By Steve Alabi
We are really in trouble in Nigeria. There is a second colonisation of Nigerians by the white man. Most unfortunately, we are willing participants in this annoying recolonisation which is worse than the one our forebears experienced. Unlike in the past, it is not a capture of our land. It is rather a complete seizure of our culture, traditions, mores, values and thought processes. It is a total control of our minds and brains.
We have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into denigrating things that identify us as Africans. We now unfortunately think that whatever is Caucasian is noble and desirable, that whatever is ours is inferior and worthless, or at best, tolerable. We have not only embraced foreign religions but also erected strong walls of enmity and discord between ourselves on account of these foreign beliefs. We kill and maim ourselves and pass on these hatred and bile to our innocent children. We wear their clothes but thank God, we still wear our own.
The worst is language reformatting. Many Nigerians take delight in reducing their priceless mother tongues to the languages of slaves. They wean their children on false accents and gleefully announce that their children do not “speak vernacular.” But they cowardly revert to their native tongue in everyday conversation.
They have forgotten that language is spiritual and the very essence of a person’s humanity. It connects man with his roots and ancestry in a divine mystery yet to be fully unraveled by man.
Language is life, the eternal thread that connects generations to the very beginning of life itself. Any people that loses its language is already extinct spiritually. It is only a matter of time before it goes into physical extinction. No less a fate awaits the individual who abandons his own tongue. He has willingly made himself a slave to a master who knows him not. He is a mere contraption of flesh and blood without a soul. He is no longer living but merely existing.
There was a time in this country that our league was truly the major sports entertainment. Even when it was not yet professional, it was a compulsive weekly menu for football aficionados. People were naturally obsessed with and followed with admirable passion the reigning clubs of the time.
They were enamoured of great stars like Segun Odegbami, Christian Chukwu, Muda Lawal, Emmanuel Okala, Best Ogedegbe, Aloysius Atuegbu, Stephen Keshi, Baba Otu Mohammed, Rashidi Yekini, Humphrey Edobor, Adokie Amiesimaka, Henry Nwosu, Shefiu Mohammed, Peter Rufai, Bright Omokaro, Sunday Eboigbe, Dominic Iorfa, Dejo Fayemi, Yisa Sofoluwe, Tarila Okorowanta and Uwem Ekarika.
The local stadium was the ultimate weekly destination. Every game was a spectacle, with its own rich nuances. Every season ended with a rich dose of fables that edified the game and its heroes. Every stadium had its own unique atmosphere that expressed the dynamism of its community. Who can forget “Balu balu ntafin” in the days of Lekan Salami at Ibadan? Or “O de o, o de,” the incredibly effective motivational chorus that usually ushered in Shina James to rescue the Ijapo Builders in several nail biting comebacks at Akure?
The heroes were on our streets, at easy reach, identifiable and our own. We could feel them, touch them, interact with them. Even the imports from Ghana like Orlando John, Philip Boamah and Leotis Boateng were our own in every material particular.
The game has changed. It is now a strange contraption, filled with self-deception and worthless passion. People who have never seen the inside of a local stadium pride themselves as “owners” of Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, Camp Nou, Emirates, Anfield, Etihad, Bernabeu and even Craven Cottage. Such is the absurdity of the new craze among Nigerian football fans that they not only identify with European clubs but also claim them as their personal treasures.
They know the players of their favourite clubs but not the name of the local club in the community where they live. They follow foreign clubs with extraordinary devotion and spend their hard earned money to purchase their memorabilia. But the clubs do not know that they exist.
They have no say in the affairs of “their clubs” and are not in anyway connected with them except in the carthatic emotions they derive. They boast of being Gunners for life, Blues for ever, Man U for life or that they do not walk alone. They holler Up Barca or Alla Madrid. So sickening!
This recolonisation is buoyed by a lazy press that parrots foreign news and prides knowledge of foreign leagues as excellence in sports reportage. They bombard their gullible audience with foreign trash and have no originality in news generation. They have no worth as media professionals since they hardly generate their own stories.
Some argue that the local league is not worth it, that it is riddled with “ojooro” and violence, that it is of low standard and the stadium is bad. But many players, referees and officials have been caught and convicted for match fixing in the foreign leagues they adore.
Indeed, the sensible thing to do is to accord priority to our own league in every respect. No one is advocating complete blackout of foreign leagues but no one should venerate foreign leagues at the expense of our own.
The way to go is the South African way: give priority to our own league, elevate it, promote it, expand it, love it, venerate it, learn from foreign leagues and impart the lessons to our own game. The South African is first and foremost a fan of his own league before any other.
A Nigerian who says he is a football aficionado but does not follow and support the local game is really suffering from what the great Fela called “Colo mentality.” He needs deliverance.
Science and technology are yet beyond us. Sport is where we can find a leveller that can help us to challenge the Caucasian for superiority, yet we create an inferiority for our own game. How are we ever going to get to their level if we continue to adore their game and denigrate our own?
Barr. Steve Alabi is a Trustee of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN}, former NFA Board Member, and pioneer Board Member/Team Manager of Sunshine Stars Football Club of Akure
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