Nigerians, You Lost A Paradise (A Photo Essay)

By Adeola Aderounmu

In several of my essays on Nigeria I have made references to what my parents told me about Nigeria. I remember one story about my mother walking about Lagos in the middle of the night. She told me there was nothing to be afraid of living in the old Western Nigeria. People lived like normal people and go about their businesses round the clock.

There was 24 hours a day form of existence, transportation was uninterrupted and life was full of hope and happiness. The future looked super bright. When she told me stories about Nigeria in general, she brought the good olden days in Western Nigeria to life in my imaginations.

Unfortunately for Nigerians the future is here now and it turned out super bleak-full of extreme hopelessness and frustrations.

Invariably Nigeria was once upon a time a paradise on earth until some people decided to reverse the gear of progress. Greed and outright madness took over the people-both civilians and military-entrusted to manage the affairs of Nigeria. Sometimes these people have not been chosen, selected or elected; they took over governance by force or through violence. Then they enforced their own rules and mode of governance.

Nigerians lost their paradise when they could not take back the control of their regional and geographical areas from the tropical gangsters who strangely are somehow still in control of the affairs of the land until today.

My mother told me that security especially took a turn for the worse after the civil war ended. In general, evil rose after the war as weapons remained in the hands of the people. Greed and selfishness set in at different points during pre and post-independent Nigeria.

In many ways too numerous to describe here, Nigerians lost a paradise

Cross River Conical Stone

Cross River Conical Stone

This conical stone is from Cross River State. It stands in front of the National Museum in Lagos. One of the things that went wrong in Nigeria was the drop in the standard and value of education. How many Nigerians visit the museums to learn about their history? Today the ignorant people who run Nigeria’s education have suggested that history should be removed from the curriculum. Nigerians will forget their history totally and the magnitude of historical distortions 100 years from now will be better imagined than experienced.

Brass smith in Bida

Brass smith in Bida

This is a man doing his work. That was Brass smith in Bida. We always say there is dignity in labour. Today that expression belongs to the dustbin in Nigeria. Several Nigerians just want to be part of politics so that they can steal and accumulate money and wealth for themselves, their families and unborn generation.

Those who are not stealing in politics are also looking for ways to cut the corners in whatever they do. In public and private enterprises the “make quick money syndrome” has taken over almost everybody. People now believe more in “if you cannot beat them, join them”. Such is the low mentality of an average Nigerian today.

Honesty is now a disease in Nigeria. People who are honest and trustworthy in Nigeria have joined the list of endangered species. One day somebody told me that I cannot be a politician in Nigeria. When I asked him why, he told me that people working with me will either kill me or poison me if I prevent them from stealing in politics.

He said they might even cut my head off. He was trying to emphasize that I cannot do politics in Nigeria if I am not ready to steal. From what we see and know about Nigeria today, that illustration is correct. It’s very sad, disheartening and a piece of the evidence that the paradise may be lost forever.

Decorated Pots, Sokoto

Decorated Pots, Sokoto

Here above is an image of a girl selling decorated pots in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria. This must have taken place at those times that my mother described to me and what I will call Nigeria’s golden years. At that time when there was still dignity in labour. Some of the pots are not decorated but they look so beautiful you want to have them for your next party or family cooking.

Old Western Nigeria

Old Western Nigeria

Western Nigeria was part of the regions that made up the Nigerian paradise of the olden days. It is hard to miss the blend of even development and environmental preservation. Look at the beautiful trees among the industrial revolution of old western Nigeria.

One cannot miss the hard work and the quality of the products that this craftsman is making. The image did not say where the man comes from but he was well dressed in native agbada. Interesting I have at least 4 of the items in his production line in my possession.He was not only selling cultural products, he promoted his culture as well by representation.

The woman carried healthy fruits. She was also well dressed in Iro and Buba. She looked healthy and happy. She was probably selling the pineapples or just on her way from the farm. Agriculture was the backbone of the Nigerian paradise. Crude oil later became a curse.

A Market Place in "old" Nigeria

A Market Place in “old” Nigeria

This is another beautiful image from the time when Nigeria was a paradise on earth. It was at that time that it would have been proper to describe Nigerians as the happiest people on earth. Some recent global reports describing Nigerians as the happiest people in recent years when the security is low, the roads, schools and hospitals resemble monuments of catastrophe, the economy is good enough on paper only and at a time when majority of the people are living dangerously from hand to mouth, are not only misleading but also irony of the highest order.

The Famous Kano Mosque

The Famous Kano Mosque

In my recent but last essay I described religion as one of the greatest problems in Nigeria. Religion is one of the reasons why Nigeria went from paradise to hell on earth. These are people worshipping peacefully at the famous mosque in Kano. People worshipped peacefully across Nigeria in the olden days. But the agents of prosperity in the face of dwindling economic fortunes changed the mode of worship in Nigeria forever.

Rather than guide the people to demand good governance and accountability, the foreign religious institutions in Nigeria headed by the new-age Nigerian overseers told people to pray. At the same time the people whose actions and activities contributed to converting Nigeria from paradise to hell were active members of various religious organisations.

The situation remains the same today as looters parade churches and mosques every Friday and Sunday. Nigerian looters are popular faces at religious crusades. Religion became a means to wealth for the religious rulers and many young people today are religious fanatics especially after years of joblessness. Politics in Nigeria got contaminated with religion and the outcomes including terrorism and mistrust in the society remain devastating to this day.

Nigerians love to chase shadows. Oh! How they enjoy denying the knowledge of basic truth! Apart from the resurrection of regional governance (the possibility of which is already being thrown away at the “organised” national conference) another hope for the restoration of the Nigerian paradise will be the total eradication of religion(s) from public service.

Issues like pilgrimages for example need to be taken away from government functions. Churches and mosque in/around government establishments need to be demolished. People need to just do the right thing rather than hide under the umbrella of religion while they ruin the state or country.

People don’t need to pray for good roads, good schools, and good hospitals and so on. What Nigeria need across all her geographical regions are the good and honest people who will use the budgetary allocations to do these things. Prayers don’t build roads or schools when the funds have been stolen or embezzled. That is common sense and application of the knowledge of the truth – that which always set people free.

