By Emmanuel Obe
In Nigeria, Na Waa is an expression used to express shock and surprise at unpleasant turnout of events. So when Nigerians began to fail external examinations set by WAEC uncontrollably, it became notorious to say Na Waa for WAEC, even at unpleasant events not related to WAEC. It wasn’t a surprise then when the Nigerian government set up another external body, NECO to reverse the mass failure in WAEC examinations.
But in Benin, the ancient city capital of Edo State, it was common for people to say, ‘Na Waa for Wire Road.’ I do not know what led to this defeatist reference to Wire Road. Wire Road is one of the oldest streets in Benin City. It is a vital link between Ring Road, the heart of the city around where the king lives and Five Junction, the most popular junction in Benin where five major roads meet.
So it turned out Na Waa for Wire Road for me on Saturday when I went to Wire Road to watch a game or two of basketball. The basketball pitch at Wire Road had served many generations of youths in Benin City who learnt and played the game of basketball there.
Edo State became celebrated for its exploits in competitive sports way back after the Nigerian civil war when the young military governor then, Samuel Ogbemudia, propped up sports as one of the selling points of the then Midwest State. Ogbe Stadium, now Ogbemudia Stadium (which one politician told me now looks like Wembley Stadium) and the Sports Institute at Afuze were also sports incubation centres for the then Midwest State (now Edo and Delta States).
The neighbourhood basketball pitch at Wire Road was one the many arenas that were established for youngsters to pick up sports talents during that period. The arena was always open especially in the mornings and evenings as players sweated it out on the pitch.
But on Saturday when I visited to feast my eyes, the basketball courts were under lock and key. The tartan courts were shining and beautiful. I learnt the new courts were laid by Governor Godwin Obaseki, who also built a fence around the courts. It’s just the courts that are there. The poles, hoops and nets were missing. But there was no one in sight to even explain why the place was in a state of abandonment. The premises, which also contained two new volleyball courts was overgrown.
I couldn’t help but join my Benin hosts to say Na Waa for Wire Road over the abandoned state of the basketball playground.