Tuesday, January 19, 2010

DANGER of losing the fans

Hip-hop sensation twin act, PSquare, probably attracts more dedicated fans than the Nigerian Super Eagles; and indeed the whole 20 football clubs in Nigeria’s Premier League.

It is no secret that the Nigerian music industry has enjoyed tremendous growth and popularity; neither is it a secret that even faithful hardliners agree that Nigeria’s sports industry is spiralling on a downhill fall.
Football, unarguably the biggest sports, achieved incredulous levels of nationalism in Nigeria’s ethnicity-frayed polity during the heydays of the Super Eagles exploits in USA 94 World Cup, and Atlanta 96 Olympic games.

Today, the nation’s footballers and athletes perform woefully in international competitions, leaving the fans in the rut. Consequently, the fan base has dropped to dangerous levels.

Arresting the trend: a fusion of music and sports.

While Nigeria’s talented sportsmen and women flee in droves to the more organized, and glamorous leagues of Europe, and even sister African countries; our talented musicians abroad are hastening back home to be part of the renaissance.

Multinational blue chip companies, realizing the huge potentials of Nigeria’s music industry, are tapping into the dream through. They have unleashed an avalanche of promos, sponsorship deals, and even grass-root talent development. Our sports administrators could reawaken public interest in sports by following suit.
They should create more synergy between Nigeria’s music and its sports.

Multiple award winner, Tuface Idibia, has a football academy. Sports administrators should invest in this project, and also encourage other music stars to follow suit. An extensive public awareness campaign could be adopted in this regard.

Popular musicians should be appointed sports ambassadors. They should be adopted as symbols for specific clubs; their presence should be courted, at all costs, to sports competitions. Sports administrators should engage their services at sports events such as awards.

Nigeria’s music industry is wholly managed by private entrepreneurs; our sports industry should tow same line. The present situation, where state governments own and run clubs, can no longer be tolerated. The blitz of such leagues, as the English Barclay’s Premier League, is as a result of the aggressive marketing and investments of club owners who are private businessmen. Ownership of clubs should be wrested from state hands, and sold to interested investors.

The current travails of Nigeria’s Flying Eagles in the hands of FIFA’s MRI scheme epitomize our poor grass root development initiatives. It is highly improper for a country to feature sportsmen/women who are decades older than specified limits for age-grade competitions. Grass-root development should be embraced. Music sensations; Kc Presh, Wande Coal, etc were discovered in talent hunts and developed.

The Star Trek initiative of Nigerian Breweries Plc and the Project Fame initiative of MTN are examples of corporations investing in talent hunts geared to discover and nurture musicians. Sports administrators could partner with the social corporate responsibility projects of such blue chip companies.

It is only when all these things are done that; maybe, Nigerian sports would command the level of interest and respect that its music industry does.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Traditionally yours

Tradition can be fun; especially whenever I visited my maternal grandparents’ home. As a child of their daughter, (Nwadiala), I enjoyed a few perks; courtesy of tradition. My favourite was that anything that fell to the ground, in my presence, belonged to me. I reserved the right to either return it to the owner, or keep it.However, I never mustered the courage to stretch that right to its limit; so I kept the avocado pears that fell off the tree in my presence, but returned the naira notes that I picked off the floor.
Tradition also required that I reserve the right of first sampling of any food cooked, and the throat of any animal slaughtered there. And there were plenty of Xmas, Easter, New Year, New Yam festival goats.

Then my grandfather died; and I was assigned the task of digging the grave during his funeral, some months ago. My uncles and aunts explained that I was traditionally required to do so, by virtue of being his first grandchild from his first daughter.I dug the grave; well, a few traditionally required shovelfuls and proceeded to supervise the three professional grave diggers I was allowed to hire for the task. They charged me N20, 000, three bottles of schnapps, and five packets of cigarettes. The alcohol, according to them, was required to ‘wet’ the hard earth in order to make for easier digging.

Then, my dad informed me that I was traditionally required to present the cow that he had been traditionally required to bring for the funeral. The cow, a big fellow, was in a nasty temper and seemed to have drank some cans of RedBull.To my relief, I could present the raffia twisted twine favoured by shepherds for roping cattle. The rope served to, traditionally; signify that the cow was indeed within the premises, waiting for more competent handlers.

