By Patrick Mgbodo
Keshi peeped through the curtain of flags that adorned his portico into the neighborhood as he watched the traffic along Nnebisi road gradually gain momentum. The night had just made way for its counterpart; twilight just revealed the aquamarine skies and diurnal life expressed its joys to the horizon. With the back of his left palm, he managed to wipe the stream of tears that trickled down the contours of his face and shifting his gaze to his lush green bed that mimicked a newly mowed football pitch ready to host the World Cup, everything in the room echoed the absence of his heartthrob and the beating of his heart drowned the busyness of the streets. Flipping through the papers to sooth his pain, the screaming banners did not help matters. ‘How desperate” he managed a hiss.
Let me add my drops to the ocean of commendation that has submerged the entire landscape as a result of the successes of the 21st African Senior Athletics Championships in Asaba. The overwhelming crowd that came to witness the event in the Pentateuch of August symbolized the stamp of approval on Governor Okowa’s laudable efforts not just in the area of sports development, but saving Nigeria of colossal embarrassment that many of his critics would have preferred to the little imperfections of the event that defines humanity, except for those who are hell-bent on not seeing good in anything.
In my previous article which coincided with the grand finale, I made an attempt to explore the media conspiracies associated, though I did not exhaust them because I felt that some things are better not expressed in print. Nevertheless, I did not mince words when I stated that “I could not recover from the damage of witnessing how cantankerous my professional colleagues could be. We share different sentiments and orientations but I believe that we should not wash our dirty linens outside”. What I did not realize then was how tenacious naysayers could be, like the proverbial fly ready to follow the carcass into the grave. I still respect their writing prowess and opinions, what I found appalling and most repulsive of persons of with such expensive profiles was how cheaply they were priced.
In the heat of the event, a water tank fell, far from the cynosure and they chose to sensationalize it thus “Asaba Stadium Collapses”. The stadium was clad to host Africa in order to reap the goodness therein, yet they berate the Governor for wasting resources, as if the stadium would be used and dumped afterwards (God forbid). They said the tracks and facilities were substandard but when I interacted with Caster Semanya (I doubt if they know who), she admitted even before she set new records that the stadium is above average.
They were blind or rather deliberately refused to see the whole of Asaba2018 otherwise; thousands of schoolchildren who must have been inspired by the opportunity to witness such event firsthand and maybe fly our flags high on the world stage someday, missed their antagonistic analysis. If truly they were not too lazy to leave their arm chairs and tune their television sets, these critics, if they had any human sympathy, would have marveled at the economic boom that engulfed the venue.
One merchant shared the story of how he made nothing less than Fifty Thousand Naira everyday for the five days the games lasted. But they did not notice; they were too trapped by the snares of jealousy. Over a thousand persons were employed to render their services in various capacities during the event and if that too was less conspicuous, the social networking and friendships that were cultivated and sure to bear fruits that would last beyond the moment should not be.
Of course, I do not expect them to know that the International Association of Athletics Federation seized the avenue to train both local and international journalists on professional ways to report athletics and that includes dwelling less on its inevitable challenges and more on its possible development. For me, that perk is worth more than gold.
Before the event even commenced, they expressed all forms of dissent towards the host city for reasons best known to them but one thing I know is that if this event was hosted elsewhere, it would still have been far from faultless.
Anyway, all those are now history because against all odds, it was a huge success and every reasonable person appreciated the feat far above the shortfalls. Worse still, their whining can’t even dim the Governor’s shine; instead it continues to expose their puerilism.
Acknowledged, the games encountered turbulence but does that mean that the plane will crash? The event has long ended and these same athletes who innocently expressed their frustrations as a result of travel inconveniences without realizing that these wolves would jump at their words, have long retired to their lives in anticipation for bigger challenges. They have garnered the medals, the glory, fame and the riches as we have also savored the fun and passion. Some of them have even set records that might take another decade or two to equal or break but our darling pessimists who sold their consciences for a few notes of the Naira, are still busy throwing dirty everywhere.
I had watched as Stephen hosted the biggest party ever on the Niger. Leaning on the silver railings that stretched along the pavilion, I savored a bird eye view of merrymakers relishing the boom from the gargantuan speakers that measured with the heights of the confines. As if abetted by the gods, mild showers sprinkled from the heavens and fireworks competed with the stars that glistened away in the darkness.
The 21st African Senior Athletics Competition just ended but the effects ripples through the hearts of over 30, 000 per day live spectators for eternity. Just like all happy endings, the story had to endure the crucible, less it would not have worth the luster.
Retiring to his room, he picked up the paper and flipping through, he was consoled by this piece. “Alas!” he heaved and collapsing on his bed with the picture of Africa smiling at him, Keshi’s handsomeness reflected the radiance of the moonlight that escaped through the flags. “Sooner or later, we will meet again” she whispered.