Manchester United’s condolence message to Calabar fans is a slap in the face of the Nigerian government

by Soma Oj.

The past few weeks have been eventful for football fans world over. And those events have not been the happiest.

First, it was the Dortmund bus bombing that saw the UEFA Champions league organisers postponing a crucial game, the most instant in a series sympathetic responses to the plight of those directly affected by the bombing, including Dortmund player, Marc Batra, who was seriously injured in the incident.

Dortmund FC quickly took to twitter within minutes of the bombing to assure fans they were on top of the matter. And even when the details were muddy, the club reassured via the micro-blogging site that they will keep fans informed: “as soon as there is news”.

[Read also: German police have arrested a suspect in the Dortmund Team Bus bomb attack]

Last night, here in Nigeria, more than 30 football fans were reported to have lost their lives (the Nigeria Police however maintain the death toll at 7 people) while they watched a UEFA Champions League match between Manchester United and Anderlecht. They were electrocuted while enjoying the match at a viewing centre in Calabar. Watching matches in viewing centres is not an uncommon viewing experience in Nigeria and for sure, the incident must have been the most unexpected thing. As one of the survivors of the accident narrated:

“Come to think of it, I have DStv at home but I enjoy watching matches at viewing centres. I could have been dead. I can’t believe that the people I was chatting and joking with a few minutes ago are all gone in a most anguishing way. This world is vain.”

The viewing centre in Calabar where football fans got electrocuted last night as they watched Manchester United play against Anderlecht.


By this morning, not up to 24 hours after the incident, Manchester United’s Twitter handle had put out a condolence message to the families of the fans who got electrocuted in Calabar.

“Our thoughts go out to the United fans, their friends and families affected by the tragedy in Calabar, Nigeria, yesterday.”

A simple enough but captivating message. Manchester United cares about its fans so they sent out a message commiserating with the United fans affected by the tragedy. In today’s world of instant PR by corporate giants, small businesses and public figures alike, – like Dortmund FC and UEFA Champions League last week – Manchester United obviously understands not only the importance of being concerned about fans across all dots on the globe but also the extreme importance of being seen to be concerned about them. Even if all it takes to show that concern are twenty words on a micro-blogging site directed at their own fans.

The only culprit in the wake of last night’s incident has been the Nigerian government, especially the Federal government, who despite having a bunch of accounts managed on its behalf on Twitter and Facebook did not seem the least concerned about the horrible fate of her own citizens.

The truth is that even if the Federal Government had sent off relief materials to the families of the deceased within hours of the electrocution – although a more realistic scenario will be that the FG set up a committee to inquire into the circumstances that led to the electrocution (and even this may not happen until next week, if it ever will)- the fact that they were not savvy enough to show any concern via social media would have still worked against them.

In 2017, the reality is that it makes no sense that a government will put out no instant message to commiserate with its own citizens after such a horrible accident as this.

And the worst part is not that they let a foreign organisation – whose show of concern may or may not have been altruistic – do the commiseration before them, it is that even when they finally got to sending out a message, there’s nothing to prove that they are any more concerned than Manchester United about the incident. Nor is there anything to show in the Federal Government’s message that they have done anything beyond typing out a soulless condolence message.

The bottom line has nothing to do with Manchester United’s early message. The bottom line is that this experience has just added to the unfortunately very long list of events that prove that the Nigerian government still needs a nudge to show any kind of interest in its own citizens welfare.

*This article has been updated to include figures released by Nigeria Police*

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