Thursday, June 26, 2008

AFENIFERE AND ALLEGATIONS OF ETHNOCENTRISM IN YAR’ADUAH’S REGIME

Sometimes a brilliant and factually accurate message gets distorted by the harbinger of the news; the messenger often determines the reception accorded to a message. In law, there is what we call judicial estoppel. Judicial estoppel arises in equity and serves to preclude a party from gaining an advantage by asserting one position before a court and then later taking a clearly inconsistent position before the court. A court may invoke judicial estoppel either to prevent a party from gaining an advantage by taking inconsistent positions or to maintain the dignity of judicial proceedings.

I believe recent report from Punch on the Web, quoting Mr. Yinka Odumakin, the national publicity secretary of ethnocentric, geriatric and ultra-ethnic association popularly called Afenifere fits this bill. According to the text of Mr. Odumakin press release, which he titled “Yar’Aduah’s ethnocentrism stinks still.” (sic). In the actual piece itself, he disparages an attempt by Yar’Aduah’s to explain away some of his appointment as an “ill-attempt by President Umaru Yar’Adua …. to exonerate himself from real allegations of “northernisation” of power in clear violation of the Federal Character principle in the 1999 constitution.” Mr. Odumakin submits that most of the principal appointment of Yar’Adua went to Nigerians of northern origin and that this “further demonstrated that he (Yar’Adua) has a dangerous mindset that threatens the unity of Nigeria and its continued corporate existence.”

Now, I have known Mr. Odumakin for shooting from the hips, since his appointment, first as PRO and thence as publicity secretary of Afenifere, but the latest beats the cake. Mr. Odumakin’s latest diatribe brings back memories of how an otherwise patriotic Nigerian can suddenly turned an ethnic jingoist. I knew Yinka Odumakin in our days at University of Ife, as we both actively participated in Students Unionism at Great Ife. We also belong to the same collective in Ife where we gathered to engage in serious thinking over the ills of Nigeria. Then, his love for Nigeria and all Nigerians is unquestionable. We often jointly railed against the oligarchies holding our dear country, Nigeria, hostage and wish for the day when all Nigerians irrespectively of where they hailed from will occupy an office not because of the accident of their birth but on merit!

Everyone knows I am not a card carrying fan of the present regime in Abuja, just as I do not join the bandwagon of those who celebrated its corrupt predecessors. My concerns with Odumakin’s piece is the fact that it seeks to question Yar’adua’s ministerial appointment not on the merits of those appointed but because they hailed from the north. This is what he called “northernisation.” This card had always been played by ethnic jingoist jostling for position of power in Nigeria.

This is at best laughable given the fact that Afenifere is itself an ethnic jingoist organization set up to further the parochial interest of the ethnicity of the majority of its members. The aim of organization such as Afenifere is to defend the interest of the Yoruba ethnic group it represent and not the interest of Nigeria or Nigerian. And they are not alone, there is the Arewa People’s congress, the Ohaneze N’digbo, the Ijaw People’s Congress, MASSOB et al. The paradox is therefore only lost on Mr. Odumakin befuddled minds as everyone knows he is crying wolf. This is why I said the messenger sometimes kills the message.
I recalls that a couple of years ago, when former President Obasanjo was in government, the same Afenifere, actively push the then government to appoint Yorubas to position of influence in Obasanjo’s government as a condition for supporting him. They hailed him when he appointed Bola Ige, as Power and Steel minister, with little or no qualification for that position. They hailed him when he appointed the sons and daughters of Awolowo, Akinjide, Akintola, Fani Kayode et al with little or no qualification! And now, they have the temerity to question what they engineered and actively support?

I confess that if Afenifere had stopped at questioning the merits of those appointed by Yar’Adua, I would not have had any problem with their diatribe. Why not dig into the background of those appointed by Yar’Adua and bring out things that disqualified them from functioning in that position. Is Shamsudeen Usman, who had spent his entire career at Nigeria financial industry, not qualified as minister of Finance? We can query the appointment of Yayale Ahmed and Aondoakaa as minister of defense and attorney general especially given the latter conflict of interest vis a vis ongoing investigation of some of his previous clients who are corrupt ministers being prosecuted by the same ministry. But attacking them because they come from the north is at best myopic and self serving. What makes this ministry less important than the ministry of External and Internal affairs occupied by Nigerians from the southern part of the country?

