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Super Eagles as tonic against renewed hardship



Super Eagles as tonic against renewed hardship
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Success has many friends and relatives. Failure is an orphan. Since the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 started in Cote d’Ivoire on January 13, 2024, many Nigerians have been feeling on top of the world. They have danced and celebrated the exploits of the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Momentarily, they suspended their sorrow and united in singing the national anthem and in hailing the country’s successes in AFCON.

It was fun watching the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party and former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, singing and dancing in the stadium with Super Eagles fans the day we played Angola in the quarter-final. In the semi-final game with South Africa, the Vice-President, Kashim Shettima, was in Cote d’Ivoire to cheer the Eagles. Not many people remembered the fight back home about the way and manner the incumbent government grabbed power. Not many people also remembered the cost of rice and beans in the market. Or the high rate of insecurity, especially kidnapping, that has enveloped our land.

I joined a crowd of football buffs to watch the match between the Super Eagles and the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in a hotel in Lagos. It was tension-soaked. At least, five people reportedly died while watching the game. May their souls rest in peace!

At the end of that match, it was celebration galore. We sang and danced to a melodious music played by a stand-by DJ. We shared drinks. We shared hugs. We shared smiles and laughter. Sometimes, some men also hugged some strange women out of excitement. The only thing we didn’t share was our wives! In any case, how many wives go to such places to watch football? Some of them will even be calling you and asking when you will return home.

Super Eagles qualification for final, which took place yesterday, February 11, 2024, did not come easy. They battled many principalities and powers. Some South Africans even threatened our star goalie, Stanley Nwabali, not to return to their country after the AFCON. Nwabali plies his trade with Chippa United of South Africa. He caught two penalties in the semi-final, making it impossible for Bafana Bafana to qualify for final. Instantly, he became the toast of many Nigerians. Some fans trooped to his father’s house in Rivers State to celebrate.

The Federal Government was happy at the turn of events. It appropriated the triumph of Super Eagles against South Africa, attributing it to the visit of Shettima to motivate the team. Initial media reports informed us that President Bola Tinubu would be in Abidjan to grace the final between our team and Ivorian national team. It was at this point that I remembered Tinubu’s ‘Renewed Hope’ agenda. During his campaigns for the presidency, he promised to better the lives of Nigerians, to fight insecurity and restore hope in many sectors of our national life.

Unfortunately, that ‘renewed hope’ has turned to ‘renewed hardship’. While Tinubu’s party men and supporters now sing, “On your mandate we shall stand” with croaky voice, the majority of Nigerians have continued to battle many existential problems of life.

Recently, food crisis and the high cost of living became the launching pad for protests across such states as Kano, Osun and Niger. Rather than try everything possible to pacify this crowd of disenchanted Nigerians, security agents arrested some of them. Superior reason later prevailed and they were eventually released. Quite annoying was the statement by Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Bayo Onanuga. He claimed that Nigerians enjoyed the lowest cost of living in Africa. Even if it is true, should we be comparing the cost of living in Africa or cost of living between the administration of Tinubu and those of his predecessors in office?

Before Tinubu took over in May 2023, the rate of inflation was 22.41 per cent. By December 2023, it had climbed to 28.92 per cent, the highest in more than 27 years. In May 2015, the rate of inflation was just 9 per cent. Food inflation rose from 32.84 per cent in November 2023 to 33.93 per cent as of December 2023.

Sadly, a bag of 50kg of rice that was less than N10,000 in 2015 now goes for about N70,000 or more. A super pack carton of noodles that was less than N4,000 a few years ago is now over N10,000. A 12.5kg of cooking gas today is over N15,000. The price of fuel rose from about N158 a litre before Tinubu took over on May 29, 2023 to over N600 a litre currently. There is no commodity in the market that is not affected. Sometimes, the increase in prices occurs almost on a daily basis. Naira’s irredeemable plunge has worsened the price increases. Exchange rate now is about N1,500 to a dollar from less than N200 a few years ago.

The high cost of living in Nigeria today is not close to the high cost of bread which triggered the French Revolution of 1789. Nor is it equal to the joblessness, hardship and inequality that sparked the Arab Spring, which started in Tunisia in 2010.

Even then, the governments of these countries are not as corrupt and profligate as ours. We just read reports that Tinubu approved N1 billion for the inauguration of the 37-man tripartite committee on new national minimum wage. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, reportedly made a request for N1.8bn. But Tinubu approved N500m as first instalment of the N1bn. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described this as the height of profligacy, impudence and financial recklessness. Pray, what is this money for? The best explanation Mr. Onanuga could offer Nigerians was that the PDP moles in government were responsible for leaking classified information to the public. He called for a probe into the civil service structure to rid it of these so-called moles.


It has become obvious that this government is not prepared for governance. All it is after is to hoodwink Nigerians with cosmetic palliatives to give the impression that it is concerned about the plight of its people. It knows the dangers of allowing the hardship protests to continue. Hence, it put in place a Special Presidential Committee on Emergency Food Intervention and embarked on some emergency palliative measures to calm the situation. Apart from ordering the immediate release of 42,000 metric tonnes of maize, millet, garri and other commodities from the national grain reserve, government said it had discussed with the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria and that its members had guaranteed about 60,000 metric tonnes of rice. There are some other measures it has embarked upon to ameliorate the plight of the people. But how far will these measures go? How sustainable are they?

We need to seriously have a rethink as a nation. Using the Super Eagles as a point of contact, as prayer warriors will say, we need to embrace competence, capacity, patriotism and equity to solve our myriads of problems. Super Eagles went this far because there was no room for nepotism or favouritism in the team. Whoever was on the last AFCON team had the competence and the capacity to be there.

They excelled because they played with purpose and determination. The coaches were fully in charge and no player was allowed to snatch and grab any position in the team without merit. Invariably, what this meant was that corruption was far away in the selection of members of the squad.

Besides, Nigerians were united in giving their full support to the team irrespective of tribe, region or religion. As our old national anthem put it, “Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.” Outside football, can we boast of still standing in brotherhood?

This is where leadership comes to play. Tinubu should not leave Nigeria worse than he met it. His leadership should inspire and galvanise the talents of every Nigerian to bring out his best. As of press time, it was not certain how the final match between Nigeria and Code d’Ivoire ended. But whichever way it went, we must say congratulations to the Super Eagles. Congratulations to all Nigerians. Together we can achieve more and make the country the giant it truly is.

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