Meeting of the "WAYs" Water, Rail. Road , Old Lagos.

Meeting of the “WAYs” Water, Rail. Road , Old Lagos.

In this picture we see some of the things that millions of Nigerians today have no experiences of. There was a functional train in service. The roads are clean and motor-able. The cars were in the correct lanes-2 lanes and no mad driver on an artificial third lane. There are no LASTMA people on the road; people had a sense of belonging and responsibilities.

On the right side the area is enough for pedestrians and cyclists and on the left side, there is a bicycle track along the major road and also there is a pedestrian path with adequate distance to the train tracks. Life was good, normal just like in a paradise. The street lights are standing upright and there is a stretch of beautiful garden in the middle adding glamour, peace and tranquillity to the streets of Lagos in the old western Nigeria.

Apart from air travel, all the other modes of transportation are depicted in this image. There are no ferries in the image but the idea was to state that they were all available in the old Lagos.

This is the type of image of Nigeria from the past that some people will never know about. Millions of Nigerians have lived and died within the period that the paradise was lost. This means that they actually, sadly enough, passed through life without the experience of a good life or the taste of the real meaning of life. If nobody talks about these things and if nobody makes reference to the things that existed under regional governments millions of Nigeria will live and probably die not knowing that there entire future and happiness were stolen from them even before they were born.

All of my life time in Nigeria, I do not recall the privilege of taking a ride on the train. One day however I took the “Baba Kekere” ferry service from Mile 2 to CMS. It must have been some time in the mid 80s. But as a young boy I remembered the many rides on the LSTC buses in the late 70s and early 80s. I know the number on the buses and their destinations from Festac Town. Those were the end of the good old days.

In today’s Nigeria the paradise is lost. This lose will be permanent for several millions of Nigerians living in Nigeria unless radical political changes and turnarounds occur today.

The paradise will remain lost if one man or a group of people can steal 20 billion dollars and walk free. In the 1970s we saw a man making brass in Bida, in the 80s we saw a man from Minna who stole more than 12 billion dollars of Nigeria’s oil money. He walked free! How did Nigeria go from promoting dignity to embracing criminals? The answers will shed light on how to lose a paradise in 20 years or less!

Nigeria lost their paradise because they allow military juntas and politicians to handle public services and politics like profitable businesses that is devoid of probity and accountability. The paradise will remain lost in the face of non-sensitive rulers and non-functional political structures.

The negative outcomes that follow a lost paradise are too numerous to elaborate but they are largely visible on a day out in various parts of Nigeria. Nigerians need orientation in almost all aspects of their lives. Social studies, moral instructions and history were part of the foundations and orientation in primary education. They still cannot be overemphasized in a society with solid foundation in education.

In a lost paradise, pensioners are crying, students are not getting the correct education, graduates are jobless and the society is on a free fall. In Nigeria, a country heavily polluted from all angles, good health is a luxury. There are almost no consequences for political and economic crimes. There is no sense of belonging and the first and the last law is the same: the law of self-preservation.

When I think about the issue of electricity in a lost paradise, I can’t recollect much from Obele Odan in Surulere but it has always been a pain to recount what we went through in Festac Town. We got a beautiful town with our own transformers and local power system.

Everything went down the drain right in front of our eyes. Growing up in Nigeria for my generation was a traumatic experience. Yet we were not given any social or psychological help by the state or the federal system. We fend for ourselves.

At that time (when I was growing up) the system was under the management of the wasted generation. These are the words of Wole Soyinka, as he aptly described his generation, my parents generation unfortunately. Until this day in Nigeria, the mis-management of Nigeria remains largely in the hands of mostly crooks, criminals and idiotic people who cannot manage their homes. How they got to the positions where they have to manage public services and government institutions summarises the story of Nigeria as a lost paradise.

A paradise can be reclaimed. Nigerians, you lost your paradise when you gave up your sense of belonging in the various regions and allowed a powerful center to destroy the entire system. You cave-in and followed a “rotten head” all the time. The paradise lost is actually the sum of all your negligence and attitude to work, environment and life.

It’s going to be a hard fought battle, but you need to bring back the paradise for the sake of your children and children’s children. Take another look at the images in this essay; you’ll see there’s a need to do away with the rotten head or any rotten head for that matter.

Do away with the center altogether. Claim back your regions, do the right thing all the time when it comes to public service and dedication to local and regional development. Be selfless and content. Start your charity (in this case your love of humanity) again, from home. It will spread. It will bring the paradise your children deserved.

aderounmu@gmail.com

PHOTO CREDITS

Akwashi Conical Stone (from Cross River Area)

(By Elisabeth Seriki)

Brass Simth Bida

By John Hinde F.R.P.S

Decorated Pots, Sokoto

John Hinde

Western Nigeria

John Hinde

Famous Kano Mosque

John Hinde

Market

Photo by E, Ludwig, John Hinde Studios

Lagos, Meeting of the Ways: Water, Rail, Road

By The Railway Printer, Ebute Metta

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Terror And The Volatile Mix Of Blind Faiths

By Adeola Aderounmu

One of the saddest things to occur in Nigeria in the last 4 years is the ascension and domination of religious politics. Unfortunately, it has also been the time of putting Nigeria on the map permanently as one of the major terrorists’ countries in the world.

Nigerian politicians have lost the plot a long time ago in the areas of ideologies and functional manifestos. It will amount to overstating the obvious that Nigerian politics runs on faulty foundations and that the essential purpose of politics in Nigeria is nothing close to service. The politics is rather self-serving, self-rewarding, dominated largely by criminal minds and stinking of massive corruption from the head to the toes.

Religion is destroying Nigeria

Religion is destroying Nigeria

As Nigeria and Nigerians now approach the 2015 elections, the stage is now set for a religion-influenced electioneering. How did Nigeria get to this point? The question is relevant judging from the background and outcomes of the 1993 general and presidential elections. That election was adjudged to be the best election (ever) conducted in Nigeria.

Sadly for the Nigerian nation the presidential election results were annulled by the tropical military gangsters headed by one dictator called Ibrahim Babangida. That election would have ushered in MKO Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe of the SDP, two Muslims from two different geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

When Mr. Goodluck Jonathan started his reign as the ruler of Nigeria in 2011, it was not pleasing to the Nigerian opposition party and a lot of statements were made by the opposition politicians especially those from the Northern parts of the country. Gen. Buhari and Mr. Atiku were alleged to have made statements that ordinarily would have earned them interrogations by the Nigerian special security forces. But they were not invited for any interrogation or explanations.

