There has been nothing in recent memory like the build up to Nigeria’s first match at the on-going 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia. Football is Nigeria’s greatest unifier: when it is football, our compatriots drop all ethnic, religious and ideological differences and profess the missing faith and ideology of one Nigeria.
They have expressed similar solidarity over whose jollof is sweeter in the competition between Ghanaian jollof, Senegalese jollof and Nigerian jollof – the way Nigerians defend our national cuisine, you would think we are a nation of gourmets, but nothing compares to the magic of football and its connection with nationalism. When it comes to football, Nigeria is the home of passion, zeal and boundary-less excitement. This is intriguing so to speak in the same nation where politics is combustible and a comment about another person’s faith or religion, or ethnicity or a mere disagreement between a Hausa-Fulani and a Yoruba at Mile 12 market, or between a pastoralist and a farmer in the Middle Belt could result in bloodbath, even at a football-viewing centre. The only explanation we have for this is that Nigeria is a complex country, full of paradoxes, and clearly, only Nigerians understand their country.
Nonetheless, the disappointing performance of the Super Eagles in their first match at the on-going 2018 World Cup tournament has nothing to do with paradox or complexity, it was a display of sheer absent-mindedness. In the build-up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Nigeria was the darling of the entire world. The news was that we had the best set of jerseys and kits in the world. Despite the shoulder-rubbing aspiration of Egypt, Croatia and one other country like that, the Nigerian jerseys designed by Nike became the aso ebi of the World Cup – a nice combination of colour, mood, shade and tint. The jerseys sold out a few minutes after being made available on the Nike website. Before you knew it, everybody that is somebody or simply pro-Nigerian started wearing the jersey, across the world. If the World Cup were to be won by the beauty of the garment, Nigerians would have seized the trophy even before the tournament began.
There was even a quarrel over the attires: there must be like four different types, but the one eventually designed by a local tailor made as much wave as the Nike ones and one guy went on twitter to protest that there was a Nigerian conspiracy against the Warri guy who designed the local aso ebi. At that point, the ethnic element came in, but Nigerians didn’t dwell on that. They quickly recognized @gt_stitches and asked the Super Eagles to show the world what they have.
Beautiful Nollywood girls and professional local slay queens pushed their frontal and back-end assets in our faces proclaiming Up-Nigeria. Some even exposed nice, succulent, tempting flesh, to reassure the Super Eagles that the women of Nigeria were behind them. Some celebrities joined the craze, including a few pot-bellied, and white-hair-in-the-nose actors wearing the Super Eagles jersey. The international media spotted the story – BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera etc and adopted the Super Eagles as the best-dressed team in the World Cup and we all went wa-ah–oh. They even interviewed Russians watching our Nigerian football fans, dancing round the streets of Russia, singing, jolloficating, and energetically pounding the streets. “The Nigerians just won’t stop singing and dancing”!
The excitement was so much that even the President of Brazil endorsed Nigeria as a key team at the World Cup. The Irish, not having a team at the World Cup, ignored England and said they were supporting Nigeria. It was clear to me, doing a structuralist and semiotic reading of this that Nigeria is a country in desperate need of good news. I didn’t attempt a Marxist reading- the Russians themselves having killed Karl Marx after his death. The World Cup is not about the struggle of the masses, or equity or justice. It is war, even if at the end of the day the gifted are separated from the waka-pass and a dictatorship of the former is established. Every qualifying team joins the war to defend its country, its brand, national ego and corporate brand. Very sad. Very bad. So frustrating, therefore: The Super Eagles messed us up on Saturday, June 16. Many Nigerians were disappointed with their performance. It was Nigeria’s 6th World Cup appearance. The boys may have worn the most fashionable clothes, but they failed to realize that the World Cup is not a Dolce and Gabana show where Wizkid and Naomi Campell can exchange boy and woman banters or that the garment does not make the Monk. Every World Cup match is a macho game, a game of thrones, with too much at stake – personal brands, national brands, and the ego and emotions of nations. Our team lacked energy, drive and creativity. Alex Iwobi, the leading light from the qualifiers was anonymous on the left wing. Victor Moses was the man every Nigerian thought would make some difference. The fella was busy showboating all over the pitch on Saturday, falling up and down like a yoyo, kicking the ball like a headless chicken. Ighalo was left isolated with no secondary support.
