7 Minutes with China: Will I be safe at a Rivers United game?

The aggravated assault incident at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium on Sunday leaves a sour taste in the mouth as Chichetam Akawor could have been killed right there under the supervision of the General Manager of the club who was fingered by the victim.

I am yet to go to the stadium this football season to watch a league game, and this is unlike last season where I had already watched three games by Match Day 3, including a road trip to Yenagoa for Bayelsa United versus Dakkada FC.

There is really no serious reason why I have not watched a League game this season, but I just haven’t, leaving a few, like Okey Onwugbonu and Kosi Onah to ask me, “How would you get to two thousand games if you don’t watch Rivers United matches?”

But the truth is that I just did not feel like it, which was quite unlike me 10 or 15 years ago.

Is this what Rivers United want to show to the world?

General Manager, Okey Kpalikwu was fingered by the victim

But after the stories from the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, on Sunday, and by the time you all read these seven minutes from me, the question I have been asking is, “Should I go to that stadium to watch a league game? Will I be safe if I go there? Dem go gather me beat me?

The truth about that game is that everything from the day before was a bad advert for the Nigerian League.

A day earlier we saw shameful videos of Kwara United officials assaulting a security man at the stadium’s entrance gate. I am waiting to see what sanctions will be meted out by the league to those Kwara United officials who were part of the shameful act. Even though they felt there were instructions by the home side to lock them out of the training pitch, their reaction was atrocious, to say the least

Then on the game proper, a journalist was almost killed? How?

The reports on Twitter and on WhatsApp group finger the General Manager of the club, Okey Kpalikwu for being the one who gave the instruction to assault the journalist, Chichetam Akawor, who runs a blog, www.FootballRover.com. The initial reports say he was manhandled, his tripod and camera destroyed, and the mob was led by the former captain of the club, Festus Austin.

Former captain, and team coordinator also said to be involved

The same Akawor was live on a sports show, Extra Time on Nigeria Info FM in Port Harcourt on Monday night and he clearly said, “The manager (Kpalikwu) threw a punch at me, then followed up with a hot slap, before I knew what was happening, the former team captain, Festus repeated the same thing… a whole bunch of guys rushed me immediately, punched me, slapped me, manhandled me…”

I did not even try to reach Okey Kpalikwu because I know how it will end,. He will raise his voice, insult me, and then end the call. There was no need for that. But I spoke to Festus Austin and though it was an off-record call, I can only say he denied being a part of the attack. Festus later told the same sports show on Nigeria Info FM that Chichetam was in a restricted area and the ultras wanted to steal his phone because he made a video so he only went to protect him.

But the victim clearly said the chairman of the Club Owners Association of Nigeria gave an order for him to be beaten up, then showed the way by throwing a punch, and then a slap. Let us pause for five seconds to think about this.

Why do we take two steps forward and then five backwards? Why do our clubs think that the way forward is to hire hooligans to unleash mayhem on those they perceive to be their enemies? How on earth is the Akawor even an enemy?

What should Akawor do?

People react to things in different ways. And while some will just lick their wounds and recuperate at home, some will use Social Media to fight back. Others will just decide not to go to the stadium again to watch a league match.

But the question I am asking and I have asked for more than ten years now is, “Is there an immunity within Nigerian stadia?”

If I slap, kick and punch a man at a street corner, he will more often than not get me arrested for assault, but if I do the same thing in a Nigerian League stadium, I go scot-free, why is this?

From the chatter on Social Media, and from the interview on Nigeria Info FM, four things happened on the day, according to Chichetam Akawor.

  1. It was raining as soon as the game ended so he ran with his camera on the tripod inside the tunnel to wait.
  2. He left the camera on but was not recording anything while the Rivers United ultras were harassing the referee.
  3. The General Manager of the club, Okey Kpalikwu gave instructions to have his camera confiscated, then threw a punch and a slap before a small mob led by the immediate past captain of the club, Festus Austin rushed at him and began to “Touch him hand” as well as damage his Tripod.
  4. On seeing that all eyes were on him, Festus Austin now acted as though he was trying to save the fellow, took him to a corner and went through the phone camera to ensure that no video was taken.

The other question we need to ask is, how do all these things happen in a football stadium and we all act as though it is part of normal life? Is it?

Akawor should be able to sue for aggravated assault, a felony of the first degree, theft, and destruction of property. He can also file a civil lawsuit against Rivers United to claim damages on his property (Tripod and phone). He can also seek financial compensation (damages) for the harm he suffered. The damages can include medical expenses and the cost of pain and suffering, but will he do this? As a Nigerian, he probably will not.

Rivers SWAN and the joke that it is

The Rivers State chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN issued a statement, or what was supposed to be one. But that statement was as weak as the penis of an 80-year-old trying to have sex.

The way I saw that statement signed by the chairman, Sarah David, and assistant secretary, Dorcas Koki the association wanted to impress their members by saying something about the assault, but at the same time did not want to offend Rivers United, so they more like wrote a report about what happened at the stadium that day.

Rivers SWAN should ask their elders about the case of Sam Atasia Oburu of NTA, Port Harcourt, and Sharks in the 90s, and how the association handled it. But what do I expect from an association that has not failed to exist since the last president ensured it went comatose.

Can I come to the stadium again?

After all, I have written today, I am sure I now have a target on my back. Will I be able to go to that stadium without “hand touching me?” Do I just forget about the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium and channel my resources towards Aba, Yenagoa and Uyo?

But, most of all, to the neutrals at home who we often enjoin to come and watch the Nigerian League, will they feel safe? Nobody can harm me in any stadium in Nigeria, but what about you? How safe are you in Port Harcourt?

Finally, how do the Club Owners and the League still want to tell Nigerians to come to the Stadium to watch games? What do we do about the chairman of the Club Owners Association accused of being a part of this? So many questions, so few answers

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