There had always been elements of terror and its tendencies in Northern Nigeria. There was of course serious problems with the terrors in the Niger Delta that curiously to this day continue to gulp more money than the federal defence budget of Nigeria. However for some reasons that have now kept the blame game in a roller coaster mode the terrorist group popularly known as Boko Haram have flourished in the northern parts of Nigeria and Abuja under the reign of Goodluck Jonathan.

This period of rise of terror curiously also coincided with the era when Mr. Jonathan embraced the Christian community in Nigeria with more enthusiasm. He even went on the so called “holy” pilgrimage with a large entourage, all on Nigeria’s tax payers’ money.

By the way the annual holy pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem are embodiments of the nonsensical waste in Nigeria’s government since time immemorial. Nigeria is a very corrupt country (we don’t need corrupt Mugabe’s opinion to confirm this fact) and the wastage or looting of money through religious tourism to other countries is regrettable. These pilgrimages are parts of the inferior complexity of Africans, also regrettable, made famous by the government and people of Nigeria.

The APC is yet to state with audacity the two persons who will be flying the flag or the brooms of the part in the 2015 elections. An attempt to draw a ticket on 2 individuals with the same religion like the SDP did in 1993 is becoming unlikely and like their party members and critics would make everybody believe-suicidal.

The disorganised polity has been heated and whether the Muslim community or the APC in Nigeria find it desirable or not, there is no longer a general acceptance for the type of scenario that Nigeria had with the Abiola-Kingibe ticket. Since the political scene is devoid of common sense and ideologies, the rise of Boko Haram has given many religious people within and outside APC the platform for hatred. Offshoots of the hatred are the emergence of the political suicide syndrome and the probable intense Christianisation of the Nigerian presidency under Jonathan.

The alleged statements made by the likes of Buhari and Atiku at a time when they needed to control their emotions but lost it completely, and the silence/lack of condemnation from the Northern region in general following the “successful” campaign of Boko Haram continue to send shocking and conflicting signals across Nigeria. It will be hard to erase the meaning and aftermath of what it takes to make Nigeria ungovernable. Such expressions now run parallel with terror occurrences.

The government of the day in Nigeria has made many remarks in the past and even recently linking the deadly terrorist group to the main opposition party-the APC. Nigerians are surprised because such allegations are supposed to be supported by investigation and arrest. Nothing has happened in that line. Before he was killed General Azazi linked the problem to religion, poverty, the desire to rule Nigeria and a combination of everything that is wrong with Nigeria. He especially laid the blame at what he called politics of exclusion of the PDP in the region.

When the true story of Boko Haram is finally told, it would be instructional, not least sensational to know the sponsors (national or international) and the roles of the Nigerian military that is alleged to be harbouring snitches who have made the bloody operations of Boko Haram successful. What will also be useful if Nigeria or the nations within Nigeria will ever learn anything from history is the magnitude of the alleged involvement of the Northern rulers.

I doubt if I know what to believe going by the nature of the roller coaster blame game. The Yorubas have said it all “if falsehood persist for 20 years (or even 100 years as Nigeria marks centenary of a painful marriage), one day the truth will emerge.

terror

Meanwhile in the faces of the multitudes of speculations, allegations and counter allegations and irrespective of where the actual truth lies, it is extremely sad that those who have suffered the most are the innocent masses going about their occupations or daily activities. Women and children have suffered in this evil campaign and crimes have been committed against humanity.

It appears that the government of Nigeria enjoys playing or toying with the lives of the citizens. This whole pandemonium is like a chess game where the opponents are seeking checkmate. In this case, the 2015 election is the end result. The “I don’t give a damn attitude”, the lies of keeping government “working” and the campaign dance that took place in Kano barely 24 hours after the deadly car park blast in Abuja that claimed, depending on sources, between 150 and 250 lives are all indications of a failed government.

Religion in its ordinary form mixed with politics is poisonous. The effect of contaminations with radical views either from the presidency or any other place in Nigeria will be more potent than a poison. Nigeria appears to be in a labyrinth, more likely at the crossroad of self-destruction.

In January 2011 I wrote an article titled: My Message To Nigerians In 2011, Stop Saying It’s God. I condemned the influence of religion in Nigeria’s politics and social life.

Nigerians have been fooled, deceived and slaughtered at the altar of ordinary and radical religions. It does not seem there is an end in sight if one judges by the religiosity of Nigerians on the social media and in reality while the country burns.

Is it hard to see that Nigerian politicians (both Christians and Muslins) are looting the treasuries across Nigeria? Is it hard to see that they call on God and Allah to solve the problems that are related to common sense and simple political ideologies?

Nigerians and their politicians attribute events (good and evil) to acts of God and they merged together to pray for things that can be solved by simple action and will.

In the area of religion and prayers, I have not understood the Nigerian mentality. They pray for the things that they and the government are supposed to do. So after creating a corrupt political system where corruption and crimes are tolerated and rewarded, Nigerians will then commit everything into the hands of their various Gods. Nonsense and ingredients!

For Nigeria, religion has created more problems than solutions. It remains a deadly veil for both Christians and Muslims. It’s worse for radicals anywhere because the effects of brainswashing are profound on them and their narrow minds. It’s going to be mission impossible to forbid religions in public positions, in politics especially. Ironically the elimination of religion in our doings is supposed to be the best way to free our minds and promote coexistence.

It’s hard to “converge” my views but I’m trying to get to a point where I need to condemn the role of politics and religion in the rise of terrorism in Nigeria. I am of the opinion that religious differences have aggravated the political differences in Nigeria. I think that the corrupt rulers and politicians have through their actions, alignments, attitudes and utterances contributed to the hopeless situation in Nigeria.

I have a problem in understanding the rise of Boko Haram acting on the radical angle of one of Nigeria’s dominating religion, that is Islam. A few years ago, Nigerians boasted of their “fear” of dying. Today we are told there are suicide bombers in Nigeria. It’s very painful to watch terror achieve successes on the back of religious platforms. I’ve been blown away many times in my life seeing atrocities committed in the name of Christ, God and Allah.

