Last Flight to Johannesburg

by Adepoju Paul Olusegun

Just two days after Nigeria’s first match at the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations currently underway in South Africa, my travel agent approached me with a mouthwatering too-good-to-be-true travel package to the finals. For just 200,000 naira, she said I could be on a good flight with nice accommodation and ticket to the final match. But in annoyance, I rejected the offer because judging from the team’s performance during the first match, I didn’t see Nigeria making it all the way to the finals. But I was wrong, and I wasn’t the only one.

I can say no one (maybe except the coaching crew and Prophet T. B. Joshua) could say they saw Nigeria making it to the finals and our cynicism and skepticism weren’t based on some sheer pessimism, but on the team’s rich history of disappointing Nigerians when it mattered most. So Nigerians have come to perfect a psychological defense mechanism of not expecting anything positive from the team. Little wonder no broadcasting organization was confident enough to pay $35 million for the license to broadcast the matches live while the ongoing English Premier League (EPL) is shown live.

But something unusual happened and tomorrow, Nigeria will be playing Burkina Faso in the finals much to the delight of everyone and in defiance of all permutations, computations and in-depth expert analyses that put Ivory Coast as the country to beat for the trophy. Well, we did beat them.

Since the outset of the transformation of the Super Chickens to the Super Eagles of Nigeria, it’s been an unalloyed show of support for the team. Nigerians irrespective of racial, ethnic and religious divisions are so proud of the nation once again. Even the so-called pessimists who rarely see anything positive with the happenings in the nation are using the national flag and the Super Eagles’ logo as their profile pictures on Facebook and other social media platforms.

Even people who rarely talk sports are showing support for the national team. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read Pastor E. A. Adeboye’s status update when Nigeria convincingly defeated Mali, booking a ticket to the finals; the first time since year 2000!

The lesson the government should learn from this is that Nigerians are not pessimists; they are just tired of sugarcoated statements and over-packaging from the likes of Reuben Abati, Labaran Maku and Doyin Okupe. Instead of believing what is said, they just want to see what has been done.

I’m therefore not surprised that Nigerians have resurrected the spirit of Tunisia ’94 (the last time Nigeria won the competition); they’ve become resolute in their support of the national team and so defiant that they are even allowing some suspicious moves sly. One of such is the presidential delegation to the final ceremony, the 6 state governors who saw Nigeria’s match with Mali and many more that will be in the stadium tomorrow.

On a good day, Pius Adesanmi would have published an article and Nasir El-Rufai would have tweeted while Oby Ezekwesili would have told us how wasteful the spending would be for the nation’s economy.

We would also have heard lots about the exorbitant match bonuses the players got and Mikel Obi would have been tongue-lashed for publicly admitting to betting $5,000 with Ivorian striker, Salomon Kalou.

But so far, the result has been good and Nigerians are happy; even Abuja prostitutes that the government wants to fight with 5 billion naira have promised to give the victorious players expletive explosive sessions of hard-earned inguinal explorations.

In church tomorrow and at any of the 5-times daily prayers in mosques, Nigerians will ask God to help the Super Eagles win the trophy we last held in 1994. They will also ask Him to guide players like Victor Moses who lost both missionary parents to religious killings in Kaduna in 2000 but still have the large heart to forgive the nation and those who snuffed life out of his parents but will be watching him play on Sunday in the national colors of Nigeria.

On my own, I will be praying that Nigeria should have more happy times like this, times when they can proudly tell their neighbors, colleagues and even cell mates across the world that they are Proudly Nigerian, instead of having to explain the rationale behind the stupid judiciary decision to let thieves pay 750,000 naira after stealing 53 billion naira Police pension funds.

After the Ivory Coast match, I called my agent to inquire about the availability of the South African trip package but she said the price has doubled due to surge in demand. So, like fellow millions of Nigerians, I will be watching Kokomaster D’banj and Super Eagles’ performances at the final that we hope will end in Nigeria’s favor.

But no matter the outcome, the Super Eagles team and coaching crew have proven that nothing is wrong with Nigeria and Nigerians. We still have the talents, the wits and the passion; we just need the right motivation such as the national team’s last flight to Johannesburg.

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