AFCON final: Why I will root for Ivory Coast against Nigeria — Tony Nnadi
(1) As reports streamed in about the many Nigerians who died of heart failure in different locations across Nigeria in the course of their enthusiastic support for the Nigerian Team in Nigeria’s Semifinal Match against South Africa at the AFCON Tournament, February 5, 2024, AND as reports of xenophobic threats to Nigerians South Africa filtered in, (particularly against Nigeria Goalkeeper, Nwabali, who plays for a Club in South Africa), thoughts of what to do avoid or at the least, mitigate the greater disaster that would most likely accompany the outcome of the final match of the Tournament which will be played between Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
(2) Then came the news of the Nigerian Businessmen based in Ivory Coast, High Chief Osondu Nwoye, (an Igboman), who had slumped and died in the course the same semifinal duel in Bouake where the match took place.
(3) A strange surge of sadness flooded my thoughts but that same sadness seemed to have ignited a line of thought that settled the action I was going to take to minimize the disasters that will likely follow the outcome of the final match on Sunday February 11, 2024 between Nigeria and Ivory Coast. That action is this public note that you are reading.
(4) For an indication of why I will root for Ivory Coast, the first thing to note is the fact that whether Nigeria wins or loses the Final Match, there will be consequences including deaths for the Nigerians who may be in the wrong place or whose emotions will trigger the kind of Health-Related Fatalities (Heart Failure) that trailed the Semifinal Match against South Africa.
Of the two dangers identified (ie risk of Heart Failure and of being in the wrong Location), the latter portends much more danger than the former since Ivory Coast which will be the opponent of Nigeria in the Final Match is also the Host Country, as there is a significant Nigerian Population resident in Ivory Coast (mostly Igbo), apart from those who will be visiting Ivory Coast to physically attend the Final Match.
(5) The second and more important reason for this public note is the dishonest attempt of the Proprietors and Promoters of Unworkable Unitary Nigeria, to extract maximum political mileage on the Question of Nigeria’s Unity, from the AFCON Tournament.
Suddenly, Nigerians who are being slaughtered and dislocated all over Nigeria on account of where in Nigeria they come from, are now United Worldwide by Football. These Proprietors and Promoters are the same obdurate champions of Unitarism who for decades, refused to address the Grave Structural Injustices that ultimately precipitated the Union Dispute Nigeria must now address, failing which the rickety Union will collapse unceremoniously.
(6) In framing this response to the aforementioned mischief of Unitary Nigeria, permit me to point out the fact that the Spontaneous Chant of “Obi-Kerere-nke” which erupted in the Bouake Stadium Venue of the Semifinal Match against South Africa at the sight of Nigeria’s Interregnum Vice-President, Kashim Shettima, is a clear Indication that a majority of the ‘Nigerians’ present at that Stadium were Igbo.
Let it also be stated for the benefit of those who may not know, that a majority of those Igbo Spectators are resident in, and are doing business in Ivory Coast. This is an important factor in weighing the risks that may lie ahead for ‘Nigerians’ in Ivory Coast on this February 11, 2024 Match-Date and beyond.
(7) Since the Government Nigeria seeks to make Political Capital on the Question of Unity from the AFCON Football Event, may I then inform the Proprietors of Unitary Nigeria that in addition to the safety concerns already outlined, my Chief-Reason for Rooting for Ivory Coast in this Final Match against Nigeria, is that for the Igbo of today’s Unitary Nigeria, Nigeria was the Monster that came in Genocide against us 1967-1970 when we struggled for Self-Preservation as the breakaway Republic of Biafra; Ivory Coast was one of the few Countries of the World that came to our aid by the recognition of the Republic of Biafra as a Sovereign State.
More importantly, as a part of the Terminal Arrangements for the cessation of Hostilities in that Nigeria-Biafra War early in January 1970, Ivory Coast offered a Most Generous Political Asylum to the then Biafran Head of State, General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
(8) General Ojukwu returned to Nigeria from Ivory Coast only in 1982 upon a Political Arrangement packaged as “Presidential Pardon” by the Government of Shehu Shagari. It might interest us to learn that for these reasons and more, Ivory Coast which received the Igbo Leader and the Igbo People in those difficult times, has had a special place in the heart of the Igboman as Refuge from Death and Persecution.
On the other hand, which in the immediate aftermath of the Genocidal War against the Igbo, unleashed the £20-Pound-Per-Pre-War-Account Decree, the Abandoned Property Decree; the Indigenization Decrees and a series of other Punitive Policies by which it targeted (and still pursues) most viciously, the Economic Strangulation of the Igbo, has to date, remained the Vampire that relishes the blood of the Igbo and a Demon of Torment against the Igbo. Tragically, most of those Punitive Policies against the Eastern Nigeria, (including the Shuttering of the Eastern Economic Corridor) which received Constitutional Imprimatur in 1979, are still sitting in the impregnable fortress of the 1999 Constitution.
(9) To those who know where the skeletons are buried between Nigeria and the Igbo, it surely looks like some kind of sacrilege, to watch Igbo Spectators, cheering Nigeria, the Man-Eating Monster that chased the Igbo away from Igboland, against the Ivory Coast that came to the aid of the Igbo in Nigeria’s War of Genocide against the Igbo AND thereafter offered the Igbo and their Leader, a place of Refuge from Nigeria’s unending War against the Igbo, (the most recent escalation being the 2023 Presidential Election which was clearly won by a Igboman, Peter Obi).
(10) Whatever vacuous reasons anyone may want to offer, including political maneuvering to 2027, it will be a most grotesque sight, to watch Peter Obi and his Dot-In-Circle Igbo Cotravelers, cheering Nigeria against Ivory Coast in the Final Match of AFCON 2024.
Ikemba will certainly be turning in his as folly is coronated king amongst the Igbo in far away Abidjan. So will his generous host, the then President of Ivory Coast Compatriot Felix Houphet Boigny. Let those who wish to learn more research what President Houphet Boigny wrote about Ojukwu and the Igbo in his Autobiography.
Perhaps if the Igbo Businessman who slumped and died in Ivory Coast in the heat of rooting for Nigeria against South Africa, February 5, 2024, knew about all these, he probably would have invested his ‘patriotic’ emotions differently. It is hoped that those from the Dot-In-Circle Territory of Nigeria will guard their hearts and channel their ‘patriotic’ emotions for appropriately.
Tony Nnadi, who as a three-year-old survivor of the Nigerian Genocide against Biafra in January 1970; and who worked with Ikemba in his later years, in the search for answers to both the Nigerian Question and the Igbo component of that Question, will not join the rest of Nigeria’s 1967 Alliance, to Cheer Nigeria against Ivory Coast. I will root for Ivory Coast in this Match for the reasons I have outlined. That is the least I can do to show appreciation to the generosity of Ivory Coast to me, my People and our departed leader.
Let those who will demand Patriotism from all ‘Nigerians’ first ask and answer amongst themselves: “What is Nigeria?”
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Tony Nnadi Esq.
February 11, 2024.