I also want to emphasise that as long as religion remains a factor in Nigeria’s politics and socio-economic life, then the country is going no where. In the society, people need to start doing things independent of religion. Just be good, do the right thing and play your role in nation building!

The Nigerian political class does not build or propagate sane and sound ideologies; they are instead wiggling from one political party to another based on the religion of the political candidates, based on fairweatherism and opportunism. That is the height of stupidity, having no principles.

The call for true federalism or the emergence of regional governments cannot be swept under the rugs. For, right now, Nigeria is in a serious dilemma and the center is too weak to hold things together. The center is marrying, making merry and dancing around as the country burns and people perish daily.

The weakness of the center is the strength of Boko Haram, it is the strength of militancy or terrorism anywhere in Nigeria. The weakness of the center is the sustenance of a corrupt political system. The self-serving nature of Nigerian politics means that the non-thinking politicians and rulers are ready to take everything down with them. It is up to Nigerians to rise up above religion, above sentiments, above hypocrisy and above political and ethnic differences.

Great countries were not built on religions, corruption, selfishness, greed, prayers or miracles. They were built by dedicated people, on sound political structures, on performances, on ideologies that stood the test of time, on positive actions and on the collective will to succeed.

aderounmu@gmail.com

The Boys From Festac

By Adeola Aderounmu

When Bimbo Fatokun came to Sweden in 2002 for a football trial at Djurgården the first question he asked me when we met was “Omotayo, which club are you playing for”? I told him I came to Sweden to continue my academic studies. It was not all of my dreams that came true.

Over the years I’d pondered on what happened to some of us, the boys from Festac.

Bimbo left Nigeria back in the 90s to ply his trade abroad. He is very talented, athletic, quick and skilful. He is one of the best strikers/forward I’d ever known in my life. He played for Antwerp for several years and remained settled in Belgium with his wife and children. He didn’t reach the fullest of his potentials but he did his best. We had hoped that Bimbo would play for Nigeria one day but it did not happen. I had a short discussion with him about this in 2002 and I respect his views and will keep them off the web.

Bimbo Fatokun

Bimbo Fatokun

There are quite a number of boys from Festac who reached the national teams of Nigeria (at various levels). Sunday Oliseh, Samuel Ayorinde and Victor Agali are notable examples. I think the Ipayes also have links to Festac Town. Wasiu Ipaye on 401 Road was one of my closest pals before I left Festac Town. A very humble guy, he is. I heard that some younger generation of footballers from Festac Town have represented Nigeria too in recent years. I wouldn’t know them personally.

Agali

Agali

You won’t read about all the boys from Festac in a single essay and some people will probably get upset with me when they find out that their names are missing in this short story about the boys from Festac Town. Yes, it is a bias history. I write only about some of the boys who played with me and a bit after me.

Samuel Ayorinde

Samuel Ayorinde

George Ekeh is the eldest of 3 brothers from Festac Town who are football talents. I remembered the first time I saw George playing football as a boy. He was under the age of 10 at that time. I marvelled at how such a small boy could have so much skills and confidence on the ball.

George Ekeh

George Ekeh

As a young teenage striker, George can hold and guide the ball with extreme mastery. I admire his skills. George probably did not hit the apex of his talents on the big scene but he went on to play in many countries around the world. I like him very much. He’s settled in Sweden.

Emmanuel Ekeh followed in his brother’s steps and he’s the one that still has more time on his hand to proof what he can do with his boots and skills. I watched a few of his clips on YouTube. He has such a pace and he’s got good vision to make precise passes.

Emmanuel Ekeh

Emmanuel Ekeh

Kingsley Ekeh is a well known player in both Portugal and Cyprus. Famously called King he shone like a millions stars during his playing career. He quit in 2012 and became a scout for his former team.

Life can bring many twists. When I watched or played together with George sometimes, I never saw Kingsley on the football field. In fact, all my years in Festac Town, I didn’t see Kingsley kick a ball. He was always talking on the sidelines. To be honest, Kingsley can provoke anybody back in the days and you can’t win over him in an argument. I actually thought it was a joke when I heard that he was a professional footballer. I do hope to see Kingsley soon. When I do, my first question to him will be “come, which time you start to play ball sef”?

Kingsley Ekeh

Kingsley Ekeh

Azubuike Oliseh probably enjoyed the influence of his brother Sunday Oliseh in gaining international prominence. I have to be honest. This guy trained hard to ensure that he carved a name for himself. However, not everybody will agree with my last submission because despite playing for big teams in Europe, it was obvious he didn’t have the skills and fluidity of Sunny his brother.

Azubuike Oliseh

Azubuike Oliseh

The youngest Oliseh that I know, Egutu Oliseh still plies his trade as well. We never played together. I saw him grow up and I saw him at the Sunday services many times along with the rest of the family.

Egutu Oliseh

Egutu Oliseh

To complete this short story about the boys from Festac, I called up Femi Oladele in the middle of it. Femi is an encyclopaedia of Nigerian football. He grew up in Festac and studied Veterinary Medicine at ABU. But today he holds a Phd in sport administration from a German university.

As a result of his passion for football, he abandoned a PhD program along medical line in Sweden. I have convinced Femi to join me in writing the second part of this story. I have to forgive Femi though, he still doesn’t acknowledge my skills and I’m shocked he didn’t see any of my big games in Festac, Ebute Metta, Yaba Tech, Unilag, Mile 2 and in Ibadan.

Bassey of 23 Road did not turn professional. The story of Bassey will be told differently depending on the speaker and how well they know Bassey. In Festac in those days you cannot separate Bassey and George Ekeh. I always find them near mama Ibeji’s shop, chilling and talking for long hours. They are always together in the evening to discuss how they played/trained during the day and they talk a lot about the future. They had the same dream. There was definitely a link between Bassey, George and the Olisehs. I am not in the position to elaborate. I was at the University of Lagos when many water passed under the bridge.

In any case, historically, I was probably one of the first groups of people who played football with Bassey in Festac Town. His family moved into an apartment behind ours. Hardly had they put their belongings in place than Bassey came down to find me and 2 boys playing football. Bassey joined me and we played against the other 2 brothers Dada and Oyinye.

