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Odegbami: Mikel Obi and FESTAC – an Unusual Connection!

Odegbami: Mikel Obi and FESTAC – an Unusual Connection!

Please, read to the end of this write-up in order to appreciate the headline above.

This is a fantastic illustration of the scope, relationship and influence of sports to the rest of life.

Mikel Obi is Nigeria’s immediate past captain of the Super Eagles. Since 2005, he has been leading one or more of Nigeria’s national football teams to several football ‘battles’ all over the world.

He played for several clubs all over Europe and China before finally settling down in Turkey to enjoy the final lap of an illustrious career.

He has been a complete gentleman, off and on the field of play, aloof sometimes to the point where some people wrongly think he is arrogant. But what is not in dispute is that he is a great leader, cool, always calm and collected.

In his long sojourn on planet football he has never been known to be violent, or anything near it.

Also Read – Odegbami: Football versus Racism – One Match that FIFA Could Not, but Must win!

Yet that is the story that would have made global news headlines had he not been restrained by his team mates after a match last week in Turkey.

For the first time in his career, Mikel Obi was so enraged he was going to throw punches at a fellow player, the captain of Fenerbahce FC in a Turkish Super Lig match last week for calling him racial names on the field of play. After the match, Mikel and his family also received thousands of hate mails on social media from fans of Fenerbahce club racially abusing them! Mikel broke down in exasperation whilst reporting the incidents at a press briefing.

mikel-obi-trabzonspor-fenerbahce-racism- emre-belozoglu-turkish-super-lig-festac-leopold-senghor

Mikel reacts to the provocative racial comments by Fenerbahce captain

Only a few weeks ago, late basketball Legend, Kobe Bryant, in a famous quote that has gone viral on social media, drew the attention of the world to racial abuse in sports and called for its cessation.

Racism in sports, particularly football, is on the increase around the world, outside Africa. It is a continuation of the mental and physical siege the Black person has been under in different shapes, guises and sizes, for over 600 years and still ongoing.

The incident with Mikel last week further draws serious attention to it.

The Nigerian media have shockingly not played it up as they should.

What could have brought Mikel within seconds of ‘throwing away’ the reputation he had built up for over 15 years at the top of football in the world for a minute of provoked ‘madness’? What can be done to halt it permanently? The answers can be found in FESTAC.

FESTAC is the acronym for the World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, a pan-African festival introduced in the mid-1960s by the Organization of African Unity, OAU, to promote Black Culture and Civilisation, to bring together Blacks and Africans from around the world to celebrate their common patrimony, and to design a road map for their race in a world that is not designed for them to succeed and be equal partners. In short, FESTAC was as a ‘weapon’ conceived and established to fight racism against Blacks in the world.

The festival concept, a no-brainer, was designed by President Leopold Senghor of Senegal and some others to promote Black unity, culture and civilisation, and to drive a fundamental, but unwritten (if it were written the festival would never find daylight), anti-racism agenda.

The first edition held in Dakar, Senegal, in 1966.

The second edition, bigger and better organized, was held in Nigeria in 1977 after a long 11-years hiatus created by political upheavals in Nigeria – changes of governments through military coups, the death of a Nigerian military head of State, the Nigerian Civil War, and non-completion of the magnificent edifices and infrastructure being put in place by a very buoyant Nigerian government led by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

mikel-obi-trabzonspor-fenerbahce-racism- emre-belozoglu-turkish-super-lig-festac-leopold-senghor

Mikel chases down Fenerbahce opponent, helping Trabzonspor win 2-1

A whole town was built to accommodate the 17,000 Black artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors, cinematographers, and Black scholars drawn from all over the world. That’s how FESTAC Village (now a town with over I million inhabitants) was built, alongside the magnificent National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, a network of new roads, Tafawa Balewa Square and so on.

