By PAUL BASSEY
“I have a clear message of my own fetal existence. It was an existence where no voice, no possible movement could free me from the agony and darkness I was subjected to….” — Samuel Barclay Beckett.
I stopped writing.
I suddenly found out that I was repeating myself, sounding like a scratched record. Jarring a menace to the ears and a nuisance. The gramophone pin had to be lifted from the record. I was tired of saying that at the end of the world cup, our football story had run full cycle and there was a need for a reappraisal; auto criticism. That you could not do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.
That we needed to first of all find out where we derailed and pick ourselves up for the purpose of moving forward. No. Others found a better and quicker fix. Sweep everything under the beautiful carpet. Paper the cracked walls…….today, we have stumbled on the growing bulge under the carpet. The wall paper has peeled off, a disaster that waited to happen.
I stopped writing when this breath of fresh air came blowing my way. In Uyo during the gala nite to mark the creation of God’s own Akwa Ibom State, my Governor , bless his large heart, singled me out for a very ambitious programme of commissioning a masterpiece called Akwa Ibom International Stadium.
There started a six week old journey that saw us buried in serious work, trying to satisfy a man whose quest for perfection is unequaled. With the Chief of Staff Sir Etekamba Umoren and Permenat Secretary Governor’s Office Aniekpeno Mkpanang as direct Principals, we toiled day and night to bring the world to Akwa Ibom. It was a welcome distraction of sorts, one that transported me from the chaos and cacophony that was the Nigerian sports environment.
In one of such assignments, gone to Namibia to invite the CAF President to our commissioning , I found myself in the same plane with the Sports minister ( Remember The NFF President had been yanked from the flight ) Throughout the duration of the flight, to and from Namibia, in the business lounges , I sat through lots of experiences , trying to understand the minister and how the system works. In Namibia, President Hayatou could not understand and told our minister so, in very strong terms.
Told him how Africa and the world was fed up with our unorthodox and bizarre way of running football. The CAF President could not understand how in one breath, a newly elected President of the NFF was granted audience by the country’s head of state, congratulated and wished well, only for him to step out of government house into the handcuffs of some overzealous security operatives! Hayatou said more, but more importantly he was going to ensure that our suspension by FIFA is put on hold, giving us enough room to make amends……
Unfortunately for me, after the grand and glorious commissioning of the stadium in which I was honoured by the NFF as Match Commissioner, I was jolted back to reality with the arrival of the analogue Eagles, come to qualify for the Nations Cup.
A friend in Calabar, Cross River said he was waiting to laugh. That success was not in swapping venues, taking the Eagles to Abuja and then to Uyo. Success was more fundamental than that.
Poor Governor Akpabio and his dear wife. He was so distraught throughout the match and said so, so many times. He could not bear to match and took a stroll some of the time. “…..NFF President, your boys are not playing well at all….” He had promised them heaven. How was he to know that they had reached MENopause? Fecundity was no more their portion!
We all left the stadium that night knowing what to do. What we could have done months back, rebuild, move forward……alas, ‘we cannot…..’
‘En Attendant Godot Waiting for Godot is an absurdest play by Samuel Beckett that found itself in my list of books during my year abroad programme as a student of French in Grenoble, France.
It is a literary masterpiece centered on two characters Vladimir and Estragon, who wait endlessly and in vain for only God knows what. It is a book that captivated me no end, one that I found very compelling, one that holds relevant today as it was, when it was written 66 years ago in 1948. Literary critics have gone ahead to consider this tragi- comedy as an existentialist philosophy, one in which Nicholas Lezard of The Guardian said last year,”…taught me the difference between being smart and being intellectual…”
They waited for Godot “……instead meet a pompous man and his stooped over slave…” It is a play where you cannot depend on memory, one that reminds you that your world stops where another’s begins. The boy in the play comes to tell Vladimir and Estragon that Godot is no more coming today. Perhaps tomorrow…..tomorrow of course never comes, no wonder Vladimir says “ Hope deffered maketh the something sick” a clear corruption of Proverbs 13:12.
For me, Waiting for Godot is about a young man called Pinnick, who hit the ground running, but has been harassed, told to stop running and to walk. He now sleeps with his eyes open, glued to his phones, waiting for that text, that call that will tell him, “…….you were right. We made a mistake. You can now proceed”. Not today. Perhaps tomorrow!
Waiting for Chuka
If Beckett’s play was scanty, not so the 1224 page compilation called Sports Spectacular by Chuka Momah. I will and very soon too, take you through this must read masterpiece that reveals as we have found above that some of those things intellectuals like Chuka chronicled over ten years ago are still relevant today. Dan Agbese called him a ‘maestro’, a reporter, columnist and commentator with so much all round mastery in sports…..just wait.
The Security Question
I end with acknowledging all the congratulations on my appointment for the Nations Cup as Security Officer. It was George Aluo of the Sun who said “ oga why security?”
Interestingly, with Bolaji Ojo Oba we are the only two trained FIFA and CAF security Officers in the country. I am not talking about policing but stadium risk, safety and security regulations and assessments, spectators, officials, VIP and teams safety, emergency, crowd management and evacuation, access control, signages, ticketing…..by the time you get to the elevated status of General Coordinator in FIFA and CAF, you would have been grounded in football security matters.
Nations Cup without Nigeria? Na today?
See you next week.