AFCON viewing right: Shame of a nation

AFCON 2013 After watching Cyril Stober and his panel of analysts at one of the weekly Tuesday-Live programmes on the Nigeria Television Authority, a friend who watched the programme simultaneously phoned me and asked rhetorically, “So, an average Nigerian won’t get to see live pictures from the 29th African Cup of Nations in South Africa on an indigenous television station – where Nigeria is a major force and participant?” Promptly, I replied him, “What more can you get in a land where absurdities thrive?”

But wait a minute! How on earth has the mighty fallen and descended to this ludicrous stage? By the way, who plunged Nigeria into this mess? These are questions, among others, that a majority of the people cannot answer with all modesty and honesty.

The 29th edition of the AFCON, apparently the biggest sporting event on the continent, is underway already with Nigeria in firm participation. But back home, an average Nigerian has been sardonically denied the opportunity to watch the Super Eagles take on other countries. No thanks to the failure of government and lackadaisical approach of some administrators who are just there for their hedonistic benefit and pecuniary affluence.

It is a known fact that football is the common language every Nigerian speaks and it’s apparently the only unifying factor in the Nigerian system. An average septuagenarian can easily recall the names of some footballers but may never know the head of the Nigerian Sports Commission or even the Deputy President of the Senate.

Having listened to several analyses on why Nigerians won’t get to watch their darling Super Eagles and the entire Nations Cup via their preferred indigenous television stations, I came to the surreptitious conclusion that they were all saying the same thing with different mouths and from different perspectives. The bottom line is, Nigerians are not watching the Nations Cup live from their terrestrial stations. Smacks of crass lugubriousity!

The reasons postulated were that the Confederation of African Football solely handed over the televising right to a company in South Africa (SportsFive) which is expected to link up with other participating or interested countries for expansive transmission worldwide. The company was reported to have demanded six million Euros from their Nigerian counterparts through the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria, before they’ll grant them the indulgence to beam the soccer fiesta live on terrestrial stations. BON was said to have negotiated the “astronomic” price to 3million Euros but the company insisted and stood their ground. The administrators too couldn’t shift their ground as well, so it became a battle between two elephants and at the end of the day the grass (the average Nigerian) bears the brunt. In one of the fora, the question raised by an analyst was that, “how can the same company charge Ghana 1.5 million Euros and then ask Nigeria to pay 6million Euros?” This question is not just sick in content but also warped in comparison! How can anybody be thinking of Ghana whose population is not even up to the population of Lagos state alone (with all due respect) and comparing it to a country with a staggering population of 160million?

The fact is, Nigeria is a strategic market for any investor or market to thrive. There’s simply no logic they can tender to Nigerians for not beaming the competition live to Nigerians who don’t have easy access to DSTV – which obviously is the only remedy.

Furthermore, it is not just the brunt of high transmission charges that have thronged Nigerians into the state of utter bewilderment and profound frustration; our football administrators also didn’t deem it fit to put the right peg into the right hole at the right time. How can you go bidding for transmission rights a few weeks before the competition when others started queuing up immediately after the last edition in Angola? It is often said that “no man goes to the stream early and fetches dirty water”. It’s all a business affair. You don’t come late and expect the best of the deals! It is either you get crumbs or you’re plunged into a tight corner where you’d lose. It is not the businessmen in SportsFive that have brought pains to the Nigerian football-loving people rather it is the failure of government and its administrators! “Businessmen will forever remain son of bitch” as J.F. Kennedy was once quoted to have said. That’s why Roman Abrahamovich, the Chelsea FC of England owner could whimsically dismiss nine coaches in eight years for all he cares – it is business!

Sincerely, it is quite painful to see how the joy, support, passion and enthusiasm of an average Nigerian soccer faithful have been reduced to nothing. Coincidentally, as if the National Orientation Agency foresaw this imbroglio that it staged a campaign nationwide a day before the kickoff of the Nations Cup, with the theme “Do the right thing”. Our football administrators’ inability to do the right thing at the right time has brought another untold pains to Nigerians. “Tell it not in Gath and publish it not on the pages of Askeleon” that Nigerians are paying through their nose to catch a glimpse of a competition that is played on their own continental soil.

Do you know how much each public viewing centre rakes in from the sale of tickets for each match? Multiply it by the total number of matches (32). Sum them up nationwide and then tell me why six million Euros became a herculean task for the acclaimed giant of Africa? But a National Sports Commission secretary once told Nigerians last year January that they spent millions of naira to open a Facebook account for the commission. We are not all fools in this country!

What more can we ask from a nation where N28m could be spent to renovate 26 toilets? What more can we ask from a nation where football administrators just convene at the Glass House to collect allocations without  doing the right thing at the right time? What more can we ask from a country where a mere Local Government Chairman has the capacity to single-handedly sponsor the Nations Cup from his profligate affluence? What more can we ask from a nation that parades itself as the giant of Africa? What more can we ask? And how much is much? By the way, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, I am told, is just by the corner.

•Chukwu, ex-editor-in-chief, Psychology Press Organisation, University of Ibadan, [email protected] 08025717782 via Punch

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