The more damning evidence is that Afenifere was peculiarly silent when the erstwhile minister of health, Adenike Grange, who hails from the south west, was indicted and disgraced out of office for corruption. This should have thought them a lesson that merits should be the answer to questionable appointments and not ethnicity!
As long as we keep emphasizing ethnicity in our national discourse we will end up with government of wolves! I hope the likes of Yinka Odumakin and his Afenifere will contribute more positively to our national discourse rather than issue this type of jejune and divisive press releases.

Monday, June 23, 2008

YARADUA’S POWER SURGE WITHOUT RESOLUTION OF THE NIGER DELTA CRISIS, A MIRAGE?

“Nigeria is a place where the best is impossible but where the worst never happens.”
-John Gunther “Inside Africa” Harper & Brothers 1953 page 776

Recently President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua made a major announcement on the perennial power outage problem in Nigeria in far away Paris, France. He declared that beginning from next month; he would formally declare a state of emergency in Nigeria's power sector. At about the same time, the three tiers of government (federal, state and local) unanimously agreed to pump $5.375 billion (N639.625 billion) into the power sector for rehabilitation and expansion of Nigeria’s power generation, transmission and distribution through the Independent Power Project (IPP).

This of course is a “causa celebra” for those of us who have been very impatient with the “go slow” approach of the present regime to governance in Nigeria. I was genuinely elated on hearing the announcement, despite my disgust that such an important announcement had to be made in Europe. Declaring a state of emergency in the most debilitating sector of the Nigerian economy deserves kudos, it shows the government is at last getting grips of the endemic problem of power outage in Nigeria.

My celebration was however cut short, when I start to reflect on the practicability of the major policy announced by the government. I suddenly discovered that without a holistic look at the plans one may end up celebrating a hollow and pyrrhic victory. The plan calls as usual for a massive injection of funds, something we have done time and time again in Nigeria without success. One of those exercises in futility undertaken by the preceding regime of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is currently under probe by the National Assembly.
Such funds according to the news report is expected to come from excess crude account based on the projection that exploration and production of oil in the Niger Delta will continue uninterrupted by the crisis in the region.

I got worried that the government might not have thought the entire plan through, when I realized that majority of the power plants are anchored on regular supply of natural gas from the Niger Delta. A region of Nigeria currently embroiled in crisis due to the criminal neglect of the region by successive government in Nigeria, which led the people of the region to take up arms against the government.

The Federal Government’s projects in Niger Delta under the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) are the Omoku Thermal Power Station, Rivers State, Gbaran/Ubie Thermal Power Station, Bayelsa State, Sapele Thermal Power Station, Delta State, Ikot Abasi Thermal Power Station, Akwa Ibom State, Ihovbor Thermal Power Station, Edo State, Egbema Thermal Power Station, Imo State and Calabar Thermal Power Station, Cross River State.

How anyone could fathom an idea of uninterrupted, free outflow of gas out of this region with the prevailing environment beats me. And yet, according to the Federal Government, the sites for the project were chosen because of nearness to gas supply. The country does not have a gas grid yet. Establishing the projects in far-flung places would require additional funds to lay gas pipelines as well as increase the risk of vandalization, the government explained.

News report out of the Niger Delta is grim. The militants in the Niger Delta have done a lot to shut down oil exploration in the region and in the recent past they have moved on to shut down off shore oil platforms that hitherto appeared unreachable. There is no doubt that some criminal hoodlums had taken advantage of the crisis to perpetrate evil on the Niger Delta people themselves. The thought of an exploding gas pipe in the midst of this crisis looms large as a possibility.

Any power surge plan involving gas supplies without a final resolution of the Niger Delta crisis is a tinder box waiting to explode. Rather than declare a month of power emergency we are better served declaring a 90 days emergency summit on the Niger Delta crisis. Here is an opportunity to once and for all call all stakeholders in the region to task.

The futility in the Federal government power generation plan is clearly manifested in the attack on offshore oil platforms we witnessed recently. Something that has never been done before, the militants have surely made mincemeat of any gains we hope to derive from excess crude oil funds. So I wonder where the three tiers of government alluded to above are going to realize their contribution without a resolution of the Niger Delta crisis. We are at present at a position where we would find it difficult to produce enough crude oil for local production, not to talk of export in the next 7 years.

