BURNING POT BY PRINCE CHARLES DICKSON, PH.D.
Nigeria, a Few Stories and More Stories
Let me start with a few phrases from the essay of Oluwashina Okeleji writing under the title "Ball-less Nigeria, shameless NFF". Simply put Nigeria could not provide the official Confederation of African Football (CAF) match balls for the game.
Improbably, the balls had been stuck at the ports since January, requiring a relatively meager sum (150,000 Naira) to clear.
The game went ahead as scheduled, but with balls on which ‘RSA’ were quite visible. This led to much amusement from the South African match commentary team, as they tried to understand precisely why this farcical situation had played out.
The NFF’s inability/reluctance to raise this ‘ransom’ led to borrowing from South Africa. As a metaphor for the entire game, it was very apt.
The real surprise though is that, to this point, there has been no official explanation offered; no one has lost his job in the face of this staggering shame. It was downright poor, and the fact that no one has been held to account is even more so.
“What happens if South Africa had not traveled here with their official balls? It shows that we don’t even travel for away games with our match balls. The person in charge of this issue should be sacked because he has put the country under the spotlight of a global embarrassment.”
But trust me Oluwashina and fellow Nigerians, no one would be sacked, no one has been sacked and this is the land of stories; stories like this one below as a metaphor.
There was a man who had real problems in his family life so he decided to go and check a juju man.
The juju man told him to come back in two weeks bringing along some sample of dirt from his yard. So the man went back after two weeks with the sample of dirt.
The juju man performed his rituals and said to the man...I don't know if you can handle hearing this, the man said go ahead I want to hear it.
The juju man said the two boys are not your sons. Your daughter is seeing five different men and your wife is pregnant for your own brother.
The man started laughing, and the juju man became curious, he asked him why he was laughing, after all this bad news.
The man responded I don't know if you can handle this; the juju man said go ahead, the man said I was running late when coming and I forgot to bring the dirty sample so I dug out some from your yard.
Our problems are everywhere, and we close it up in one fable or the other, we all have the problem but we are bent on shifting blames and playing the musical chairs game of faith, ethnicity and recently of some undefined regionalism and more.
I could easily pick a typically Nigerian city and the scene is the same, so why not Central Area, Abuja...it is more like a Mosque with mats and kettles lines up permanently! This is office hours in a government building using a secular constitution of governance! What is this marriage with Nigerians and Religion that they carry it like flag and identity?
They flaunt and associate with it as if their life and relevance depends on being seen as religious? Imagine senior civil servant that know all about the civil service rules parading as pastors and leading morning prayers in offices.
Or visit the Computer Village whether it be Lagos, Abuja, or the Jos, famed Ahmadu Bello Way, you see them all in early morning prayers, and yet hours later same dudes have sold countless fake/substandard phones and accessories to unsuspecting customers.
For Nigeria, our story is that of hypocrisy that stinks to the high heavens, this same nation that engages in Ramadan and Lent, but cannot get something as ordinary as soccer balls, and no one is held liable.
So it is one story after another; but this last one tells our collective story as a people.
A giant ship engine failed. The ship's owners tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure but how to fix the engine.
Then they brought in an old man who had been fixing ships since he was a young. He carried a large bag of tools with him, and when he arrived, he immediately went to work. He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom.
Two of the ship's owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know what to do. After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away. The engine was fixed!
A week later, the owners received a bill from the old man for ten thousand dollars.
"What!” the owners exclaimed. "He hardly did anything!" So they wrote the old man a note saying, "Please send us an itemized bill."
The man sent a bill that read:
Tapping with a hammer...$ 2.00
Knowing where to tap...$9,998.00
Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort makes all the difference. As a nation we are making very little in terms of knowledgeable effort. We seem to be trying everything, hoping that one way or the other like the juju man we can get it right by prescribing solutions to everyone but ourselves. By praying and refusing to work hard at the simple things, we remain a people high on emotions and low on common sense and rationality.
We are stifled by the they, them, and us in mutually addressing ourselves, everything is a story, as long as it does not concern one’s faith, one’s ethnic stock. The definition of a Nigerian patriot is a story told by few, and more stories of those that are the problem increase. Will we hold someone liable, punish the person, learn and move forward in building a nation or are we bent on just being a story—Only time will tell.