The 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted for the first time by an African nation has come and gone with a number of firsts that are noteworthy. As the host nation, South Africa achieved the first record when the Bafana Bafana scored the first goal of the tournament. So the record is that the first African nation to host the World Cup scored the first goal of the tournament! Germany also achieved the record of being the first nation in the history of the World Cup to win the Bronze medal back-to-back! I stand to be corrected, but I suspect that Italy may also have achieved the record of being the first defending champion to both lose its opening game and be eliminated in the first round.
The biggest record is that the first World Cup hosted by an African nation produced a first-time winner – Spain! Above all these records is the fact that South Africa made all of us proud by showing the world that Africa is not only about wars, sit-tight leaders, corruption, poverty and disease. The overwhelming passion that football continues to generate never ceases to amaze me because it wasn’t only the national teams that qualified for the South African World Cup that played the just-concluded tournament- the truth is that the rest of the world actively participated as we protested bad officiating such as the referee who denied the USA a much-needed winning goal, rejoiced with winners and mourned with losers like Ghana who bravely soldiered on as Africa’s last hope and were only stopped from making it into the quarter finals by the cross-bar of ill-luck!
However, beyond sports and competition per se, one of the most important features of events like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup is the global platform that they provide for the representatives of the various competing nations to showcase their individual and collective patriotism. Apart from military activities, I doubt if there’s any other event that allows individuals to so totally and passionately take ownership of the interest of their nations and give so much to advance their nations’ competitiveness and success as Olympics and FIFA events! A Brazilian player named Maicon scored his country’s first goal in their first game and rather than rejoice, he burst into tears obviously overwhelmed by his patriotic fervor. Maicon didn’t weep merely because he scored a World Cup goal, I believe he wept more at the joy of scoring for a nation he loves so much! In Landon Donovan’s interview after he scored the last-minute goal against Algeria that propelled the USA into the second round, when asked how his team was able to put the bad officiating it suffered behind it so soon, he demonstrated ostentatious patriotism when he replied that ‘We Americans don’t give up!’ What about the young Ghanaian players? They played every game with the consciousness that they were representatives of a nation that had placed total faith in their ability to make it proud-and they evidently gave their very best!
The implication of national teams whose players individually and collectively demonstrate remarkably higher levels of patriotism frequently out-playing and out-performing less patriotic national teams is that there’s a direct relationship between nation-building and the level of individual and collective patriotism that is generated amongst citizens on the one hand and between the citizens’ level of patriotism and the level of national competitiveness on the other hand! The implication of this relationship is that a nation that’s lacking in nation-building invariably undermines the patriotism of its citizens by not giving them a nation they can truly call theirs with absolute conviction and the abiding pride of belonging thereto. And, needless to say, citizens who lack a certain level of patriotism cannot afford the depth of ownership and passion needed to champion the cause of the nation as the harbingers of national competitiveness on the international arena. This means that there’s a correlation between a nation’s lack of national competitiveness and its failure at nation-building. This also means that nation-building is at the root of both national development and national competitiveness.
Furthermore, this means that a nation best demonstrates its commitment to national development and competitiveness by designing and developing a specific nation-building strategy that can optimally enable it to achieve these two strategic goals. It’s imperative to enter a caveat here to the effect that while nations are free to play politics to any extent, the greatest disservice that any nation can do itself is to allow its nation-building strategy to be politicized to any degree! The corollary is that it’s both self-deceiving and self-defeating for a nation to pursue national and international competitiveness while neglecting nation-building as this amounts to attempting to reap where it has not sown.
While it’s no longer news that Nigeria’s Super Eagles performed so woefully in the recently-concluded World Cup that President Goodluck Jonathan who found their bad luck most unacceptable was compelled to take some tough decisions which he’s since rescinded, the bigger questions we should sincerely ponder are these – what is Nigeria’s nation-building strategy? If Nigeria does indeed have a nation-building strategy, how much do Nigerians know their nation-building strategy? To what extent have the Super Eagles and our other national representatives in international events been given a country they are proud to call their own with all their hearts as to be willing to do their utmost best to ensure its success?
Is the woeful performance of the Super Eagles and our other national representatives in international events not an accurate reflection of the cumulative effect of the fifty years we’ve wasted on the crudest and most corrupt politics without any meaningful investment in nation-building? When will genuine nation-building become the focus of our politics and nationhood? How much worse will our uncompetitiveness get before we’ll recognize the solemn truth that a nation must be built and that it takes the right nation-building strategy to build any desired nation?