The shocking passing of Olanrewaju Abdul-Ganiu Fasasi, known as Sound Sultan, was a rather cruel reminder that life can be mercurial. Being one of the pioneers of home-grown hip hop, he started a fire that was passed down to today’s generation of musicians. One of his interests was basketball, a sport he had genuine passion for, actively played, and intermittently organised face-offs with his celebrity friends. He took it a notch higher by putting his money where his good heart was by acquiring a stake in the Lagos Islanders, a Lagos-based basketball club founded in 1984. He would have been proud of what D’Tigers achieved in recent times.
Beating the Number One
In a most ironic twist of fate, Sound Sultan passed on the same day Mike Brown’s men defeated the USA’s men national basketball team, making them the first African team to achieve such a feat. Many people didn’t understand why basketball heads at home were so hyped about it – to beat the number one ranked FIBA team means you beat those considered as the gold standard. We are talking about players from the biggest basketball franchises in the world, members of all-star teams, multiple MVPs and championship rings. Kevin Durant’s trophy cabinet alone has probably seen more plaques than toothbrushes.
The difference between Samuel Okwaraji and Christian Eriksen is how much value their respective systems put on them. One player slumped while playing for his national team but the system failed him. The other also slumped while playing for his national team and the system paused everything and spared nothing until he was in a stable condition. Chioma Ajunwa only recently got some of her flowers after her feat at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta – 25 years later! Congratulating Nigerians that are successful in their chosen fields or praising those that have passed on is the easy part, putting up the necessary systems that ensure others get the same opportunity is the more respectable way of honouring their legacy.
It’s a shame that for the most part, success and support from the system are still parallel lines in Nigeria. The amazing doings of D’Tigers, so far in their pre-Olympic matches for Toyko, Japan are an unfortunate juxtaposition with the absence of support from the institutions saddled with the responsibility of developing the game. Instead, what we see is private support from friends and well-wishers of the team.
This is not the first time this type of scenario has played out. Three amazing ladies through sheer determination and crowdfunding became the first Nigerian and African team to represent us in Bobsledding at the 2018 Winter Olympics. That one time when a private plane had to be sent to convey a football team who landed at the tournament with only hours to the kick-off of their first game. There’s a litany of such tasteless experiences.
As usual, some people are waiting for the team to put in their own blood, sweat and tears so they can chase clout with their successes, talmbout how Nigerians are the best at what they do and other rhetoric laced with malarkey. That’s why many people dey jah commot for naija.
Sound Squad – Players In the Clutch
D’Tigers team is a very instructive metaphor to us about the importance of ensuring that the best of us always represents the rest of us in any facet of our collective existence. You just have to stan the way our lads be running the game like Moses parting the Red Sea – shooting hoops as though it was going out of fashion anytime soon. This cancerous culture of preferring sentimental favourites over the more qualified people has to die a natural death. Hard to imagine a person who can’t stand the heat being chosen to play for Miami – riddle me that!
If we look back and connect the dots, we will see that we haven’t gone as far as we ought because meritocracy has consistently been sacrificed on the altar of biased selection. We should stop playing this retrogressive game where the best players are kept out of the loop in the things we do. In basketball, even ‘free throws’ are earned and not given indiscriminately. We’ve got to be moving differently like the big cats that we are. It all comes full circle especially when we remember when the great Nelson Mandela submitted that, “The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence.”
The Ball is Now in Our Court!
For where we find ourselves as a country, it’s important to loud every good thing to remind ourselves of our own greatness. We cannot outsource this; nobody will tell our stories better than ourselves. We must teach the world to put some respeck on our names, starting by pronouncing them correctly. We have to big up their efforts, become their biggest cheerleaders, put up their doings on our socials and support them financially where we can. According to Sound Sultan’s ‘mathematics,’ B in BODMAS is for brotherhood – it’s time to be our brothers’ keeper.
I think it’s a tad twisted that people get more love when they are cold in the ground than when they are still drawing breath on God’s green earth. For all my writing prowess, I don’t particularly enjoy scribbling eulogies, I like to give people their roses while they can still smell them. We can’t wait until people reach the pearly white gates and are walking the streets of gold before we celebrate them. One time for D’Tigers, all our guys are ballers!
“Appreciate me now wey I dey alive! Celebrate me now wey I dey alive! No be say when I leave this life, you go dey fake am for my wife” – Patoranking.