Lagos, Nigeria, and Cairo | The BBC credits Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo with ordering an airlift of some 170 Super Eagles supporters, marooned in Cairo for 15 days following the African Cup of Nations. Thirty-five of the supporters from the Nigerian Football Supporters Club arrived in Lagos earlier today, with the rest to follow.
“I give glory to God that the nightmare is finally over and I’m back home,” Adekunle Igbayilola tells BBC Sport. The supporters’ predicament resulted from an intractable dispute involving the club president, a web of negotiators including Nigerian Senator Tokumbo Afikuyomi and the travel company Afikuyomi owns. The airline contracted by the travel company balked at returning the supporters, while supporters club president Rafiu Ladipo said that arrangements had been made for round-trip fares.
Blame was generously apportioned for the fiasco, with the supporters themselves—with some reporters in their number—left to survive on their own in a Cairo hotel, without money for food and other necessities. According to the Vanguard of Lagos, members of the contingent had to take menial jobs to get by. The Saturday Independent, in a lengthy dispatch, mentions a stranded reporter who taught English to an Egyptian sex worker for food money. This reporter says,
The most painful part of it was the little money that … would have taken me back to Lagos got exhausted in Egypt. There wasn’t anyone who could say, “[T]ake this small amount of money and manage the way we do in Nigeria.” None of the Egyptian sports personalities even behaved as if we were human beings….
The Saturday Independent article seems to lay most of the blame with the supporters club and a lack of professional organization. The group had recently been named, however, as the continent’s best fans by the African confederation. Their trumpeting and drumming is notorious at Nigeria matches, but, at least in the Independent‘s view, Ladipo’s lifetime presidency as well as the club’s influence and finances should be examined.