Any attempt to “wish away” the crisis in the Niger Delta will remain a chimera, an illusion, an apparition that will refuse to go away. Confronting it with an “Odi-like-attack” mentality will surely backfired as we learnt from former President Obasanjo’s experience. The fact that the serious militants among the varied groups have repeatedly called for truce and get ignored by politicians in Abuja is a testament to the tone-deafness of the traducers in Aso rock. An insurgency such as the ones in Niger Delta cannot be quelled by tanks and ammunitions. If you like you can buy up the guns, ammunitions, chiefs and the elders within a five mile radius of the last attack! Until the grievances of the people are addressed, peace will continue to elude the land.

We need to take a page from the United States government power/troop surge in Iraq, and embarked on a multi-faceted approach to the crisis. This is no longer a civil disturbance as the Federal government will have us believed. There is a war going on in the Niger Delta. Abuja cannot pretend to be stone deaf! We gain nothing by the present hypocritical stands of politicians in Abuja. The militants may have some thuggish elements in their midst but majority of them do have genuine grievances that needed to be addressed. Calling them to the table to address their grievance is not an act of cowardice!

My recommendation, which I confessed, mirrors another “troop surge” elsewhere, is not fool proof, but it will at least start the national conversation which has been lacking for too long. First of all, we need to admit that there is an ongoing war in the Niger Delta. It is only after then we can justify an increased military presence in the Niger Delta. Such military presence must be led entirely by soldiers from the Niger Delta. The present exercise where military task force are led by soldiers from North or West is at best condescending and counter productive.
The goal of any military presence must be clearly spelt out and the intent should be to “take hold and build.” I am privileged to have lived and traveled in the region during my national youth service and the infrastructures required for growth is none-existent. The troops send to the Niger Delta must have a clear mandate to help protect the population and not mown them down as they did in Odi; every efforts must be made to isolate extremists, kidnappers and thugs; create space for political progress, the attempt to installed political office holders vide “kangaroo” election must stop! The People’s Democratic Party and its retinue of thugs and political profiteers have a lot to do with the festering crisis in the region. They need to be told to stop imposing candidates in local, state and regional elections.
Next, attempt must be made to diversify political and economic efforts. The earlier we make Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), answerable to the people it is meant to serve the better. Creating a gargantuan bureaucracy answerable to politicians in Abuja is antithetical to all tenets of democracy and accountability. The Chairman of NDDC should and ought to be made accountable to the people he or she is required to serve. So, there is a need to amend the Niger-Delta Development Commission (Establishment etc) Act 2000 Act No 6, to accommodate the diverse community it is meant to serve with their input taking into consideration and its political office holders made answerable to the people vide free and fair election.
Finally, situate whatever strategy for combating the problem in a regional approach. A top down solution approach to the problem as we have learnt from OMPADEC to NDDC remains a dumb approach to the most important crisis facing the Nigerian nation since the Civil War.
We cannot afford to fail, power surge without a comprehensive resolution to the Niger Delta crisis will remain an illusion, a mirage, a chimera and apparition in Nigerian politician’s befuddled minds. A mere conduit for another “merry go round” waste and spend. In my next piece, I intend to tackle the issue of “none-natural gas” procured power generation solution including solar and wind energy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

THE CONFESSIONS OF GWARZO

culled from TELL MAGAZINE EDITION OF AUGUST 7, 2000.
The Confessions of Gwarzo

Ade Olorunfewa
Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Gwarzo: ran looting errands for Abacha

The former national security adviser has opened more cans of worms on General Abacha's looting spree. His testimony is the jugular of the government case against Mohammed, the dictator's son, who will face trial for his role in the lootingOn November 30, 1996, a year after the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni nationalist hero, Mohammed, eldest surviving son of General Sani Abacha, was sent on an important errand by his father.

On November 30, 1996, a year after the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni nationalist hero, Mohammed, eldest surviving son of General Sani Abacha, was sent on an important errand by his father. It was a routine job that Abacha, Nigerian dictator since he seized power from the regime of Ernest Shonekan, considered very important and could only be carried out by his son. Mohammed soon hurried to the official residence of Ismaila Gwarzo, former police commissioner who was Abacha's national security adviser, NSA. Mohammed was accompanied by a trusted aide of his father, Zazzawa Zafara. The two were soon at Gwarzo's residence where they met the highly expectant NSA. Everyone was happy. Gwarzo soon handed over to the First Son, the official title of Mohammed in the warped lingo of the Abacha court, the carefully packed bales of American dollars.

