One of the most quoted reasons why spectators deserted the Nigerian league is inadequate security, and I have to confess straight away that going back to watch my team, Stationery Stores Football Club after well over 10 years, I had my apprehensions. Consequently, in the first few games in January, I always left for the stadium fully prepared as if going for combat. How wrong I was.
Twinkiling stars: Fuad (left) and Obinna (right) (photo courtesy Sola Rogers)
After diligently watching about 12 home games at the Onikan waterfront this year, I have been pleasantly amazed to observe that nothing even close to a security problem has ever arisen either inside or around the stadium. I have also made a few critical observations on certain things that might have created this welcome scenario.
Let me quickly point out factually, that Onikan is not a place where you will find tons of policemen howling around. Despite the fact that there is a major Police Station nearby, you will always only find the obligatory few Policemen manning strategic positions in the stadium.
I’ve travelled around Nigeria, and usually the people who carry out these harassments and security problems are mostly those citizens nicknamed ‘area boys’. Quite frankly, this used to be a very big problem for those of us working on Lagos Island until the Babatunde Fashola administration came in and did us that big favour of creating useful employment for those chaps and getting them off the streets. The banning of ‘okada’ bike riders in major roads in Lagos has also helped significantly. So, the government itself by creatively thought out actions had already solved half of the problem.
Stationery Stores being a club with massive grassroots support has a huge community of lower class supporters (I call them our “citizens”!). They’ve always been there ever since I started watching the team in the 70s. The truth is, when this chaps come to the stadium, they come, first and foremost, to watch Stores play, and nothing else. That is why they do not take it easy with anybody who tries to cause any trouble when their team is playing.
I have to thank Pastor Eliashib Ime-James and Mr (or is it Otunba?) Adebayo Olowo-Ake for bringing me into the core supporter group of the Adebajo Babes. It opened my eyes to a lot of things; very remarkable and positive experiences. The Stores supporters community is a family in the true sense of the word. In the Stores supporters family, you will find people of diverse economic class, tribe and religion. They are remarkably bonded and speak one and the same language – iyo!
When, in my naivety during our first game, I asked a senior supporter how the Management planned to tackle the possible problem of area boys, he turned around and drew one fierce (but handsome!) looking young man to our side. Then by way of introduction he said “This is Fire 2”! For anybody planning to cause problem at Stores home game, Fire 2 surely will be the beginning of wisdom. When I witnessed Pastor Ime-James go topless in the stadium after voluntarily removing his jersey and handing over same to a desperately pleading Fire 2 member, I became wiser: The love for Stationery Stores is no ordinary love afterall.
So, for all the fans out there who are still afraid of stepping out to watch our local league games, I wish to assure that with Stationery Stores, the (authentic) darling club of Lagos, you are perfectly safe. Starting from the next game, bring your family and friends and enjoy Fuad, Obinna and others in action.
Up Super !