SUNDAY NOTEBOOK | Of a people, Nsukka stadium and Camp Nou, by Felix Oguejiofor Abugu



There is the story of how the Catalonians, to circumvent the ban placed by the Spanish King on political gathering in their independence-seeking region of Spain, used the Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona stadium, to hold heir solidarity meetings. As the story goes, the Football Club (FC) and its ‘five star’ stadium were to become the symbols of the sociopolitical and cultural strengths and solidarity of the Catalonian people, so much so that till this day, Camp Nou and FC Barcelona represent to the Catalonians much more than a stadium and a football club: they are their life!

The Nsukka Cultural Zone in Enugu State isn’t about to break away from Nigeria or, for that matter, Enugu State (although we may not mind Adada State). But the ultramodern, 5000-capacity township stadium built by the Governor Ifeanyi Administration in the university town will, also be useful to Nsukka in the context of its socioeconomic and political relations in Enugu State.

In political Nigeria where group think, often driven by sociocultural consanguinity and prebendalism, is fashionable, the Ugwuanyi stadium (if you permit me to call it that) will not only serve as ‘a nest of champions’ (to borrow from Akwa Ibom) for Ndi Nsukka but also as their house of  sociocultural and political solidarity (which the zone will need aplenty in Enugu State, going forward), and the melting pot of their collective aspirations in post-Ugwuanyi politics of Enugu State politics.

One sees the stadium playing its expected unifying role in the life of Nsukka in several ways. First is through inter-local government sports competitions. From inter-house to inter-school to inter-community to inter-local government competitions, sporting activities have always served as an effective means of uniting people, whether people of the same community or of different nationalities. Without doubt, a well-organised programme, for example, of competition among the six local government areas that make up the cultural zone, starting with preliminaries and or play-offs at the various community levels, and culminating in the finals at the stadium, will trigger a new spirit of brotherly competition and unity that Nsukka needs to steel itself for the post-Ugwuanyi sociopolitical challenges in Enugu. As a suggestion, Nsukka could compete for a Charles Abangwu (Nsukka’s, nay Wawa’s, political pathfinder) Cup, for instance.

2) Cultural festival is another way. It goes without saying that an annual Nsukka Cultural Festival, staged at the new ultramodern Nsukka township stadium will not only be another unifying event but also an opportunity to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Nsukka – its foods and drinks, agricultural produce, marriage rites and bridal morality, masquerades, etc – to the world as a tourist attraction. Like Camp Nou, the stadium at Nsukka will become the clearing house for the people’s collective aspirations and the incubator of their charter of demands on the government of the day in Enugu, and on the central government in respect of Nsukka’s rights as the host of UNN.

3) More importantly, the new stadium will lead to the development of club football and other sporting activities in the cultural zone. As is widely known, since the days of Benjamin Ugwu (aka Surugede), the Aku, Igbo-Etiti-born Rangers player of yore, Nsukka hasn’t exactly had another good run in either the local or international soccer-playing circuit. The new stadium is coming as a reminder that Nsukka needs to develop club football in the cultural zone as a path to providing the opportunity for the zone’s talents to be discovered and head-hunted by big clubs around the country and the world at large.

Neither has Nsukka had any good runs in the fields of athletics, basket and or volley ball, gymnastics and cycling, among several other sports. What it all means, in essence, is that the new Nsukka township stadium is an idea whose time has come, a promise fulfilled, an added impetus to elevated political, cultural and sporting activities in Nsukkaland and, in a very practical sense, a revolution set afoot in a zone that had hitherto been accused of, even derided for, not reaching inside of itself for that inner strength that often propels the individual or group to dare to touch the sky.

It is not clear why Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi decided on a stadium for Nsukka (a similar project is ongoing in the Oji River axis of the State). One belongs to a WhatsApp group where the idea of the stadium, when it was first mooted, was hotly debated by group members who come from different parts of the cultural zone. While some said it was not a wise decision to build another stadium in Nsukka given that there is already one at the UNN, some (quite many, actually) said the stadium, as conceived by the Ugwuanyi Administration, was a very good idea, at least because Nsukka couldn’t really hope to put the UNN stadium to as much use as it might desire to since it didn’t own it. Or would the UNN allow its stadium to act as Nsukka’s Camp Nou?).

Even as one steps back to take a second look at the glittering edifice, one is still constrained to ask the question: indeed, why did Governor Ugwuanyi decide on a stadium for Nsukka? Now, it is just possible that his reason for it is as simple as it is obvious: to promote zonal sporting activities in the State. And yet, if the foregoing arguments proposing other reasons are anything to go by, it, then, means that the decision was informed by other dimensions of use to which even Nsukka’s guardian angels had wanted the stadium to be put and for which they had to influence Ugwuanyi and Team’s decision on the matter, than merely for the sporting activities it is meant to promote. For, even heaven knows that Nsukka has to be better organised than it currently is, to be able to effectively, not to say productively, participate in the politics of Enugu State post-Ugwuanyi.

In Nigeria’s turn-by-turn politics, (it is especially so in Enugu), it is all so tempting – in fact easy – for a people from among whom say a Governor comes, to take things for granted. Should a people who produced the Governor assume that the Governor knows everything and, therefore, does not need to be further engaged by his people as to their more pressing collective needs? One does not know whether the people of Aguleri lined up to present immediate past Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra with a charter of demands. But what cannot be denied is that Obiano didn’t exactly have any acrimonious relationship with his people and the result is there for all to see.

On the other hand, one has, as a journalist, been told a countless number of times by authoritative sources in government that not for once, in all of seven going to eight years, has any group of persons from one’s Igbo-Eze North LGA, for instance, asked the government to execute a community project – road, water, or schools that will serve the need of the majority. Every request has always been about favours for self and family, whereas other groups outside of Nsukka have reportedly engaged the government more altruistically.

Which brings us again to the chicken and egg question: is it that our Moses didn’t know us or that we turned our back on him? Is it that Ugwuanyi hates Nsukka (can one actually hate himself?) or that we failed to provide him with the pillar of support – and strength – he sorely needed to project strength from home and confront the challenges of governance with greater confidence? Isn’t it possible that we, not our stars, are the problem? But no matter. This, perhaps, is a subject of debate for another day…

Suffice it to say that Nsukka can’t afford to be at war with itself again post-Ugwuanyi. Its relationship with the incoming Enugu State government must be one defined by constructive engagement and collective bargaining for the common good. We are unlikely to still enjoy the luxury of eating our cake and having it! So, going forward, let the spirit of Camp Nou reign in Nsukka.





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