The trusted loaders soon concluded their job and the bullion van roared off with its cargo of $50 million (N5 billion) to Aso Rock Villa, the official residence of Abacha. Mission accomplished. The $50 million haul is one of the evidence of direct looting of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, that the prosecution is going to confront Mohammed Abacha with when his trial and that of others open in Abuja this week. F. N. Molokwu, the federal director of public prosecution, DPP, has already filed a 30-count charge of stealing and receiving stolen goods against Mohammed, whom the prosecution is determined to reveal as the willing instrument of treasury looting by his father.

For the trial, the government has assembled many witnesses, including several men who participated in the carting away of billions of dollars and pounds from the CBN. Those who may testify for the prosecution include officials of the CBN, drivers who helped bring the crates of crisp currencies and the sundry labourers who helped re-bag the money in the sprawling compound of Gwarzo. It was in the re-bagged form that the money would be taken to Aso Rock, and Mohammed would help channel the money to the many shell companies abroad maintained by what investigators called "The Abacha Criminal Organisation." So far, only 52 of those companies have been discovered.

The prosecution is going to rely heavily on the testimony to be given by Gwarzo, according to competent sources at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja. Though he was unable to remember many of the details, he was said to have listed at least 15 instances when money was taken directly from the CBN and handed over to Mohammed, who received on behalf of his father. The lowest sum ever collected was $1.21 million on March 6, 1997. The highest, according to Gwarzo, was £147 million collected from the CBN on April 29, 1997. The money was taken out in cash.The November 30, 1996 heist, which was $50 million, was only one of many instances that typified the way Gwarzo helped Abacha to plunder the CBN. A week earlier, Gwarzo, following (a discussion with Abacha, had applied to the dictator for the sum of $100 million (N10 billion) for spurious security operations abroad against the activities of the opposition National Democratic Coalition, NADECO. Abacha, in mock modesty, approved only $50 million.

With the instrument of Abacha's approval in his hand, Gwarzo now directed his aide, Abdulganiyu Lawan, to go and meet Paul Ogwuma, the governor of the CBN. Lawan was well known to Ogwuma who as soon as he collected the paper and was satisfied that it was Abacha's signature, quickly gave the necessary instructions.The men who carried out Ogwuma's instructions were the staff of the Foreign Exchange Department of the CBN. The pointmen there were A. Yabugi and Gregory Egentih. These two men supervised the loading of the money from the vaults into the bullion vans waiting with armed guards. The vans, as usual, sped to the home of Gwarzo, who was also waiting to receive his emissary. Lawan delivered the haul to his boss. A team was already waiting: the re-bagging team.

According to the instructions of Abacha, he would not accept the money in CBN sacks and wrappers. Therefore, Gwarzo had a team, supervised by Lawan, who did the re-bagging. There were five regulars in the re-bagging squad. These are Aruba Ajijola, Bulama Mohammed, a police inspector, Michael George, Alhaji Audu and Francis Gagere. They pursued their assignment with despatch, and, soon, the money was wearing a new wrapper for onward movement to Aso Rock.The operation was a truly successful one. According to evidence that may be presented in court at the trial of Mohammed, Gwarzo, within a period of 16 months, June 1996 and October 1997, sent Lawan to collect $456.5 million (N45.65 billion) and £232 million.

The money was taken away in cash. He also collected $37.6 million and £2 million in travellers' cheques. Gwarzo's driver, Onoja Michael, always led the convoy to the CBN, Abuja, and he usually participated in the re-bagging work.Competent sources said Gwarzo had confessed that the looting festival was initiated by the dictator himself. Abacha had called Gwarzo, shortly after his regime came to power, stating that the NSA should advise him on how to put away substantial "golden eggs" in foreign banks. This, the dictator explained to Gwarzo, is because of "the uncertainties associated with governance in Nigeria and Africa." The two men held series of discussions. Arrangements were made with foreign banks and interested international wheeler-dealers were contacted to help set up shell companies and open offshore accounts in mostly outlaw countries.