I could say we played for about 1 hour and I almost did not touch the ball again. At that time, we didn’t know his name was Bassey. He was simply called “Ba”. Ba was running round the field with the ball practically fastened to his feet. He was short and very quick. I said to myself, “another footballer has arrived”. Bassey went on to be a household name in Festac football. I learnt he played for some clubs in Nigeria. From afar, I could see that he did not reach his full potentials.

Ubaka is a very close pal of Nigerian International Victor Agali, as I learnt. Obviously, I don’t have my eyes on all our potentials. I missed Agali to the extent that when people talked about him, I’m like….how come I didn’t know him? Well, I don’t think he knows me either!

I remembered playing against Ubaka’s team in one tournament on 71 Road/24 Road. He was a disciplined defender and very well respected as a young player. But when I’d played against him, it had been easy to beat his team silly. With all due respect, I was a fine striker and for being such a quiet striker, I had extremely good qualities and a ball sense that is extraordinary. I did my share of damage to many lines of defence and teams.

Another boy who’s really very close to George and Bassey is Emeka Okpor Anthony. I think he’s career was punctuated by a series of injuries right there in Nigeria. I learnt in particular that he had a recurrent shoulder problem. A great talent and a clever defender, Okpor is a graduate and he also has a coaching qualification from NIS. He is nurturing young talents and looking ahead to becoming a great coach and motivator.

Emeka Okpor and his friend Taiye Taiwo

Emeka Okpor and his friend Taiye Taiwo

There’s abundant joy when you help other people to reach their dreams even if yours suffered a setback. Setbacks are not meant to be permanent hindrances to happiness and contentment in life.

In Festac Town when I was growing up, Ebere was the most composed player on any football field. Ebere continued to tell us that his father preferred his education to his football career. He had dribbling skills that reminds you of a combination of both Maradona and Okocha. He topped those qualities with his eyes for goals. Whilst Bimbo was quick- actually one of the best sprinters in 100m in Lagos State in those days, Ebere was calm but they were both strong and they find the back of the nets in different ways. We have talents in Festac Town.

We had Dapo of 5th Avenue D1 close. He was a player in a world of his own. He combined well with Ebere during their school days at Mile 2 Boys. At that time, Amuwo Odofin Boys Secondary School was a force to reckon with in the Junior Principal Cup. It was Ebere and Dapo who wrecked the defence line-ups across Lagos State.

I remembered playing one-on-one against Dapo one day on my way from school. They had a small park in front of their block of flats then. Today the park is no more. FHA stupidly sold the park and people built houses on them. Anyway, it was like “he tortured me when he had the ball, and I tortured him when I had the ball”. The rule was clear, “don’t lose the ball”. When I read Eden Hazard’s interview and how he became clever at dribbling by playing in the garden with his brother, I remembered what I went through playing alone with Dapo.

One of my best friends through the years Modestus Okechukwu Okafor played for many years in the German Amateur league. He finally settled there and we even spoke over the telephone less than one week ago. Oke as he’s fondly called was the one who tried to tell me more about Victor Agali. He’s still not able to understand how I missed the Agali’s story. Apparently, Oke lived on 22 Road when he was a little boy.

Okechukwu Okafor, Adeola Aderounmu and Samuel Ayorinde

Okechukwu Okafor, Adeola Aderounmu and Samuel Ayorinde

By the way I first met Oke by accident. I was on my way home from school one day. I stopped at a park near CCC, X Close on 5th avenue. I started to play football with the boys whom I met there. Then Okechukwu who went to a primary school on another side of town was also on his way home. He stopped too and joined us. Those days after school, our other occupation was football.

Later on by some stroke of fate Oke and I attended the same secondary school. Then I remembered him immediately. He has a built that is hard to miss. Still, Oke moved from 22 Road to 5th Avenue end that is near to 23 Raod. Since then, we remained very close friends and played on our “stone filed” everyday!

Chinneye Okolo, I almost forgot. What a left footer! He played with sense. Many of us back then didn’t just kick the ball. We were intelligent boys. We did well at school and we transferred that cleverness to the football field. I remembered my school mates like Wasiu Ikharia (a biochemist), Sanya Okanrende (a cardiologist). I mean these are finest amongst footballers!

Afam and Nenye Okolo

Afam and Nenye Okolo

We had Kingsley Nzete who suffered a broken leg and we knew at that time that he’s not going further as a footballer. He got back on his feet again and started playing in between the goal posts. I salute his courage. We have another Bassey on 5th Avenue. I know his eldest brother lived and played in a foreign country but I never followed up on Bassey himself. Another fine player we still have in Asia is Gabriel Obadin.

We had Michael Fatokun, Solomon and Felix Uboh. Afam Okolo, and the Osuji’s of 401 road. If you want to write about the talents in the Osuji Family, you’ll need a whole edition of a sport magazine. The elder Uboh is Kennedy Uboh. He also went to the higher institutions. If he had been discovered, his football career could have earned him a place in Real Madrid’s line up. He was that good.

What about my friend Abideen, my cousin Tilewa Majekodunmi. There is Abega, a boy who loves football with all of his heart. I know Bauna on 721 Road and I remember many boys from the 402 end. We were players on the field!

This story will be incomplete without an analysis of how some of the boys from Festac failed to reach their fullest potentials and how many dreams were punctuated. We lost many boys along the way under different circumstances, many of them relating to health issues. Emotions have been high many times of how we grew up and the dreams we had.

me and some boys on our stone field in 2006

me and some boys on our stone field in 2006

In the meantime as we continue to ponder on what could have happened to the boys who did not reach their full potentials or whose dreams were punctuated, we should be glad for the representations at the national and international levels.

We should be glad for the Olisehs, the Ipayes, the Ayorindes, the Agalis, and the Kingsley Ekehs, they did their best to put Festac Town on the map in the most positive ways. The Amunekes have very strong links to Festac Town and also to many of the boys mentioned in this essay. At some point Emmanuel Amuneke was living on 5th Avenue.

I am glad for Kinglsley Ekeh who reached his full potentials playing in Portugal and Cyprus. I am happy for Bimbo Fatokun, that he found the reasons to continue with his life in Belgium after a playing career punctuated by a few disappointments and unfulfilled promises.

