As continuation of the match commentary, I have my colleagues here with me whom I may introduce as the game moves on. We shall run down the profiles of the key players as time permits. The scoreboard is illuminating just as the stadium, with a gigantic standby generator to forestall any power failure by the national power distributor. I am overwhelming by the arrangement put in place for the outing. Everything here is quite attractive. I can see and read the electronic wordings intermittently appearing on scoreboard. Some of the wordings read:
“Play for Good Life and Future Generations”
“Winning this Match is Not a Do or Die Affair”
“Tomorrow is Greater Than Today; So Play to Live”
“It is Well with Our Country”
In the next few minutes, ladies and gentlemen, the ceremonies will end and the match proper will commence. Wherever you are seated to watch this match through words, my dear compatriots, please stand up for the national anthem after the count of three: one, two, three:
Arise, O Compatriots!
Nigeria’s call obey
To serve our fatherland
With love and strength and faith
The labours of our heroes past
Shall never be in vain
To serve with heart and might
One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity
I pledge to Nigeria my country
To be faithful loyal an honest
To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity
And uphold her honour and glory
So help me God
It is time for prayers for a peaceful match. All the players and spectators should stand and pray: After the count of three: one, two three:
O God of Creation, direct our noble cause
Guide (thou) our leaders right
Help our youth the truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty heights attain
To build a nation where
Peace and justice shall reign
Yes, I am thrilled with these compelling words. The citizens have no reason not to be steadfast, focused and diligent in the service of this country. After proclaiming these beautiful words, beautiful phrases and beautifully constructed sentences of deep import, every citizen of this great state is thrown into the bliss of courage, faith, creativity, magnitude and boundless hope to contribute his or her quota for the nation’s defence and building.
To me, some of the greatest strings in the national proclamation are: “The Labour of Our Heroes Past; Shall Never Be in Vain” And “One Nation Bound in Freedom; Peace and Unity”
Yes, my dear compatriots! Ladies and gentlemen, our founding fathers have sacrificed their precious lives for our freedom. They were selfless, dedicated and God-fearing in the service of this country which you and I own and control today. They have been recognized as national and international heroes. You can be a hero for this country and for the continent. You have what it takes to be. You can begin today by discovering your talent and utilizing it positively.
You are all patriots. You are all one of the freest people on earth. This country is a place of boundless fortunes. We paid dearly for our freedom from colonialism. We are paying dearly for peace because peace is an essential ingredient to life and to development. We have been paying dearly for our unity. Let us look at ourselves with the eyes of love and the hearts of humanity.
Yes, compatriots! Our fatherland is a nation humanly and divinely guided to be free, peaceful and united. The human powers are yours and mine. Make things happen while alive to be remembered after your death as we ever remember our past heroes. Begin now!
How do we defend her unity? How do we uphold her honour and glory? And how do we seek God’s help for our dear land? This is a solemn covenant you proclaim and renew every now and then with your fatherland. You avow, among other things, to be faithful. This attribute is a divine one that a human being must not joke with. It comes from the bottom of the heart. So, for you, a Nigerian citizen, it should guide and inspire in you to whole-heartedly dedicate part of your life to serve Nigeria in whatever capacity you can.
You avow to be loyal. Loyalty here demands rendering service to this land without limitation and unnecessary questioning. Most citizens are fond of asking, “What will be my gain?” or jeering one another with, “Are you going to be the first or the last to do?” There should be a mutual understanding between you and this land. There is no place better than home. For me, I have traveled out this land so many times. But each time, I feel extremely nostalgic. After just a week which I can bear, each other day passes by without my appreciation. So, as beloved patriot, do your part and the state will do hers. Those who just sit and talk and expect that this country will do everything for them are not getting it right.
I can feel the softness of some hearts. I can feel the hardness of some hearts. It shall be well with this land. I see your invocation to God being answered. The soft hearts are many than the wicked hardened hearts. God loves this land and shall continue to keep it progressive, peaceful and united even at this moment the great clash is going to commence. God is there always for us. This land needs our love, our prayers, our good wills and individual sacrifices. This land is for all of us. Whoever wins this match is important but it survival now and forever is our collective drive. The spectators must, therefore, conduct themselves in the best manner of civilized people. No one is superior above the other except on the grounds of sacrifices to build the state.
Now the players are exchanging compliments. They are shaking hands with and hugging one another in an amiable way. The No. 9 jersey of the APC with lovely smile shakes and hugs his counterpart in the PDP. He is talking to the referee, apparently telling him that both teams look on to him for justice and professional maturity. Other players engage in different kinds of movement waiting for the referee’s whistle. The two captains are with the referee who throws a coin for the PDP captain to choose between the ball and the post. The captain chooses the ball, apparently very anxious for victory. The referee whistles to both goalkeepers as he sets his time to announce the full commencement for the all-important game of our time.
Let me seize this opportunity to give you some background information about the two teams. Both have met severally in the past. This should be the fifth time. It would be recalled that the past tournaments witnessed some levels of violence. This would have been the sixth time both teams would be meeting. In 1999 when the tournament was introduced here, most of the key players were naïve, uncertain and actually predictable. The APC key striker had not shown clear interest in the game as the effects of the terrible experiences of preceding years of unfriendly governance were still hovering over the clouds of this place. There were fears over any friendly governance to be instituted then. It was like a makeshift arrangement was carefully being installed in 1999.
That is why I hardly recognize that year’s match, however significant it was to this place and the football lovers. The match was totally condemned by world leaders and soccer administration. It is therefore, expected that out of past experiences, both team will behave maturely on the pitch and give the best entertainment for viewers and supporters. I can feel the relief of self assertion in the minds of players. They must be no protests, no fight and no abuse of power during the match. All of them have pledged to uphold the dignity of the land. (Watch out for part three and probably the last part of this commentary)
*** Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja.