Hardball should have aptly tagged this piece: “The great Nigerian hustle”. But true to be told, it is not a Hardball original. It is a timeless line lifted from Time magazine. It was way back in 1994 in an edition reviewing the USA ’94 World Cup tournament.
Time had spotlighted football super-powers – Brazil, Argentina, Italy, among others. In highlighting Nigeria the reigning African champions, the journal described the Super Eagles’ quest for the World trophy in that memorable but unflattering line, “The great Nigerian hustle.”
Scalding as that line was, you couldn’t fault it. Then as it has remained now (save for few months of sanity), Nigeria’s football, especially its administration, was one great hustle. It was a game of chance, hit or miss. It was devoid of much thought. Players were like wild berries which were dispersed around the world by some ‘explosive mechanism’. At the advent of every tournament, they were gathered, not unlike wild fruits and assembled for contest.
More troubling, however, to the likes of Time magazine was that Nigeria would hope to win tournaments against teams and countries which had prepared methodically.
This immortal line comes to mind again as a result of the current clamour by some acolytes of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK) for him to join the race for the presidency of the world soccer ruling body – FIFA. OUK was a two-term governor of Abia State, a contractor, businessman and football enthusiast.
But most remarkably, OUK represents the quintessence of “the great Nigerian hustle”. We speak of that devil-may-care derring-do; that knack to seek to get results anyhow; that desultory, immethodical mode to seek to solve algebraic problems by bypassing equations and formulas.
How else would one assess the ongoing noisy insistence on OUK vying for FIFA presidency if not an enactment of the good old hustle? FIFA and its current president, Mr. Sepp Blatter, is currently wracked by serious allegations of fraudulent activities. The world body is going through a phase of self-cleansing; the great football house is attempting a rebirth. How then does OUK come into this picture if not to woo opprobrium upon Nigeria?
Is OUK remotely qualified for this job? Not by any chance. As governor of a wretched state in Nigeria, he shoveled state funds into running a football club (Enyimba FC of Aba) with the sole aim of garnering cheap popularity and massaging an excessively large ego.
Thus this man spent millions of dollars over eight years to bankroll a football club in a state that lacked basic sporting facilities; a state that lacked basic existential amenities; that was scourged by poverty. He would misplace priorities by committing scarce funds to playing football for eight years.
Today, some fellas are taking a disgraceful Nigerian joke all the way to the world stage in Switzerland. An awkward league of supporters including former President Ibrahim Babangida, octogenarian politician, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, tarred CAF executive, Amos Adamu, former footballer, John Fashanu and sports promoter, Felix Awogu.
Taking the joke even farther, one impetuous supporter said he is the “crazy outsider” FIFA needs. Well, before any ‘crazy’ move is made, let it not be neglected that OUK has a small issue with the anti-graft agency, EFCC. FIFA won’t need that now.