I remembered how my team mates in the Oyo State NYSC in 1995/96 urged me to pursue that line. Niyi-our oyinbo from UI, Jato, Uche and the rest of the pack trusted me on the right flank and in the 6 yard box of our opponents. I hope they are glad for me that I decided to keep my pen and papers.

Today in Festac Town, there is scarcity of football talents. This is relative depending on who the observer is. When we moved to Festac in those days, there were football fields, playgrounds and parks in every corner. I wrote extensively about this here in the Village square (The Rise and Fall Of Festac Town, parts 1 and 2).

All the playgrounds are gone. There are no more football fields. I think only one major field was spared. FHA sold all our playgrounds. They sold all our parks. These are unforgivable acts.

In place of sports, football in particular, our youths have turned to crime and drugs. Festac became notorious globally as the town of 419ers. I also wrote about that in my story titled Festac Town and Its 419 reputation. There were many reasons why things took a turn for the worse in Festac and in Nigeria as a whole.

There is a need for Nigeria to return football to its glorious days. Today we all hail the EPL and in fact we worship the EPL and other European leagues in what appears like a permanent colonial mentality. Nigerian league can be made attractive again through good planning and administration.

The aim should be, “if our talents don’t go abroad, they should be able to live successfully playing football in Nigeria”. One way or the other the Nigerian intelligence needs to surface on the football scene. The market is huge. What are the problems?

Nigeria is very rich as a country and sport facilities should be at every corner of town. Our football stadia should be many, different sizes and world class standard. The training pitches should litter every community.

There are so many things wrong with Nigeria. It is sad that despite their love for the game of football, Nigerians allowed the sport to suffer as well.

I know that for many young talents, the dreams died. I think about many of my friends on the stone field: Suraju, Abbey and many more. How did I forget about Medo Obanya until now? Medo is one of the greatest talents to have emerged from Festac Town. His dribbling and goal scoring skills are extraordinary. His football career simply melted away right in front of our eyes. Who do we blame?

Even Nwike, Medo’s younger brother was a wonder boy on the ball. I didn’t forget Osaze and Richard Omoregie. It’s going to be an unending essay if I write about everybody that I know. Kelechi, all the best in the south of Sweden!

stone field in 2010

stone field in 2010

I’ve spoken to Femi Oladele and he should be the main contributor to write about the implications of what happened to the boys from Festac. I hope he will use his expertise in sport administration and his life experiences to write about how Nigeria can discover, develop and invest in her talents in football. There are many “boys from Festac” scattered around Nigeria. In this country, many talents have been wasted and dreams have been dumped. Some lives were actually shattered due to unfulfilled dreams.

What happened to the boys from Festac Town can be likened to a sliding door. There are many implications to this expression. When the door slides, it separated us. The sliding door also meant that while some hinged their hopes only on football, some of us looked at our options.

I can say a word for the young people coming up. Keep your heads up, live healthy and keep all of your dreams alive. Don’€™t put your eggs in the same basket and don’t count them before they are hatched..!

aderounmu@gmail.com

The Stupid Jokes, Including Mugabe On Nigeria

By Adeola Aderounmu

One day two men from Pakistan told me a joke. I’ll share it.

[Transparency International (TI) was going to rank countries in the world using the so called corruption perception index. Pakistan was going to be rated as the most corrupt country in the world. The Pakistan government got winds of the situation. They (the people in the corrupt Pakistan government) pondered on what to do to avert the situation. In the end they decided to contact Nigeria.

The Pakistan government succeeded in bribing the Nigerian government to accept the first position. This means that in place of Pakistan, Nigeria was named as the most corrupt country in the world, and Pakistan ended up in the second position. The Pakistan government was delighted that it avoided been named as the most corrupt country in the world].

This joke according to them is popular in Pakistan. The two men laughed and I looked at them with indifference.

I was in the middle of a shopping exercise with one of my former colleagues when I was told this joke. Nothing comes between me and my shopping habits, not even a stupid joke. But when I had the time to think and reflect over the joke, I realised the depth.

What I didn’t understand is how they bribed TI into accepting the swapping process.

Beyond that blind spot, I think everybody that is called a Nigerian should do his or her own analysis and weigh the joke. It was told in less than 2 minutes but I think the implications are huge.

I mean, in the league of corrupt countries, Pakistan is Baba nla corrupt country. They made this joke to be popular in their country probably to console themselves that it could have been worse. How they arrived at this crossroad of consolation is their national problem or tragedy. In 2013 they actually remain in the league of the most corrupt country, far worse than Nigeria.

Earlier this month (March 2014) Robert Mugabe allegedly made another stupid joke about Nigeria. He was celebrating his birthday and was probably drunk when he asked his people “are we now like Nigeria where you have to reach your pocket to get anything done”?

I don’t have so many words for the Pakistani guys and their stupid jokes. I don’t even know where they are now. They may be back in their more corrupt country. They may have continued with their sojourn to other climes, as usual.

However, when I followed Zimbabwe in the 2008 election I knew that his people called him “MUGABE IMBAVHA” which means Mugabe you are a thief. This was at the time that Zimbabwe had 80% unemployment rate and probably the world’s highest inflation rate at 165 000%. It was a time when a $10 million Zimbabwean note won’t last you 3 days and a queue for bread was mistaken for a queue at a polling station!

Zimbabwe 10 million dollar

Zimbabwe 10 million dollar

Mugabe is not a king but he has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980. I respect the views of the Pan-Africanists who are still in love with Mugabe but I won’t come to terms with how one man will rule one country as if the others in it are fools. I don’t fancy the looters who have ruled and ruined Nigeria and I don’t fancy sit tight rulership. I will also like to separate royal-ship from democracy.

I have no idea what inflation looks like in Zimbabwe today and I don’t know what a queue for bread looks like. It may be as long as a queue for fuel in Nigeria. The only thing I bothered to check revealed that in 2013 Zimbabwe is worse than Nigeria on the corruption index.

The stupid jokes are on Nigeria if a man like Mugabe thinks that he is a yardstick to morality and a reference mark for uprightness.

