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Bafana Bafana!

By Tony Ubani

I am not talking about the national team of South Africa, Bafana Bafana. Though they are hosting the World Cup, they have done Africa proud better than some established African countries from whom much was expected.  Bafana Bafana won a match in the World Cup against a powerhouse and former World Cup champs, France.

 They played incredibly well becoming the first team to score  a goal in the 2010 World Cup. Tshabalala, no doubt has shot himself into the record books, with that left foot smashing that shook the Soccer City in Soweto. The goal turned the revered Archbishop Desmond Tutu to a dancer. The goal that made Africans proud. The goal that made South Africans shout Ke Nako ooo! Africa’s time has come. No. I am not talking about a team that prepared well and hired a Brazilian coach who. impacted so much to the team.

South Africa's first goal at the 2010 World Cup

Even when Parreira had to go back on family issues, another Brazilian came in without scandals as it were with my giant of Africa Nigeria that still behaves like a toddler. They nearly brought the whole coaches in the world to apply for one single spot. They did not do it without controversy. I understand that the Government wants to re-open the books on how Lars Lagerback was employed against a Glenn Hoddle, who many thought had crossed the huddle to be appointed national coach.  Bafana Bafana means the Boys, the Boys. Here I go again.

Why should a country’s national team where real men play be addressed to as The Boys?  Its all about culture and tradition. I was made to understand that circumcision still holds sway here. Only the men who are circumcised can be called men. Those who are not circumcised are called The Boys. I learnt that circumcision announces when a man has arrived. It takes one month of rituals in the bush for the real men to come out circumcised. It’s a windy road to freedom and some die in the process.

Those ones are considered the weaklings. Parents wait in palpable fear to see if their boys would come home from such rituals to become men. I learnt that the skin of the penis that is cut during circumcision is cooked and given to them to eat among other blood-chilling things they do in the bush. A sangoman (native doctor) is the chief priest who takes command of the initiation into adulthood. Once it is over, parents welcome their boys into adulthood with pomp and pageantry. They buy cars and in some cases set them up with houses to acclaim that they are now men. For those whose children died in the process, they moan in secret and in shame.

That, I learnt, explains why many enlightened parents dodge from presenting their sons for the rituals, Instead, they prefer to circumcise them in hospitals. Such circumcisions are not acceptable in the congregation of elders and real men. It is a tradition of the Xhosas. They are the warriors in South Africa. And they call the uncircumcised  Bafana, Bafana. Amd the real circumcised men are called MEN. I understand that this has nothing to do with the name of Bafana Bafana given to the national team of South Africa. It is just a name. And you may say what is in a name!

Making ends meet

As we enter into the last week of the World Cup coverage, we discovered too late that we have either wasted money by taking taxis where a bus ride would have been cheaper or that we ate in expensive restaurants where Bukkataria would have been better for the pocket. The reason for such wastes have been driven by fear. We were warned not to stay in hotels that are not protected or walk alone. As a friend of Kenneth Ehigiator, a Liverpool die-hard, I decided not to walk alone. That decision has torn my pockets into shreds. But trust Nigerians.  Babajide Ogunleye of AIT appeared with a scissors having noticed that clean-cut Nigerians are growing afros with grey hairs adding colour to them. Jide has since recouped part of his lost money as he charges 20 rands for his cut. That is approximately N800. Imagine! Even if one decides to have a hair cut at exotic Mbadiwe’s shop in Lagos. We don’t have a choice. The street barbers here have other dangerous tools like knives and cudgels. You may go to barb and end up being barbed. Hardship has also made Dapo Sotuminu to realize that he is a good cook. The one I knew before Dapo is Emeka Enechi, a director in Sports Day, formerly of ThisDay Newspapers. He can make women green with envy in the kitchen. Dapo is not doing badly though he restricts his to cooking rice and frying eggs. I told him I cannot tolerate pepper. He has been collecting money from us and going to the market. There is no pain without gain. I have discovered that buying raw things are cheap. Dapo has been extorting money from us in the name of helping us. He refuses to be accompanied when going to the market. Even in the cold.

Masterpiece in toilets

Have you ever taken notice of the writings in toilets, especially public toilets? I thought it existed only in Nigeria until I went to answer nature’s call in some South African toilets. From the writings, you would know that literary giants also visit those places and drop their inks on the doors or walls of the toilets. They write on serious issues to such funny ones that enables you enjoy yourself in a small house that is meant for serious and brisk business. Women are always slated on the walls and you get the latest on who is befriending who, if it is a company’s public toilet. You may ask; “what shit is this fella writing about?”.

Take this for example. “Different people come here for different purposes. As for me, I come here to scratch my balls”. Then the replies follow. “What fu…ing balls are you talking about?”. It goes on and on until they establish the balls, whether it is Jabulani ball, the official ball of the World Cup, that has come under hammer from players, goalkeepers and even managers,  or it is Tennis balls used by famous Tennis greats like Federer, Nadal, Sharapova, Venus and Serena.

There are many writings that I copied from the walls of the toilets but some are not pleasant to put down on paper. I wonder what inspires men and women to write in the course of answering nature’s call. It is the same way you would wonder if I have gone bananas by taking time to copy the silly writings on the walls or doors of toilets. You can only do that if the toilet is clean. Another reason why you may stay long to notice the writings is if you are suffering from diarrhoea. But in all, there are great writings, good information, and stupid writings, too, in toilets. Just check out the next public toilet you visit. I know of men and women who read Newspapers in the toilets. Some others prefer to make telephone calls in toilets. For whatever reason, the toilet is fast becoming a place for inspiration.

Cradle of Humankind
Your stay in South Africa is not complete if you do not visit the World Heritage site simply called Cradle of Humankind. I learnt that humans and their ancestors have been living there for four million years. Incredible! It is a short drive from Johannesburg but a world away. Peaceful valleys reveal ancient history, and mountains form a backdrop to adventure sites, restaurants, art and crafts, lodges and wildlife.  After my experience in the Joburg Zoo, I have vowed not to make any trip that would lead to a misadventure.  But my insatiable hunger for wildlife would not let me concentrate on men chasing the round leather object to the delight of millions at the stadium or even in open parks or in front of their TVs. The first and last time I entered a cable car was in Obudu Cattle ranch. It is a haven for tourists built by that fine and funky ex-governor, Donald Duke and passed on to another good-looking, governor Liyel Imoke. I wonder why Cross River State is blessed with producing handsome Governors. The cable car is beautiful if you admire it from outside  as it makes its slow and steady movement above the mountains at a height of  36,000 feet above sea level. It was when we got to the point called the Devil’s elbow and I looked down, that I gave my life to Christ.  It’s a point between the red sea and the devil. The cable car struts on the cable and makes a delicate stop at the pole. You look down and remember that all you have been struggling for is vanity. It could vanish if the cable car separates from the tiny electric wire. But it moves with the patience of Christians on a pilgrimage. You thank God for journey mercies but your agony actually begins from there. How do you go down? If you make the mistake of using a car on the snake-like routes on the mountain, you may die before arriving at the destination. The funny thing is that while your heart is in your mouth, motorbikes speed along with passengers hanging precariously on the back seat. Anyway! Obudu came to my mind when I approached the Cradle of Humankind.

Tourists stream in and out to be part of the 47,000ha Cradle which is host to hundreds of fossil-bearing caves which offer well-preserved records of human evolution. But the thought of being chased by wild cats made me enter the balloon ride which brought back memories of Obudu Cattle Ranch and its famous Cable car.  Honestly, the Cradle of Humankind is a playground for the daring. It is scary!


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