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Don’t blame Nigerians for mourning Kobe Bryant – Part 3

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PHOTO: Christophe SIMON / AFP

Continued from yesterday
In United States of America, (forget the knife incidents in UK which now give sleepless nights), every citizen is accounted for. Kobe Bryant’s death would trend for a while, we would continue to read of it, till all the bodies are found and a gripping burial is organized, I can already see the roll – call and the organization by the NBA! In other parts of the world, (I am tempted to use “saner climes”), sites of accidents become special places of leaving flowers and tributes. The 9/11 incident has Ground Zero with memorial celebrated annually. Not that we also don’t have Oke – Afa Isolo where we remember victims of the bomb blast. I also know Bellview has a site at Oke – Aro for a plane crash. It may be because it had some notable dignitaries onboard the ill – fated flight. Again, our lack of policy thrusts to guide administration of sports, media and entertainment are other reasons why Nigerians may choose to honor Kobe Bryant.

This again shows “selectivism” by government which we may never be able to totally ignore. Yorubas in Nigeria have a saying “Omo to ba da, ti Baba e ni” translated as “a good child is the pride of the father”. Pastor Ituah Ighodalo will say “Success has many fathers”. We have to applaud Aunty Abike nowadays, after all, her son who is married may be few years my junior. But Aunty Abike is trying nowadays. With her portfolio in the Diaspora Commission, she has been the voice for Nigerians in South Africa, those trafficked in Libya, etc. Only recently, she supervised the safe return of a lady from Libya, hope I am right though. What I remember Abike Dabiri for, instead is the visit of Anthony Joshua to the President. Not that I can figure the essence of his visit though. I liked that he prostrated. Omoluabi ni wa ni ile Yoruba. We are very respectful in Yoruba land. When I prostrate to you (like it is a Press – Up exercise), it means I respect you. When I hug you, it means I love you. When I hug you before I prostrate, it means I love and respect you. So wait for me to prostrate after hugging you, don’t think I am disrespectful. Anthony Joshua has been celebrated for his different feats. Dude bounced back after that defeat and did what he had to do and in the safest way to do it. The Mexican gave him no hassles at all.

He was binging away after his shock and unexpected victory. Anthony Joshua who has been honored in UK came to present his Belts to the President. The last time, the Governor of our State helped him to carry his belts. Meanwhile, there are different sportsmen and women all over the country struggling to be seen, to be promoted and striving for facilities to propel them to the international space. Where are our stadiums? I prefer calling them that, not stadia! Where are seasoned Administrators to developed our sporting Ministries? How much do we allocate for Sports Development? How much gets appropriated? How much gets filtered away? Do we have a sustainable plan? Thank God for Mike Adenuga and Glo. Trust me, many may not have known Anthony Joshua. At least, let us thank God UK propelled him to greatness. We all flee abroad for the golden fleece and hopefully return home after getting all the opportunities these countries have to offer. We are not celebrated at home, anyway! A Yoruba slang says “Ja pa”, translated “Escaped far, untraced”

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The United States recently admonished and is proposing a policy which would see the country deny entry tourism visas for expectant mothers in Nigeria. It makes the news and the Government responds, isn’t this a joke? We all know that all our ladies would love their children holding American Passports rather than the obviously excellent medical facilities in USA which cannot be found anywhere in Nigeria! Trump may not have minded that we spend N10 – N15m on the birth of any child – our children are golden nowadays but of course, many Nigerians escape from hospital facilities without paying full hospital bills and then they acquire the rights and privileges of citizens for their children. Again, let’s not talk about government and political leaders who enjoy medical – tourism as perks of office. We have not been knowledgeable enough to start building our own state of the art hospitals now. China has proven that you could complete hospital infrastructure within weeks. The pomp and pageantry which heralds a successful Nigerian who visits cannot be imagined. That is how we gave Rio Ferdinand a chieftaincy title in the State where I grew up and he confessed that he did not know the meaning. What is it? Serena Williams and her sister came, we rolled out red carpets. We quickly trace back the roots of successful blacks. Not that they are not deserving but to what purpose? What is the essence? Government officials and the governed are both guilty classes. In the face of a shaky economy with many bedeviling problems, people can’t understand why Kobe Byrant’s death would trend in Nigeria. Blacks celebrate Blacks. When they are successful. Betting has come to stay. I say that as if it is an announcement. Even though many frown at the art or practice, long ago, our Fathers had “played pool” and were active in sports betting. It did not start today. Our love for foreign sports and sporting legends did not start today. They were betting on Leeds United, Liverpool, etc. a long time ago. In those days, they just didn’t make so much money. Wait, let me tell you why betting can’t stop. Nigerians are betting more and the Betting companies are making more money. I don’t have the data now but I suppose many more alcoholic brands are out there while the existing ones are recording higher sales. Again, no figures but I have heard the phrase “drink away your sorrows”. Just like the influx in churches where people blame the Pastors, those in government have failed to reciprocate the trust with good governance. The people will certainly resort to something else. Churches would get fuller, betting would increase and alcohol intake will continue because here in Nigeria, the people must resort to something. This is not to say that the people are not deserving of the kind of governments they get. Please, Buhari won twice, fair and square. Some Nigerians have that much confidence in him to vote him twice. Why isn’t “once bitten, twice shy” working in this case? Because the people may not have been “bitten” or they prefer “this biting” to another uncertain “biting” or a more severe bite they had experienced before. Take it or leave it, people believe in this government to want to vote it again if given the chance! “You don’t get burned twice” is a phrase which is very relative! How do you explain that the average Nigerian believes that the problem is binary! It can either be APC or PDP. That is no longer laughable, it is now extreme dementia. So people would bet because we would always be fixated on foreign Sporting leagues and activities. There are some of us that will watch Premier League rather than “do the rest”. Some combine it altogether. How do you explain the plight of an Arsenal Supporter who is also a Nigerian? I know a Nigerian who follows Arsenal and also follows Golden State Warriors! What would my Uncle look forward to!

