocity of George Foreman in his heyday.

In the initial copy aired in January to announce the partnership between brand Glo and brand AJ, the Nigerian-born heavyweight boxing champ advertises the value of resilience in the Nigerian character.

For someone not shy to attribute the iron strength of his punch to "eba" (cassava flour popular among the Nigerian masses), AJ additionally wears a tattoo of the African continent on his musical bicep with the Nigeria map highlighted as his own badge of identity, even honour.

Flashing his trademark charming smile in the first commercial, AJ declared: "I respect the ownership and management of Globacom and as a Nigerian, I believe charity must begin from home... We've the fastest speed, longest reach and the Nigerian fighting spirit as game changers."

As once attested by Mohammed Alli himself, victory in the rope square has more to do with mental power than the physical.

Inspired undoubtedly by the wide acceptance of that offering, Glo has come up with another copy, more nuanced in a manner that seeks to rouse the fire in compatriots to not only envision greatness but also toil for its actualization. It offers expression for that boisterous spirit, that sense of daring commonly called the "power of Naija". With a rather subliminal message to the nation to rise above her limitations and differences to attain her full potentials.

Indeed, we would never know the multitude the old video had set thinking.

Adopting a self-reporting technique, the new video opens with a University of Lagos female student seemingly star-struck watching the first AJ commercial. Next to be unveiled is a teenage boy watching AJ on the screen in his father's living-room. The camera then pans to fishermen casting their net for a haul.

Next, we see a poor tailor getting inspiration from AJ's words. Ditto a group of female basketballers in Port Harcourt glued to an I-Pad. Followed by a glimpse of Sokoto where students gathered to hear AJ's inspiring words through a laptop. A young boxer owes his victory to pep talk received from his hero-champ. A lady executive in Abuja is also seen watching AJ's stirring message on her phone with rapt attention... It was a subliminal and inspirational narrative that speaks to Glo's extensive 4G coverage.

Now, flaunting a toned torso glistening with sweat, AJ teases: "You need strength?" and then answers, "Yeah, that comes from the hard knocks that life throws at us. And we are Nigerians, we know all about that".

Waxing philosophical, the champ draws a parallel between existential challenge of life and the moral underpinning of the acclaimed "noble art of self-defence": "You don't stay down, you've got to fight. You've got to dig deep to be a world champion".

That quip could not have been a slip by the champ valorizing only his own hard climb to the boxing pinnacle. To a large extent, it also speaks to the extraordinary story of Glo's surmounting great odds at the beginning to becoming the preferred telco choice not only in Nigeria but also on the African continent within a relatively short time.

Like AJ who overcame a string of personal turmoil early in life (including a brush with the law), Glo too rose from a monumental setback at the beginning with the forfeiture of a colossal official deposit to become the king of the industry. So much that it is, for instance, widely acknowledged today in the country as champion in 4G nationwide coverage.

AJ brought more illuminations to the can-do spirit behind such miracle: "There has always been a big piece of my heart as a Nigerian and I do believe that it is that piece that sets me apart. It always says to me, 'never give up, dream big! We come from a nation of warriors and that is why I believe in Glo.We have that same tenacity, that Nigerian fighting spirit that makes us game changers!

"We're relentless. We don't just face our challenges, we step into the ring to win again and again and again. If you believe in yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Yeah, I used to be a bricklayer in England but now I am heavyweight champion of the world!"

To return to AJ's metaphor of "hard knocks thrown by life", there can be no better inspiring parting words. While the champ's confidence is surely boosted by the thought of a dedicated team in his corner in-between rounds and Glo as the new cheerleader, we are also told to count on the loyalty of Glo to provide oxygen, an affordable solution to our daily needs through its unbeatable 4G network.

So, just as it sticks behind AJ like rock, Glo would have us believe it is also in every Nigerian's corner, day and night.

*Omoleye, a Youth Corps Member, writes from Abuja

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