Even before he became president, Goodluck Jonathan was the quintessential man with the Midas touch. Everyone can effortlessly recount the man’s magical antecedents: the meteoric rise from deputy governorship to the governorship, and transmuting from Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to president. For the many good people of this great nation who see political office as an opportunity to loot and become rich overnight, Goodluck Jonathan’s good luck in assuming high office is indeed good reason for many people to consider changing their children’s names either from Eno, Ibrahim, Emeka, Othuke or Dele to Goodluck. We all want Goodluck and of course, everything is right with wanting to identify with a man with the Midas touch. In fact, if you listen to any commentary both in the print and on the electronic media most of us have expressed the wish that the ‘Goodluck’ that has ‘followed’ Mr President should rub off on problematic sectors of the Nigerian economy like the power sector. Yes, this is good thinking, a signal of greatness in a great people. Why should we always have ‘bad heads’ as president when we have a man who could utter an abracadabra to his talisman in the secret chambers of his bedroom and bail us from our perennial problems?
However, we must be honest with ourselves sometimes averring that there is nothing like ‘luck’. The fact is that that occasional occurrence which we often refer to as ‘good luck’ is just the way we respond when we come face to face with chance and opportunity. What determines good or bad luck is a function of the principles we apply or will apply to the chance or opportunity that chance presents us. While some hit the iron while it is hot, others wait for it to get cold, and then they start blaming the devil. I have said this at several fora that most of the presidents we have had are products of chance. That the incumbent’s name is Goodluck has nothing to do with the fact that he will bring ‘luck’ to us as a nation if we will sit down and wait for ‘luck’.
Now, this brings me to the visit by the Super Eagles of Nigeria to Mr President, Goodluck Jonathan, just before they began playing friendly matches before hitting South Africa for the World Cup campaign. If my assumption is correct, protocol demanded that that kind of decorum is granted to both players and to Mr President. This is not the first time this has happened. Just before one of our key competitions, late dictator Sanni Abacha, called every player, one after the other by their names and wished them well. In addition, the late president, Umaru Yar’Adua managed to whisper a goodwill message to the Super Eagles from his sick bed in Saudi Arabia in the struggle to qualify for this contest. Therefore, there should be nothing suspicious about that visit to Mr. President. Nevertheless, something else begins to nibble at my guts that that visit resembles the type that our politicians would ordinarily pay a shrine in Okija. You see, my hunch stems from the fact that we all seem to see Goodluck Jonathan as our talisman. If not so, how many other countries did we hear that their football teams visited either the Queen or Barack Obama before going to South Africa? We believed that visiting him would bring us luck.
If that is the case, I want to humbly submit that football today and yesterday has nothing to do with luck. Football for an individual player is a test of three skills – speed, the ability to manipulate space and display of the dexterity of a matador. Apart from that, it is a marketing strategy to launch one’s career on a global platform. For a country, it a litmus test and an opportunity to display the dividends of the investments that a certain country has put on their people. It has become a benign war scene. Rather than use sputniks, bazookas and grenades most countries go to this theatre of war with football boots, jerseys, balls, and the nationalistic instinct. These eleven players become ambassador plenipotentiary for their countries. For this –whether for an individual or a nation – it is the hallmark of responsibility, demanding absolute commitment, dedication and careful planning. No country takes chances with this opportunity.
Now, Nigeria as a nation of about 150 million has had an unexplainable romance with football. This love affair, often at the expense of non-football sports like boxing, polo, etc has been touted as an emulsifying and a unifying force for the many inconsistencies that we have used in building this nation. I do agree that football certainly has a unifying character. However, this lasts only 90 minutes and football has not emulsified us. We have spent billions of naira on football and the best we get is unnecessary heart attack whenever we watch our senior team play. Even at that most of the players like Finidi George, Tijani Babangida, Sunday Oliseh, Emmanuel Amunike, Mitiu Adepoju, Uche Okechukwu, Austin Eguavoen, Austin Okocha and co who took our football to high ground were groomed abroad. Look at our local league – it is hardly developed and I cannot understand why most of our people shamelessly parade themselves as Gunners [Arsenal], Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona or Inter Milan fans. How many people from Manchester City, Milan, Arsenal or Liverpool know about Warri Wolves, Enyimba Football club, Heartland of Owerri or Kano Pillars? None. But we invest our time and energy on these foreign clubs and countries and expect our Super Eagles to be Goodlucky at international competitions? Please spare me the smallness. The evening before the games, we sacked the man who qualified us for the world cup only to replace him with a foreigner, believing that a river of luck runs in his veins. With only a ragtag team that has never shown any cohesion or consistency, we have in the typical Nigerian manner of doing things atypically, thrown money at the problem [a N40-million monthly wage for the foreign coach and given him a semi-final mandate]. See, even if God is a Nigerian, other teams pray to him as well. I want to establish it here and now that even though we eventually get Goodlucky and win the World Cup [did I hear you say ‘AMEN!], we still must do two things: change our attitude to our local league and invest more in non-football sports, NFS.