What is instructive about FESTAC is that 43 years after the last festival was held in Nigeria, the event and its original vision have been ‘extinguished’. The Western World saw the threat that can be posed by an intellectual and cultural assembly of Black persons such as was witnessed in Lagos in 1977, and the power that can be unleashed on the world. France and few other Western organisations withdrew their initial support for the festival to avoid shooting themselves in the foot by aiding the establishment of a movement that will halt a well-established over-600 years of global suppression, oppression, and exploitation of the Black race.

After 1977, FESTAC, the only global ‘army’ ever established to fight for the cause of the Black person on earth had to be killed, mentally and physically. That is why the fight against Racism in the world has been futile, and the scourge has been on an unfettered rampage.

That is the link between Mikel Obi and FESTAC.

Last week, Mikel, the quiet, unassuming football captain and legend, that hardly ever raised his voice beyond a whisper for 15 years, was verbally abused with racial slurs by Emre Belozoglu, the frustrated Captain of the Fenerbahce FC that had just lost a home match to Mikel’s team, on the field of play, and by thousands of Fenerbahce FC fans after the match.

Mikel could not stand the abuse and disrespect and wanted to engage Emre in a fisticuff on the field, but was restrained by his team mates.

Racial abuse is always a reminder to the Black person of his story, particularly since the abolition of slavery over 200 years ago, that the mentality that Blacks are intellectually inferior has not gone away. So, the Black person continues to suffer indignity and abuse, without any repercussion to the perpetrators that are treated, as usual, with kid gloves.

So, all over Europe, the scourge is increasing. No serious steps are taken by the White-dominated international bodies responsible for football, to stamp out an unacceptable treatment that takes the Black person to the pits of anger and depression.

mikel-obi-trabzonspor-fenerbahce-racism- emre-belozoglu-turkish-super-lig-festac-leopold-senghor

Mikel in Trabzonspor training session

Mikel’s incident is another reminder that ‘mental slavery’, described by Bob Marley and Fela Anikulapo Kuti in two of their songs, continues to sustain unabated in the world till this day. To deal with it decisively, would require a coming together of the entire global Black race in a common front and assembly to discuss a common plan of action.

That was what FESTAC did. And that’s the connection between Mikel Obi’s incident and FESTAC.

To deal with the scourge of Racism, even in football, the matter must be taken to the level of the original FESTAC vision and mission. The World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, FESTAC, project must be revived. It is the only weapon that can take on the rest of the world and fight racism to a stand-still and promote the cause of the Black person on earth.

Football, along with all sports, is an integral part of the cultural promotion that is needed to fight racism. Isolated the way things have been since 1977, the Black race is a sitting duck for racists, White supremacists and their imperialist collaborators.

African leaders must bring back the concept of FESTAC! It is the most powerful force that can win the war against racism and create a new Black Culture, Consciousness and Civilisation!

From the unfortunate circumstances of Mikel Obi in Turkey last week, we can take away a useful lesson for the entire Black race.

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  • Lol. African leaders should bring back FESTAC in order to fight racism? Good point, but, sir, the connection you’re trying to draw, especially between Mikel and the abandoned festival, looks too weak, far-fetched, and off the mark. Ever wondered why successive African leaders have been uninterested in reviving the concept since 1977?

    Me thinks there are so many things that trigger racism and so many ways to fight it, but I doubt reviving FESTAC should be top of them. Perhaps we should start with African leaders and notable personalities from the continent. How many world leaders admire and respect African leaders – both current and in the recent past? Most of them are kleptomaniacs, sit-tight despots and warmongers. Heck, Trump even called the current one in Nigeria ‘lifeless.’

    Perhaps when Africa has an abundance of great leaders like Mandela, Nkrumah (and who else? In fact, none again!), they’ll begin to see us in a different light. Instead, what do we present to the world? Idi Amin, Abacha, Biya (who’s been ruling since 1982), Mugabe, and the rest.

