By Ademola Olarewaju
Growing up, many of us remember being enthralled with the magical No. 9 jersey player for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. In the Tunisia ’94 semi-final, Rashidi Yekini and Joel Tiehi of Cote d’Ivoire were tied on goals, and whichever nation went into the finals between Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire would likely produce the highest goal scorer of the tournament. Nigeria progressed, and despite not getting a goal in the final match against Zambia, Rashidi Yekini‘s place in the memories of his country was forever cemented.
Yekini died last month, and as always, government has emerged the chief culprit in his death for negligence. The implication is that despite lack of electricity, bad roads, insurgent threats in the north by Boko Haram and other challenges, someone in government (no one ever says who exactly) should have remembered Yekini enough to take care of him forever.
Forget that the media forgot him even while he yet lived. Forget that the generation which grew up watching him are either making money or in the process of it. Forget that his former teammates are mostly hired as coaches or commentators somewhere. Government is the ‘usual suspect’ in cases like this and while the news was ‘news’, many took the government to the cleaners.
Yekini’s sad death once again calls to mind our systemic problems as a nation: we often pass the buck and we only seem to celebrate dead heroes. Today, we have more money in sports than ever, yet no one seemed to remember Yekini. Till he died, no journalist ever thought to interview him and record his life for posterity. Till he died, nobody ever thought to ask and record whatever it was that he was shouting manically with outstretched hands in the Bulgarian goalpost at USA ’94. How much more remembering to give him monetary gifts because you see, we all expect government to do it all.
It is becoming all too easy to blame government for everything; from Yekini’s death to any man’s inability to impregnate his wife. The use of government as scapegoat has imbued us with a strong sense of dissociation from situations we can and should confront.
True power, in any democracy, starts with people who take the trouble and serve their community. We see a dead body and pass by without a second glance. Roads are bad and no one even takes the time to write to newspaper houses about it or organise community representative teams to visit the local council leaders. If no one but the ‘corrupt’ is interested in attending street meetings on sanitation days, while the rest of us stay indoors tweeting, how will the corrupt not emerge as community leaders?
Our attitude of nonchalance is sadly systemic, and until we change things from the root upwards, our society may continue to produce governments of nonchalance; because as Joseph de Maistre once said: “Every nation gets the leaders it deserves”. Leadership emanates from within the followers and is a reflection of it. Our leaders are a reflection of our system and embody the worst and best in us.
It is futile praising the dead if we do not remember them when they are alive. We still have many living heroes of our country in every field of human endeavour. Their experience is ours to preserve while their life is to be emulated.
Source: Daily Times