The Pakistani joke is on Nigeria, a country where 20 billion dollars can disappear without a trace.

The jokes are on Nigeria, a country that made so much money during the gulf war that all the money disappeared, 12 billion out of it ended with one man!

The stupid jokes are still on Nigeria, a country where pension funds disappear and pensioners suffer and die like rats.

Nigerians, the jokes are on you, with all the intellectual pool of people flooding Nigeria and around the world, you cannot manage your political affairs successfully.

The jokes are on Nigeria, a country ruled largely by criminals, ex-convicts and murderers.

The jokes are on Nigeria, a country where Ministers hire or buy private jets with petro-dollars and they walk free.

Nigerian Minister who stole funds to use private jet

Nigerian Minister who stole funds to use private jet

The jokes are on Nigeria, a country where “militants” and terrorists earn more money than professors and teachers.

The stupid jokes are on you, you sent a wasted generation to a national conference while your youth waste at home and abroad.

richard akinjide, one of the NPN members who destroyed and ruined Nigeria at a national conference in 2014

richard akinjide, one of the NPN members who destroyed and ruined Nigeria at a national conference in 2014

The jokes are on Nigeria; you rip money from unemployed people, maim them and even killed some of them.

Nigeria the jokes are on you when Abacha’s loot was re-looted and it now re-disappeared without a trace.

The jokes are on you when your sons whom you made governors are wanted abroad for criminal activities or at home for murder charges and stealing.

Nigeria the jokes are on you when you bring drug barons from America and other places to head political groups in Nigeria.

Nigeria the jokes are on you, you cannot provide stable electricity for yourself in the year 2014 approaching 2015.

The jokes are on you, you earn so much money you cannot provide free education and free transportation for your citizens. Where is all the money going to?

The jokes are on you, you all want to become part of government so you can steal, loot or access the national cake.

The jokes are on you Nigeria, you budget billions annually on roads and public schools, but there are no improvements. Where’s all the money?

One of the highest pregnancy related mortalities in the world! Seriously, the jokes are on you..!

The jokes are on Nigeria where the rulers cannot feed themselves from their wages, they still have to cut out billions of naira out of what is left for the masses.

The jokes are on you; you give money to terrorists and call them militants. You need to equip and train more men and women so that you can extinguish the terrorists in the Sahara and in the north. Or how do you want to define a regional military giant?

The jokes are on you, your pastors fly in jets and you drive rickety cars on dangerous roads. You walk through the valley of the shadows of death and you die actually.

Nigerian Pastors fly in jets and the worshippers go hungry on foot

Nigerian Pastors fly in jets and the worshippers go hungry on foot

The jokes are on you Nigerians, your political rulers also fly in jets and you walk to dead claiming resiliency and living on false hopes imposed on you by diverse religions.

Nigerian ruler who is buying jet after jet as the people continue to suffer

Nigerian ruler who is buying jet after jet as the people continue to suffer


Nigeria, a country full of intelligent people and uncountable resources compared to lesser countries like Pakistan and Zimbabwe, I think you brought these stupid jokes on yourselves because you continue to rob your backside with these lesser countries on the corruption scale.

Nigeria, where is your intelligence and what happened to the giant of Africa claim? Why can’t Nigerians bring themselves up to number 4 or number 3 positions on this corruption scale? One country is on number 1.

All the anomalies that you live with brought the stupid jokes on you, Nigeria. If an elephant falls, all sorts of knives will be used to dissect it, says a Yoruba adage. This is where you are as a country.

You have fallen and the daggers are diverse. You have sent mostly unintelligent and even old people to the conference. It’s a generation tagged “wasted” and they are still fighting for money and food.

Nigeria, where do you go from here? True federation, probity and accountability or maintain the status quo. There are always choices to make and lines to draw.

The stupid jokes are still on you, Nigeria..!

aderounmu@gmail.com

(photo credit: Vanguard newspaper for pastors and jets, information Nigeria for Alison and jet. daily independent for rulership fleet)

Nigerians In South Africa, Victims Or Culprits?

By Adeola Aderounmu

One day in early March 2014 a Nigerian man killed a police officer in South Africa. The tragic incident took place at La Rochelle in Johannesburg. The Nigerian was caught with illegal drugs and he resisted arrest. He killed the police officer that was to arrest him and fled. The South African police force is full of corrupt officials and there was something not right about what transpired between the dead cop and his murderer.

southie street 3

That incident did not occur in isolation. It is part of the larger problems and fate that have befallen several Nigerians who thronged South Africa in search of the Golden Fleece. It is impossible to threat the South African situation in isolation if one sets out to highlight the overall situation or plights of Nigerians abroad. I will not digress though.

The history of violence in South Africa is well documented and reported. The effects of several years of apartheid rule left indelible marks and social consequences beyond the scope of this essay. Unemployment remains a major problem in South Africa too. One can generalised the scarcity of jobs, high crime rate and pastime sex culture already in existence among the local populations.

When apartheid rule ended, the emerging socio-cultural circumstances provided a platform that enable foreigners including Nigerians to thrive in South Africa. What is sad is that some Nigerians went ahead and blended with the South African underworld engaging in drugs, fraud and other types of criminal activities. It is easy to verify this sad turn of events by visiting South African prisons to see the growing number of Nigerians who are locked up.

Now, it must be well stated that there are very good Nigerians living and working permanently or temporarily in South Africa. There is almost no where in the world that is in short supply of Nigerian professionals cut across all areas of human endeavours. South Africa is not a different story or country in this respect. Several Nigerians are successful in their businesses and other endeavours. Some are big entrepreneurs. Some sell things ranging from hairs, to Nigerian food, clothes and general groceries. Many Nigerian women are into hairdressing and ise owo (handiwork).The lures of Nigerians to South Africa include the extended possibility of travelling to Europe. Some made it. But for others, days turn to months and months to years, and frustrations set in. One of the hardest calls to make at this period of time is the “go back home call”. This feeling of living abroad creates a sort of pride or ego that is not easy to let off. Many people find it hard to return to Nigeria because they think they have failed in their sojourns to find a better life abroad. They fear the stigma at home.

