Enugu Rangers, Dry Bones And The Profits Of Persistence

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Victory is sweet. It really is. You have to taste it to know exactly how sweet it can be to be victorious. Whether in leadership, business, diplomacy, and, as in the case we have as thesis point here, sports, coming out triumphant after what many may never know could have been long, debilitating and frustrating battles for whatever is the top target has a unique feeling you just cannot describe.

I am not sure many people are conscious of this: the joy of victory has a very short life span. Sometimes, it lasts just a few seconds. It is not the same as failure. When you fail in any endeavour, it creeps all over you, eating you like poison and slowly affecting the way you think, the things you want to aspire to and the targets you wish to accomplish. It slows you down, wears you out and if you do not get hold of yourself pretty quickly, it totally condemns you to long periods of regret that eventually consume your very essence.

But success is not this lingering. The moment is usually very brief, leaving you speechless in rapturous excitement. But in its short spell, it brings eons of gigajoules of energy that brings relief, connects you with many who are part of the momentous accomplishment and sharpens your mind for greater things to come.

Saturday September 24, 2016 was a busy day for us in Enugu but it was also a day Nigeria’s oldest surviving Premier League football club, Rangers International Football Club of Enugu was to play their last league match for the 2015/2016 football season. Rangers have come close to clinching the trophy countless times since last winning it 32 years ago but have come short each time.

For players, club managers and supporters, nothing can be more frustrating than coming out second best season after season. Although the Club is on record as the only Nigerian side that has never been relegated, this counts for nothing in a world where nobody ever remembers a number 2. You are either the champion or you are just another name on the log. It’s just as ruthlessly simple as that.

With a fan base spanning all the ethnic and tribal divides in Nigeria, the absence of trophies on the cabinet never went down well with Nigerians.

When we came into government on May 29, 2015, one of the cardinal anchors of our promise to our people was the restoration of happiness through massive infrastructure development, agricultural revival and sports renaissance. We looked at the Club, its rich history replete with stories of determination, resilience, improvisation in times of challenge; we looked it its position as a rallying point for socioeconomic revival and concluded that there was need to provide the critical enablers that will restore the glories of yesterday.

And in all modesty, doing this really did not take much from us. Parents and even our young people in relationships understand this but let me frame it in words. The best thing a husband can ever give his wife is neither money nor material things. As germane as these are in infusing excitement in your marriage, the greatest gifts spouses can ever give to their partners is attention.

If you have tried sending a cake accompanied by other expensive gifts to your spouse on his or her birthday without being around, you will appreciate this better. Nothing beats your being there. Being there convinces the person he or she is important to you. It heals, it inspires, soars the spirit and it brings out the best in him or her.

In the dire economic situation Nigeria has found itself, doing more would have been practically impossible. Players are humans with needs. So we ensured that as much as possible, they were not owed. Officials are just like us – leaders. So we needed to trust their judgment and believed they are capable of doing things right. We understood they needed us to be there when they turn on wearied heads, so we stood behind them, praising them when they win and telling them of better days when it was not so good.

We stood by them; inspiring them, motivating them, believing in them. That is all what we did. Nothing more.

As Mexican Waves after endless Mexican Waves ebbed around the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium on the final day of the Nigerian League season, I knew our human approach to managing the affairs of Rangers had paid dividends.

They key message I want to deliver though this article is not to refresh the revelry witnessed in the wake of the epoch-making triumph of Rangers as the latest Champions of Nigerian football. On the contrary, what is important for me, as always, to sift the learning points so that when the fireworks are gone and forgotten, Nigerians and, especially my people of Enugu State will have something to sustain their memories beyond the exciting football played by Rangers this season. These include:

Nigeria is one and can even be stronger:

I have been following Rangers since I was a youth, listening to football commentaries on the radio. I grew up thinking that just like what we all later came to know as the English Premier League, football clubs have their largest fan bases in their homes states and regions. It took coming this close to the Club for me to understand that Rangers have over the years grown into a brand love and followed by people from all over Nigeria. The creation of states and the emergence of clubs like Spartans of Owerri (later to become Iwuanyanwu Nationale and then Heartland) and Enyimba of Aba never diluted the strong brand proposition Rangers represented.

As the deliriously enchanted crowd sang and danced and celebrated the grace and goals scored by Rangers on the final day of the league at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu, it was also brought to my knowledge that the tumultuous crowd was not just made up the sports-loving people of Enugu State alone. People came from all over the country to witness the game and they included a large population of brothers from other ethnic groups that have followed this Great Historic Club side for decades. Tons of goodwill messages I received before and after the game confirmed this. This dispelled the earlier belief that it is only when the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles are playing that Nigerians come together. Nigerians came together behind Rangers.

I am certain we will have other issues that can draw us together in unity and oneness. We all need to explore and find them.

Persistence will always pay good dividends

I have seen people labor and strive for years to something they desire. I have also seen people laugh at them. I have also seen people stand by them in committed encouragement. One thing I have learnt and which I love sharing is that we are our own greatest limitations. If we stayed long enough working to break a jinx, we will break that jinx. Calvin Coolidge captured the value of persistence when he said that “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Rangers were at a time the most dreaded Club side in Nigeria. Even when fortunes faded and they struggled to win their matches and at other times came frustratingly close to winning the league, they kept their head and kept striving, keeping the target within reach. The reward they have got today has compensated for all the years they and the fans waited and as Napoleon Hill also said, “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”

When you see a man diligent at a tough job, the least you should do is lend a hand

I have never seen a person that single-handedly made anything happen. The world today is filled with selfish people who lay claims to having made it all alone but I can assure you that even the person that said “WELL DONE” contributed a lot to your success. Can you imagine if this person had said something like “WHAT THE CRAP ARE YOU TRYING TO DO?

We came into office and saw a club side that needed more encouragement and morale boosting than anything else and we ensured we gave them in appropriate doses. The result is the victory all Nigerians are savouring now. We did not help them play. We did not even tell them how to play. But you know what, the fact that we told them they play well and can win the league was very critical.

Define your purpose and pursue it

As a Government, we decided from the get-go to be champions in good governance. In articulating our value propositions to the people of Enugu State, we made it clear our desire to deliver values to our people across on spaces of experience. Sports and sports development is one of them because we are aware of its importance in peace building, recreation, relationship management, health and wellness and even as a business.

We therefore hit the ground running and the result is what we all are celebrating today. We will not end it here. Matter of fact, there is an ongoing quiet revival in the arena of Sports development across all facets that will ensure that the glory days when great athletes from the hills and valleys of Enugu State made Nigeria proud returns and remains for long.

Congratulations Rangers International Football Club of Nigeria. We are proud of you!

– Ugwuanyi is the Governor of Enugu State, South East Nigeria


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