Troost-Ekong certainly does not know that the World Cup field is not a night-club. He should be told to stop holding and embracing the opponent in the penalty yard. A football match is not a ballet where people cling to each other and do the pirouette. Mikel Obi should try and help his country. Cristiano Ronaldo had a big tax evasion matter on his head, but he still stood up for his country. Diego Costa: he proved himself for Spain. Lionel Messi may have lost the penalty: I blame the coach – never ask Messi to take the penalty, he would mess it up- but he worked hard for Argentina.
With an own goal and a silly penalty give-away in the match against Croatia, we have all now become a nation of football coaches. Young Nigerians who claim to understand football, even if their only claim to that is the Aba-made Super Eagles jersey they bought in Lagos Traffic, or at Yaba bend-down market, are now telling Gernot Rohr what combination he must adopt in subsequent matches. Many amateur coaches have recommended the 4-4-2 combination but I think Nigeria probably stands a chance of doing better in this World Cup if all the arm-chair coaches on social media can be blocked and all the fine girls with corruption-laden body parts can be banned from sending Direct Messages to the Super Eagles. Also, the boys must not visit Mikel Obi’s in-laws until the end of the tournament. They must stay away from Russian hospitality and Vodka. Nigeria as a country needs to concentrate on the task at hand. Switzerland was able to hold Brazil down to a 1-1 draw because they focused on the job. The same was the case in the Portugal-Spain match. Marcus, the pig had predicted that Spain would beat Portugal. But that didn’t happen. In the dying minutes, Ronaldo made it a hat-rick and cancelled Diego Costa’s brace. We need people like that in the Super Eagles. Portugal obviously did not rely on the pig.
It is indeed a crying shame that Nigerians are relying on fashion and animals for their World Cup 2018 fortune. Just before our first match against Croatia on Saturday, we were told that the Football Association Chairman in Russia had issued a statement forbidding Super Eagles fans from bringing live chickens to the stadiums. Apparently the Super Eagles Fans’ Club Association had asked for permission to bring live chickens to the match venues- chickens are said to be symbols of the Fans’ association. I don’t know whether or not the Russians were being polite, but they said No. I have tried to put myself in their shoes. Having heard all those stories about snakes that steal millions of money in Nigeria, who in his right senses in the world today, will allow Nigerians to bring a live chicken to a competitive football match? What if any of the chickens, the sprightly, springy ones broke loose, jumped onto the field of play and caused some havoc in the course of a peregrination across the stadium? There is also the additional threat of bird flu, being spread inadvertently through contact or air-borne pollination. But may be it was not even the chickens that posed the greatest danger, it was probably Marcus the pig- the prophesying-animal that reportedly told the whole world that the Super Eagles would make it to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.
Nigerians generally, including the Super Eagles are very superstitious. But we all need to be told that the World Cup is not about chickens and pigs. Some Nigerians were so dependent on the pig’s prediction that when they were disappointed at the end, they slaughtered and barbecued Marcus – representations of it – literally, and figuratively, on social media for its treachery. May they be reminded that the same pig probably predicted that Spain will beat Portugal in their first encounter. But Portugal had Ronaldo who proved to be brighter than the pig and in the dying minutes, he changed the game. And that takes us to where we are going: the Super Eagles must stop relying on predictions, or pigs or chickens and play football. The on-going World Cup tournament is already springing surprises and living up to the hype. Mexico trashed Germany the defending Champions. Switzerland held Brazil with their individually and collectively talented squad to a draw. Portugal and Spain played as if they were at war. Iceland, a first-time participant at the World Cup, put up a great showing, 1-1, against Argentina, a team mentioned as one of the favourites to win the tournament. This particular match recorded specular saves by the Iceland goalkeeper, including a Lionel Messi penalty kick. Magical moments like this indicate determination and the desire to win. Hannes Halldorsson, Iceland’s goalkeeper, is a film-maker away from football- he would never have guessed he would produce a film-like performance at the World Cup and also be named Man of the Match.