The Yorubas have a saying that “if you cannot move forward, you should be able to retrace your steps and go back home”. From experience I know that many Nigerians prefer to stay on and forge ahead. Whilst there have been many success stories from such resiliencies, one cannot ignore the ill luck that befell others as well.

Though some people have tried to point out a certain Nigerian tribe as the major culprits in majority of the crimes committed by Nigerians in South Africa, the people who own the country have no time for such classifications. They put all Nigerians together as one and treat them as such. Some Nigerians are notorious as drug lords in South Africa and some others are credit card fraudsters.

Nigerians have even taken their cult-like activities to South Africa. There are confirmed reports of Nigerians living in Johannesburg who are killing one another. The scenario is ugly because of what appears to be a chain of counter-retaliations.

This adds to the list of the things that led to Nigerians not being respected in South Africa. Drug business is always ugly anyway. These selfish Nigerians who are bent on making money at any price that they can even shoot a policeman in a foreign land deserved to be condemned in the strongest manner possible.

In Johannesburg, it is quite easy to be robbed as the day turns to night. The city harbours many desperate people. Many South African men are described as lazy. Sometimes, it’s just refusing to work and preferring to hide behind some medical reports to justify abstinence from work. Guns are legalized and easy to acquire in South Africa.

Even mad people own guns in countries around the world were guns are legalized. In South Africa you can buy a bullet for N200 and they are readily available. This dangerous mix must have aided the status of Johannesburg as one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

southie street 1_1

No discussion on South Africa can be complete without the sex industry. There, women are described generally as easy. The prostitution trade seems to suit the women from East Africa and neighbouring South African countries. A number of the people I spoke to do not agree that Nigerian women are into this trade. Some, however, insisted that Nigerian women are also involved in the oldest profession in the world.

Anyway, as the month of March draws to a close the South African police closed up on the murderer. The police took to the street in large numbers. Somehow they identified the Nigerian who shot the police. He was arrested and now in custody. At the same time Nigerians also protested what they termed as xenophobia. The South African people especially the family of the slain cop joined the police in the protest. They wore ANC attires and wrote “Nigerians must leave” on their banners and placards. They also warned Nigerian drug lords to be ready for battles.

In South Africa, it appears that the relationship between Nigerians and the locals are getting worse by the day. There was a story that went spiral on the web when a Nigerian was maltreated by the police and the video coverage taken by nearby residents brought the known brutality and senselessness of the South African police to a wider audience across the world.

But what actually transpired? The police were trying to make an arrest in traffic. Someone had done something wrong or maybe the police caught up with a criminal. This Nigerian man was alleged to have interfered or obstructed police work. It’s like the police are probably frustrated with the word “Nigerian” and then you put yourself in their den by disturbing their work. It’s double trouble.

The action of the police as revealed in the video is highly condemnable. It’s inhuman. It is also wrong to try to interfere in police operations. The police officers were dismissed from service. But how that immediate response by the South African authority rids Cape Town of its racist tagged and tendencies are not known.

Just last week in Pretoria, many Nigerians were arrested and they will be deported because they are living in South Africa illegally. It seems the police know where to find them especially at this time of strained co-existence. Those who know the workings of the South African police among the arrested people will bribe their ways off the hook as the South African police are not immune to corruption. They are super corrupt I learnt.

Another possible reason for targeting immigrants especially Nigerians, is that elections are around the corner in South Africa. Some political parties or government around the world like to score political points with immigration matters especially during election season. South African as we now see is not an exception.

Some situations beg for elaborate analyses and some questions for answers. South African companies are growing and dominating certain areas of the Nigerian market/economy. Nigerian citizens in South Africa are not well respected. Classical paradox!

The activities of the Nigerian criminals in South Africa have overshadowed the honesty and positive contributions of the good Nigerians in South Africa. It even devaluates the roles of Nigeria in the apartheid years. How can the situation be tilted in favour of the good Nigerians in South Africa?

In Malaysia and in other countries around the world, the Nigerians who are criminals have continued to taint and deprived the rest of us the respect and accolades we deserved. Even the lazy South African man can pull out a gun and shoot a Nigerian to death in Pretoria because of disagreements over a woman. Women, our precious!

It is highly unwarranted and unjustifiable to turn to drugs and criminal acts due to frustrations. The Nigerian embassy in Johannesburg has some diplomatic work to do. The problems facing Nigerians in South Africa should be raised to a diplomatic row and the solutions must be sought at that level, not on the streets.

The Nigerian embassy must step up its watch over Nigerian citizens in South Africa. The image of Nigeria in that country is very disturbing and it’s a shame if this persists. I’m hoping that the Nigerian representatives in South Africa are career diplomats and not politicians who are short sighted and have no clues on how to deal with citizen rights and bilateral relationships.

Nigerians who are being maltreated due to police brutality and pure hatred require adequate representations from the Nigerian government represented in South Africa by the Nigerian ambassador. Nigerians who are arrested because they are criminals should be allowed to face the law without any street protests. Nigerian Associations and Unions in South Africa must not been seen to support or harbour criminals, drug barons or credit card fraudsters. This should be applicable in Nigerian or tribal associations worldwide.

Where applicable, if there are Nigerians who want to return to Nigeria from South Africa, they should be able to get help from the embassy, without much ado.

In the end, in our hearts, we all know the genesis of these problems. It’s all from downtown Nigeria, our Bongo. As we make our beds, so we lie on them. It’s sadder to think that we try to sanitise our image abroad whilst the Nigerian government across all strata is full of criminals. This is where oxymora overtake our paradoxes and put us in a comatose dilemma as a country.

The funds that could have been used to keep or transform Nigeria back into a paradise have been looted. We are not creating jobs in Nigeria and there is no preparation for the future. A friend wrote “I thought Nigeria was the hell spoken about in the holy books”. That’s the present scenario and that’s what keeps propelling the exodus from Nigeria.

It’s going to be mission impossible to stop our exodus as a people because Nigeria continues to wallow in corruption and serious political misgivings. As we continue to seek greener pastures abroad and irrespective of the socio-cultural circumstances of our host countries the truth is that we have no moral standing or right to export our criminal tendencies. Charity begins at home.

aderounmu@gmail.com

[In writing this article I talked to people that I know who are living in South Africa (Johannesburg and Pretoria). I’ll like to thank them and keep them anonymous]