Nigeria: Patriotism and Government Responsibilities

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 During the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961, as the 35th President of the United, the President famously quoted: My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

What exactly did President Kennedy mean? Before you shout a big Ula la and fold your hands in triumphantly as a country, expecting your citizens to kill themselves for the State, President Kennedy was only trying to encourage and cultivate the spirit of patriotism amongst Americans. Nor was he exonerating the (United) State from carrying out its expected responsibilities. Definitely, the president was more or less saying that patriotism and the State obligations go hand in hand. However, by in fact, first showing some patriotism, you can expect much from government reciprocally. In other words, patriotism is the sine qua non to government`s responsibilities to its citizens.

Humm! Could it be that the above applies to the USA only? Hardly not! A responsible government is the one that is sensitive and responsive to the needs of its citizens as well as appreciates the patriotism of the citizens. You must be kidding! Is Nigerian government from another planet altogether? Or is the “Heartbeat“ of Africa (excuses President Obasanjo) trying to prove President Kennedy wrong? Could be. Anything can be possible in Nigeria.

Recently, Nigerian football players heading to Brazil for the Olympics were held up in Atlanta, the USA because of problems paying for their flight and accommodations, thereby forcing the team to land in Brazil just five hours before their opening match against Japan. Despite the embarrassing experience, the patriotic Nigerian team managed to beat Japan 5-4. But Nigeria did not go to the Olympics with only football players. To maintain its unbeatable record in irresponsibility to the plight of its citizens, Nigerian athletes in Rio participated in the opening ceremony of the Olympics without their sports kits. Tell me something!! Oh yes, you are hearing well; your ears have not gone into exile. The whole Nigerian athletes representing their country at the Olympics appeared at the opening ceremony with their old tracksuits. You are kidding, aren’t you? No; perhaps the Nigeria Sports Ministry is. Excuse me? Could the Nigerian government be so irresponsible and insensitiveness to the common sports needs of its citizens who have gone to Brazil to represent their country?

Wow! Could you believe this? No, neither could I. Kata Kata magazine wanted to give the government of Nigeria the benefit of the doubts. Our reporter asked one of the sports ministry`s officials, how he could ever explain the fact that the ministry (or the government) could not provide kits for the Olympics for her patriotic athletes.

“Well, we did provide kits for the athletes, but actually, they came late.“ The official who wanted to speak on the condition of anonymity defended.

The kits for the Olympics arrived late. Simple and short. Any reasonable person must understand this excuse, mustn`t they? Ok, the sports kits came late. Yes, they arrived after most of the athletes had, in fact, finished competing. How late? Wow, two weeks after the game started. Wait a minute, could it be that the Olympics games were an impromptu event? If I am not mistaken, Olympics games are held every four years. I mean four years ““ not days. Could it be that a period of four years is not enough for a government to prepare ““ no, I am now being too demanding ““ I mean, to buy kits for the athletes?

“You see, since our President came to power, he has been busy trying to clean up the system and collect the stolen billions; in the process, we completely forgot that the Olympics would be taking place. In fact, even me, it was my wife that reminded me that I was supposed to be in Rio. I had to grab my bag and run to the airport with my pyjama . I only changed my night clothes and combed my hair inside the plane. So, if an important official like me can forget, such an event due to other pressing issues in the country, what do you think of the sports kits of our ordinary athletes?“ The soft-speaking official added defensively.

When asked why they encouraged the athletes to go to the Olympics, knowing they were ill-prepared, the official gave no response, and he instead, started looking down on the ground as if he lost some coins.

Could this scandal have been attributed to mere irresponsibility, carelessness or lack of interest in the welfare of the athletes, who are there to represent their country? Or could the present economic crunch in Nigeria be blamed for the Olympics mess? According to our mole at the Ministry of Sports, the government of Nigeria had budgeted 600m Naira ($1.7m; £1.3m) for the Olympics. $1.7m? You mean $1.7m Zimbabwean dollars? Which Zimbabwean dollars? The one which is on strike in Zimbabwe? Oh yes, even the worthless Zimbabwean dollars are on strike in Zimbabwe, so be prepared to receive your wages partly in bond notes. Please leave Zimbabwe alone, let`s go back to Nigeria.

“If I understand you well, you mean the Nigeria government budgeted a sum of $1.7m for the Olympics? If so, where is the money? Our reporter asked, surprised.

“Money budgeted for the Games was, as usual, either syphoned to a bank account of an official and held tightly for as long as possible, so that they can earn some interest from it or some sport ministry officials just kept the money and just released it slowly.” The official intimated.

Applause! For who? Are you crazy? For Nigeria, of course! The most populous nation in Africa! The lion of Africa! Africa’s largest economy! Above all, the country with the most patriotic citizens in Africa. If you still have not understood at this stage why Nigerians are the jewels of patriotism, then you would never understand again. While the stranded Nigerian Olympics football team reluctantly agreed to still play their games against all odds, it took the humanitarian gesture of a foreigner ““ wait a minute, not bombastically rich Nigerians, who have stolen billions belonging to the patriotic Nigerians, amongst them the mistreated and appreciated athletes, who are being punished for representing their Fatherland ““ to feel the pain of the athletes and respond to the ill-treatment of them. Just out of the blue moon, a Japanese plastic surgeon, Dr Katsuya Takasu, could not understand or withstand the shameful treatment of these dedicated footballers. He decided to donate $390,000 to the team – $200,000 to the Nigerian Olympic team, and additional $30,000 bonus to each player if they win gold, $20,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. What a good way to make use of one`s hard earned money! Where are the greedy leaders who stole billions from Nigeria and piled them up in a foreign account?

