It’s only one vehicle bearing the legend “One Nigeria” that plies the badly maintained roads to the turf of this benighted country.
That long-suffering vehicle is called football or soccer or, on the aficionado frequencies, the beautiful game.
When Nigeria plays, all men and women and children, plus even the living, the dead and the unborn, are kicking ball.
And when Nigeria wins, the globally anointed happiest people on God’s earth forego sleep in an orgy of celebration and solidarity.
Nigeria’s exotic dance of football-induced unity happened just the other day that the Super Eagles locked horns with the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon at the AFCON tourney in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
Every Nigerian had an opinion on the match, with one Pentecostal pastor making bold to prophesy that Cameroon would beat Nigeria 3-1!
I can swear by Fela’s Shrine that the many bush-doctors of Nigeria went very deep into the forests of the six geo-political zones to cancel that satanic prophesy.
As the match was billed to be played in the night, a good friend of man called Honourable bought two litres of fuel in these hard times to watch the titanic match-up – one litre to watch the first-half and the second litre to watch the second-half!
When informed that the match could go into extra-time up to a penalty shootout endgame, Honourable fired dangerous prayers that no such thing should happen.
“God is a Nigerian!” is a regular Nigerian mantra, and one cannot but attest to the fact that Honourable’s dangerous prayer was answered.
Many a Nigerian heart was palpitating acutely and chronically at the same time before the start of the match because the Super Eagles had only managed to register three somewhat accidental goal in the three matches of the group stage.
Star striker had only managed to head in the equaliser in the first match against minnows Equatorial Guinea, and the captain William Troost-Ekong scored a penalty-kick against hosts Cote d’Ivoire in the second match while a Guinea Bissau own goal offered victory in the final group match.
It wasn’t that the Indomitable Lions were roaring in their own matches but they had somehow conjured up victories against Nigeria’s Super Eagles in three past AFCON final matches.
The curious aspect of the match was that Nigerian ball fans were passionately praying that Cameroon should field their star goalkeeper Andre Onana who plays his club football for Manchester United of England and had flown to the tournament via a private jet at the last minute.
For these Nigerian football fans, Andre Onana as per his Manchester United form leaked more goals than a regular basket leaked water!
The prayers of the Nigerian supporters for the goalkeeper to be fielded in the match were not answered – maybe their prayers were not dangerous enough.
There was the other dimension of prayers in which Nigerian fans prayed fervently that the erstwhile Super Eagles Number One goalie, Francis Uzoho, should never ever feature between the sticks.
When the match eventually started, the Super Eagles did not waste much time in putting the ball into the Cameroonian net via defender Semi Ajayi.
The jubilation from Abidjan to Lagos and Abuja to all over the country and the vast Diaspora had to peter out when VAR chalked off the goal.
The fluid 3-4-3 formation adopted by Nigeria’s much criticised Coach Jose Peseiro allowed no penetration to the Indomitable Lions such that they had no shot on target.
As the match pulsated on, hardworking Victor Osimhen dispossessed Cameroon’s defender Gonzalez and fed Ademola Lookman to score Nigeria’s first goal.
Nigerians across the world danced in unity, with Adamu embracing Ngozi, and Iyabo doing foxtrot with Emuesiri and Inatimi.
The second half was a cagey affair even as the Cameroonians applied some strong-arm tactics that eventually injured Nigeria’s trusted new goalie Stanley Nwabali.
As the much-maligned Francis Uzoho started warming up to come in as Nwabali’s replacement, many frightened Nigerians swore that the diabolically dangerous prayer of Cameroon had been answered.
As if to add Yaounde insult to Duala injury, Cameroon brought in their ageless striker and skipper Vincent Aboubakar who had a mean frown on his lugubrious old face.
The Super Eagles forged ahead like fit-fighting Trojans as midfielder Alex Iwobi combined on the left wing with central defender turned left wingback, Calvin Bassey, to release Ademola Lookman to score the clinching second goal.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon looked spent as they bowed to their masters, the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
The CAF officials marvelled at the unmatchable industry of Victor Osimhen such that they took him away for a drug test!
The next assignment for the Super Eagles is the Friday quarter-final match with the Palancas Negras of Angola.
Meantime, all Nigerians have boarded that one and only vehicle bearing the legend “One Nigeria” that plies the badly maintained roads to the turf of our benighted country in an orgy of unbeatable celebration of unity.
Dear God, give us the beautiful game, not bad politics!