Can you think of events in and around Africa the past decades that is always in your memory? What do you remember about previous decades that always fills you with nostalgia? On the other hand, what aspects of life events from previous decades that you don’t wish to see again? Join me as we explore the changes Africa has experienced during the last 5 decades, from 1970 to 2019!
Life in Africa for the average child can rightly be described as eventful, especially from the 1980’s. Between 1956 to 1980, many African nations successfully gain freedom from their colonial masters – sometimes with bitter struggles. Some of these nation, like Nigeria, Mozambique and Congo fought civil wars, not to mention the different Coup d’état and genocides.
However, Africa experienced several other events in different aspects of living that are quite memorable.. Some of these events I do remember with nostalgia, and some others are better not recalled. Just like millions of other young children, some events in Africa are hard to forget. Let me share some notable events that I remember . . . .
Notable Events I Remember
In the early 80s, I always heard adults talk angrily about a man named Godwin Odiye. For years, I didn’t who he was and why people hated him so passionately. Years later, I got to learn that his own goal against Tunisia cost Nigeria a place in the 1978 world cup in Argentina! I never forgot that name.
People in the early 80’s were always calling out “austerity measures” and I wondered what it meant. Most times, many Igbo-born adults jokingly called it ‘Ota nisi‘ which refers to being hit in the head. I later got to understand that the Nigerian Government put ‘austerity measures’ in place because of rising cost of living at that time. What about today?
In 1985, I remember the excited scream one woman who owned a shop on our compound let out as she listened to a radio broadcast. I was startled as crowds began to gather in front of the shop, wandering what was happening. In the midst of the chaos, I got to learn that a Coup d’état has just taken place in the country, and the name on everyone’s lips was ‘Babangida”!
The final of 1988 African Nations Cup held in Morocco between Nigeria & Cameroon is another event that I vividly remember. Having drawn 0-0 with Cameroon in the group stage, Nigerians were overly confident the Green Eagles will win. Unfortunately, Kounde’s second half penalty for Cameroon saw Nigeria lose to Cameroun for the second time in a Nation’s Cup final match. Most Nigerians felt grieved that day because the Mauritanian center referee disallowed a Henry Nwosu equalizing goal for Nigeria.
Memorable Sporting Events in the 80’s & 90’s For Me
I share with you some events from previous decades that I still remember. One such unforgettable event was the death of Green Eagle’s midfielder, Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji in August 1989. He died while playing for Nigeria against Angola in a 1990 World Cup qualifier in Ibadan. That news brought tears to the faces of many Nigerians. He was one of Nigeria’s finest players, plying his trade in Germany at that time.
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The Dammam miracle of Saudi Arabia ’89 U-20 Fifa World Cup match between USSR & Nigeria is another memorable event. After going down 4-0 to USSR in the first half of their quarter final match, Nigeria came back to equalize and win the game on penalties. That was one of my most exciting time watching a football match!
Cameroon legend, Roger Milla’s exploits at Italia ’90 World Cup is another memorable event for me. His goals and the accompanying samba dance were a big motivation for me to go to our neighbor’s home to watch many of the matches of the world cup. That memory lived with me for a long time until the next world cup.
Nigeria’s first qualification to the 1994 USA World Cup remains vivid in my memory. From qualification to the world cup itself, I was quite excited. Although Super Eagle’s lost their second round match to Italy, I still enjoyed watching the rest of the competition.
Unarguably, my most memorable sporting event has to be the Atlanta 1996 Olympics football event. The semi-final match against almighty Brazil was always going to be difficult for Nigeria. Many Nigerians didn’t expect Nigeria to come from 3-1 to beat Brazil 4-3 in extra time. That Kanu goal… simply amazing! The whole world celebrated with Nigeria!
Landmark Events in The 80’s & 90’s
1985: Against all odds, Nigeria’s Eaglets won the first FIFA U-16 World Cup in China. That team was led by Nduka Ugbade.
1989: The Berlin wall fell on November 9, thus leading to merging of East and West Germany into one united nation.
1990: Nelson Mandela and other activists were unconditionally released from prison by President F. W. de Klerk. They had spent about 27 years in jail for campaigning for the banned political group ANC. Nelson Mandela later died in December 2013.
1991: The breakup of Yugoslavia occurred as a result of a series of political upheavals and conflicts. Eventually, six republics gained independence with a 10-month period: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.
1993: Attempts to restore Nigeria to democracy rule did not last long. After only 82 days of civilian rule under Ernest Shonekan, Nigeria returned to military rule later that year.
1994: South Africa finally gained independence after the end of apartheid rule.
1994: Between April and June, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. Most of the dead were Tutsis – and most of the killers were Hutus. The genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu. His plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994, allegedly by the Tutsis.
1996: Nigeria won her first Olympics gold medals in football and track & field at Atlanta Olympics. The dream team led by Nwankwo Kanu won the football event, while Chioma Ajunwa won the long jump event.
1997: Nigerian musician and founder of Afro Beats Music, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, died in August due to complications from AIDS. He was aged 59 years at the time of his death.
These and many more events from previous decades have always filled me with nostalgia every time I think of my growing up years. Beyond Africa, there are still other notable events that I always remember, some good and others not so good.
There are yet other events that occurred within these past 50 years that are notable. It would not be possible to put them down here in this article. But I do know these events may be memorable to each of us for various reasons.
Everyone of us must have memorable events from past decades that we may have witnessed. We would like you to share those moments with us, just as I have done. If you have any memorable event you want to share with us, go ahead and drop your thoughts in the comments section below.