On Friday, June 22, the Super Eagles will again be on the field – against Iceland. If there is ever a must-win match to keep a nation’s hope alive, that must be it. The Super Eagles must not play like pigs or chickens. We expect them to play like champions. Just before the World Cup began, Javier Mascherano, an Argentine player commented on how the great thing about Nigeria is that we are a disorganized team, and that our disorganization disorganizes other teams. Masherano was proven right in our match against Croatia. That is disheartening.
As a country that has football ingrained into its identity, we expect a lot more even if, to be honest, there is an obvious lack of high-end talent representing the national team. Many of our own who can make a difference are, sadly and unfortunately, representing other national teams at this World Cup. Manuel Obafemi Akanji, born to a Nigerian father, has just helped Switzerland to secure a draw against Brazil. Dele Alli, another Nigerian is in the English national team. So I ask: are we expecting too much from the Super Eagles? Are we putting too much pressure on them to perform? I don’t think so. Romelu Lukaku, a star of the Belgian team and Manchester United, is from a family that had no access to Cable TV. His family was poor. He is now making a second-time appearance in the World Cup finals. He has scored 2 goals in this World Cup to help secure a 3-0 victory for Belgium over Panama. Gabriel Jesus of Brazil used to paint streets; today he is one of the leading stars for Brazil at the World Cup. What Nigerians want from the Super Eagles at this World Cup is good performance, a display of ability and seriousness, and a successful defence of the Nigerian brand.
Developing football? Whatever happens at the end of the day in Russia, we have to learn to develop Nigeria’s football sector and the entire sports sector – the management, the leadership recruitment, the diversification and strategic intensification – to demonstrate to the world that we are a serious-minded nation. Super Eagles – a severely depressed nation in search of good news waits on you.
UK-Rwanda relocation plan for asylum seekers is a hot potato by Charles Onyango-Obbo
In 2019, Rwanda agreed to take in hundreds of African immigrants held in horrid conditions in detention centres in Libya under an agreement with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the African Union.
There was applause.
In August 2021, as America’s 20-year-old military and state-building campaign in Afghanistan unravelled into chaos, in Africa —Rwanda and Uganda — agreed to take in Afghanistan refugees.
Among the Afghans who relocated to Rwanda, escaping the Taliban’s well-known hostility toward education for women, were all 250 students of the famed Afghanistan Leadership School (SOLA), Afghanistan’s only boarding school for girls.
There were cheers and extravagant praise for Rwanda and Uganda. Today, Rwanda hosts nearly 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Uganda, on the other hand, hosts 1.5 million refugees, making it the top refugee-hosting country in Africa.
In April this year, hell broke loose. The UK announced that it had a plan to send illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they would either stay or move on to other countries.
The Boris Johnson government insists the programme is aimed at disrupting people-smuggling networks and deterring migrants from making the dangerous sea journey across the English Channel to England from France.
Critics have come out swinging with fury, calling the plan immoral, racist, and several arguing it is risky because several of the human rights found in liberal democracies are absent in Rwanda. This new “democracy test” for resettlement, has opened up a tricky window into the protection business.
The UK asylum affair, meanwhile, has muscled its way into the headlines about the Commonwealth Heads of Government (Chogm) meeting being held in Kigali.
The high emotions the UK-Rwanda asylum plan has kicked up, are a pointer to how complicated, immigration and refugee have come. There are several contradictory things that are both true at the same time.
If Donald Trump’s election victory in the US in 2016, and his turbulent racist-fuelled term tell us anything, it is that the western world has reached “peak” migration.
Uncomfortable to confront, but it is probably no longer sustainable for, especially, people from the south to continue emigrating and fleeing to the West in large numbers. Domestically, the fear of people of colour “replacing” white communities is reaching a fever pitch, and fuelling extreme right-wing politics.
We’ve to grant it. The demographic make-up of the West is changing, and by the end of this century, white people will be minorities in nearly all the major European countries. Not too many people will take their disappearance with great fortitude.
For the western left and progressives, migration and the diverse nations it makes possible is where they see the future of their play in politics. For businesses, migrants provide a new pool of cheap labour, ensuring their profit in a world where China is eating their lunch. Things like the UK-Rwandan plan, do have long-term political and economic consequences.
Yet, that doesn’t explain why the resettlements of immigrants from Libya and Afghanistan in Africa weren’t attacked. The difference could be because Libya’s and Afghanistan’s crises are partly outcomes of western — NATO and the US — interventions that went horribly wrong. The repatriations are a much-needed clean-up of the mess — and there is some consensus of the western left and right on that.
Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. Twitter@cobbo3
Tanko Muhammad, Ekweremadu and health of Nigeria by Suyi Ayodele
What happened to the Nigerian judiciary under the now retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, is a symptom of an ailing nation. We must all come to admit that Nigeria is a country that needs moral transplant. Who will be the donor is what we don’t know. That the aeroplane-driving CJN retired after his “brother justices” accused him of misconduct is never news to celebrate. The resignation itself is never a part of the diagnosis of what ails the country. And I sincerely do hope that the General Muhammadu Buhari administration will not because of the belated retirement roll out the drums to celebrate his tough stance on the fight against corruption! The judiciary is expected to be the healthiest of the three arms of government. Its chronic illness under Tanko is a pointer to the general well being of the government in power. The undertakers should not be far away as their services may be required soon.
In Africa’s worldview, a healthy man is a wealthy man. The saying, “health is wealth,” underscores the importance human beings attach to sound health. Without sound health, man becomes useless. This is why sane countries of the world don’t play with their healthcare delivery. But it is not so in Nigeria, a country which prides itself as the “Giant of Africa”. By that sobriquet, one would expect that Nigeria would tower above other African countries in all ramifications of life. If you are wondering why we are this low in all aspects of life as a nation, just take a look at our health care delivery system. If Nigeria’s health is failing, or has failed, the citizenry cannot be healthy. For those who care to know, Nigeria is not just ill, it is terminally ill.
Some two years ago or so, I had the misfortune of rushing an ailing church member to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH. At the close of service that fateful Sunday, a friend and I had planned to go out with our spouses. We drove out of the church premises and saw the ailing woman being aided to the road to get a taxi to the hospital. We picked her up in my friend’s car while I joined him and asked the women to use my own car. By Ehaekpen Road, the woman gave up the ghost in the car. But we continued the journey to the UBTH. At the Accident and Emergency section of the hospital, she was confirmed as BID (Brought In Dead). That was where our ordeal began. The relation in the car contacted other family members and agreed that the remains of the woman be deposited at the hospital’s morgue. To our utter embarrassment, UBTH had no BID form to take the woman’s profile and have her corpse deposited in the morgue. For over two hours, the corpse was left in our car. I had to ask one of the hospital attendants in charge to copy the information of a used BID form at the back of another used form and fill in for the dead woman. I knew then that we had bigger problems than anyone could imagine. If a teaching hospital, as big as the UBTH, had no ordinary BID form, one can imagine the state of the General Hospital at Afrikpo, or Balewa Village or at Itawure!
This is why, at the slightest discomfort of headache, the locust masquerading as our leaders jet out of Nigeria to seek medical help abroad. From personnel to equipment, infrastructure to medications, hospitals in Nigeria are killing fields. In his 2017 article titled: ‘Africa’s presidents keep going abroad for medical treatment rather than fixing healthcare at home,’ published in Qartz Africa, an online publication, Yomi Kazeem has this to say: “The preference for an international doctor’s appointment is steeped in irony as these leaders often make promises about improving local healthcare a central part of their campaigns while seeking office. But by looking beyond the continent for medical solutions, African leaders maintain a vicious cycle which keeps faith in public healthcare low while channeling substantial state resources to hospitals abroad rather than plug local healthcare gaps. In many African countries, this reality is all too apparent. According to the World Health Organisation estimates, with a shortage of 4.2 million health workers, Africa is the region with the world’s second-worst health worker shortage”. Zeroing down on Nigeria, Kazeem quoted WHO as saying that: “In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the shortage will be less severe if the health system could call on the services of the up to 15,000 Nigerian doctors estimated to be working outside the country. But there’s little motivation for doctors practising abroad to return home with crumbling infrastructure, lack of drugs and poor compensation.” If in 2017, we had 15,000 Nigerian medical doctors working outside the shores of the country, your guess is as good as mine on what the figure will be now.
