7 minutes with China: Why it may be time to boycott the Super Eagles

I was in Uyo as usual as the Super Eagles went up against Cameroon in the first of the 2 legged encounter with hopes that we would win and get to the World Cup yet apprehensive with uncertainty.

It was eventually a great result for Nigeria as we did not just beat the Cameroonians, we totally outplayed them and if I may, embarrassed them.

But something happened before, during and after the game that got me thinking whether it made any sense to make these trips for Nigeria’s home games.

Warning signs

Nigeria have always had this problem with organising big events as security personnel somehow manage to overdo their brief.

I remember in Uyo when Nigeria played against Algeria last year and how the police at the lobby of the stadium, with players' dressing room to the left and conference room to the right tried to force us (journalists) out of the lobby because the Super Eagles players were about to make their way out of the dressing room and into the team bus.

That place is the mixed zone if someone does not know.

Of course I resisted and told the police on duty to go back to whoever gave him such instructions to say we would not leave because we had a mission there as journalists accredited to cover the game.

Besides, I noticed that there were five Algerians waiting to see their own players and the Nigerian police on duty stylishly did not look in their direction when asking people to clear the area.

I called one of the policemen and cheekily told him I would gladly leave if he could walk the Algerians out. Of course he could not.

The players at that time were about to leave the dressing rooms for the team bus and someone in his wisdom wanted the place cleared before the players pass.

What then was the essence of covering the game if one could not interact with the players?

In the game against South Africa in June, the organisers of the game had upped security, bringing in members of the Department of State Security, DSS rather than regular policemen and I saw how they messed up everything by their high handedness.


If what happened in those two games were tough, then Uyo against Cameroon was a crash course in going to hell and back.

First, as soon as the governor walked in, mobile phone signals were jammed by, you-know-who; and phone calls, text messages and data stopped.

Journalists could basically not do their jobs anymore.

After the game I tried to get to the mixed zone alongside Tunde Bello and we were manhandled by DSS operatives and even though other sports journalists around tried to intervene, we were bundled out and the door shut against us, in spite of the fact that we both had Media Accreditation tags hanging down our necks.

It took the NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, probably seeing what was happening to tell them to let us in and they refused.

Pinnick looked at the fellow and asked, “Do you know who I am? Can’t you see his press tag? Let him in,” and they finally did, grudgingly, but as I got in I noticed ‘virtue had left me’ and when I checked, my smart phone was gone.
Bode Oguntuyi took this photo of Dwight Howard in the dressing room

Whether it was stolen by one of the DSS officials in the scuffle, it fell off my pocket or some miscreant picked my pocket, bottom line was I did not have a phone anymore.

I just sat with Ekine Moseph in shock as I watched the DSS officials assault tag wearing journalists, on two occasions with the help of Dr. Christian Emeruwa, an NFF person, at it seemed from where I was watching.

Though on closer look it was actually, Emeruwa begging the DSS operatives and actually shouting at them to stop their high handedness on the gentle men of the press.

Remember, it was Tunde Bello and I that wanted to get in, but they let in only me.

They then threw out Olowookere Busayo for protesting too much about the treatment meted to me and later Bello told me the police opened a canister of tear gas to do away with them? Question is, why?

Gabriel Nwanetanya from Port Harcourt recounted how he was hit on the back by a policeman with the butt of his gun. He could have been crippled.

I travel for these games because I want to interact with the players, get exclusive interviews, watch a game and then file my report.

If GSM signals are jammed, as a blogger and social media person, I cannot send live updates from the game. If DSS beat us up and stop us from covering the post match meeting or sitting in the mixed zone, then the whole aim of traveling for the game would be defeated. I would be no different from those that stayed at home to watch from the television and for good measure I would not have lost my phone from the comfort of my home.

Bode Oguntuyi have have been right to boycott the Eagles


Oguntuyi in the media tribune at a Boston Celtics game
As I reminisced over what happened, I remembered Bode Oguntuyi, my good friend based in Lagos.

A few years ago, he told me how he had decided never to watch any Super Eagles game played in Nigeria and cited poor organisation by the NFF and snobbish/ larger than life attitude of the players.

Bode told me he could not afford to travel and not get the best of the game which would include unrestricted access to the players and a match day experience that would not include police harassment.

Bode has since then rather paid his way down to the USA to watch the NBA play-offs every season and keeps telling me it has been better for him as he has been treated with more respect from the NBA and the professional basketball players.

