Joseph Yobo’s Testimonial | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Joseph Yobo’s Testimonial

Bola Bolawole
Posted: Jun 4, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Bola Bolawole

Sportsmen and women, musicians, actors, and even jesters usually have a larger-than-life image that, well, dwarfs their contributions to society. Anyone in the above category is likely to be better known and better celebrated than a researcher or academic who spends his or her whole life advancing the frontiers of knowledge or making discoveries that save lives or take humanity to the next level. Politicians also make better heroes than academicians. Yet, in every society and in every-day life, there are people, usually self-effacing, who go about unnoticed making indispensable contributions to society. Take this for example: Without the often-despised, often-neglected, and hardly-noticed cleaner in an office, it will be hard, if not impossible, for the big folks to work or enjoy their stay in the office. People who hug the public limelight are usually better placed to become or be treated as heroes. Added to this is that those whose profession it is to entertain others have a greater chance of being treated as heroes. They creep into people’s sub-conscious; invade the living room as well as the bedroom of the lowly and the mighty. They help in diffusing stress and tension and create forms of enjoyment and satisfaction that are indispensable to human existence as we know it today.

This is the reason why such people, especially the very successful amongst them, are usually treated as heroes. They are brands that everyone loves to identify with. They become house-hold names and their faces are easily identified and picked out everywhere. Such people usually lose their right to privacy as they are hijacked by fans and are treated as celebrities. For as long as the music plays, it will be fun; but no music plays for ever. When the music recedes and the dancing or celebration stops, a new understanding creeps in. Yesterday’s hero is forgotten today! New heroes are created every day as nature abhors a vacuum. Jaded heroes often lament the infidelity of yesterday’s fans. The lamentation, often, is that an ungrateful nation has forgotten the contributions of yesterday’s heroes to national development. A prodigal who fritters his or her fortunes and moves from grace to grass often considers it their birthright for the tax-payer to cushion the effects of their prodigality. Where this is not forthcoming, State and people are often cast as ingrates.

But should this be so? Should one set of the citizenry value their contributions to the society more than others? Everyone is important and the contributions of all combine to sustain the society and move it forward. Nevertheless, those in the limelight are more visible than those who are not. If, perchance, the contributions of those in the public glare are not appreciated, the likelihood is that those making their own contributions silently, far away from the public glare, may be tempted to conclude that they, too, will not be recognised, appreciated or compensated. It will thus be a case of “if gold rusts, what will silver do?” It is good, therefore, that we celebrate our heroes. The search for heroes must, however, not be limited to those who hug the limelight. Every facet of society must be searched to bring out the brightest and best and celebrate them. As we do, we show a heart of gratitude and we encourage others to aspire to do more – and even better. Where we neglect to honour our heroes, we hurt people who gave their best and their all – some even their lives, like Samuel Okwaraji – and send the wrong signals to coming generations.

I have often wondered why first-class footballers that served this country well in their prime often declined and faded away unnoticed, unappreciated, and uncelebrated. We just see that they are no longer invited and they no more play for us. Julius Aghahowa, the man with the acrobatics; the “headmaster”, Mutiu Adepoju; Sunday Oliseh, before his ill-fated stint as Super Eagles coach; and Finidi George, to mention but a few. Where such players belong to the same generation, we should be able to organise a joint testimonial match in their honour. FIFA continues to remember and celebrate Rashidi Yekini; but how about here at home? Matters are made worse when footballers organise testimonials by themselves and the authorities, who should have championed the project in the first place, place obstacles and hindrances in the way.

I felt saddened that the NFF nearly frustrated the Yobo testimonial. At the very least, it tried to take the shine off it by organising a friendly match for the Eagles in far-away Europe the same weekend the Yobo testimonial was to hold in Nigeria. For me, the alibi of the NFF did not hold water; to wit, that Yobo did not crosscheck to see whether the date he chose was free! The NFF should have organised the Yobo testimonial in the first place. And after that Yobo took the task upon himself, the NFF should have conceded to him on whatever date he had chosen. If we skipped the friendly matches against Mali and Luxembourg to honour Yobo, we would not have died. Sometimes we fail to take advantage of what can help our development on the altar of petty squabbles or personality clashes. Selfish interests and needless politicking also come to the fore. I suspect that politicking dictated the efforts made to scuttle the testimonial, which held in the “enemy” territory of Port-Harcourt. Properly advised, President Muhammadu Buhari should have taken opportunity of the avalanche of football stars that converged for the testimonial to worm himself into the hearts of a soccer-crazy citizenry from a region of the country where he has few followers in particular and the nation at large. The opportunity, however, was allowed to slip. This administration would have reaped more goodwill from the Yobo testimonial than all the discordant noise it made recently about a Chibok girl-escapee or straggler running away from Boko Haram.