According to the letter from the Embassy of Nigeria in Tokyo, Japan, the donation from Dr   Takasu would be handed over to the team coach Samson Siasia, and its captain, Mikel Obi, with each taking $200,000 and $190,000, respectively. Clearly, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), who allegedly hijacked the money budgeted for the footballers or any of its officials was not included in the letter, as indicated below:

Donation-letter

But in a country where insatiable greed, shamelessness and irresponsibility have fueled uncontrollable degree of corruption, the officials of the Nigeria Football Federation, who not only instituted all the sufferings, hardship and shame on their athletes, by withholding the budgeted money for the Olympics, suddenly showed why the plight of its athletes matters indeed to them. Greedily, the official of the NFF allegedly “hijacked` the money by demanding that the money from Dr Takasu be handed to them directly “for onward disbursement to team members.“ “For onward disbursement?“ What an organised institution! You should have known that!

Absolutely, a patriotic and responsible deed from the NFF! If you doubt their crystal and quintessential honesty, listen to the NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, lecturing you on the due process and transparency. He insisted that it would be “out of place to allow an individual make donations directly to individual team members.” Still not convinced? Let`s invoke the mystery of sovereignty:

“Nigeria is a sovereign nation and such a donation must go through a process. If we get a go-ahead, it will go directly to the team,“ Mr Pinnick added.

Wow, if we could praise Mr Pinnick or his NFF pirates for anything, it would be a clear acceptance that Nigeria is a sovereign nation. A sovereign nation that steals from its same hard working patriotic citizens? A sovereign nation that has made ridicule of its citizens and allowed them to be treated with little or no respect even by the most penurious and impoverish nations? Could Mr Pinnick be referring to a sovereign nation that has allowed individuals and coaches to painstaking foot bills incurred while serving their nation, from their own hard savings simply because their nation or institution responsible for the payment of the bill ingloriously refused to live up to their responsibilities? Coaches are hired, promised heaven and earth, only to be frustrated because their salary is for months not paid. Same with players and other athletes. Is that how to motivate these young talented men and women who have sacrificed greatly to make their country great? One wonders why Mr. Pinnick did not remember that Nigeria is a “sovereign nation“ before they saw Dr   . Takasu hard earned money. The NFF official should have “warned“ him when he made his financial promise that Nigeria is “sovereign nation“ as such, they do not want his money.   They surely should not have waited till they saw the money. In any case, when has the Nigeria government or its NFF subsidiary become the bankers or financial managers of the Nigerian football players or other athletes for that matter?

It is not the first time dedicated Nigerian sportsmen are women were left on their own or fastidiously milked dry and left heartbroken when these talented sports ambassadors needed the reciprocal help of the Nigeria government the most. Some of the patriots were abandoned during their most difficult and challenging injury periods, forcing the committed sports jingoists to even pay all their medical expenses incurred while representing their country, Nigeria, themselves.   One of the world`s fastest sprinters, Gloria Alozie, did not only dumped Nigeria and took up Spanish nationality at the height of her career in 2000. Alozie, who at some point, was beaten only by US` Marion Jones (who later admitted that she used drugs), represented Nigeria at the 2000 Olympics in Sidney. She made the painful decision after she allegedly was mercilessly abandoned to her fate when her husband who was also a major Nigerian athlete was killed in a car accident while both sports ambassadors were representing their beloved country Nigeria during the Olympics in Sidney. Even after the death of her husband, the heartbroken lady still participated in the race 100-meter hurdles the following day and won a silver for her country Nigeria. Today, Gloria Alozie is happily a Spaniard. Francis Obikwelu, the former world junior champion in 100 meters and Olympics silver medalist equally abandoned Nigeria for Portugal due to frustrations in the hands of Nigerian officials. His patience with the Nigerian officials reached its apex after the 2000 Sidney Olympics. He sustained injuries while representing his Fatherland. It took ages before he eventually convinced the Nigerian officials to pay for the treatment. Eventually, after the treatment in Canada, it was nightmares before the money for the treatment was reluctantly approved. But he never saw the money. He was told by the fastidious NFF officials that they did not know where the money was.   This time, the money meant for Francis Obikwelu was not found “for onward disbursement to Francis Obikwelu,“ as Mr Pinnick would say. You now understand the NFF language, don`t you?   Listen to Francis Obikwelu: http://www.katakata.org/francis-obikwelu-opens-up-on-nigeria-mistreatment/

Look at the list of British athletes in the Rio Olympics, at least 20 of them ““ amongst them, Christine Ohuruogu, the former Olympic, World and Commonwealth Champion in 400m –   were either born in Nigeria or to Nigerian parents. Could it be a coincidence that these top and dedicated athletes decided to represent Great Britain instead of Nigeria? Your guess is as good as mine! You now understand why Nigerians can be patriotic? Don`t you?

While donating the money to the Nigerian team, the Japanese billionaire Katsuya Takasu, who flew to Rio de Janeiro to hand over the cash personally made the simple but important statement; perhaps a good message for Nigeria and NFF:

“I hope to see them win gold. They’ve sacrificed a lot to get to Brazil and reach the semi-finals. Humans with such a strong spirit should be encouraged to perform beyond their own imagination.”

Is Nigeria government or the officials of the Nigeria Football Federation, the pirates listening?

 

 

The above story is a parody. It is entirely fictitious; therefore, none of the characters mentioned in the story are real