Behind the AFCON Victory – South Africa

Hello again. This week i am doing a feature on a friend’s passionate response to Percy Zvomuya’s “Deep read: Nigeria and Burkina Faso – behind the AFCON clash”. Please read Percy’s post here to understand Philip’s response.

Philip Onoriode is a PhD student at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

I could not help but break with my characteristic silence when people pick on you, hate on you or throw suspicious glance at you on account of and by the natal accident of your nationality, Nigerian. I chose to break with silence because such hateful sentiment has found its way from the lowly street stories of idle and, oftentimes, ignorant conversations to the civilized sphere and enlightened space of mainstream media. I am not here to hold a brief for Nigeria so I’m just going to cut the chase and go straight to the concerns that irritate my mind. Reading Percy Zvomuya’s piece, “deep read”, one is forced to question what the essay is actually about. Is this about football, the intrigues, politics and socio-cultural affect it elicits the writer is engaging here? Or is this the vituperation of a deranged hate-peddler. The piece strikes as some delusional drooling of a loutish writer. I feel personally embarrassed that Mail & Guardian would identify with such shallow analysis. What has the wealth of a country and the population of another got to do with football? What has that got to do with winning soccer tournaments? How many world cup finals has the United States won? How many has China, India? And what’s with the reference to South Africa in a game between two other countries in the finals: Nigeria and Burkina Faso? How deep is Mr Zvomuya’s reading in this piece and how much of football analysis is embedded in the essay? In the tournament were South Africa and Nigeria rivals? Did Nigeria lift the trophy at the expense of South Africa? Is not this piece disrespectful to the newly crowned champions? What has football got to do with the poisonous stereotype Percy holds towards a country and its people? Is not this an insult to the spirit of footballing culture? These are my few general queries!
Now to the content of the essay: Mr Zvomuya writes that the rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa is that of population vs. wealth. Whatever that means, we must be careful how we perform nationalism in the public sphere. What wealth is Mr Zvomuya talking about? I should like to see how this wealth he so patriotically, delusively talks about is reflected in his person. How has this wealth reflected in the populace? How has the wealth trickled, percolated to the very dark corners of Percy Zvomuya immediate society, his own extended family to say the least? If Mr Zvomuya was a student of history(contemporary history to ask nothing more from his shallow mind), if he understood the particular nature of capitalism—a knowledge which his essay clearly demonstrates that he lacks—he would know at least two things before penning down such claptrap: first, that the category called nation-state is a completely flawed one, that the border between nation-states is increasingly blurring. And this brings me to the second lesson Percy Zvomuya needs to know: that at this present moment in history there’s no such thing as the wealth of a nation. The wealth in rich nations today among whom are South Africa, Nigeria, Congo, etc., are owned and controlled not by the people represented by their government, but rather and sadly so, by oligarchs whose power and stupendous wealth make them citizens of the world; international plutocrats who run things from across borders and time zones. The so-called richest nation on earth, the United States, is owned (I choose this word intentionally) by a handful of Wall Street executives. The wealth in South Africa Mr Percy Zvomuya so assiduously, in a feat of delusional fervor, ascribes to as a marker of his national snootiness, is created, owned and controlled by a handful of international consortium whose citizenship cuts across continents. I stand to be corrected on this.
On a personal note, I love South Africa, I live in South Africa, I have made wonderful friends and families here (I say this with sincere indebtedness to the wonderful friends and families whose acquaintance I have made and enjoyed here). We must be careful how we fan embers of hatred with the careless stuff we say in our idle indulgence of small talk; the way in which street stories of idle engagement seep into national discourse. To rehash the bigotry that underwrites the rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa is to stand on the wrong side of history. The holocaust, which eventually became one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century, was borne out of the poisonous sentiments of a few deranged individuals. Anti-Semitism was some personal private sentiment which found its way into nationalist discourse and the world as we know it has become the worst for it today. The Mail & Guardian is a most respected media organisation in Africa and should not be associated with loutish writers like Percy Zvomuya.

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