Editor's note: The super falcons who won the just concluded 2016 Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon have taken their grievances to the president demanding payment of their allowances and bonuses.
In this opinion piece by Ikeddy Isiguzo, the champions have been cheated and all those involved in this disgrace owe Nigerians unreserved apologies.
It is important that we put the official treatment that our government is meting out to the super falcons in perspective before the issues are lost in sophistry.
At a time some defend everything our government does, it is easier to forget what the super falcons did, though it has been officially confirmed that they were not expected to do it. When they became African champions in Yaoundé on 4 December, defeating host Cameroun, it was contrary to the expectation of our government.
It says a lot for a government to expect its citizens to fail in an assignment that would generate esteem, goodwill, international status for the country.
The super falcons are more patriotic than government officials who earn the budget for doing next to nothing. Nigerians should understand that our government is indebted to these ladies. Our government owes the team arrears of camping allowances (the daily allowance paid to teams in camp); match bonuses (agreed amounts paid to teams for winning games).
Those are the payments the young women are protesting on the streets on Abuja, and some who claim more patriotic streams in their veins are explaining it, excusing it, and condemning anyone who says , “what is not good is very bad”, as an elderly man I know would say.
Where I am from, if you are in debts, you explain your circumstances soberly. Government loud voices are threatening the players and their officials for asking for their overdue dues. We are told they would never represent Nigeria again.
Such effrontery. We are sure they want to represent Nigeria again. Can the super eagles be treated this way? Have we decided to make discrimination against women official? Do we realise the super falcons are capable of creating another generation of Nigerian women that can gradually integrate our women into the main stage of national life?
Do we know the players are professionals, some based abroad? Do we know how many family members depend on them as their bread winners? Do we realise the impact of messages our government (no matter its reasons) has sent in the past two weeks?
Some of the messages are: You do not have to make Nigeria great. It makes no difference when you excel, patriotism is a word Nigeria decides what it makes of your excellence. It pains to play for Nigeria, a country which does not need you. If you are a woman, you would be punished when you excel; You have to beg for your rights. When you win you are an embarrassment, recession is for you, not us, we are unaware that you did anything for Nigeria; I am scared for my country.
How could super falcons be in Abuja for more than 10 days waiting for our government to pay them? In those days, our government officials have carried on as if the AWCON champions were some irritants as shown with gates being shut when they protested to the National Assembly on Wednesday, December 14. What does our government want?
Losers? Non-achievers? People who would not bring honour to Nigeria? Instead of street parades to honour their efforts, they have to protest to demand their entitlements. What is the offence of the super falcons? What explanation can justify our government's failure to accord the players an appropriate reception for their achievement?
Does Cameroun that honoured its team that finished second to Nigeria have more resources than our country? Yes, the mental resource to acknowledge greatness, even if in its budding stages. Cameroun has told its players that they can be great. Super Falcons, winners of the same competition, are reproached, rejected, ridiculed by those who should honour them, and we try to explain it. I have reported sports since 1978.
In those years, I have never seen anything more ridiculous whether under military or civilian rule. What is going on has NOTHING at all to do with recession. The determination of our government not to pay the Super Falcons is firm, resolute.
There is still no plan to receive them as is appropriate and has been the practice since the beginning of Nigeria. Our sisters invested their talent, time to win the African Championship in Nigerian colours.
The authorities disappeared, with entitlements and accolades due to them. They are left in a hotel demanding basic entitlements; in the manner that is not new, for that is how we treat our pensioners. So, in place of parades for the eight-time African champions, we have street protests of the players asking for their entitlements.
Yet some more patriotic Nigerians, whose patriotism lies in the regurgitation of lies to justify the humiliation of our champions, think our government is in order. Let our government pay the players. It cannot honour them, as it has ably shown.
It has dishonoured them beyond any honour it may offer. All those involved in this disgrace owe Nigerians unreserved apologies.
Nigeria I hail thee. My own dear native land. Where we stand in brotherhood to ensure that the labour of our heroes is in vain at a time we suggest that we need more patriotism to rescue our country.
If we are not a people of words, everyday the super falcons are disgraced (we are actually smearing our country) those who have elected to damage the image of Nigeria, those who circumscribed our celebration, those who think that fairness is to minimise the achievements of the super falcons should have long vacated their exalted positions that have made them irredeemably out of touch with reality.
Nigeria is capable of making superlatives inadequate for its failings. I think this is one befitting moment of failure to recognise excellence and rather excellently celebrating that failure.
Ikeddy Isiguzo began his career as a sports journalist. He is editor-in-chief of Momentum Africa