What footballing success does for the Nigerian state, is to mimic the spirit of national cohesion promised and typified by the events of June 12…
I have read posts online since the victory of the Eagles, where diverse writers, celebrating our somewhat unexpected victory, have wondered how come we have been unable to translate the nationalist fervor experienced as a result of our footballing success, into the strengthening of our national cohesion and unity.
I have responded by posting the following in response to posts on the walls of a couple of friends;
“On the football pitch, you win or lose, as a team. In real life Nigeria, there are systemic advantages and disadvantages, reserved for the individuals based on religious, ethnic, and other affiliations.
When real life Nigeria mimics the principles of football, when citizens are treated equally, and extrinsic considerations are not factored into the calculus of citizenship, the commonality will engender the unity we briefly witnessed, and which you have eloquently described, during football matches”
The true strength of Nigeria, her diversity, is what our unimaginative dealers, have turned into her albatross. The typical football team is comprised of several skill sets. The strikers’ tasks are different from the goalkeeper’s, the midfielder’s job, is different from the defender’s, successful teams are dependent on their capacity to synthesize the different skill sets, and the synergies thereby created, determines the level of success achievable on the pitch.
Our wicked rulers have never grasped this reality, and have sought to build a nation that excludes the very best of us. Imagine how less successful the Nigerian team would have been, had it been comprised only of strikers, and devoid of defenders. A team is the aggregate of the individuals making up that team, and a nation will evolve only on the basis of a shared destiny and the commonality of interests.
Nigeria’s problems are rooted in her crises of citizenship, and this is evidenced by the multiple levels of citizenship available to the peoples trapped within her borders. When we have managed to evolve a composite identity of the Nigerian, one that is unchanged regardless of ethnicity and or religious considerations, we’ll transit from a failed state into the promised land.
The Nigerian state is founded on a nepotistic foundation, and the result is the multiplicity of citizenship levels. The Nigerian citizen of Imo state origin, is treated differently from the one from Bauchi, the man from Lagos, is different from the one from Akwa Ibom, and the reservation of privileges for one, guarantees disadvantages to the other. In the quests to equalize these anomalous state of affairs, corruption has been normalized.
Congratulations to the Super Eagles, let us enjoy the illusions of nationhood engendered by the interlude of footballing success. Keep in mind that the population of Iceland is less than that of Surulere, yet it has more facilities for the development of football than the giant of Africa. Let that knowledge temper your crows of invincibility. Nigeria is a state, not a nation, and for greatness on and off the football pitch, a true team of our very best must be built.
The election of June 12, 1993 is the reason why I cannot give up on the possibilities of a nation emerging from the ruins of the Nigerian state, Abiola picked a Muslim VP, he won in his opponent’s home state, he won across the length and breadth of Nigeria, and the people for a period, however brief, and before the exertions of Chukwumerije paid off, shared a common destiny and hope. The election did not cure the afflictions of Nigeria, but it did set us on the path to nationhood. Abacha, Obasanjo, and co, obliterated the bridge built on that day.
What footballing success does for the Nigerian state, is to mimic the spirit of national cohesion promised and typified by the events of June 12. But as the drunk must face the sorry reality of his daily existence, Nigerians must wake up from the drunken stupor of our ephemeral football victory over Iceland, and no, my opinion would remain the same, even if the pig proves to be truly prophetic, and we somehow defeat the messy Argentines. Now for some bacons and pork chops….
Up Super Eagles!!!
First published June 23, 2018.