I was specific about the high-handedness of the security forces at the stadium and how they managed to spoil an otherwise fantastic afternoon that culminated in a first-ever title win for my beloved Plateau United.
Before I jump into it let me take a moment to reflect on how the DSS and other security outfits nearly made a mess of things during Nigeria’s 4-0 win over Cameroon in World Cup qualifier on September 1st.
I wasn't in Uyo for the game but the stories I heard from my colleagues wasn't one to put sunshine into my life. Not that it was the first time this was happening but it was the first time journalists came out in unison to condemn the unnecessary show of force by our security folks.
My main man China Acheru lost his phone, a few journos were molested and some verbally assaulted but that isn't what my post is all about. Click here for China's gist. You can also read Lolade Adewuyi's take here
|Calm.....before the storm|
Back to the matter.
So I was pumped up and all giddy as I made my way to the stadium. I sorted my cousins and their seating arrangements and made my way to the pitch to start my beat.
I was responsible for getting video feeds and live-streams for the LMC into social media and of course the usual ‘Andy mode’ before games-don’t ask me what I mean, please.
All went well until it was time for the governor to come in. I noticed some official who had no identification on him asking folks to leave the technical areas and take a seat in the stands. I had no issues with that except there was nowhere to sit I down in the designated ‘press gallery’.
It had been overrun by fans.
I tried reasoning with him and even identified myself but he just wouldn't budge. I grudgingly went into the stands and had to be on my two feet for up to 15 minutes. At a point I was so angry I spoke my way back to the pitch area where Francis Totori was already seated on a plastic chair near the Rangers bench (I have no idea how he got the chair sha).
Clement Nwankpa was also seated on the Rangers bench as we tried doing our work but the harassment by the men (By now I had found out they were part of the governor’s protocol crew) was unrelenting.
It all went North when the governor finally arrived...await...I missed one part.
Mike Maiyaki and Ralph Chidozie were to make their way to the make-shift Supersport commentary area through the VIP gate but it became a 30-minute task. The tough looking ‘John Cena’ -all black-wearing guys at the gate didn't want to hear any of it.
Maiyaki got pissed off at a point and was making his way back to the OB Van before Niyi Oyeleke and a few other guys prevailed on them to allow Mike and Ralph in.
Una for watch match without commentary
The drama didn't end there though. Ice Prince (the hip-hop act) came into the stadium and was trying to use the same VIP gate to get to his seat (found out he was specially invited for the game) was held back.
|All smiles before everything turned sour. Randa, Adepoju, Amobi, Ahmadu and Achi.|
His entourage was refused entry and it almost degenerated into fisticuffs. I didn’t bother to see how it ended as another commotion ensued just by the main entrance.
Plateau State Football Association chairman, Mr. Sunday Longbap was into a shouting match with the ‘Oga’ of the policemen. Apparently, he was harassed and molested by some policemen as he tried to gain entrance into the stadium.
Someone whispered to me that a policeman slapped the FA Chairman hence the commotion because Mr. Longbap wanted to give back in full dose.
A few minutes later, the pitch area was full of cars belonging to the governor and his gun-totting security details. All I saw were guns and more guns with policemen looking like they were going to shoot someone in the face.
The cars were just by the Rangers bench and you could see how uncomfortable a lot of them were. To be honest it was an eyesore and quite unsettling for a football event.
I have been privileged to attend football games in a few European countries and even saw England play at Wembley. Guns and bullets are a no-no in a sporting arena and you don’t just harass people doing the jobs.
The match kick-off but the harassment didn't stop there. I had nowhere to sit, for 15 minutes I could not provide content. I looked at Nwankpa and I could see the disillusion on his face as he stood on his feet trying to get his updates done.
I decided there and then to head to the Star Fan Park and get my content, after all, no one will bug me there.
Made my way to the exit and got confronted with the same issue. It was locked up. I spoke to a policeman who said I have to wait for his boss. After about 10 minutes, the key to the gate came through (another bad move, you lock an exit not use a padlock-think a stampede).
So while waiting, a bevy of cars was outside trying to come in. Gates were opened, cars came in and yours truly tried to make his way out.
A policeman had whacked my hand for some strange reason with his gun and my phone went flying in the air. I was livid, I almost went at him but then remembered I promised my three lovely daughters I will personally take them to school on resumption day.
I had to keep that promise to them so thought against it.
Found out the phone screen was shattered and the memory card, with all my pictures and videos, got damaged. Don’t ask me how I managed to get a pat on the back for a job well done after Plateau United won the title.
|Scenes after the final whistle.|
A few other things happened to people but I can only yap about what happened to me. Our security folks and their high-handedness are becoming an impediment to the growth of the game.
They need to be schooled on a lot of things which includes stadium security/management and crowd control. Yours truly was opportune to attend a few courses on such in the United Kingdom when I was trying to get an NVQ2 certification. I have a little idea how we can go about this.
We need to do better and make our stadiums about the fans and not a governor or a big man. Imagine our inability to send reports out because the DSS felt it best to jam the connections at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.
I know a few folks who have decided to boycott Super Eagles games and I also know a few who are considering doing so. I might just join them. I just might.
|With my cousin Danny. Had to force myelf to smile at the post match party.|
Err...Do I stop here or do I spin y'all a tale about the fight between Plateau United Ultras and Might Jets Ultras after the game and how I managed to squeeze through to get to my car?
I’m not sure who to send the invoice of repairs done on my phone to. The NFF? Nigeria Police Force?, The Plateau State FA? Who?