(Swans - September 6)
• Ah, my brother, it is not easy to be a woman, o. Ah!
• My sister, what's worrying you now? It is not easy being a man either. Not with ecomini, pardon, the economy, not being what it used to be. Even when the authorities tell us that inflation has been successfully tamed, prices are still hitting the lower atmosphere. Take myself, as an example; the cost of living is truly killing me.
• Ah, my brother, you are right. Everyone with her own palaver! And as that reggae man Bob Marley said, everyone thinketh her problem is the heaviest. But to think of what we went through to bring glory to this country. And the president will not even receive us. Ah!
• Presidents are very busy people.
• You wouldn't say that if it were the boys, would you?
• Boys, which boys are you talking about?
• I am talking about those Super Chickens that keep calling themselves Super Eagles. Those blasted, bloated, over-rated, egocentric, perennial non-achievers who continue to parade tired limbs and continue to disgrace themselves and their country.
• Oh, you're talking about football!
• Of course, I am talking about football. What, otherwise, did you think I was talking about?
• Oh, I didn't not know that you were such a passionate football fan...
• Fan? I am a member of the team that did the nation proud at the just concluded Mundial Fiesta in Germany. Contrary to all expectations, we went all the way to the finals. And, my brother, I tell you but for a combination of factors like racial prejudice, the Nigerian factor, poor officiating, pathetic preparation, and inadequate support we'd have easily lifted the cup. And all for what, we were promised a measly scholarship. The president was not even able to come and welcome us.
• But he sent his wife and a host of government officials.
• Same difference! Do you think he'd have deigned to so ignore the so-called Super Eagles even if they had managed to get through the qualifying stage?
• I cannot read his mind.
• And do you know how much those boys would have collected even if they had managed to get the fourth position?
• I won't know. Times are lean; even governments are complaining.
• Governments are complaining...which government are you talking about?
• Ours, for example. Apart from Uncle Sam, every other government is putting a cap on the amount of uncollateralized paper money it puts into circulation. But never mind; I am talking generally. Times are hard and I have read that governments are becoming increasingly prudent in allocating shrinking revenues.
• You can't be serious, my brother. Do you know how much a senator makes in Nigeria?
• Ah my sister, we're veering off into dangerous grounds. Politics and sport should not meet. At least that is what FIFA told us, and it looks like they know what they're talking about. Don't you see how fast they made our president withdraw his threat to disband the national team?
• You are dodging my question. Don't you read the papers?
• I do read the papers but I try as much as possible to give politics a wide berth. Not good for my blood pressure.
• I am disappointed. It looks like no one is taking us women seriously at all.
• Don't feel that way, princess...
• You see now how you are patronizing me> You wouldn't call a member of the Super Chickens, sorry Super Eagles, a prince, would you?
• Sorry all around, it's just that it's difficult for me to follow your line of thought. You veered from a president neglecting to welcome your victorious team and started talking about senatorial salaries...
• It looks like you're not listening to me. My question is what are our senators doing to deserve such huge salaries they are paying themselves?
• And I honestly answered you that I don't want to dabble into political issues. I am a writer on sport matters. I leave politics to the experts.
• Okay, what if I tell you that a senator in Nigeria makes 11 million as salary?
• It won't make a darn difference to me. I will say good luck to them.
• You mean to tell me that you don't care how you are governed?
• My sister, I don't want us to continue on this slippery political slope.
• Do you know what a member of the House of Representatives makes?
• I don't know and, in all honesty, I don't care.
• Each member earns 9 million in salary.
• Congratulations to them, But what has that got to do...
• You are really not listening to me!
• God knows that I am doing my best. You and your teammates did your utmost to lift the image of your country. A grateful government announced that it was going to give you guys -- sorry girls -- scholarships up to university level. A lot of people would be dancing in joy. But here you are telling me how much a senator earns. Sorry my sister, but you are not a senator.
• And why do you think that senators are more important than us? Is it because we are common women? Do you mean to tell me that our senators did better to lift the image of the country?
