There is a compelling need for more professionals to leave the sideline for the arena. We must take a cue from tennis, take a hold of our rackets and never give up while the game is on, no matter what the scoreboard is telling us… Who knows, showing up in the arena might be all that it will take to win. But how does one know without putting the ball over the net? How does one know how it will turn out without taking the step of faith?
I follow sports religiously. From car racing, golf, football, to all sorts; I follow, and closely too. Thankful that for tennis, the passion, these days, is not as much as that of the Madam of the House. Otherwise, how else would one be able to stay on the tennis channel for nine straight hours, without a call for restructuring in the house?
Beyond the entertainment value in sports though, one always manages to find valuable life lessons in it. Take tennis for instance, one lesson one gets to learn from it is the importance of doing everything to, at least, make the opponent play that extra shot. No matter how out-of-position one might find oneself, while in play, simply getting the ball over the net might be the trigger needed for that much-desired gain of the point or even ultimate victory.
The opponent can make a mess of a simple shot. Even the great Roger Federer found a way of conjuring a miss from such a shot in this year’s Wimbledon quarter final match against Marin Cilic, even at set point. Put the ball back on court, no matter what it takes. In chasing it down, the opponent not only gets to gradually wear himself out, something untoward can even happen to the opponent. He can possibly trip, get injured and even retire from the game. Just by making him play that extra shot. So was the case with the poor 18-year old Ana Konjuh at this year’s tournament who picked up injury at the wrong time in her match with Agnieszka Radwanska.
With tennis, you get to learn that no matter how far behind you are, there is always a chance for a comeback. Federer came from two sets down in the same quarter final match, saved three match points, to eventually win the match. Tennis tells you to never give up, no matter what the score-board is saying. Sometimes, when all seems lost, the weather can mysteriously come to the rescue, hopefully for another day of better luck. Novak Djokovic knows one or two things about that. The point is, never give up, no matter how grim the situation might appear to be.
But I think the most important lesson to take away from sports is that, sometimes, all one needs to win is to simply show up. One can prepare for so long and as much as one likes. How does one win, if one is unable to show up? You show up and the opponent does not. It could just be a walk-over. A winner emerges without a break of sweat.
The ongoing drama in Abia state is an interesting one. Rather than addressing the merits and context of the case, some have been asking – Who is Uche Ogah? Where is he coming from? Why would he want to come and harvest from where he did not sow?.. Yet, that misses the point. What matters is that Ogah was bold enough to partake in the primary elections of the PDP when the opportunity called.
As in sports, so it is in politics. Sometimes, you are the one to make your luck. Sometimes, all you need to do is to simply show up, be a part of that contest, and anything might just happen. Rotimi Amaechi became governor without being a part of the general elections. His name had been dropped for that of someone else, who stood as candidate in the election, only for the Supreme Court to restore him to the office, and boot out the one who contested in the general elections. Amaechi dared to contest the matter in court and won the case. Fortune favours the brave, as they say.
The ongoing drama in Abia state is an interesting one. Rather than addressing the merits and context of the case, some have been asking – Who is Uche Ogah? Where is he coming from? Why would he want to come and harvest from where he did not sow? But then, one might also ask – How well-known was Governor Ikpeazu himself, before he was elected in 2015? Yet, that misses the point. What matters is that Ogah was bold enough to partake in the primary elections of the PDP when the opportunity called. Not satisfied with the process, he lodged a protest with the party, before proceeding to court. He has, in fact, been in and out of courts since 2014. So, while some who ask who Ogah is were in their comfort zones, he was in the arena, fighting his battle, away from the limelight. So if he turns out lucky and becomes another recipient of the Amaechi grace, he made his luck by taking part in the election and refusing to give up, even when the scoreboard did not favour him and the crowd were already taken in by his opponent.
In 1991, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele benefited from the disqualification of Senator Wahab Dosunmu by the Babangida government, after securing the ticket of his party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Rasheed Shitta-Bey, the closest rival to Wahab Dosunmu, had announced a withdrawal from the race at the last minute. When Dosunmu was later disqualified, Bucknor-Akerele took his place, even though she only secured three votes at the primary elections. She went on to win the general election, riding on the wave of SDP’s popularity, at the time
The case is almost akin to that of one of the past governorship elections in Lagos. Then, Sir Michael Otedola, who was, relatively, a lightweight politician and the candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC), which was not that popular in the state, benefited from the ban placed on the main Aspirants in the SDP – Professor Femi Agbalajobi and Chief Dapo Sarumi and the crisis within the party, to win the Governorship elections in Lagos, against expectations. He dared, even even though it did not make sense to do so, at the time and he achieved success, against the odds.
Who could have foreseen what played out in Kogi State last year, when Prince Abubakar Audu, who had, by available results been elected governor, only to die before his official declaration as Governor-elect. Yahaya Bello, by virtue of his participation in the primary elections, something many must have seen as a waste of time and resources, received victory in a most dramatic manner. He is governor today, even as he was not the candidate in the gubernatorial election.
My takeaway from the different examples, especially the ongoing one around Uche Ogah in Abia state is the need to be daring and the importance of standing one’s ground, no matter how bleak the circumstances might look. If you have the desire for public office, why not take the plunge? Why not run for that office, no matter how stupid that decision might look to friends, critics, cynics and enemies. Why bother with critics, anyway?
Indeed, politics is a game of surprises. Often, when unknown names venture into politics, especially when they take the deep plunge to make a dash for the big office, people mock them. Not many gave the relatively unknown Barack Obama a chance when he chose to stake it all against Hilary Clinton and the Democratic establishment in 2008, yet political permutations turned on the head and he secured the ticket. His audacity in the face of massive odds paid off.
My takeaway from the different examples, especially the ongoing one around Uche Ogah in Abia state is the need to be daring and the importance of standing one’s ground, no matter how bleak the circumstances might look. If you have the desire for public office, why not take the plunge? Why not run for that office, no matter how stupid that decision might look to friends, critics, cynics and enemies. Why bother with critics, anyway? Are we not mostly armchair critics pounding away frustration, ignorance and fear on innocent keyboards, not daring to venture? How can you win the lottery if you don’t bother buying the ticket? Why not take the risk? Why bother with critics?
Theodore Roosevelt says “it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
We lament the poor quality of leadership at all levels in our nation. Yet politics is left mostly to those who have nothing else to do but it, and who the essence of politics, being service to the people, is lost on. Of course, we can only go so far as political leadership takes, as a nation. There is a compelling need for more professionals to leave the sideline for the arena. We must take a cue from tennis, take a hold of our rackets and never give up while the game is on, no matter what the scoreboard is telling us. The more of well-meaning people that we have in the pool, the higher the probability we have in making the right pick. Who knows, showing up in the arena might be all that it will take to win. But how does one know without putting the ball over the net? How does one know how it will turn out without taking the step of faith? Take the plunge. Dare to Dream. Run.
Simbo Olorunfemi works for Hoofbeatdotcom, a Nigerian Communications Consultancy. Follow on Twitter: @simboolorunfemi