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#EndSARS: Would A Potential Super Eagles Boycott Be ‘Unpatriotic’?

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Should John Ogu have backtracked on his appeal to Nigeria’s stars to refuse participating in November’s Afcon qualifiers vs Sierra Leone? 

Comment & Opinion 

After years of stories surfacing on social media and personal experiences shared among family, friends and colleagues, something finally snapped in Nigerian millennials in early October.

Reports of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) allegedly killing a young citizen in Ugheli, Delta State and taking his car on October 3 led to an outpouring of outrage by the public.

This prompted Douglas Jack Agu, the Nigerian artiste popularly known as Runtown, to call for a protest on October 8 in Lagos against the unit of the Nigeria Police Force allegedly responsible for offences against the population.

Supported by Folarin Falana, better known as Falz, the demand was simple: End SARS, definitively this time.

This has gone long enough and now we MUST take action! I’ll be leading a protest to #ENDSARS on Thursday, October 8th 2020.

They MUST listen to us, they MUST make/effect REAL and VISIBLE changes! Empty promises won’t work this time!!!— Runtown (@iRuntown) October 4, 2020 

Nigeria internationals weren’t left out, with players abroad putting their influence on their social media to use by tweeting in support of the peaceful protests. Indeed, currently unattached Super Eagles midfielder John Ogu was on the ground, actively participating by joining the plethora of demonstrators in Lagos.

This continued until the events of October 20, where the military allegedly fired live rounds at protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate.

Odion Ighalo, former Nigeria international, condemned the incident immediately after Manchester United defeated Paris-Saint Germain, labelling the Nigerian government ‘a shame to the world’ in an impassioned 90-second video on the Parc des Princes turf.

Pray for NIGERIA??✊? pic.twitter.com/V7i4Ngs9qd — Odion Jude Ighalo (@ighalojude) October 20, 2020 

Following the denials from the powers that be, Ogu, still representing the national team despite being uninvolved lately, spoke to BBC World Service radio on October 23, beseeching his colleagues to boycott Nigeria’s pair of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers with Sierra Leone in November.

“What is the point in representing the country if this is what the politicians, the people we’re representing, can do to us?” Ogu told the World Football show on Friday. “I feel like this is the best thing to do right now until they get back to their senses and listen to us.

“We want a good government, the police brutality to stop, we want the SARS to stop, we want the killings to stop, we want good laws, we want job opportunities. It’s just crazy.

He continued: “I believe most of my colleagues understand where I am coming from, I wish we can do this. There are games coming up and if we boycott these games I’m sure they will know we’ve made a statement.

“I haven’t really spoken to any of my teammates about this. They feel for the people here, their loved ones, those that have died. I’m sure the players are aware.”

#EndSarsNow #EndBadGovernmentinNIGERIA #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria #EndSWAT #SarsMustGo pic.twitter.com/dOy0lC3OJ2 — John Ogu (@ogujohnugo) October 18, 2020 

Ogu’s initial plea to boycott the game vs the Leone Stars was understandable given the circumstances, and there was hope among some supporters that the players had the firmness to indeed make a statement, even though it remained to be seen whether the government would respond to such an eye-opening decision.

Reacting to the 32-year-old’s frank view, an NFF official speaking to the Guardian Nigeria criticised the midfielder, calling him ‘unpatriotic’ for even bringing up the ‘nonsense’ suggestion. He finished by stating the midfield man’s pleas stem from the fact he’s now on the periphery of the national team.

The midfielder subsequently reversed his initial standpoint, with a Twitter post on Wednesday reflecting his change of heart.

“I want to sincerely apologise to Nigerians, the Nigerian Football Federation and the players of the Super Eagles, both past and present and even those dreaming to wear the green and white jersey that I wore with great pride and honour,” the statement read.

“My comments about the Super Eagles boycotting the Afcon qualifiers was said in the heat of the moment from a place of pain, frustration and anger for the shooting of harmless, flag carrying and national anthem singing Nigerians, at the Lekki toll gate.

“I wish that my comments that were spoken out of anger and pain would not cause more division in our football and even at a time such as this that the nation needs to pull together. Thank you.”

GOD BLESS NIGERIA ??. pic.twitter.com/vgcXpoCmN6— John Ogu (@ogujohnugo) October 28, 2020

The exact reasons behind Ogu’s u-turn may not be entirely clear, but was it justifiable that accusations of a lack of patriotism were aimed at the midfielder?

He could have been defended for being passionate about this cause, about the well-being of his compatriots, and for sticking fervently to his beliefs. 

Surely, he didn’t need to apologise for his emotions running high…this is what being human is about, after all, isn’t it?

It also appears unfair to suggest that Ogu’s prior message to the Super Eagles was borne out of his recent lack of involvement. The midfielder, like many Nigerians, wants what’s best for the country and it could be argued that he was actually the patriotic one, given his initial calls for the Nigeria team to present a united front.

At the time of writing, boycotting November’s pair of games seems to be on ice, unless there’s a quick turn of events in the coming days.

The upshot of refusing to turn up against the nation currently in third spot in Group L would have meant the points were awarded to the Leone Stars. Given that Gernot Rohr’s men currently sit atop the standings, after victories over Benin and Lesotho, six points going Sierra Leone’s way was going to put the African giants in a position where securing victories in their final games was imperative.

Also, there may have been far-reaching sanctions imposed by the Confederation of African Football if the three-time African champions were uninvolved next month, but given the context, perhaps it could have been a hit worth taking.

It’s not business as usual, and the former Hapoel Be’er Sheva player wanted his colleagues in the national team to reflect this by showing unity when, for the first time in ages, young citizens made themselves heard during the protests. His initial emotive comments had been a breath of fresh air.

After forthright thoughts on social media, it was time to actually walk the talk by taking a stand. It wasn’t going to imply Ogu and his teammates are ‘unpatriotic’, rather it meant they’d be empathetic human beings who truly understand why their boycott makes them heroes for doing the bare minimum in speaking up against the plight of their countrymen.

source:- goal

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