The Jinx of Government Officials
George Eze Emeghara
When it was revealed that President Buhari had called the Nigerian soccer team, the Super Eagles, who were participating in the African Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon, to encourage and wish them well before their match against Tunisia, many Nigerians became apprehensive.
At that point the team was coasting along nicely, having won all their three group games and emerging top of their group.
They had achieved this without receiving any calls from the President or visit by any ” high powered” Government delegation.
Soccer loving Nigerians expressed their concern or displeasure over the calls in various other places and in various ways.
There were even reports that following the Presidential phone call, some of people who had placed bets on a Nigerian victory, cancelled those bets and bet that Tunisia would win.
Indeed there was real cause for concern and subsequent events proved them right.
In recent times any time President Buhari publicly showed support for an athlete or a team things would begin to go wrong from that point.
However, this unfortunate trend is not limited to the President alone.
It also manifests with Government officials and delegations they send to sports events.
Whenever Nigerian sports men are making waves in any tournament or competition, and their exploits bring them to the notice of the powers that be, the next thing the government does is to put together a delegation to fly to wherever the event is going on to “encourage and support” the sportsmen.
Subsequently, more often than not, the team’s or athlete’s next outing will be a disaster and before long they will be on their way home, knocked out or defeated. This scenario has been repeated so many times that no one can be blamed for believing that the Nigerian government and its officials are jinxed.
In the case of competitions the Nigerian soccer teams won, such as the Junior world cup in 1985 and the 1996 Olympics no government delegations appeared in the middle of the tournaments to encourage or support anyone and there was no Presidential or Head of state phone calls.
The Junior World cup was a new event at the time, the very first of its kind, and it caught our officials unawares.
In the case of the Olympics soccer gold which Nigeria won in Atlanta in 1996, no one really gave the boys a chance. Before the officials could purchase tickets, process their visas and get to America, it was all over. Besides at the time Nigeria was under military rule and the military were not given to frivolity and jamborees as much as the politicians who are now in power.
The fact is that the government and officials of government have a penchant for messing up good things and bringing Nigerians bad luck whenever they appear on the scene in any endeavour, not just sports.
For instance, it is not an accident that the major initiatives which have succeeded Nigeria in the past three decades had nothing to do with government.
Such initiatives include Nollywood, GSM, Pure water, Indomie noodles and lately the many Internet startups which are attracting hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign investors.
These are the same foreigners who are reluctant to pump money into other sectors of the Nigerian economy largely because of the way they perceive government policies.
There is no doubt that if the government were involved directly in any of these ventures or initiatives, they would not have been the successes that they have become.
The long and short of it all is that Nigerians do so much better when their government and its officials are not in the picture. When they are far away.
Nigerians certainly do not need their interference and the attendant distractions they throw up.
Government officials should leave Nigerians alone to do their thing.
They are free or welcome to join in the celebration when victory or the objective of whatever venture has been achieved. Until then, they should keep off.
Instead of gallivanting about or making unnecessary phone calls government officials should concentrate on providing an enabling environment for Nigerians to thrive in any undertaking they choose to embark on.
This is something they are not doing, or doing very poorly, at the moment.
If all that has been said and written in the wake of the elimination of the national soccer team from the African Cup of Nations tournament is anything to go by, it is obvious that Nigerians would be most grateful if our leaders and their government officials could just keep out of the way until an event or tournament is won or lost.
George Eze Emeghara is a Nigerian journalist, writer and public affairs commentator based in the southeastern city of Owerri. Money Palaver is his column for Nairaweb.ng.