Abacha approved his two sons, Ibrahim, who was to die later in a plane crash in January 1996, and Mohammed, as his representatives. Gwarzo was to deal with these two young men, who were to collect the 'harvest' on behalf of their father and help him channel the money abroad.In February 1995, the 'Abacha Looting Brigade' visited the CBN twice. On February 15, 1995, the brigade took $4 million and £2 million from the CBN. The operation was led by Lawan, who brought the money to Gwarzo's residence. The money was re-bagged and delivered to Aso Rock. Those who took delivery on behalf of Abacha were his son, Mohammed, and his trusted aide, Zafara. By February 17, 1995, members of the brigade were back again at the CBN. This time, they carted away $4 million and £2 million for the second time. The brigade, after that, according to the statement of Gwarzo, bided its time until December 1995, when it carted $5 million from the apex bank.In 1996, apart from the $50 million mentioned above, Abacha also raided the CBN two other times.

The first time was in March, when the gang made away with $5 million and £3 million. The second time was in September 1996, when Gwarzo presented to the governor of the CBN Abacha's authority to take away $5 million and £5 million. Sorry, he was told, the CBN was short of cash, especially pound sterling. Would Gwarzo take dollars in exchange, the CBN implored him? Abacha was quickly contacted, and he gave the go-ahead, saying he could be paid in any hard currency, the equivalent of what he had requested. The entire sum was then paid in dollars, totalling $12.5 million. On December 11, 1996, the gang was back again at the CBN, carting away $50 million and £30 million.By 1997, some top staff of the CBN were asking for "proper authorisation" for the carting away of these cash on the ground of security. Anthony Ani, the minister of finance, dutifully informed Ogwuma of the CBN, instructing him about the need to co-operate in the interest of national security. That opened the floodgates. On April 22, 1997, the seventh anniversary of the bloody putsch against the dictatorship of General Ibrhaim Babangida, Abacha withdrew $60 million from the CBN. Three months later, the ogre was back again at the vault of the CBN, carting away another $60 million and $30 million on July 7, 1997.

The biggest harvest for that year was on November 26, 1997, when $120 million and £50 million were carted away from the CBN. They were dutifully delivered at Gwarzo's residence, re-bagged and handed over to Mohammed at the Aso Rock Villa. Though after many sessions of interrogation, Gwarzo said he could only remember some of their operations, Mohammed even fared worse. He told his interrogators that he could only remember two or three instances when he collected money from Gwarzo on behalf of his father. And what his father gave him, as far he was concerned, was a paltry sum on each occasion. Once, he was broke and he needed some pocket money. He approached his father over this little problem. The doting father dashed into his room and quickly gave his son $2 million. Mohammed said the money was small all right, but it was enough to solve his immediate problems. He took the $2 million to Ahmadu Daura, the proprietor of Sunshine Bureau de Change, Apapa, Lagos, who helped him change it to naira (about N200 million).

"The source of the money that was exchanged was from parts of the money delivered to my father by Alhaji Gwarzo," he said. "I requested the amount from him (Abacha) and he gave it to me."With the mountain of naira in his possession, Mohammed was able to settle bills at some of his companies, including Systems Engineering in Abuja, Selcom Aluminium in Lagos and a property company in Lagos and Abuja. On other fronts, Mohammed maintained consistently that he could not remember much.He could not remember also details of many local and foreign accounts to which he was a signatory, either singly or in conjunction with his siblings, especially Abba, his sister, Zainab, and his business collaborator, Abubakar Bagudu. He could only remember some of his bank accounts held with the Midland Bank London, Citibank, London, and Union Bank, also in London. "I believe I have about three accounts in London and one or two accounts held in Paris," he was said to have told investigators. "The other accounts are jointly held by me and Mr. Bagudu."Of the numerous cases of direct looting from the Central Bank in which he was involved, he said he could not remember those details. Said he: "I remember that I collected certain amounts of money from Alhaji Gwarzo about twice or so in his residence for onward delivery to my father."

He told investigators, however, that the Abacha organisation has an account with Inland Bank, and that the bank helped in transferring huge sums of money abroad to many Shell companies. He said, however, that he was not sure whether his brother, Ibrahim, had an account with the bank, or whether he was, indeed, a part owner of the bank through a front.Notwithstanding his denials, investigators, discovered that Mohammed was the sole signatory to five overseas accounts apart from the ones he confessed to. These are his accounts with the Bankers Trust Company, New York; Bankers Trust Company in London; Bankers Trust International Frankfurt, Germany; Citibank N. A., Milano, Italy; and Norbanken in Stockholm, Sweden.While the prosecution has an array of evidence against him, it has decided to concentrate on the operations for 1997 alone.

