If you’re not a football fan, please bear with me for a couple of minutes. Two eerily similar scenarios played out last Sunday in two different leagues. In the Premiership, Liverpool welcomed Chelsea to Anfield, with Manchester United hoping for Chelsea drop points so they can win the title. They are tied with Liverpool on 18 titles and winning the title this season would make United the most successful league team in England. The Scousers themselves have endured the most anti-climactic of seasons, after coming 2nd last term. They came into the game with an outside chance of retaining their Champions’ League spot. Being fierce rivals of United, a lot of the Liverpool fans were loathe to do anything to help the ‘enemy’, even at the cost of ending their top 4 ambition. Too often, the attitude of the fans filters down to the players on the pitch and this was one such example. I personally cannot remember such a quiet atmosphere at Anfield. Liverpool’s fans did not want their team to beat Chelsea, and the players, led by Steven Gerrard duly lost. Interestingly, it’s going to do more harm to Liverpool that United. Missing out on the Champions’ League means they won’t get the extra money that comes with it. Improving on a squad that’s average in most areas will become harder, and with Tottenham & Man City fighting it out for 4th, it could be a little while before Liverpool make it back into the elite.
In Italy, something similar happened. Lazio entertained Inter Milan in Rome, with Roma trying to catch the defending champions. They could hope for no favours from the Biancoceleste, who despite being 2 places above the relegation zone actually had sections of their home support that cheered Inter’s 2 goals! What I saw from both sets of fans wasn’t passion, it was stupidity. Both their clubs are headed in the wrong direction, but all that matters to them is preventing a ‘rival’ from gaining an advantage. Both teams have a proud history, but it has been tarnished a little by those events. It is for me, a teachable moment: the minute you begin to be an obstacle to the success of another, you have a losing mentality. It’s probably the reason so many people wallow in mediocrity. The stone you put in the path of another person ends up bringing you down.
It is the season of elections in Nigeria. With elections to take place in January 2011 in line with constitutional amendments, candidates have begun to come forward. Most notable among them is Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. Donald Duke and recently, Dele Momodu publisher of Ovation magazine have also joined the race. The reaction to Dele Momodu’s declaration of intent has been largely dismissive. Many don’t believe he has the experience for the job of President. There is a distinct lack of enthusiasm also for Donald Duke’s candidacy. I think that we should give all candidates a fair hearing. Governance is not rocket science. In the US, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a body builder before becoming Governor of California and Jesse ‘the Body’ Ventura was a professional wrestler before becoming Governor of Minnesota in 1999. Each of these aspirants will have to prove their capability to rule Nigeria, but we the citizens must ask the hard questions of them and hold them to their promises. All over the world, the trend is towards a generational shift towards younger leaders. The same thing must happen here as we have nothing whatsoever to gain from an IBB presidency. To effect this change though, we must unite behind the best possible younger candidate and elect him (or her) to lead us. As young people, one of our best characteristics is that of an open mind, a mind open to possibilities. We need not write anyone off just yet. Rather, we must give them ample time to articulate their positions and query them aggressively till we are satisfied. If we do not do this and if we do not at the end unite behind a single candidate, we will find that the ‘Baba Syndrome’ will take over again, postponing once more the opportunity of the youth to lead to another ‘tomorrow’ which would in all possibility be bleaker than today.