• Simmer down, sister. Try and drink from the pool of patience. You lumped so many intricate arguments together that it's difficult to know how to separate them. Senators are not only men; there are women senators. And like it or not, senators happen to be among the few people with power to determine how much they will pay themselves. That's real power by anyone's definition. Why don't you girls grab the scholarships you've been offered, get some education, and maybe you get to become senators and award yourselves whatever salaries you want. There is a saying that your earn what you learn.
• Now, do you mean to tell me that all our senators are literate?
• You mean formally educated?
• I honestly do not know and I honestly do not care. What I know is that Mr. President was rather generous is awarding you girls the scholarships. It should be the dream of every youth to be given the opportunity to get an education.
• But why were the boys always treated differently? I remember when the Super Chickens last won the African Nations Cup. They were showered with enough Naira that it made many of them dizzy and sick. They had National Honors bestowed on them. They were given flats in the federal capital. They had streets named after them. They had musicians singing their praises. That's just for a common Nations Cup. But we, who went all the way to the finals of a World Cup, were treated like lepers. It is not fair at all.
• Take heart, my sister. Those were days when cash was not our nation's problem, but rather how to spend it. Today, times are lean and I will counsel that you and your mates grab the opportunity and get your education.
• And then?
• And then get your degree and start building your life. At least you girls will have a head start over your friends. You don't have to worry about tuition or upkeep.
• My brother, you keep talking as though you don't live in this country. How many unemployed graduates do you think we have in Nigeria?
• My sister, I don't keep those types of statistics in my head.
• We have people with masters degrees riding Okada (Nigerian slang for motorcycle taxis) on our streets. Here are many Ph.D.s who are touting at motor parks...and you think that we should feel grateful because the president gave us scholarships?
• Our people say that the child that shows gratitude will receive another gift.
• And you think that we will risk our limbs to fly the country's flag so enthusiastically next time?
• I thought your enthusiasm was fired by a passion for the game.
• You thought wrongly. Why shouldn't the thought of fat, bulging envelopes enter our minds when boys are earning in a week what a university professor will never make in a lifetime of teaching?
• The boys are not being paid by governments. They earn their money in the football industry where forces that determine those types of things have ensured that there is enough money to percolate all around. Governments are not world champions when it comes to paying fantastic salaries.
• But they could give senators eleven million naira.
• Governments do not set the salaries of senators; senators set their own salaries. My sister, I urge that you and your teammates count your blessings and grab the offer of scholarships with both hands and start to burn the proverbial midnight candle.
• But don't you think they should have added a small flat to alleviate our accommodation problem? A donation of a few thousand dollars would not have bankrupted the Nigerian economy. Even ordinary Ghana gave its boys US$50,000 each -- just for reaching the Quarter Finals of the World Cup. And you are telling me that it is right for the giant of Africa not to be able to fork over US$100,000 for each of us. We won the Silver Medal, for crying out loud.
• I don't know what you find ordinary in Ghana. Many Nigerians will tell you that they don't consider their country even the Midget of Africa, much less a giant. Ghana gave its players US$20,000, not 50,000.
• Even we would not have minded 20,000. Even 10,000 would have brought out some smiles to our faces.
• Do you mean to tell me that the offer of scholarship did not put smiles on your face?
• Na degree we go chop?
A voice from Africa worth hearing... Please consider a
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About the Author
Femi Akomolafe (see his profile on Swans) is a computer consultant, a writer and social commentator, an avid reader, and a passionate Pan-Africanist who lives in Kasoa, Ghana. Femi is known to hold strong opinions and to express them in the strongest terms possible. As he likes to remind his readers: "As my Yoruba people say: Oju orun teye fo, lai fara gbara. It means that the sky is big enough for all the birds to fly without touching wings." Femi Akomolafe's views, opinions, and thoughts can be accessed on the blog he maintains: http://ekitiparapo.blogspot.com/. (back)