On the following assertion, this reporter stands to be corrected. More than 30 per cent of all Nigerians around the country and beyond were completely united in focus and action between 5.50pm and 8pm on Monday, September 4. Nigerians in their millions, irrespective of religious, ethnic, social, income, geographical and economic differences, presidential health status, senatorial recall, Benue flooding and Lassa fever, had a common foe, and all sorts of hate speeches, ethnic agitations and political rivalry were set aside.
The cause of this bonding was clear: qualification for the World Cup soccer tournament holding in Russia in 2018, a competition which Nigeria failed to make in 2014 after dropping precious points to perceived â€˜minnowsâ€™ in soccer. And now four years later, the stake was higher and national pride was at stake. The venue of the battle against a familiar foe was the national stadium in YaoundÃ©, and the Cameroonians (African Nations Cup defending champions) were out to get their pound of flesh against the Super Eagles (national team) following the formerâ€™s 4-0 humiliation in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State just three days earlier during the first leg.
For roughly two hours, hunger pangs, poverty, kidnapping, political rivalry and strike action were set aside by citizens united in one goal, and at the end, the relief at the outcome among Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora was palpable and infectious. Soccer is and will always be a unifying factor, with victory bringing smiles to the unsmiling faces of angry citizens. Now that the major obstacle to Nigeriaâ€™s qualification for Russia has been largely dealt with, temporarily forgotten issues are bound to resurface. If only such matches were played daily to help greater bonding, camaraderie, and patriotic fervour among all citizensâ€¦wishful thinking
– Abimbola Akosile