Then, my junior sister informed me that I was traditionally required to procure 15yards of Ankara which had to be draped over her shoulders, as she represented my late mum’s place in the traditional ‘Umuada’ (daughters of the land) dance.

Well, despite that the funeral left my wallet unexpectedly miserably thin; I still think tradition is fun. However, it could do with a few, financially-related, adjustments.

Previously published in NEXT.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What is going on at Cele?

Seconds after Kenechukwu Ejiogu had swung his rickety motorcycle away from the sidewalk at Cele bus stop; an articulated vehicle lost control and swerved into the crowd of commuters standing where he had just picked his passenger. Four people were killed on the spot (including a fellow commercial motorcyclist), while five others were reported to have sustained injuries in that September 26 tragedy.
“My brother, in fact I don’t know what to say,” he said, obviously shaken as he relived the memory of his close shave with death.
Cele bus stop has frequently been in the news for series of accidents, usually involving articulated vehicles that regularly ply the Oshodi-Apapa expressway.
The superstition.
“Any junction that links four different roads is a cursed spot, so I am not surprised that a lot of accidents happen there,” said Nnachi Uduma, a trader in the area. “In the old days, and even some places now, sacrifices are made at such junctions. I am always extra careful when crossing that place because I know anything can happen.”
Olunfunlayo George, a psychologist and worshipper at the Celestial Church of God (which gave the bus stop its name), dismissed Mr Uduma’s claims.
“We Nigerians are always prone to attribute misfortunes to some higher powers,” she said. “What is evil power? What is God’s favour? Forget about all those rubbish. People should learn to do things the right way; drivers should ensure their vehicles are road worthy; pedestrians should use pedestrian bridges, simple! Let us do our own part first, before blaming the devil.”
Avoiding the bridge.
Hyacinth Obianozie, a truck driver for Imenia Haulage Ltd, said he plies the Apapa-Oshodi route once a week.
“Apart from the places wey don spoil for the road, another wahala we de get na people that cross the road even when they see you on high speed,” he said.
Most of the respondents who chose to dash across the expressway instead of using the pedestrian bridge said they were constrained by the traffic that builds up on the bridge during rush hours.
“I only climb the bridge when there is not much crowd on it,” said Morenike Subomu, a restaurateur and regular commuter on the road. “I am usually in a hurry, especially when I am going to open my shop, so if I see too many people I will simply cross the road.”
Another regular commuter, Desmond Ohazuruike, is undeterred by the fact that he had been apprehended by officials of the Itire/Ikate local council development area task force on defaulters of pedestrian bridge usage twice.
“I have been caught by them two times, each time having to pay them, but I still prefer to cross the road when I am sure they are not around,” he said. “I don’t like seeing the beggars that are stationed all over the bridge.”
Avoiding the bus stop.
Commuters opt to stand on the sidewalks, off the service lane, at the foot of the pedestrian bridge to wait for buses; thereby neglecting the actual bus stop located a few metres down the road.
Spokesperson for the Lagos Ministry of Transport, Sina Thorpe, said the state government was involving private sector participation in the building, and renovation of bus stops; and urged commuters to stop standing on the service lanes near Cele.
“People who stand at places not designated as a bus stop should know they are courting traffic congestion and accidents,” he said. “Commercial bus drivers stopping indiscriminately along the expressway pose a danger to traffic. People should learn how to do the right thing; and not wait for law enforcement agents to start hounding them.”
A black spot.
Cele has also garnered the unenviable reputation of being a hotbed of criminal activities. It will be recalled that hip hop star, Tuface Idibia, was shot at that spot in 2007 by suspected assassins. The popular bus stop was featured in a list of black spots released by the Lagos State Police Command recently.
“Even Ijesha (the next bus stop on the Mile 2 bound section of the expressway) is a no go area late in the night,” said Teslim Sotimirin, a businesswoman and regular commuter. “My husband was robbed at Cele around midnight [sic] last two months, and after that one the yeye boys collected my phone at Ijesha (a week ago).”
For Mr Ejiogu, life must go on at Cele bus stop. “Na there I dey make my daily bread, wetin man go do nah,” he said while hustling for passengers a few metres from the blackened wreck of the truck.

This post was published in NEXTonSunday.