Nothing, in recent time speaks to the parlous state of our healthcare delivery system more than last Thursday’s arrest of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, by the Metropolitan Police in far away United Kingdom. According to the reports of the arrest, the former deputy senate president was accused of trafficking a child to the UK for organ harvest and slavery. A statement issued by the Met police says “Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55 (10.9.66) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. Ike Ekweremadu, 60 (12.05.62) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. They have both been remanded in custody and will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court later today. A child has been safeguarded and we are working closely with partners on continued support. As criminal proceedings are now under way we will not be providing further details”. Ever since, the senator’s team has responded to state that the alleged “organ harvest victim” is not a 15-year-old street lad, but a 22-year old adult who volunteered to donate one of his organs for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, who is having challenges with her kidney. My thrust here is not to probe into the veracity or otherwise of the claims that the supposed organ donor, David Nwamini Ukpo, was shipped to the UK legally. I would also not bother to interrogate whether Ukpo is on his own an opportunist, who, according to claims, when he realised that he would be shipped back to Nigeria after his organ failed to match that of Sonia, decided to raise false alarms of abuse and what have you. No, my focus is why, in the first instance, Ekweremadu had to depend on a UK hospital for an organ transplant operation for his darling daughter.
The problem with the Enugu-born senator is the problem with all our political leaders in Nigeria. Like the saying goes: “all are thieves but he who is caught is the barawo”. For crying out loud, Ekweremadu has been in the corridors of power since the time lizards were few. He is a confirmed “omo ijoba” (government child). Two years before the advent of the current political disaster we call democratic governance, he was elected chairman of Aniri Local Government Area of Enugu State on the platform of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP. He was elected into the Senate in 2003 and was deputy Senate president for 12 years, beginning with the era of David Mark, through to Bukola Saraki. In his 19-year stay in the Senate, like his other political leeches feeding fat on our patrimony without a whim of concern for the common good, Ekweremadu did not see any reason why Nigeria should have well -equipped hospitals where ailments like organ failure of any shade could be treated. Unfortunately, Ekweremadu is not the only culprit in the league of Nigerian leaders engaged in medical tourism. The league, as we all know, is led by General Muhammadu Buhari, who holds the life trophy of spending 104 days at a stretch on a London hospital bed at our expense, with the presidential jet parked at Heathrow Airport, accumulating demurrage! When we add the BTA of his personal aides who accompanied him to the UK, Buhari will go down in history as the man who spent what could have built for the nation a decent hospital for the use of the people on a single medical trip abroad. So, when news of the arrest of Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu filtered in, what easily came to my mind is the saying that when the head is rotten, the tail will be home for maggots! Cumulatively, an August 5, 2021 report by the Premium Times of Nigeria, puts the number of days General Buhari had spent on medical tourism to the UK at 200. You may wish to ask: did Buhari not talk about the parlous state of the nation’s health institution while seeking our votes in 2014? Did he not assure us that he would not go abroad for medical attention? Kazeem, quoted earlier, answers the posers.
That done, as humans, we may also wish to look at the desperation of the father-figure Ekweremadu presents as he seeks a medical solution to his ailing daughter’s health. There is a deep prayer among my people which says: “ki Oluwa ma fi ina omo jo wa” (May God not allow us to be scorched by the death of our child). This is where I believe that our thoughts should be with Miss Ekweremadu as she battles for survival at this critical moment. It is even more important for us to spare a moment of prayer for Sonia, now that the most important caregivers of her life, the parents, are in detention. The thought that her parents are locked up in cells in the UK because of her is devastating enough for the poor girl. While we have the assurance that, unlike what we have in Nigeria, the UK Government would not allow Sonia to be left unattended to, we cannot overemphasise the importance of the presence of her parents at this crucial time. Again, that the Ekweremadus were picked up on their way to Turkey is an indication of how desperate they were to bring their daughter back to sound health. We may frown at the method employed to achieve that. We may interrogate why the replacement for the failing organ was not sourced within the family circles. In all that, we must have it at the back of our minds that every mother hen uses her back to shield her chicks from the ravenous hawk. We therefore call on the Almighty God, our Healer, to stretch His healing hands on Sonia and make this storm to pass. We pray that she surmounts this mountain before her and becomes useful to Nigerian society and humanity in general. We also pray that after this, every Ekweremadu in leadership in Nigeria will see the need to build up our health institutions and other decayed infrastructure in the country as doing so is also in their own interest. May Sonia live!
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