We are in the season of elections.
Nigeria’s general elections, including the one for the seat of President of the Federal Republic, come up in a few weeks time. The elections into the States’ Football Associations are ongoing! The FIFA Presidential elections will come up in a few months time. The elections for the CAF Presidency will also come up in 2016.
I do not like elections. Don’t blame me. Election periods bring back memories of my previous personal experiences.
My immediate thought is that elections bring out the worst in Nigerians.
During elections, glaringly you see many Nigerians giving up, for various reasons, their rights and power to determine who leads them in exchange for passivism or a cheap ‘pot of porridge’.
They suddenly develop cold feet and become masters of compromise, willingly surrendering to intimidation, fear, pittances, blackmail and ignorance.
I have seen and experienced it too many times not to feel that most people, in frustration at past failures, no longer believe in their own ability to become masters of their own destiny and to ensure that their votes reflect their choices, and to stand firmly against tyranny and any manipulative forces that may attempt to short change true democracy!
Even within my local football elections at state and national levels in the past two decades, I do not have any good stories to narrate. They represent dark chapters in my life and are reflected in the abyss into which Nigerian sports and football have slowly but steadily been sucked.
Nigerian elections in particular all have a common character – convoluted processes, manipulation, fear, intimidation, multiple voting, stuffed ballot boxes, bribery, disregard for the rule of law, impunity, crass ignorance.
Even the elections into small local government football councils and State Football Associations take their script direct from the NFF Executive Committee elections. The entire country is left confused in total incomprehension every four years when they hold. That surely speaks volumes. The more you look the less you see!
The present electoral practices are surely are not the recipe for a peaceful and progressive country. Incidentally, what goes on in our sports elections are also just a perfect copy of what happens in our national politics.
So, even as we stand on the edge of a precipice, staring down at the incredible possibilities below us in the valley of genuine political change, we hesitate as we are distracted from taking a leap into the future by the strident and pervasive drumbeats of war around us.
But fear and intimidation must never deter or stop the march to a better Nigeria. Change is needed and must be fought for in order to be achieved!
The Devil’s Temptation!
I was invited by a colleague the other day to join in the political rally involving several famous artists from Nollywood, music and the sports fraternity in Abuja, in support of the way things are presently.
He did not even bother to ask me where I belonged in the political divide between the major parties, or even any other party for that matter. He just assumed that with the financial offer being made I would jump on the next plane and head for Abuja!
He should have known better. The sports fraternity used to be apolitical. We would keep our distance far from all politics and political inclinations. As sports ambassadors of our country we represent all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion, political affiliation or class.
The tragedy is the situation has changed. Sports ambassadors are now on political platforms and at rallies. Appointments of sports persons are now subjects of ethnicity and political affiliations.
My friend’s invitation to Abuja could not have better illustrated the depth to which our sport has sunk.
Things are just not right with Nigerian sports the way they are presently.In truth they have not been for decades. But what obtains now is simply not good for the country and paints a dark picture of the future.
So, I respectfully declined my friend’s offer and told him I would stake my chances on a new direction, a future I am not sure of, but which would provide sports persons the platform for provoking critical conversations on sports, and creating narratives for change leading to a brighter future.
I cannot also not side with a system that totally alienates and disregards where I come from, and makes no provision for the heroes of the past, and has no clear plans for those of the future.
Governor Shettima of Borno’s example!
The Governor of Borno State is not my friend. I barely know him, I have met him only once in my life.
Three years ago, the only time we met, I told him about sports and education for young gifted children. He listened in rapt attention.
A few months later, despite the humongous and almost impossible challenges that he was facing in Borno State, he got his Ministry of Education to undertake a pilot programme to send five Borno State children down south to the laboratory of learning and sports in Ogun State, on government scholarships.
Two years and four months have passed. In another four months time that experiment would be yielding it’s first fruits. The five students will complete their secondary school education this June and would be armed with a first-class secondary school education, their talent in sports now well honed and other entrepreneurial skills that will distinguish them from their mates in Borno who are traumatised by the raging war and crisis in their home State.
The children’s greater achievement would definitely be their new life-orientation having lived, studied and played with their mates from other parts of the country in a full national integration initiative.
Borno State is the only State in the country, to provide such an opportunity to its students that are gifted in sports and combine them with education. Incidentally,Amaju Pinnick, the President of the NFF, also sponsors two children to the same school.
Those five Borno State students have now become models to the tens of millions of children around the country requiring an education, some opportunity, some direction, guidance and support from their governments, to reinforce and secure their future with the combination of sports and education.
Not once in the three years that the students have been provided this oasis of opportunity has Governor Kashim Shettima even publicized, for personal political gain, this benevolent act. It may be but a drop in the sea, but ‘little drops an ocean make’.
Governor Shettima will be proud of his products when they finally graduate this summer.I am using him as reference point.
In this rising temperature of Nigeria’s political atmosphere it is in little things like this that one finds the answer concerning where to stake one’s vote! I rest my case!
Luis Figo And The FIFA Presidency
Footballers around the world rejoice, for your time may be at hand.
The entry of Luis Figo, the Portuguese football legend, into the race for the Presidency of FIFA has thrown up a truly exciting dimension to the election.
His entry has ignited the landscape and provokes several conversations and options.
Luis is coming out at a time when the marginalization of footballers in football administration is so pervasive around the world. He is joining a small team of pioneers – Michel Platini, Kalusha Bwalya, and a few others – in the struggle for our emancipation.
Sepp Blatter at the moment may still have a big advantage but he, better than anyone else, knows that he is at his most vulnerable, and a player of Luis’s stature and achievements will give him a good run for his money.
Luis’s entry may influence unprecedented change in football administration around the world should he win the FIFA Presidency.
All football players must raise their voices now and team up with Luis Figo in his campaign.
David Beckham has started already by publicly endorsing him. The rest of us must follow quickly.
Mount Blatter may be a very high mountain to climb, but footballers use mountains to train to become the best at what we do. So, who says we cannot climb this mountain too?
I welcome Luis Figo to the struggle.He has my support even if I have no vote to cast.