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March 2, 2024

Awakening the potentials within, by Muyiwa Adetiba

Awakening the potentials within, by Muyiwa Adetiba

Muyiwa Adetiba

A number of people reportedly died while watching the match between the Green Eagles of Nigeria and the Bafana Bafana of South Africa during the recently concluded African Cup of Nations, AFCON. Among them, at least four Nigerians from different locations were reportedly confirmed dead during the tension soaked semi-finals which eventually ended in Nigeria’s favour.

I could easily have been the fifth person. I had to tune my TV off and take a walk when the pounding of my heart against my chest became very audible even to myself. I feared for my old, battle weary heart when I realized it was beating much faster than it should. It turned out that my walk offered little respite because my ears picked the groans and shouts in various homes as I walked pass.

These told me the direction the wind, as dictated by the gods of soccer, was blowing. As unfortunate as they were, the fatal casualties didn’t surprise me. Such is the intense passion around sports generally and football in particular, that somebody somewhere, always dies during cup finals. Such is the high and low of sports that many of those who survive but find themselves on the losing side, go into various forms of depression.

 But what surprised me, and wonderfully so, was the way Nigerians rallied round the Super Eagles given the negative mood in the country. The month-long tournament proved a gloom lifter of sorts to a dejected nation. Although it could not be discarded that there were people who wished for an early exit of the team just to prove that nothing in Nigeria was working, it can safely be said that those on the side of the team were more than those against it. Much more. And they were from all parts of the country and all shades of the political spectrum.

It also helped that those boys representing us, many of whom didn’t grow up in Nigeria, wore the green Nigerian shirts with pride and gave their all on the pitch. They wanted to win for themselves, and for the country. That is how it should be and that is how it is in many places. But sadly, the urge to push themselves into achieving something for self and country is lacking among many in Nigeria. The result is that many Nigerian youths – and some elders – who, consumed by negative thoughts, find many reasons – or excuses- for underachieving and therefore undermining their own potentials.

Many of them unfortunately, are going to grow into old age or an early grave unaware of the huge potentials within them simply because they have been conditioned to believe that the odds are stacked against them. While this may be so, and I can’t deny the odds in the country having been an entrepreneur for the greater part of my working life, I believe a life of purpose means attempting to scale those odds in order to achieve something in life. This is to prevent ending up as a bitter old man. An old man with few regrets, is a man who tried to seize the moments while young.

One man who did not allow the odds in the country to consume him is Prof Barth Nnaji whose private energy initiative was commissioned last week in Abia State. Only he can fully tell his story and the many battles he had to face within and without, to achieve what has now been rightfully credited to him. Or why a project that should not take more than five years took the better part of two decades at a cost that far exceeded what was originally budgeted. In spite of the odds, he simply refused to be deterred or let Nigeria happen to him.

Today, he has bequeathed something worthwhile to his people and to his country for which he will forever be remembered. Now, with this promise of constant and affordable energy, Aba is set to unleash its industry and creative energy on the rest of us. We are waiting. We hope Aba can fulfill its potentials to become the Taiwan of West Africa. But more importantly, Barth Nnaji has thrown the gauntlet down to other Nigerians – researchers, professionals, entrepreneurs at home or in the diaspora – to use their expertise for the benefit of their people and country.

And while we are celebrating the doggedness of this Professor of Engineering, news filtered in that another Nigerian entrepreneur has performed another feat somewhere in Ojora, Lagos State. Abdulwasiu Sowami’s Ardova Plc has just announced the completion of perhaps West Africa’s largest gas plant capable of meeting over 50% of Nigeria’s LPG demand.

When it starts operation hopefully in March, it is believed according to reports, that Nigerian consumers will enjoy a steadier and more affordable supply of cooking gas. Along with Aliko Dangote, these three Nigerians have confronted different sectors of the seemingly intractable energy situation in the country and have shown a glimmer of light into a long, dark tunnel. They have dived headlong into an area even angels fear to tread with their heads bloodied but unbowed. We thank them even as we invite other private initiatives to emulate their feats in the energy sector or other sectors in spite of the daunting odds likely to be faced by those who dare to confront the system.

I will end as I started, with AFCON. The lesson of AFCON is the lesson of Passion, Possibility and Preparation. We were very short in the last P while hoping on first two Ps to get us through the final tape. But as is often said, luck rewards hard work. We simply didn’t prepare enough. Although we had a bunch of talented professionals who made us proud, they were not the best the country has or could have.

A bit more thoroughness, a bit more hardwork, a bit more preparation, and we would have had a wider net to choose from. I also don’t think our coaches were the best we could have had neither do I think they got the best out of the lads we had. We really must take sports organization and administration more seriously and more professionally. From academies, to venues, to competitions, it is time to open the doors to private initiatives.

With its youth population and potentials, Nigeria can rule the world in various aspects of sports if it can get its act together. Besides, it would be a win/win situation for the country if many idle, youthful feet roaming the streets were engaged in different sporting arena and thus helped to ‘find’ themselves and awake the huge potentials lurking within. However and wherever you look, you will find in Nigeria, a land of possibilities and opportunities waiting to be tapped.