Cristiano Ronaldo loves to score goals. He believes unapologetically that his sole purpose on any pitch is to do precisely that. He rates himself as the best player of all times without any guilt of arrogance. Nigerians love to shine and rock. We boastfully call ourselves the ‘Giant of Africa’ and we delight in showing off everywhere unashamedly even in the midst of our cacophony of woes and worsening hopelessness that is engulfing the citizens.
This imperfect simile of unapologetic self-pride is the only adaptive correlation that could be deduced between the attitude of the enigmatic football maestro called Ronaldo and the national character of the hugely problematic nation that prides itself as the giant of Africa.
No single one of Nigeria’s political leaders to state the obvious has ever put up even a quarter of Ronaldo’s level of sacrifice, discipline, and dedication into their leadership craft. If they had dutifully approached their political career with half of CR7’s passion and dedication to his game, Nigeria would by now have become one of the top nations of the world today.
In recognition of his talent and sterling qualities which continue to fetch him a glorious and trophies-laden career, Ronaldo received the honour of wearing Portugal elite National Team’s captain’s band. He has proudly worn the captain armbands on countless occasions, but none of those captain armbands had caught global attention like the one he wore during Portugal’s match with Serbia on March 28, 2021.
For those who are oblivious to the story, let me take a moment to bring you up to speed. Portugal and Serbia were playing a European cup qualifier and Serbia had come from 2 goals down to level the score at 2 goals apiece. Portugal is the defending champion, so Portugal wants to qualify out of the group stage easily by winning that match in which they already threw away two goals advantage. It was few minutes to the end of the match and Ronaldo was still hoping for victory. The ball finds Ronaldo suddenly in a good position, he dribbles to get a vintage sight on goal and fired a powerful shot towards the goal post. The ball went fast beyond the keeper and totally crossed the line before a Serbian defender managed to reach it and clear it out. The referee declared it was not a goal. Portugal missed the opportunity of winning the match. Ronaldo missed the opportunity to extend history by scoring yet another goal. He became livid with rage and stormed out of the pitch. As he was leaving, he pulled out his captain armband and threw it on the floor. The referee promptly issued him a yellow card almost as the game was coming to an end.
The poor armband laid on the ground striped of its honour, pride, and dignity for a while. It didn’t commit any crime, the referee did. But it was the armband that got thrown away in protest. Nigeria today is like Ronaldo’s armband on the floor. The center referee is President Muhammadu Buhari. The linesmen are the ministers and the heads of the MDAs, the governors, the lawmakers, the judiciary, and the top civil servants. They don’t like any form of protest to highlight their errors to them. They have the military and security forces as their yellow and red cards.
Hypothetically, Ronaldo represents everyone agitating for restructuring in whatever shape or form in Nigeria. He represents everyone angry with the evil system of corruption, nepotism, tribalism, mediocrity, using religion to gain undue advantage, poor leadership, waste, etc that is denying Nigeria the chance to win.
What happened to Ronaldo’s captain armband, in the end, was very interesting and should inspire everyone who still believes in Nigeria’s capacity to become one of the best countries on earth.
After all the key actors of the plot have gone away from the Serbian stadium, leaving only the discarded armband helplessly on the pitch, something interesting happened. A firefighter by the name Djordje Vukicevic quietly entered the pitch, picked up the armband, and took it to those who truly understand its great value to redeem.
The armband was placed on humanitarian auction to raise money which will be used to fund the treatment of a six-month-old Serbian boy who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. Just within a few days later, the rejected armband had become a jewel that could be priced in hefty sum and could bring hope to a dying lad.
Beaming with infectious excitement after the auction, the partner of Djordje in the armband redemption plan, Jovan Simic declared on Twitter that “The humanitarian auction for Cristiano Ronaldo’s armband has just ended at the brilliant figure of 7.5 million dinars.” Jovan Simic is the founder of the ‘Together for Life’ charity. 7.5 million Serbian dinars is 64,000 Euros.
Nigeria can be rescued and saved. The actors needed to do this national redemption assignment are not so many as most Nigerians always think. That wrong mentality that few is too little is the reason the country continues to be held down by forces of underdevelopment who have been left unchallenged by the moral but docile majority all these years.
All we need to save Nigeria are ordinary men like Djordje Vukicevic who know the true value, purpose, and destiny of Nigeria and are ready and willing to pick her up from the ground where she has been abandoned to wallow. Until the Djordjes of Nigeria arises, this armband will forever stand the risk of never knowing or tasting glory again. Do we still have people like Djordje in this country? History beckons.