May 29, 2008

For football ... or for country?

It was evening on the 21st of May, 2008. Everywhere was strangely quiet. The streets were unusually scanty. The ever busy Ikorodu road was at half of its normal capacity. Third Mainland Bridge was free of traffic and Alfred Rewane road in Ikoyi looked scanty. Those who had not left their offices in a hurry decided to stay in till much later. But it was not midnight, neither was it an environmental sanitation exercise. No, it was time for the UEFA Champions league final.

Football fans converged in several places, often around a small TV, each person trying to maneuver his way to the most advantaged position. Chelsea fans seemed more in number than those of Manchester United and the blue color was more prominent. Somewhere in Surulere, a live cow was tied to a post with the Chelsea flag draped around it - ready to be butchered and barbecued to celebrate Chelsea's assumed win. A trophy was on a pedestal in another part of the city ready to be decorated by fans of the winning team. In another place, 2 cows were tied down, one for United and one for Chelsea. Cooks and Slaughter men stayed on alert ready to prepare a great feast. Drinks were ordered and iced as flags, jerseys, caps and stickers were displayed. Everywhere was either Red or Blue, there was no demilitarized zone.

Several days earlier had seen Chelsea fans holding rallies in several parts of the country notably Port Harcourt and Lagos, waving flags and banners and parading in a convoy of buses. It brought back to memory the days of the gubernatorial campaigns especially the PDP/AC battle in Lagos State.

Fast forward 2 hours, and the match had progressed into penalties. You could actually feel the whole city hold its breath. Somewhere in the east, a die-hard United fan passed out in the anxiety of the moment. Finally, Manchester United won and a great uproar went out. That was when the pandemonium began. Celebrations led to free-for-all fights in several places - as is almost always expected in such situations. Somewhere in Lagos, a fight broke out over the redemption of bets and broken bottles were freely utilized. Sadly, several lives were lost and many were wounded at the end of the day.

Now, here was a football tournament which took place in Europe with very few Nigerian players playing. The final match was played by an American owned club and a Russian owned club. Yet, Nigerians were ready to give their lives for the game. On the streets, about 1 out of every 5 cars has a Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool sticker displayed on its shields. Some have stickers so large they obstruct vision. In many offices, football is always the first discussion of the day. A lot of energy is used on a tournament that has nothing to do with our progress as a people or a nation.

It's all well to celebrate the win of Manchester. When last did we celebrate our country?
It's all well to identify with a foreign club and know everything about its history. When last did we identify with a Nigerian issue or the history behind the problem?
It's all well to have stickers, banners and plaques of teams in your car. Have you ever put a Nigerian flag or coat of arms in your car?
It's all well to use our energy during rallies and matches. When last did we use our energies for a community cause?

Today is Democracy Day in Nigeria, and as we celebrate the anniversary of our transition from military rule, let's celebrate Nigeria, and let's pledge to do our own little part in making Nigeria better, because when the cards are down, Nigeria is all we really have, and we have to live with and in it.

God bless Nigeria.

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May 18, 2008

Headache for the Obasanjos

First, I'll apologize for my long leave of absence. It's been three whole months since I last updated this blog. Three months which have been packed with activities and events in Nigeria. I was not running from the EFCC, neither was I slightly indisposed in Ota. I did not travel to Germany for medical checkup ... but I digress! Germany will be a story for another day. Today is the day of the Obasanjos.

The daughter of Baba himself, a serving senator in the upper house was declared wanted by the same organization that was started by her father. A cartoonist said "She facilitated the movement of Several Ghana-must-go bags to Ghana". She is now at large according to the EFCC. The same cartoonist wonders if the EFCC has tried looking for her in Ghana. Anyway, the court is expected to settle this matter. Nollywood will agree that this will make a great home video titled "The clash in the arms of Government" starring EFCC as The Executive, Senator Iyabo as The Legislative, and the Court of Law as The Judiciary. Introducing ... errr ... ok - lemme leave that for the home video guys. In any case, grab your copy ... NOW!

While this event is occupying front pages in major newspapers, Baba himself was summoned before the House of Representatives' Committee on Power and Steel to explain how and why $16 Billion (~N2000 Billion or N2 Trillion) was spent on the power sector without any visible improvement or any form of visibility. Quite conveniently, Baba became slightly indisposed and could not appear before the committee, choosing to draft a long letter to attend in his place.

I don't blame the man. What with a daughter being pursued by an organization he created, and billions of Nigerians waiting for him to explain why they are still in darkness, why won't he fall sick? Abeg let them leave the man to rest in his Ota Farm. Nigeria's affairs can make anyone seriously indisposed.

I hope this will serve as a warning to present leaders in the country. They need to know that public funds are not meant for private use. Right now, what we need in Nigeria is evidence that our tax money is being used for what it should and basic amenities like light, water and good roads are available in all parts of the country. Considering the percentage of my salary that is deducted as tax, that's not too much to ask, is it?

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May 14, 2008

I shall be back

No, I've not lost the ability to write
No, I've neither retired nor given up my blog
The darkest hour comes before dawn
But I shall be back again before long

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