Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Nigeria’s Anniversary Gift

Super Eagles Victory – An Anniversary Gift

Nigeria’s senior men’s football team, the Super Eagles, defeated Zambia on Saturday. President Buhari called the match Nigeria’s anniversary gift, coming right after Oct. 1, Nigeria’s Independence Day.

Super Eagles victory photo from Daily Post Nigeria

Super Eagles victory photo from Daily Post Nigeria

“Tonight the Super Eagles gave us a 57th Independence Anniversary gift. I join millions of Nigerians in rejoicing with the players and crew,” Buhari said on Twitter Saturday evening. He called the victory “sweet.”

Football, or soccer to Americans, is probably more popular in Nigeria than baseball is in the U.S. It requires no special equipment, just a ball. Boys gather on any open ground near residential areas to play.

Our sons were experts in their primary school, St. Saviours.

One of my biggest disappointments about Sam’s time at Lawrence Academy where he studied from 10th grade through 12th, was his failure to get on the soccer team! I couldn’t understand it, and still don’t. I felt he played the “real” sport, whereas the boys who were chosen had learned it the “American” way. Of course the “American” version is what the coach knew!

I mentioned the match to our older son Chinaku this afternoon. He explained what the victory was. It made the Super Eagles the first African country to qualify for the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament.

President Buhari “applauded the nation’s senior men’s football team” for this feat.

The match was played in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on Nigeria’s southeastern coast. Don’t you love the name of the stadium: Godswill Akpabio International?

Anti-Corruption Efforts are Not Easy

President Buhari campaigned on a pledge to reduce corruption, which according to Ambassador John Campbell, “many Nigerians believe to be altogether out of control.”

But fighting corruption is at least as difficult as defeating Boko Haram, probably more so! Campbell writes about the effort in the blog Africa in Transition.

Patience Jonathan in photo from Vanguard News Nigeria

Patience Jonathan in photo from Vanguard News Nigeria

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is the government vehicle for the battle. Campbell says, “It has launched high profile investigations, including into the accounts of Patience Jonathan, the former first lady. Among other measures, it has frozen some $35 million in four bank accounts she owns and seized some real estate.”

How could the wife of a government official amass $35 million? She was not known to have a career of her own.  She is suing the government in return.

“There is a tradition in Nigeria of presidents using the EFCC and other anticorruption agencies against their political enemies,” Campbell says.

But those political enemies are the ones who were in power, and thus had the opportunity to benefit from government assets. And Buhari’s government has not targeted only Christians and Southerners, part of the accusation against him. I wish him and his government success in the struggle!

UNHCR Award Goes to Nigerian Educator

Barrister Zannah Mustapha from Answers Africa

Barrister Zannah Mustapha from Answers Africa

A Nigerian has been named the 2017 winner of the Nansen Peace Prize by the UNHRC.

Zannah Mustapha received the award for his work educating children in northern Nigeria who have been affected by Boko Haram.

He established his first school in 2007 for orphaned children, before the insurgency. Now he has two schools. He takes children of Boko Haram widows. Children whose parents were killed by Boko Haram are also among the pupils. He sees the education as bridging the gap between the sides.

“As a lawyer, he is considered well suited for this role and has successfully mediated between the Nigerian Government and Boko Haram for the release of 103 girls held hostage, including 82 of the so-called Chibok girls.

Children at Future Prowess School Maidugari

Children at Future Prowess School Maidugari

“Zannah Mustapha has made it his mission to provide a better future through education for the children displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency,” the UNHCR says in its press about the award.

The United Nations Refugee Agency, officially the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created in 1950. Its original mission was to assist Europeans displaced by World War II.

Today the agency works for refugees affected by war and conflict in many parts of the world, including Nigeria.

The award is named for Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner for Refugees at the League of Nations. He was a polar explorer and statesman, Wikipedia tells me, and won the Nobel Peace Prize.

It has a distinguished history according to the UNHCR website: “UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced, and names Eleanor Roosevelt, Graça Machel and Luciano Pavarotti among its laureates.”

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. I congratulate the players for extending their ability to continue to play as foreign players in their respective leagues in Europe by maintaining their spots on the Green Eagles team.

    Some kids bought uniforms and began to parade around in Eastern Nigeria as some sort of “security force.” Catherine, they didn’t even have the mock wooden guns that were used during basic military training prior to the war in 1967.

    In response, an illegal state of emergency was declared and military troops – THREE WEEKS AGO – moved into Igboland and set about murdering people.

    I’ll not be cheering any football match with these people because for 50+ years now essentially what they’ve done is blame Igbos for every single foible and unavoidable mishap that has occurred; obviously they’ve attempted to cow Igbos into submission with utter neglect and now that this hasn’t worked, it’s back to force.

    Now cheerily without any recompose to the individuals killed during this illegal military operation they come on TV and ask us to start cheering for football; until you hear about their arrest and the resignation of the military command that sent in the army against some kids who dressed up as security personnel, please hold your applause for football!

    Instead I watched how Kelechi Anya got on with Scotland; this being Breast Cancer awareness month they played in Pink shirts, now that’s something to cheer for!

    (Comment from Reggie combined with his email to Catherine and edited.)