Siasia: The Shame of A Nation

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By Tayo Balogun

I have always wondered about why and when we became like this. How come we love to celebrate downfalls? Why do we inordinately look out for the negatives when it comes to issues relating to our fellow countrymen? Why are we always in hangouts discussing all that is bad about people? When did it become a Nigerian pastime to celebrate all that is evil about our nation and its citizens? Start a discussion about how noble someone is and you are likely to be countered that you really do not have all the facts about him. You will subsequently be taken through a dossier (usually unsubstantiated), about how bad the subject really is.

Over the years, we have developed a tendency to be negative about our country and it is therefore no surprise that we are facing perhaps the most difficult times in our history as a nation!

When the story about Samson Siasia’s ban by FIFA broke last week I made much of it, mainly because the world body did not give enough information on the ban. We were simply informed that ‘ …the formal ethics proceedings were initiated on 11 February 2019 and stem from an extensive investigation into matches that Mr. Wilson Raj Perumal attempted to manipulate for betting purposes. This large-scale investigation was conducted by FIFA via its competent departments and in cooperation with the relevant stakeholders and authorities. In its decision, the Adjudicatory Chamber found that Mr. Siasia had breached art11 of the 2009 edition of the FIFA Code of Ethics and banned him for life from all football related activities…’

I did not succeed in getting any other information on the ban of one of our most illustrious players and coaches. Those who were willing to talk regaled you with beer parlor talk of how he had it coming. They denigrate all Nigerian coaches. Claiming they have allowed money to become their be all and end all. Not one person imagined Siasia could be innocent. It was like they were waiting for him to be crucified. Yet it does appear that something is just not right with the ban or the investigation that was done around the beleaguered coach. FIFA has refused to bother us with the specifics of the allegations except to tell us he agreed to ‘match fixing ‘. No one cared to inform us if any match was eventually compromised nor did their Lordships tell us if money actually changed hands with some of it landing in Siasia’s hands… I am suspecting that all FIFA had was something that would not really hold up if subjected to legal scrutiny. I am not inclined to believe this is like the Dr. Amos Adamu case who was convicted on the strength of a sting operation.

Whatever may turn out to be the case, I believe Samson Siasia deserves our support at this particular moment. If he has erred, he deserves to be punished. But we must not be quick to throw him to the dogs. He once brought us honours and pride both as a player and coach. We must therefore continue to stand by him in his moment of need. Let’s get the NFF to step in and find out if he was really guilty as charged or if there could be a window to help him prove his innocence since he is claiming he never was asked to defend himself about the bribery allegations levied against him in the first place.

This piece should not be seen as an endorsement of wrong-doing but rather one that calls for caution in jumping to vilify a compatriot who may well be innocent.

More importantly, I wonder if we will ever recover from the evil done by military rule when we are made to believe the worst about ourselves by those who must justify their interventions! We gleefully applauded their action when they sentenced people to impossibly long prison sentences for offences they were later to also commit. The mentality to believe the worst about ourselves is wrong and shameful. Our country is not half as bad as we collectively paint it. True, we are no saints but we are not offsprings of the Devil either.