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Foreign Sport has made and destroyed individuals, corporate organisations and even personalities. There was once HITV. Between the month of May and September, nobody watches DSTV. Ask them, I don’t even know how husbands survive at home. We are that crazy about football, the Euros are this year. By the way, will England be playing after Brexit? of course. So, there won’t be a lull in subscription for DSTV at the end of this Premier League season because we have the Euros. Sports and tourism, with entertainment are approaching dizzying heights.

If only Nigeria could learn from this and have a 10-year Plan. Right before us, Saudi Arabia is transforming from only a Muslim Pilgrimage Center to a tourist destination. Check out this plan, the country built a stadium within four months only for the rematch between “our Anthony Joshua” and Ruiz and immediately collapsed the stadium after the fight. Our boy went home about 80 million pounds richer. Even the beaten Ruiz still pocketed about 5 million pounds for a fight which did not last 1hr. Right now, Saudi Arabia is bidding to buy over Newcastle valued at 340 million pounds, it would take divine intervention for that deal not to go through. Anthony Joshua is scheduled for another fight with the winner of Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder which has been estimated to be around 154 million pounds. Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in innovations and scientific research, training its students abroad, offering scholarships to be taught in their country and exploring transition from fossil – fuel economy to clean energy. It is already rumored that the country is bidding for World Cup 2030. Believe it or not, it is the new Qatar, the Dubai waiting to happen. And Nigeria……………………….

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Nigerians are mourning Kobe Bryant because we are mourning the disintegration of our own sports men and women. We may never see such basketball skills like the late Star was known for, maybe never again. We idolize Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo much more than their countrymen and women do. We contribute to their image rights, their salaries and income for their Leagues and the Clubs. Economies are based on these! Employment opportunities litter the entire spaces in the value – chain, for Nigerians and foreigners alike. It is time to focus on our sporting and entertainment industry, to build and maintain world class infrastructure, to ensure Nigeria is not left behind. To be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with other Nations, exporting more and importing alike, with something to offer and to ensure we are not further behind. The present Government must receive accolades for push towards infrastructural development. This too, must be backed by policy thrusts for sustainability. Security of lives and properties are critical. It is important for public officials, servants and citizens alike to be accountable and held accountable. That old cognomen called “federalism” or “restructuring” may not be wished away after all. The piecemeal constitutional amendments are encouraging but we may further need to act on recommendations from constitutional conferences in the past. Our sportsmen and women should be encouraged to invest wisely; Kobe Bryant has reportedly grown his investment to 800 million dollars. Why won’t he be remembered by many? We must though, never forget that his country, their successive governments provided the infrastructure he needed to blossom. It was neither a wish nor a mistake; it was based on intentions with hard-work and intended consequences visualized in advance.

The Gulf countries have since realized this and Qatar has built its sporting and tourism potentials in the last few years. It is the first destination of choice for sports and tourism in the region. Nigeria too could start now. In the meantime, let Nigerians mourn a legend – Kobe Bryant!

Concluded

Oyeniji wrote from Lagos.

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