It is difficult to see any reason for Sunday Oliseh’s action, but he embarked on it vigorously that he’s not “Igbo”.
Who is contesting Oliseh’s natural birth claim? What are his reasons, which he is entitled to, for the disclaimer? These, and many other questions, beg for answers as likeable Sunday pursued a social media disclaimer of Igbo origin for weeks, drawing curiosity to reasons behind such action.
Sunday was born in Abavo, Delta State, a town which accommodates cultural heritages of Igbo, Edo, Kwales etc. But, first, a peep into Sunday Oliseh’s career.
Sunday Ogochukwu Oliseh is a Nigerian football manager and former player. In his active playing career, he played as a defensive midfielder. Physically and technically gifted, he played for top European clubs including Ajax, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus. He is widely regarded as one of the best African midfielders of all time.
Oliseh played 63 international matches and scored three goals for Nigeria, and played at the Football World Cups of 1994 and 1998. Oliseh also participated in the Olympic gold medal winning team of 1996. He was voted Africa’s third best footballer in 1998 by CAF.
He is mostly remembered for scoring the winning goal in the group stage match against Spain in the 1998 World Cup, as Nigeria prevailed 3–2. A throw-in deep in the Spanish half was headed clear by Fernando Hierro – Oliseh ran and fired an explosive shot from 25 yards and took Spanish goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta completely by surprise. Despite captaining Nigeria during the 2002 African Cup of Nations, Oliseh was omitted from his country’s World Cup squad later that year for disciplinary reasons.
That’s the man Oliseh. A response from Chiedu Ezeanah, a kinsman to Sunday Oliseh gives some insight:
That some Southeast Igbos are condescending to Delta/Western Igbos and some Delta/Western Igbos feel insulted enough by it to no longer identify as Igbos, does not alter the true historical fact of their shared linguistic and cultural heritage.
“A whole Zik of Africa” who hails from Onitsha, old Eastern Region, now Anambra State, South East Nigeria, was called “Yoruba Igbo”, which is what the core Igbo-speaking areas call Anioma/Delta Igbos, but did you ever hear Zik saying he is not Igbo?
I am from Ogwashi-Uku, headquarters of Aniocha South LG, Delta State,I speak a dialect of Igbo language: I AM IGBO.
The same applies to all these other places you have mentioned: Ika, the Agbor area where Abavo is located; the Kwale/Ukwuani people of Ndokwa East and Ndokwa West local governments…
History, not personal sentiment or preference, is a discipline that requires rigorous study and deep reflection, and it is what must guide any discussion of this sort that wishes to be taken seriously by serious-minded people.
I was born in Yorubaland and I speak and read and write the language. I can tell you that Oyo Yoruba is drastically different from Ekiti or Owo or Ijebu Yoruba dialects enough for them not to even understand themselves, but none of the latter has ever disclaimed their shared Yoruba historical, linguistic and cultural heritage.
A while ago, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who comes from the same Ika LG as Oliseh, wanted everyone to believe that he is Igbo as he flirted with the Southeast Igbos for their votes.
Sunday Oliseh’s case is purely an aberration and he’s entitled to his preference of self-identification, but his preference, whimsical or legitimate, cannot erase shared communal/historical/and linguistic heritage with the fiat of a personal disclaimer.
He is just a single man out of a community of millions of people that share same bond, culturally and historically, in a fairly contiguous geographical location.
The point remains: What is Oliseh’s goal for embarking on this disclaimer?