April 24, 2024

Pathfinder News

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The Other Side Of AFCON 2023… And The Man Died!

Ik Muo, PhD

I want to confess upfront that I am not a football-person and as such, I did not follow the AFCON competition, whether in the begging, in the middle or in the end. My thinking is that I would not be breaking my head,  and making deadly emotional investments to watch people who earn in a day, more than I would earn in a year. So, I face my face and spend my time wisely! Indeed, it was after my morning prayers on 12/2/24 that I checked my WhatsApp messages and saw that  the cup decided to go with the Ivorians. One wicked commentator quipped: ‘If na you nko’? How can you prefer Nigeria to Ivory Coast? One thing I noted was that most of the commentators, full-blooded Nigerians, believed that the Eagles did not soar so well and that it would have been unfair for us to have won the game. A few blamed the referee while others harped on the remote control which the Ivorian Goalkeeper tied to his waste. Some even blamed the bloated official delegation, which went to watch the finals with about 7 private jets; from a country that is simply on all fours and had turned beggarly of late. However, we lost and in Nigeria football, you either win or you win! No time or sympathy for losers!!!

 Thet fact that I am not a football-person does not mean that I do not  study the game, for serious and jocular purposes  Thus on 11th , 18th , 25th February and 3r March 2004(20 years ago) I did an incisive analysis of the  lessons which the theory and practice of management could learn from the game of  football.  The lessons include playing by the rules and punishing offenders to avoid demoralising others, the importance of teams  teamwork and team performance; the principle and practice of empowerment, strategy, objectives, corporate retreat( half-time), coaching and body language. The series was titled ‘Management and the game of football’ and  was published by BusinessDay. Ten years later, I wrote on ‘Nigeria, their football and their coaches’( BusinessDay, 18/2/14) where I x-rayed the frightening turnover of coaches and  9 months later, I wrote on ‘The Keshi Treatment as a gbogbonise’( BusinessDay, 4/11/14) where I examined the ignominious sack of Kesh as if that would solve all the ills of Nigerian football. They had coerced him to take a foreign assistance but he ‘no gree for anybody’( no be today!) and they eventually sacked him so as to engage a foreign coach!  Our survival is still far until we start consuming local content, Igbo-Made or Made in Aba! There are other locally manufactured items but over the years, Nigerians, including Nd’Igbo reserve  the most derisive terms for Igbo-Made products. I don’t know why.

Victory is sweet… even for kidnapers and kidnapees!

All these were very serious interventions, using football to teach management  to both students and teachers alike and to speak some truth to power about the issues of the day. You can go and verify! Today however, I want to  write in a lighter mood. I woke up the other day to read that our dear BAT had appointed Stanley Nwabali as the Minister of Defence. It was after we sent Bafana x2 home and Nigerians were giving it to ‘them’ that we ate everything that was named twice like chin-chin and moi-moi! As a  consummate consumer  of current affairs, I was surprised at the sudden change of guards, more so  with the new Minister as an ‘okoro man’ and an ‘Idle Civilian’. I was trying to link the appointment with our pace-setting ranking in the KFR (Kidnap for Ransom) industry. I decided to file the news in my chronicles of insecurity matters  but before then, I decided to ask Mr Ubiquitous (Google) what happened. It was then I realised that it was an April Fool in February; that Nwabali was  the Eagles goaltender that defended the goalpost in a manner that had not been seen in recent times! I fainted!!! Others, probably follow ‘okoros’ added that those who played the game at night did not take out time to find the meaning, etymology and the Zodiac implications of  the name, Nwabali. It meant ‘child of the night’ and that  they underrated Nwabali by playing the game at night when he would surely excel. And PO was there live!

