Odegbami: End Of Qatar 2022, Birth Of West Africa 2034!
Tomorrow, the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup comes to a beautiful end.
I wish the better side on the night to win.
Whilst we are waiting for that, I go back in time in order to catch up with the future (2034).
It is the year 2002.
I am with Stephen Akiga, the honourable minister of Sports of Nigeria.
We are at the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich, in the office of the President, Sepp Blatter, one of the most powerful men in the world.
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There are two others present – Walter Gagg, the head of the Technical Department of FIFA, and Gboyega Okegbenro, the Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian Minister.
Blatter welcomes us warmly and asks why we arranged to meet with him.
Akiga nods to me to speak on behalf of the Nigerian President who sent us to meet Blatter with a special message.
Mr. Blatter is all ears.
I tell him.
Nigeria is thinking of reviving and fulfilling the dreams of the founding political fathers of all African countries at Independence in the 1950s and 1960s, a united, peaceful and prosperous continent.
I completely avoid telling him what he must already know, of an Africa that, despite all its natural and mineral resources, remains poor and under developed.
Instead, I paint a completely different picture.
I tell him of a new socio-cultural, economic and political architecture; of a secure and safe borderless West African region with its huge 400-million consumer-base enabling flourishing trade, commerce and business and leisure, in a domesticated model of the European Union, with a common currency, a super-highway running across the sub-continent from the West to the East hugging the beautiful Atlantic coastline from Dakar to Doula.
I tell him about a new monorail system running parallel to the superhighway traversing the same countries.
I tell him about how a region where a citizen can wake up on a Saturday morning in the city of Lagos, get into a car or board a train, and within a few hours of a jolly ride is having lunch or dinner in Accra or Abidjan.
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I tell him about the real former Slave Trade routes of the 15th to the 19th Centuries now re-designed, punctuated during the return-pilgrimage by renovated historic, tourist and leisure sites to birth a massive new economy that will heal the wounds of history and a painful past. I tell him about new hospitals along the routes, with markets and other healthcare and well-being facilities to service the region.
I tell him about the unique and abundant artistic talent that abound in the arts, in music, dance, literature, the drums, and other activities that would provide more than enough entertainment-feast for visitors that will choose to make this paradise in West Africa their destination of choice. I tell him about how West Africa shall become a massive construction site for 7 years (up to 2010) as the region embarks on the biggest infrastructural development program in Africa that will engage and empower the entire people of that region.
I tell him that an idea is sprouting in Nigeria, of a unique collaboration and shared responsibility in funding, organisation and benefits, where 4 or 5 countries in West Africa, some of the most successful footballing countries in Africa, will come together to co-host the first World Cup coming to Africa in 2010.
Blatter’s eyes light up.
I tell him we are in Zurich to get his take on such an idea following in the wake of the ‘failed’ experiment of the joint Japan/Korea experiment. Blatter and his assistant listen to me in rapt attention, mesmerised by the audacity of such an idea at that time.
‘So, what do you want from FIFA?’, he asks.
I deliver my message from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
Nigeria wants FIFA’s take on the unique concept of a regional World Cup in West Africa, an opportunity to fulfil the needs and the dreams of the continent, and to use the power of the World Cup to achieve what wars, agitations and struggles have failed to do for Centuries for Africa and, indeed, the Black race.
The plane of my presentation then lands – we want his impression on all that he has heard, and his reaction to Nigeria’s request for his backing of the concept of Nigeria leading 4 or 5 other countries in West Africa to host the 2010 World Cup!
His answer sends us dashing back to Abuja to report back to the President.
He says it is the most brilliant and creative reason he has ever heard for hosting World Cup, for impacting and influencing genuine developmental change in part of the world that needs the power of football to achieve those objectives.
My presentation, he says, just paints the picture of how World Cups will go. If such a bid should come to FIFA led by Nigeria, he assures us that it will have his unqualified blessing and support!
We dash back to Nigeria, and deliver our report to the President. For 10 months we work quietly to put together a blueprint for actualisation of the visions of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, President Leopold Senghor, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Dr. Julius Nwalimu Nyerere, Emperor Hailie Selassie, and so on, for a united, peaceful, prosperous African continent using the power of a football event.
One day, in December, or so, of 2003, it all came to a sudden and abrupt end, the ‘pregnancy’ prematurely aborted by other more powerful political interests.
South Africa wanted the chance to host that same World Cup. It wanted it more than Nigeria. It convinced Nigeria to stepdown her West African dream concept, and to support a South African dream. Nigeria acceded to it and the regional West African World dream-project ended.
That was in 2002, 20 years ago.
This is 2022. We are peering again into the future, into 2034!
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The world has moved on since 2002, but the concept and idea have grown. The world has caught up and now sees what Nigeria saw 20 years ago about the future of the World Cup, and the use to which the championship can be put. Qatar 2022 has been a clear demonstration of all those possibilities.
In 2026, the concept of a regional World Cup becomes reality and assumes a monumental dimension when the entire continent of North America (Canada, USA and Mexico) hosts 48 countries.
Before then 11 European cities had come together to host the last European Nations Cup in an arrangement of shared-responsibilities and shared-benefits.
In 2030, all the bids for the World Cup are joint-bids by a multiple number of neighbouring countries.
By 2034, when the World Cup shall politically (unofficially) return to Africa, the continent shall be ready to make it the best ever in history with its unique new sponsoring-motivations as a purely developmental tool, and an instrument of friendship, peace and cultural celebrations.
Once again, Nigeria is peering into the prospects of such a future and dreaming exciting possibilities of leading West Africa to be a model for the rest of the African continent, home to all Black persons on earth, and a destination of choice for the rest of the world for trade, leisure, entertainment, investment, unbridled friendship and peace.
A new West Africa, through the 10 to 12 years period to the FIFA World Cup in 2034, shall be the home of an annual festival of artistic celebrations, dialogue and sports, showcasing the best such as the world has never seen before,
This is a clarion call to all of Africa’s and the Black Race’s cultural and artistic ambassadors, to allow the ‘virus’ of this new dream to ‘infect’ them – Burner Boy, Ron Freeman, Wole Soyinka, Whizz Kid, Salif Keita, Patrick Lumumba, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Dayo Adedayo, Genevieve, Tobi Amusan, Diedre Drogba, George Opong Weah, Anthony Joshua, Sadio Mane, Ese Brume, Abedi Pele, Naomi Campbell, Anthony Baffoe, Kaffy, Don Barber, Dupe Sagoe, Baaba Maal, Edwin Moses, Lewis Hamilton, Beyonce, Youssou N’Dour, Tyra Banks, Alibaba, Shatta Wale, Sarkodie, Angelique Kidjo, Marie-Josee Ta Lou, and so on… a whole galaxy of extraordinarily gifted Blacks, Africans and people of African descent across the entire spectrum of life, including entertainment, art, culture, scholarship, sport and diplomacy to lead the march to the Table of Civilisations in an emerging new World Order.
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