We have known for some years now that young Nigerians desperate for what they see as a better life overseas have repeatedly opted to undertake the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean from Libya to Europe. Many have succeeded in their quest, but many more have perished in the stormy waters. These tragedies have made global headlines for years, but when international news network CNN recently broke the news that some of these Nigerians were among Africans being traded as slaves in war-torn Libya, international outrage reached new decibels while our countryâ€™s image sank to new lows.
Several major factors contribute to this debacle that remain unchecked, and the sad reality is that many more Nigerian lives will be lost or dehumanised in places like Libya. Firstly, the quality of life in our country has steadily sank to survival levels over the years. Secondly, our population is exploding at an alarming rate and we are now reaching frighteningly unmanageable numbers. Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, is that culturally, we have managed to ingrain in our minds that everything good happens outside Nigeria, especially in Europe and America. Across different spectrums of our lives, we have abandoned the need to develop from within and instead embraced foreign alternatives.
For years now this column has preached the need for a thriving domestic sports industry and why the government and biggest brands should work together to ensure ours becomes one. We need to positively engage and reward our people, especially the young, otherwise we will continue to face these kinds of crisis. Just look at the rising wave of crime and other problems in the country – the kidnappers, the ritual killings, the 419 scammers, the brutal robberies, the continued wanton spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the rising number of teenage mothers, the restive youth in our communities becoming militants or religious extremists etc. If we do not quickly create opportunities that engage millions of our citizens, then we face being swallowed up by the resultant problems.
There is no better way to engage and influence a people to lead healthier and more disciplined lives than through sports. The more progressive nations know this and employ sports in a big way: not just to drive commerce, but to inspire better values in society. Rather than employing sports the same way, we are enslaving ourselves with our addiction to foreign sports. The popularity of the English Premier League is an example of this. It is amazing how from the most literate to the stark illiterate, from the young to the old, from the man in the village to the man on Banana Island, we Nigerians now define ourselves by what happens in football leagues continents away. Our TV and radio stations, print publications and social media hubs are suffused with stories and images of foreign sports and foreign sports icons.
These people fleeing Nigeria ought to be home earning a decent living from competing in one sport or the other. Those who are not athletes can still work in a variety of ways in the industry. Some can be officials, maintenance or security staff, managers of talent etc. When we throw our resources at foreign sports we contribute toÂ withering Nigeria and the desperation of our people to flee our borders. Jobs and quality living that they should safely have at home are what they are now dying at sea to find in Europe.
Where are the sponsors for the NPFL?