That year, from February 18 to December 18,Mohammed received money from the CBN on behalf of his father 15 times. On June 30, 1997, the gang took £4.9 million. On August 8, it was $10 million that was delivered to Abacha and Sons and, on October 18, it was £12.3 million.The most profitable month so far was October 1997, when the gang visited the CBN several times. The October harvest started on October 18, with a £12.3 million haul. Three days later, Abacha's men were back, taking away £5.8 million from the CBN vaults on October 21, 1997. Forty-eight hours later, the gang was back again, carting away £14.7 million. The month ended with a harvest of £11.7 million that was carted away on October 29, 1997.Though the government believes it has an iron-cast case against Mohammed and other members of the Abacha family, it is reluctant to go the whole hog.

The federal government's team is still negotiating with the Abacha's lawyers over the return of the loot that has been discovered so far. While the Abacha family is ready to part with as much as 60 per cent of the money, President Olusegun Obasanjo is insisting on 100 per cent. Investigators believe that they are yet to discover a substantial part of the money and that huge sums are still being kept in hidden bank accounts scattered all over the world in the names of shell companies and trusted fronts.With so much money at stake, Mariam, the widow of the dictator and matriarch of the Abacha family, has already given instructions to her lawyers to file cases in court to challenge the federal government. She wants the court to stop the trial of Mohammed and her other children. She, too, is facing indictment over money she made through the multi-billion naira Family Support Programme, FSP, which she founded and substantially ran as a private empire.

There are indications that the government may not yield ground to the Abachas' lawyers, considering information from the international community. Already, leaders of Western countries have pointedly told President Obasanjo that he must show seriousness in combating crime of looting of the public treasury. There is also pressure on Obasanjo to deal with those in his government and in the legislature who might have facilitated the looting of the Abacha era. Two senators have already been indicted and one of his ministers was said to have helped Abacha to launder his money when the minister was the managing director of Inland Bank.According to sources, Gwarzo's confessions of his role in the large-scale looting by the late dictator have been most helpful to government investigators in unravelling the complex web of plundering Abacha put in place, and all those involved in it. Without his cooperation, the government may not have succeeded so far, in its battle to recover the monies Abacha, his family and his gang stole. Gwarzo's reward is his promotion to a prosecution witness. This and his fragile health may eventually earn him a reprieve from trial.

The Abachas' case may then only be a test-run for many legal battles in front of President Obasanjo. Already, many of those who have been indicted, including senators and several businessmen, have returned parts of their loot in exchange for amnesty. Though Obasanjo has been glad to receive the returned loot, he is still facing pressure from powerful forces within his administration to bring such corrupt top Nigerians, including his minister, to trial.

Additional reports by JOHN OKAFOR and ABRAHAM USEH"

culled from TELL edition of August 7, 2000

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nigerian football: The way forward

This article was first published online 6/29/2001, but the "rationes" therein is as relevant today as it was then. Sadly Nigeria football is trudging through the minefields after years in doldrums. The articles was a joint effort by members of the largest online fans for Nigeria national team: The Super Eagle of Nigeria...read on..

Nigerian football: The way forward Special memo to the Nigerian Football Association, Sport Ministry and the Presidency

