It’s almost a week now since Nigeria failed to pick the ticket to Qatar at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.
The disappointment is still reverberating around supporters and questions are being asked about the state of Nigerian football. This day had longed to come.
Despite the vituperation going the way of the Super Eagles players for their rather frail, dull and drab performance against Ghana, the incident that made Nigeria a focus of international scrutiny is being subtly swept under the carpet like nothing happened.
We all saw something happen. Something chilling and destructive!
Who was responsible for that embarrassing stadium organisation seen in the Ghana game? Why is everyone moving on as though it’s normal to put thousands of lives at risk?
What manner of confidence, bullishness and pride could have allowed organisers to forget an undesired result may result to an ire from fans?
The Nigeria Football Federation and the Sports Ministry played forward roles in matters regarding the game and it was publicly stated that Africa Independent Television (AIT) were in charge of selling tickets.
Why were tickets sold so much but the most important aspect of the game – security forgotten?
Players’ and officials’ lives were put in danger, and fans also had to run for their dear lives as a result of the violence that erupted? Recall that incident followed the Abuja-Kaduna train attack and could have planted great fear in the hearts of many.
Beautiful families, friends and individuals who took their families to the stadium to have a good time have been scarred by that incident. They may never attempt such in their lives again.
Stadium goers of yore also said it’s probably the worst organisation they’ve seen since watching Nigerian home games.
In some societies the people in charge of the crowd at the MKO Abiola stadium on Tuesday 29th March 2022 would lose their jobs.
The first live match I watched was a Principal's Cup game at the old UAC Stadium (now Teslim Balogun). I was at the Stadium in 1989 when Okwaraji died
— Calvin 'Emeka Onwuka (@CalvinEmeka) April 1, 2022
The memories of the crowd at that my first live game and on the day Okwaraji died at National Stadium Lagos have stayed with me to this day. Nobody died at that UAC but many died at the Okwaraji match – an Italia '90 WC qualifier.
The memory of Tuesday night leaves me shuddering
— Calvin 'Emeka Onwuka (@CalvinEmeka) April 1, 2022
Something became apparent as I watched destruction of Abuja Stadium transfixed in my seat.The number of people in Nigeria who don't have/have run out of fucks to give has grown so much our security people can't cope.I saw policemen running for their lives & I almost pitied them.
— Babanla (@biolakazeem) March 29, 2022
Another part that’s annoying me about the Abuja Stadium destruction is that we have given another Avenue for corrupt politicians to steal money. We are going to get repair estimates that can build an entire new stadium
— Imoh (@ImohUmoren) March 30, 2022
I have watched this video over and over again and it still hasn’t made sense to me, why are you vandalising the stadium? are you cursed? “everyone is frustrated” isn’t a rational response.
Why is destruction the go to language? Everyone identified should be prosecuted. pic.twitter.com/t1ba5ZAvqk
— Val Chekwas (@yuteoflondon) March 30, 2022
But who will be held accountable for the perfect storm of sporting and human disaster that happened on this day? Who is held accountable for anything in #Nigeria? Who resigns when they are found to be incompetent and derelict, in the discharge of their public duties?
— Osasu Obayiuwana (@osasuo) April 1, 2022
The NFF and the Ministry of Sports and Youth development were focused on just the football, and nothing that could arise from a possible disaster.
This is not unexpected, especially when the Minister was recorded on tape to have said “we’ll beat the sh*t out of them, ” and Amaju Pinnick was also heard to have said bilateral relations between Nigeria and Qatar made missing out on the World Cup impossible and senseless. Those situations painted a picture of two key players in the organisation of the game expressing condescension.
In little or large ways, that disposition affected the organisation on the day as there was hardly any modicum of thinking about other eventualities.
They, like the Super Eagles players on the day simply went to sleep and failed to secure the many precious lives in that stadium and also failed to help secure an important national property.
While an investigative panel has been set to look into the destruction of the stadium, that would have been unnecessary if adequate proactive measures were put in place by organisers.
We as a country cannot keep playing second-fiddle in the situations of life. We can do better in protecting people’s lives and national properties.
A stadium opened to all and sundry will more often than never have miscreants and individuals with destructive tendencies make their way into the ground. It’s responsible of the organisers to secure the ground and the people in it.
Whoever was responsible for that show should be resigning by now and paying for putting lives in grave danger but this is Nigeria. Isn’t it?
Hopefully, the panel set up will come out with credible results. But that, every Nigerian know, is a very likely impossibility. It’s high time lives meant a thing in Nigeria. We should be doing better – be proactive and not reactive, prevent and not always find cure. Lives should mean more.