Nigeria plays host to the
world once again at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo and as we all
look forward to the game I can only just wonder whether we are really
prepared for it.
After the fiasco that were the
games against Algeria and South Africa and then the outright
organisational mayhem that characterised the game against Cameroon,
one has to wonder what fate befalls Nigerians in Uyo on Saturday,
October 7.
On this page three weeks ago I
cited the brutality of the security operatives on journalists that
covered the game on September 1.
But it was not just the
journalists that suffered, but the fans too, whether fee paying or
not, the fans also got on the other side of security operatives
trained for combat and anti terrorism, but certainly not sporting
events.
But after all the complaints
on social and traditional media, would we have a better organisation
of this game?
In my other piece, I wrote,
“Maybe it is time to boycott the Super Eagles” but can we really
do that? Since boycotting the Super Eagles is not an option, then I
ask if we can really get it right, off the pitch next Saturday?
We all know the last
experience was terrible for almost every one who attended, especially
the journalists who couldn’t do their jobs because mobile network
signals were jammed, then a lot of them could not attend the post
match press conference and most of all they were harassed and in some
cases beaten up and teargassed by security operatives, but that is
not what these 7 minutes are about.
For the fans, it is a mystery
how they still turn out to watch the Eagles play, whether in Abuja,
Kano, Kaduna or Port Harcourt as they are treated as common criminals
by those who should do better.
Just one gate was opened to
fans on match day, in spite of the fact that the Uyo stadium had 30
emergency exits and the queues were as long as up to 2 kilometers at
some point before the game
The police men on duty even
went as far as flogging them and in some cases using teargas.
And it is not just an Uyo,
Calabar, Kaduna or Port Harcourt thing. It is a Nigerian thing
because our people are not trained for certain situations.
In Abuja, many years back, I
traveled to watch the game between Nigeria and Argentina and my
cousin who lives and works there told me he needed to take his son to
a real football game.
According to him, the only
football his son knew at that time was on Play Station so I got
tickets for him, but I was shocked when he called me up at half time
very angry and almost swearing not to ever have anything to do with
Nigerian football.
He said just as he was walking
in through one of the gates, the police men on duty suddenly gave an
instruction which was not adhered to because it was getting close to
kick off and fans were eager to get in.
Suddenly, they released
teargas into the air to send the fans back rather than open the gate
which they had locked on ticket holding fans.
He had already gone through
the gates at that time but felt the full force of the tear gas in the
air.
He said his eyes were red and
his son had been crying ever since.
This happened in Abuja
How
we can organise these games better
In Lolade Adewuyi’s piece
for the Guardian on September 15 titled, Uyo- Yaounde, A tale of two
cities, he compared the organisational chaos the game in Uyo was with
Yaounde, just 4 days later.
As the former editor of
GoalNigeria.com pointed out, the stadium in Uyo lacked seat numbers
and a dedicated media tribune so VIP ticket holders and journalists
jostled for seats on match day, but you can click here to read his submissions.
What can we do to make life
better for Nigerians on Saturday in Uyo?
Get
trained personnel:
I think it
is not too late to train personnel to provide security and logistics
at the stadium. A one week training will not be too little too late.
First,
bringing in operatives of the Department of State Security for a
football match makes it seem like a there is more to it than meets
the eye. Gun-totting
police men, Special Anti Robbery
Squad
and even combat soldiers are not pictures you want to see at the
stadium and most of all anywhere
near the pitch. An
overkill for a sporting event when Nigeria is not a Police State.

Trained
stewards with the police acting as outside perimeter, hardly ever
coming into play. These police must also be trained for the
situation, not those that will open tear gas canisters
at the slightest provocation.
Spectators
coming to watch the game must feel comfortable going in, not
expecting to be beaten up by the very people supposed to protect
them.
Because
of the chaos last time, I lost my smart phone in a scuffle with DSS
operatives and I was not the only one. Andrew Randa of supersport.com
also lost his tablet in a previous Super Eagles game because of the
same confusion.
These are not stories we want to hear. The
journalists have told their stories, but who
knows the woes the fans have to tell?
Searching for network in Uyo. Pic by Tunde Bello
WIFI
and mobile phone black out must stop:
It
is a regular feature in Nigeria, at least we have experienced it in
Abuja, Port Harcourt and now Uyo that as soon as the governor of the
state arrives, mobile phone signals are scrambled. Wow! In a stadium?
During a football match?
Out
there in the west, or in the
civilised world as some Nigerians would want to say, many
sporting events grant free wifi access at games.
Out
there the media are given passwords to wifi as soon as they show
their accreditation tags but in Nigeria signals are blocked, shutting
out access to communication,
even when you come with your
own communication facilities to aide your job.
The
sad part is that advertisers cannot capitalise on the game for any
campaign on social media because signals
are blocked and most of all
journalists cannot even work while at the stadium too.
Such
scenarios as fans posting their photos on twitter with a hashtag of
the sponsors cannot be achieved because signals do
not exist.
Social
media enhancers, bloggers, website editors and journalists cannot
work because of these
conditions.
Can
we have access to our mobile phone networks at the stadium on
Saturday?
This
is one aspect I expect the NFF to sit with sponsors, AITEO and the
Akwa Ibom State government to sort out.

Media
Accreditation, post match meeting and mixed zone:
This
has been shambles since the Eagles games moved to Uyo and it is
because there has not been proper coordination between the NFF
Director of Communications and the host state officials.

With Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez at the mixed zone in Spain. 
The
importance of the mixed zone can never be overemphasized. The media
should have unrestricted access to it as long as the tags they
wear grant them permission to be there.
The
media should have unrestricted access to the dressing rooms of the
players, as long as the tags they wear grant them permission to be
there, but the tags become worthless if the combat policemen on duty
see the media as security threat to the players who even need the
media presence more than police presence.
The
truth is that games do not come bigger than what we expect in Uyo on
Saturday and we would expect the Eagles to win on the pitch while the
fans and all watching get a good experience too.
If
the press cannot do their job then the aim of traveling hundreds of
kilometers to Uyo would also be defeated.
I
saw the efforts of Amaju Pinnick and Christian Emeruwa to stop the
DSS from bullying innocent people on September 1, making me
understand that the Nigeria Football Federation really want things to
run
smoothly so this
is the time to act (If they
have not acted already).
There
should be a lot of sensitizing going on now between Federation
officials and members of the Akwa Ibom State Local Organising
Committee.
The
NFF Director of Communications should also at this time be making
moves to ensure the journalists on duty can actually work on match
day without hindrances,
while we expect the NFF security committee to liaise with the home
security team to ensure a hitch free game.
The
fans also would love to stroll inside the stadium without harassment.
Is
Uyo ready to host the world on Saturday? We really hope so, yes we
do!

Photo taken by me at the entrance dressing room of a La Liga Stadium 

With Valencia’s Montoya at the mixed zone in Spain. Can’t happen in Nigeria. The police will shoot me in the head

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