Died for the love of football…

It was the day after  semifinal encounter that I sadly found out that this was the  most deadly qualifier for Nigeria.  Sure, people had died due to  heavy emotional investment in football and two of them happen to be from Igbo-Ukwu. But we never had it so bad. Cairo Ojougboh( my last encounter with him on these pages was over the NDDC affair), a youth Corper, the Deputy Bursar at Kwara State University,  High Chief Osondu,a business magnet in Ivory Coast  who had sealed a business deal with Obi Cubana the day before, assuring him that his brand would overrun the Ivorian market, Mikail Osundiji of Abeokuta. and a young man named Lucky at Ago-Palace way. They all died with immediate effect because the game did not immediately go their way. If only they had calmed down, if they had lived, they would have savoured the victory of that particular  dicey tie. Anyway, as Prof Ginigeme Mbanefo told us in Year One Economics class at good old UI in 1977, something must kill man. It may be football, it may be a spouse or other  members of the family, it may be a side-chick or a business partner; it may be police or military bullets or most likely, Kidnappers, bandits and UGM.

Finals: Watching strategies and statistical analysis

Following the deadly qualifier, many Nigerians designed new methods of watching the finals: ‘killing’ the volume(so that you won’t hear anything),covering 95% of the screen and leaving open only the Ivorian goalpost or having the BP monitor permanently attached to the arm during the final. A good number of people avoided the match in its entirety and some public awareness on how to watch the Nigerian-Ivorian match filled everywhere. Luckly as I write, I have not heard of any loss of life after the finals. Prof Joy Ezeilo revealed that she did not go to watch the finals because it would take her 5 month’s salary( at professorial bar) to buy a flight ticket to Ivory Coast (and this excludes body no be wood). She wisely reordered her priorities. Some people became emergency econometricians, calculating the regional, state and tribal makeup of the players and noting that Federal Character was absent.

The Ivorian keeper with his stuff,  is that the cup?  Returning to the land of darkness

Well, we lost and some of us descended on the players or the  BATified Government. Some people wondered why we sent that huge, noisy  and distracting delegation to watch the match. Some believed that the statement by NFF that the Eagles would win for BAT was the cause of the tragedy while some believed that a win was POssible if Obi had been around. Others showed the Eagles coming home with ‘I better pass my neighbour generators’(a caricature of our precarious energy situation). Some even showed our players trekking home with their IDP-like luggage on their heads. A good number descended on Alex Iwobi, to an extent that it has got to the level of cyber- BULLYING.  Ahmed Musa advised  such people that  targeting a single player for the team’s shortcomings is unfair and unjust. We win as a team, and we lose as a team. It appears that the efforts and expenses incurred by the Anambra State Government to set up a viewing centre for the games was in vain but the state cobranded with the Eagles, gave the people some moments of conviviality  and helped those who were there to momentarily forget, with a good number of Nigerians, the sorrows of TINUBUlation!

INEC Scores, the police matter and viewing centre at Awka

Some people for whatever reason decided to watch the  final match on the glitchy INEC portal where the score was 4-2 in favour of Nigeria  and Ivorians were asked: ‘If you don’t like, Go to court’ and as the court be right now, very few people  are taking that COURTous option. Shehu Sani ‘killed it’ by advising us to leave the AFCON Cup and face the Cup of Garri (with its incredible price!). some wicked Nigerians also called on the NPF to openly declare their stand and loyalty on the matter because their logo  contains both the Eagle( Nigeria) and Elephant(I’Coast)

 However one Valerie Piolet gave it to Nigerians and other folks in similar situations. He questioned our sense of priorities, indicating that we have more important issues to bother with than with football matches and goals. Hear him.

Ivory Coast lost two out of three group matches but still got to the final. They had a second chance and took it seriously. Don’t play with the second chance life gives you. Don’t give up on yourself!

✍ Ivory Coast were beaten 4-0 by Equatorial Guinea, yet they bounced back to the final while Equatorial Guinea got eliminated. Don’t write anyone off. You won today doesn’t mean you are the best. Don’t look down on the person you defeated yesterday!

✍ Ivory Coast mobilized support for Morocco to beat Zambia so that they can qualify. Some of those clapping for you now and supporting you may not be your real friends, they may just be using your success for their gain. Morocco went home after helping Ivory Coast to qualify to the final. Don’t let anyone use you for any gain that doesn’t benefit you.

✍ South African goalkeeper stopped 4 penalties against Cape Verde and we’re so confident. They wanted the match against Nigeria to end in penalties so that they will win. But against Nigeria, he couldn’t stop any penalty, instead the Nigerian keeper stopped 2 and won MOTM. Don’t be too confident of yourself.

✍ Nigeria scored a second goal that was disallowed because of an earlier foul at the build up. Goal was cancelled and SOUTH AFRICA were awarded a penalty. Such is life, when you think you have lost, God may give you a redemption to turn ashes into beauty.

✍ Senegal didn’t lose any match at group stage. But when they played against Ivory Coast that lost 2 matches, they were eliminated.

✍ All the defenders were on Osimhen, they did all they could to stop him, even four of his goals were disallowed…..but they didn’t take note of Ademola Lookman. Your real enemy may not be who you are thinking…..

✍ Kelechi Iheanacho didn’t play the previous 5 matches, he came in late into the 6th game and became the hero. All you need to be a hero could just be one kick and not 100 kicks, but if you have just one opportunity to kick the ball, do it well……

 He then went Biblical

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all(Ecclesiastes 9:11)  and concluded that the  time and chance means PREPARATION WAITING FOR OPPORTUNITY. I owe him  or her a big bottled of water!

And even though we lost, things are moving on in other dimensions. The Federal Government rewarded the team with national Honours and landed property. Furthermore,  the rating of the Eagles rose by 14 points( I don’t know when it has ever jumped up like this) and the same applies to most of our players. The price of Nwabali on the sports-exchange rose astronomically; he broke a 22 year record held by Ike Shoronmu, holding the longest clean slate among all the Nigerian goalkeepers, by  not conceding a goal  for 493 minutes  across 6 games and he was chiefnised by his people. It appears as if this AFCON was  played for that Son of Night.. BAT also benefitted from the games because some Nigerians awarded him the ‘man of the match’. I asked them how and why  somebody who  was not in the field of play became the man of the match and they said because he left the complex woes of Nigeria to concentrate on the match!

However, Ivory Coast won. Many of our compatriots admitted that the Eagles played below par. Even the Ivorian coach commented that the Nigerian players were  weak and that they capitalised on that shortcoming.  And somebody said that the lesson from Ivorian victory is: never judge a man by the first round. Let’s wait for the next AFCON,  World Cup or even the Olympics. There will always be a football competition going on!

 Herbert Wigwe: And the man died!

Herbert Wige died a painful death in a foreign land with his wife and son and it was the same day we lost AFCON. There was  immediate grief and shock across the country and beyond,  and especially in the financial sector, where his impact was massively felt.  The social media was awash with videos of his last birthday, his out-of-this-world mansion, which he launched in December, the university where  tuition fees start from  $15000, his acts of silent philanthropy  and how he was the financial backbone of the biggest RCCG Parish in Nigeria.  But Nigerians wont even let him rest in peace. While his corpse was still stranded in foreign land, Nigerians decided to unearth all the dirty manoeuvres that characterised the various bank acquisitions he was involved in. And the stories left some gaps in terms of ethics and integrity.   Why did they not say all these things all these years?

Unfortunately, he  is no longer around to defend himself while his friends  and associates have suddenly gone dumb! Someone even brought in a prophecy-based conspiracy theory!  And life goes on because about 48 hours later,  someone was appointed to take over the affairs of Access Bank Holdings. Only God knows the intensity of  organisational politicking  that preceded the appointment. No one is indispensable and ALL is VANITY!  And as someone lamented, one of his  key benefactors just went on to host big-bang  Birthday bash( Chukwudi Iwuchukwu: Herbert Wigwe; The world Moves on!). Sure, the world moves on, just as it will do when it becomes our turn to bow out; when the bell tolls. I had planned to write on his University but that will be on hold for now. May the good Lord grant him eternal rest and strengthen his remaining children and aged parents in these trying moments. And may we, the leaving know that it can happen anytime!

Ik Muo, PhD. FCIB. Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye. 08033026624