    Furthermore, such visionary leaders will develop sports business and the economy generally and so make going to Europe less attractive. My sympathy with Mikel, but he and co were only in search of hard currency that their skills can easily fetch them in Europe. As we speak, all types of footballers in the NPFL and lower leagues are still planning to migrate to Europe. What happened to Mikel was not his fault. It’s just that Africa has a serious leadership crisis.

  • Chris 4 years ago

    Odegbami, in summary, no white man should be allowed to lead our dear super eagles abi?
    Please take this your war against the white man to the white man in his house (FIFA), by the time we keep winning (with our white manager) and you are winning from that (FIFA) end, we shall meet at the centre to celebrate our efforts together.

    But as it is now, you are disturbing the peace in your own land. I wonder why you forgot (deliberately) to mention in your article that Mikel Obi said “WE ARE ALL ONE” in response to the racial treatment he got out there.

    Biko, Odegbami if you too vex, stop using anything invented by the white man or has an input of a white man. Just stay black for 1-year let’s see how your market go sell.

  • Mr Hush 4 years ago

    I have always been one to respect the mathematical one and share in his sentiments about the black race but his solutions have always come short.

    The fact is simple, the problem of racism would never go away no matter how much actions we take on it.Simply put, most humans are selfish egocentric beings that always promulgate their circle/ group over those of the other. Every group feels they are highly esteemed in not so equal measure to the rest and such classification,albeit mentally,has eaten deep into the very fragment of social being called man.
    It takes a strong selfless personality with a free spirit, deep reasoning and an intellectual mind to live above that mental and social nomenclature that have engulf man.
    Racism is in the same class as nepotism,tribalism,xenophobia,patrinilealism and clan ascendancy that has eaten deep into the black race.
    How does the share madness of forceful religion indoctrination differ from the white man’s madness called racism?
    That said;
    The question is , how do one expect the West to respect you when you don’t value yourself?( not at all blaming Mikel or any given black brother out there suffering this stigma).
    It is well known,how we treat ourselves as a people . Go through the African continent and see the despair we place on ourselves just for the greed of the corrupt leaders and a people, who lost to their gullibility.

    And talking about bringing back a black festivity is nothing but unreasonable. How did the past Festac help both the host and the guests? How has Senegal and Nigeria faired since hosting the Festac?

    To keep blaming the white man for the past and continuance failure of the black race is laughable. It shows how shallow we are and how deep we are in that cistern of under development in thought and actions.

    The truth is staring us in the face and until we act on it,we would keep crying over spilt milk.
    The Black race needs to wake up,forget about what others think about them, get quality leaders with the right mentality and fixed their problem which are well documented.
    The South East Asians did it; China, Vietnam,South Korea, Taiwan ,Singapore,Malaysia etc were all been racially stereotyped in the past and were ruled by the West. Look at them now.advanced.
    We could learn a thing or two from the Tiger nations and it would do us good.

    Emre and his fellow racist Fenerbache supporters can only used their words;but Mikel would always stand tall. He has achieved more than Emre would ever do. And no skin colour can take that away from Mikel.

  • What is he saying? I no understand anything from the write up. He is high?

  • Dr. Drey 4 years ago

    What happened to Mikel was quite unfortunate.

    But the battle against racism is not a battle of spears or guns….neither is it a battle of arts and culture.

    Its a battle of attitude and intellect.

    When we as blacks (or Africans) change our collective attitudes and start acting with our intellect rather than with our emotions/sentiments we would start earning respect from the whites.

    Nigeria started on the same track with Brazil, India and Malaysia in the 60’s. But can we say we are mates with them today even with our Oil….? Let me not broach the stories of the ‘Asian Tigers’ or the ‘Emirates of Arabia’ any further as my noble brother @ MR Hush has accentuated on them already.

    We dont need to demand for respect, we only need to EARN it. I talk from years of academic and professional experience, even in the white man’s land.

    • Mr Hush 4 years ago

      ” we don’t need to demand respect, we only need to EARN it..”

      It couldn’t have been stated better.

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