Spot kick or penalty as popularly called in Soccer is a sanction against an offending team who has violated one rule of the game. The beauty of the game and any other sport where penalty is allowed is that it could come anytime in the match and so, only the prepared team take the opportunity. In time past, the African Cup of Nations and World Cup were decided by the spot kick. A team or a player may play well during the ninety-minute and extra-time but put a poor show in the penalty session. This is why some teams invest in training for it because of its power to decide who wins the trophy or forge ahead in the competition.
Political encounters have their own penalty time and only great players cash in on the opportunity to score into the opponent’s net. Hip-hop artiste Small Doctor in his song, ‘Penalty’ showcases penalty as a lifetime opportunity which the social being (Atiku or Buhari) must utilise to move to the next level of acceptance and brightens his life chances or get the opportunity to make ‘Nigeria work again’. A possibility however exists: a player can play ‘penalty to throwing,’ thus missing the surest of opportunity to turn the tide and clear the air of doubts.
The Waziri of Adamawa, a serial aspirator to the exalted number one shirt of Team Nigeria lost an opportunity to play a spot kick last weekend when he failed to see the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential debate organised by BON as an opportunity to ‘attack’ and neutralise existing accusations. His excuse to me is pedestrian that because PMB was not present he would not be able to debate. Atiku insisted that it was called presidential debate and not candidate debate. Again, it was a tactical error and an opportunity for a walkover that Atiku failed to acknowledge. In any sport game where walkover exists, the player present must step on to the field or court with the referee before he can be entitled to the point which accrues to the team that showed up for a scheduled match. Team Atiku cannot shake hands with the referee in the dressing room, leave the stadium without stepping on the field and expect to be awarded point. The Umbrella candidate would have used the opportunity to show that he is truly ‘Atikulate,’ confident and willing to clear doubts and answer questions. Who would have threatened him on the debate? None. Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, the most knowledgeable about governance in Nigeria among Fela Durotoye and Kingsley Moughalu was in the same government as Atiku.
Besides, Atiku would have put the APC on the defensive on issues of economy, corruption, and insecurity. The only thing he had was to compare the administration he was part of with what Buhari is doing at the moment. He could have perhaps neutralised issues bothering on his alleged corrupt practices and boasted about his Washington trip. Nobody was expecting the Prince of Daura at the debate. They wanted to hear something new and wondered if Atiku could say something different from what they have been hearing about him. He could have told Nigerians that if he were a supposed ‘thief’ could he not have been arrested by a government who prides itself as number one anti-corruption warrior? But as a poor player with shallow tactical crew, he turned attack to defence and started apologising. He became equated with Buhari who distanced himself from the ‘stadium’. This ‘I don’t care attitude’ is what Nigerians complain about the PMB presidency who addresses Nigerians mostly in colonial homelands. Atiku has shown the same disregard for Nigerians. Except for the law against same sex, Atiku could do well as a better half to Mr President.
Not all political players are dull to the extent of missing their penalties. One of such dependable attackers in Nigeria remains the undisputed Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo who filled the lacuna created by the silences of Atiku and Buhari. Like the late Rashidi Yekini who did not miss his goal chances, the oracle of Owu kingdom in his intervention signposts issues that many Nigerians have been talking about—despotic style of governance of the incumbent, fear of rigging of the 2019 polls going by the experiences of Ekiti and Osun elections, insecurity, Trader Monie as a vote buying strategy (going by frequency to zones with high votes by the coordinator), alleged pressure on INEC to compromise the February polls among others.
While returning from an international travel, a cab driver in Lagos complained to me about the futility of voting owing to the rigging machine of a godfather. Such a mindset distances people from voting and allow bad characters who have no love for the people to emerge. While featuring on The Candidates the President had ruled out the possibility of him losing and what he would do if the unexpected happens. Obasanjo’s attack has caused the desired reactions including those who otherwise would not have spoken. He also warned about the ubiquity of violence. INEC also has come out to state that it was not under pressure to rig the polls.
Methinks Obasanjo’s spot kick is timely. He has not asked anyone not to vote for Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moughalu or Fela Durotoye although he may have soft spot for candidate Atiku. His spot kick has caused readjustment in any ‘ongoing plans’ and trigger vigilance for Nigerians and putting the international community on guard. We must be tolerant to allow counter views to deepen democracy. As expected Obj’s uppercut has made some Nigerians talk about his government and that he wanted to see what he failed to do. But shall we continue to have a re-enactment of the evil past in the present? I say NO.
Going forward, Atiku may have missed a center-court opportunity which Obasanjo’s letter is now achieving. However, the ultimate striker remains the Nigerian with the voter card. From those who attended the debate are three credible alternatives to the incumbent from which the Nigerian electorate can choose from. Will the Nigerian voters embody Christiana Ronaldo or the Merciless Mercy in February 16 as they play their penalty kicks? Or they will copy Yakubu Aiyegbeni and miss another golden opportunity? Only the rational Nigerian voter can chart a path for us out of the wilderness towards a glorious future. We cannot afford to play penalty to throwing and not suffer the consequences.
Dr. Tade, a sociologist, writes via [email protected]