Nigerian players celebrate a goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup African zone group B qualifying football match between Nigeria and Algeria at the Akwa Ibom State Stadium in Uyo on November 12, 2016.
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
The challenges, the trials and tribulations faced by all Nigerians in 2016, a year which, to say the least, was hard for them, I strongly believe, are a necessary crucible of fire the country needed to pass through in order to emerge on the other side well refined and shining like gold.
The government of President Buhari may not have done things the best way, or even in ways that most people think they should, but that should not detract from its clear and noble intentions – to isolate and emasculate the looters of our national treasury and shut the drain pipes of our natural resources.
It is up to the citizens to now pick up the gauntlet, take up the struggle with government and be more active in halting the activities of those whose narrow selfish interests and thievery have brought the country to its knees. If achieving this involves some breaches of conventional norms, laws and practices so be it, very gladly! The cancer, must be destroyed by all means fair or foul before it destroys the entire country.
The point is that Nigeria must never return to its immediate past, period! Anything else is secondary.
No sacrifice must be considered too high to stop the tidal waves of impunity and the brazen looting of our common wealth by leaders masquerading in political garb and their private sector collaborators that have milked the country dry to bare bones!
So, even as we lament the hardship in the land we must also not fail to applaud and support the effort of the government in attempting to fight some of the most destructive and powerful cabals in our history, a force that has afflicted our psyche so badly some people are actually thinking going back to the failed old ways is a better option that the pain they went through in 2016. That will be pure insanity!
Nigeria cannot emerge a better nation from its failed past without paying a high price for its past profligacy. 2016 was a wake-up call to the reality of the humongous challenges that lie in Nigeria’s path to greatness that the citizens must confront and defeat to emerge a better nation down the line.
This cannot happen in a sprint. It will be a marathon race, requiring the patience, perseverance and professionalism of a successful athlete to succeed.
That’s why Nigeria must take useful lessons from sports.
Nigerian sports in 2016
Nigeria and Nigerian sports are like Siamese twins. They go together hand in hand. So, in my looking at Nigeria through the prism of her sports in 2016
I see very little of any significance to report on the country’s scorecard of success.
The tragedy of 2016 is that even when the country finally won something it could have celebrated towards the end of the year, that victory was smeared with the paint of an ugly incident that had better be quickly set aside as recalled only as another useful experience to avoid along the country’s path to greatness in 2017 and beyond.
The victorious heroes of the Women’s African Cup of Nations in the Cameroons, after a successful campaign, embarrassingly became marchers on the streets of Abuja, the country’s capital, for two whole weeks, protesting the failure of those in charge of sports to pay them their hard-earned statutory allowances and bonuses for the series of matches they played and won en-route winning the coveted African trophy!
That incident marred what could have been one of the few moments worth celebrating, but instead mirrored, rather glaringly, the parlors state of the nation in 2016.
A new song for Nigeria
Again, Nigeria must learn from sport.
Past failure in sport is the bread and butter of success. It is the tonic of successful athletes. It is what drives athletes to new heights, to set new records in time and distance. It is what challenges them and makes them extend the human capacity to do extra-ordinary things. Yes, past failure is an athlete’s greatest tool as well as his incentive to succeed! Ask all the great athletes in history– that song is the same!
That’s what Nigeria must draw from now – its past failures.
Nigeria does not have to be the first amongst nations to claim to be a successful nation. To come first in an event is great, but there are times also in sports when silver and bronze, and even just giving one’s best performance becomes as good as gold.
That’s the thin line that must be understood by those in government.
In 2016, Leicester City FC was not the best football team in the world. They did not win the World Club championship, nor did they even qualify for it. Yet early this week, 382 journalists, members of the International Sports Press Association, from 110 countries around the world voted Leicester City FC the Global Team of 2016 because of the stunning manner they won the 2015/2016 English Premiership for the very first time in their history.
The Nigerian women’s 4 X 100 meters sprints quartet at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 did not win that epic relay finals race. They came third. But it was the manner of their coming third and celebrating it, that made the world of athletics to still consider them the best example of the true essence and spirit of the Olympics – that you do not have to come first to be a winner!
Sports abound with so many of such stories of great triumphs against all the odds.
The best part of sport, as the best part of life, is in the journey itself to success. Yet that road is a long, torturous and lonely journey littered every inch of the way with pain and failures.
The sportsman, driven by his passion, learns to navigate the route with joy on his face and with his eyes riveted on the prize.
Athletes know that the only guarantee to success is that there is no guarantee at the end of the day.