There is no way Oguntuyi would have had access to the Super Eagles dressing room even with an accreditation tag. The DSS would have beaten the NBA dreams out of him.

Yet his job is to ensure the world knows about these players while they feature for their national team. Something is definitely wrong with us as Nigerians.

Now it is easy to blame the NFF for this, because they have their part in it, but with the efforts of Christian Emeruwa and Amaju Pinnick to sort things out, I would cut them some slack.

It is however, their game and they must ensure that every bit is covered because the buck eventually stops at their table.

Investigations revealed to me that the DSS operatives were there at the behest of a member of the Akwa Ibom State government who gave strict instructions and of course, they followed.

The NFF need to get their organisation right. They really need to sit with the Akwa Ibom State Government officials and streamline these issues before the next Super Eagles game in October.

For me, there is the traumatic experience I have to live with, the lost Smartphone and the fact that my trip to Uyo and back was a complete waste in terms of news gathering.

Each time i go for a Super Eagles game, if i decide to still attend, i will shudder at the sight of a police man or DSS operative, not sure if his next move would be a slap, or if i'll be thrown out of the premises.

If journalists cannot do their jobs at the Stadium then the NFF communications department should not issue out worthless accreditation tags.

Pinnick trending for the wrong reasons

I followed the drama on social media from Tuesday as a video went viral of two Super Eagles players “curving” NFF president, Amaju Pinnick.

Curving? I am old school so was seeing that word used for that action for the first time but I watched the video and it was funny. I actually watched the second one before searching out the first one.

First, it looked to me like Ahmed Musa genuinely did not see Pinnick, but Victor Moses seemed like he avoided the president on purpose.

But what was all the fuss about? Such things happen and as the younger generation would say it, “Pinnick for just chop im L and move on” but, no, someone at the NFF thought they could produce a “damage control” video to smoothen things up.

It was the second video (the damage control one) that led most people to the first, myself inclusive, and that in itself showed it was an exercise in futility.

In my 13 years as Media Officer of Dolphins I told the people I worked with that they/ I did not have to react to every allegation against the club and that some were best ignored.

Some agreed with me, some hated me even more for “not being willing to do my job.”

But I digress.

The second video was a shoddy job, probably done hurriedly. The camera man at some point in the video said, “Presido say something nau?”

This was a typical example of when Damage Control goes wrong and my thoughts were simply that there may not have been an issue between the players and Pinnick but their rush to clear the air (there was even an official statement by the Federation Director of Communications in an email) began to suggest they may have been hiding something.

Pinnick is a public figure and things like these will happen. Goodluck Jonathan was the most abused president I have seen in my lifetime, and I have seen a lot in my adult life.

Mohammadu Buhari gets on the butt of jokes too even though people are a bit more careful about that.

My free advise to the NFF president is that there would be more situations like these. Just let them pass. Even laugh them off yourself. What the NFF PR department has done has been more damaging than the original video.

video
It is the social media era and things like these will happen.

Did Paul Bassey really say these words?

On Wednesday morning I saw this message on a whatsapp group WHAT HAS AKWA UNITED DONE TO THEM? During CHAN they invited FOUR PLAYERS from Akwa United, the highest in the land and scuttled our league chances. Now, with an important last league match to play, with the Aiteo Cup as our last resort THEY HAVE PULLED OUT FIVE OF OUR PLAYERS for WAFU.....Half of the team......incredible....what have we done to them? WHAT? - Paul Bassey.

And after reading it I shuddered and moved on because it had to be fake news.

It had to be fake because it was being attributed to a man I loved and respected so much so I did not take it seriously.

I knew Paul Bassey could not write or say such. Social media was at work again.

A few hours later I saw the same thing on the Facebook page of a good friend, Idongesit Ikono, who is based in Uyo and I wondered a bit more.

Could that statement had been sent out by Paul Bassey? The member of CAF Media Committee? The member of the NFF Technical committee? The one whose page on Champion Newspapers I used to read voraciously as a secondary school student in the 80s?

No way! Paul Bassey could not have made that statement. I will just see it as fake news and continue to believe that is what it is.

I hope it is not more than 7 minutes yet
Bode Oguntuyi at the 2010 NBA finals

Bode Oguntuyi at the 2009 NBA finals


Oguntuyi and Van Gundy, ESPN Commentator and former Houston Rockets coach. Now Team USA coach

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