A few days ago, I came across a video on X, formerly Twitter. The caption described it as a racist TikTok video posted by Italian football club, Napoli, about one of their strikers, Victor Osimhen, a Nigerian national. But due to lagging internet speed, I barely could watch a few seconds of it. You know how annoying buffering can be. And so, I thumbed away to the next thing.
The next day, I saw Osimhen on the trend table and I was reminded immediately of the post on the alleged racist video posted by Napoli. Now, with better internet, I searched for it and watched it in full. And then in the comments, I saw another video alleged to have also been posted by Napoli. This was even more disturbing as it compared Osimhen to a coconut. To get a sense of what Nigerians were saying about both videos, I skimmed through a few posts after painstakingly sifting keyword and hashtag spams; an annoying feature on X. I learned that Napoli had taken down both videos after Nigerians mobbed them on TikTok.
So, what about the videos is so racist? In my opinion, it’s hard to tell. The videos at worst were a futile attempt at TikTok comedy. And at best, sheer innocent stupidity. Given how “racism” is almost a knee-jerk response to explain any (perceived) misfortune black people experience in majority-white countries, I feel that word more than ever must earn its semantic gold when used today.
The first video was a mockery of a penalty shootout Osimhen missed though he had asked to be the one to take it. In sped-up high pitch, the voiceover, in first-person narration and with an accompanied subtitle says:
“Gimme penalty, please
gimme penalty please
why are you laughing
you give me penalty.”
Dear @sscnapoli, your admin is on TikTok trolling your own Player, Victor Osimhen for missing a Penalty.— LERRY (@_AsiwajuLerry) September 26, 2023
Is this how you repay a Player who fought hard on the field to end your 33 years of waiting for a League title?? pic.twitter.com/33TlWkEwtg
It ends with a ridiculous laugh as it shows Osimhen miss the shot. The second video called him a coconut instead of a boy or girl while showing an unflattering picture of Osimhen poking his tongue out. I learned the coconut video was posted three days earlier. My guess is the outrage it sparked was retroactive following the penalty video. In any case, the coconut video, this time with a song, was also sped up and in high pitch. It sings:
“co co co co co co co co
I’m a coconut
I’m not a boy
I’m not a girl
I’m a coconut.”
If Napoli’s official TikTok account can do this to Victor Osimhen the Player that brought them Glory last Season by calling Him Coconut then they don’t Deserve Him, Victor Osimhen should ask to leave Napoli in January , Like or Repost if I spoke your Mind . pic.twitter.com/i0dKv011Bq— SimCarD ‘ LieS TheY TolD US’ (Akpos) (@Therealsimcard) September 26, 2023
It’s very funny that Napoli mocked their best player on TikTok. Without a doubt, Osimhen is the best thing that has happened to the club lately. I’m not so much of a football guy. But from the little I know, Osimhen is something of a goal machine. Earlier this year, he scored his 100th career goal; a record he achieved faster than Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Football pundits believe he should be nominated for the Ballon d’Or, the highest award in football, following his impressive records for Napoli within the past year. Why they chose to mock their golden goose is unclear to anyone.
Maybe Napoli is being racist to Osimhen. But amidst all the outrage and pontifications, one fact has been grossly overlooked and it is that there is enough racism to go around. And that’s particularly true here in Africa. At least people like Victor Osimhen can have a thriving career in Italy. In the typical African country, the limited opportunities that exist are overtly or covertly politicised along ethnoreligious lines. Cronyism, nepotism, and tribalism have been the bane of most African economies. To completely overlook this and be quick to call out racism beyond the Mediterranean is hypocritical.
And I should also point out a cognitive dissonance here. If by our admission Europe is so racist, why are Africans still going there in droves even through illegal means? It’s like eating a piece of a cake you know is poisonous and then complain when you start to bellyache. This cognitive dissonance shows there’s no limit to Africans’ sense of entitlement.
At the risk of being misconstrued, I should say that by no means do I support racism. My grouse is with the selective outrage as if Nigeria were better in terms of ethnoreligious relations. I mean, we have a civil war and a cocktail of secessionist campaigns to show for that. In Nigeria, the rule of thumb is you cannot contest for political office in a state or region if your parents are not from there. You may be an indigene of Lagos. But you cannot contest for an elective office even in neighbouring Ogun. Yet, in countries like Canada, America, and Britain, we increasingly see large numbers of second-generation Nigerian immigrants get elected or appointed. These are supposed to be the racist countries we decry.
As we live in the Japa* zeitgeist, we should understand that we will always stand the risk of experiencing some form of discrimination abroad. We may be a social species. But we are also extremely tribal, given the right circumstances. It is a risk you take the moment you decide to Japa in quest of a better life. And when you perchance have those experiences, do not complain. If anything, complain about why your country has pushed you to leave.
I make no bones about admitting that I’ve tried to Japa myself numerous times in the past. I’ve applied for fellowships, scholarships, you name it. But, unfortunately, none of it was successful. My reason for wanting to Japa is based on societal and partly cultural reasons. The Nigerian society is such that the police stereotype you for simply wanting to look good as a young man. They harass and extort you. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with the police. There are routes I do not travel with my laptop because of the police. I’ve yet to have the courage to sport dreads also for fear of being stereotyped as a Yahoo boy* by the police. That’s no way to live as a human being in your own country. So, yeah, I’d very much like to leave this ridiculous society.
But I’m fully aware that I’m not the only Nigerian or African who desperately wants to Japa. Some for good reasons, others for bad reasons. And that’s making it increasingly difficult from a visa perspective. I do not blame those countries for having anti-immigrant policies. America is going through an unprecedented border crisis with illegal immigration. Italy is likewise seeing large numbers of illegal migrants cross its borders every other day. If their citizens see footage of Africans crossing their borders, I can objectively understand why they could be “racist” towards immigrants. It’s unfortunate, but I understand. Africans would act the same way, if not worse, if the reverse were the case.
If I then japa in the current climate (which I still want to), and I perchance encounter mild or overt racism, it’d be dishonest of me to go all Black Lives Matter. If my country had not failed me, I likely wouldn’t be an economic immigrant to start with. Napoli’s treatment of Victor Osimhen presents a chance to have an honest conversation about failed economies in Africa, our proclivity for prejudice as human beings regardless of race, and the tradeoffs involved in migration. Even with what has happened, Osimhen would choose Napoli a million times over any African club. And that tells you all you need to know.
Japa* is a Nigerian colloquialism for migration
Yahoo boy* is a Nigerian colloquialism for an internet fraudster
Olayemi is the publisher of The Disaffected Magazine. He also hosts the Disaffected Nigerian Podcast. He enjoys everything from Evolutionary Psychology to the syncopations of Apala music to Fela’s discography. He fancies himself as an Amala enthusiast. His dream is to be a travel writer someday.