Kudos needs to go to Cameroon on their recent victories. Their achievement in cleaning us out at home in the CAN finals was no mean feat, but following in our footsteps and emerging winners in the recent Olympic soccer tournament must awaken all Nigerians of ordinary prudence and common sense to the sheer reality that Nigerian football’s pre-eminence in Africa is now under serious challenge from a legitimate foe, a foe which also boasts something akin to Nigeria’s charisma.
We have always maintained that it is the joint responsibility of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) and the Ministry of Sports to ensure the existence of an enabling environment for both the domestic game and the national team, allowing both to thrive and achieve their full potential. That it is the Cameroonians who are now showing the benefits of reasonably competent administration ought to be a pointer to anyone within both the Ministry of Sports and the NFA with a head on his shoulders that the time has come to get our act together. The days when it was said of our team "they succeeded in spite of poor administration" are still with us after so many years, but increasingly our players are finding success difficult to come by. The time for administrators to become visibly and consistently proactive enablers in the creation of this success has arrived.
It appears apposite to digress at this point and mention the recent plea by the NFA Secretary-General, Dr. Tijani Yusuf, for cooperation with the football house on the part of sections of the Nigerian public. The suggestion was that the general impression of the current NFA was negative. Be that as it may, it is sufficient to view Yusuf’s plea in the light of the Latin legal maxim “Res ipsa loquitur” [The thing speaks for itself]. Six years ago, Nigeria reached the zenith with the highest-ever FIFA official ranking of Number 5 in the world. Today, Nigeria has slipped to the lower reaches of the rankings, and lies within the forties region. One of the most difficult things for a self-respecting individual to do is to extend a hand of cooperation to a body that has been adjudged grossly incompetent by most rational organizational evaluation standards. That body and its functionaries must undergo a process of reorganization, recreation and reengineering which must not only be successful but also be seen to be successful.
Returning to the subject at hand, the Cameroonian approach now is somewhat reminiscent to the Nigerian approach under Clemens Westerhof. The higher profile of their opposition is what however draws attention thereto, whereas in Nigeria's case perhaps it has been easier for the not so discerning to overlook. The Eagles under Westerhof in his latter years were in 2 streams: the established Europe-based professionals, and the established local professionals with a sprinkling of neophyte Europe based professionals as well as those Europe-based professionals on the come back trail. This latter combination destroyed Ethiopia 6-0 in a CAN qualifier in Lagos, with Peter Rufai making his return and Sunday Oliseh debuting.
While the former combination tended to handle the bigger World Cup matches, the latter combination prosecuted the CAN qualification campaigns.
Playing internationally had the salutary effect of exposing the established local professionals not only to the intricacies of international football, but also giving them the opportunity to showcase their ability to scouts. Finidi George is a notable beneficiary of the opportunities created by this type of arrangement. The coruscating Friday Ekpo was not as fortunate however [due largely to claims, legitimate or otherwise, that he was too slow ... but as the former Leeds United and England midfield general Tony Currie, also accused of being too slow, once said, "You can't play intelligent football at 100 mph".]
What our present situation calls for, in a nutshell, is a series of changes in Nigerian football that will affect all aspects of the game from the highest to the lowest echelons. These changes are summarized in a series of steps set out below.
THE CYBER EAGLES WAY FORWARD.
In the enlightened, long-term interest of Nigerian football, the Ministry of Sports must be divested of power of control over the NFA that decree 101 donates to it. This naturally means outright abrogation of the decree, if not particular amendment. The legal effect of abrogating the Decree will be to end the Sports Ministry's actual control of the NFA. This control is exercised via the NFA secretary, who is a direct employee of the Sports Ministry and is the personage who wields actual executive power. He answers to the Permanent Secretary of the Sports Ministry and the Minister of Sports. He is not answerable to the NFA chairman, who is merely a figurehead. Thus the NFA Chairman is very conveniently placed for our poniards, whereas the functionary responsible for actual implementation is not.
The NFA chairman runs for that office on a platform of ideas, competes for votes to win and implement his ideas. He is however in an invidious position because the success of his tenure depends on a civil servant who does not answer to him but wields the actual power. This must change.
With these changes, will come a stoppage of annual fiscal flow from the coffers of the Federal Government, but football organization in Nigeria more than has the wherewithal to fend for itself comfortably with proper and visionary management.
In the enlightened interest of our football, the NFA must hold fresh elections. From all available indications, the reign of Dominic Oneya thus far has seen "business as usual", and the general opinion is one of sore dissatisfaction with the reaction to Jo Bonfrere's allegation that the reason behind the Eagles' inactivity in terms of exhibition matches and friendly internationals is a greedy official's demands for monetary "satisfaction".
The reconstituted NFA MUST as a matter of urgency conduct a needs assessment. What are the needs of the domestic game? What are the desiderata? Many things spring to mind. Improved pitch quality, better refereeing, better player management and remuneration, more effective revenue generation via hoard advertising, the sale of TV broadcast rights [terrestrial and satellite], club sponsorship via shirt advertising, establishment by clubs of proper corporate structures in line with their official status as Public or Private Limited Companies [plc] duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission; ownership of stadia by clubs or lease agreements between clubs and the owners of the stadiums. The list goes on.
Here in the USA, a market seems to exist for football programming from third world countries. Many subscribe to RAI, Football Chileano, Telemundo and a host of others which show football matches during the weekends. Starved as we are for information on the young up and coming stars of the Nigerian game, and considering the esteem with which Nigerian players are held outside that country, it seems that the prospect of TV revenue going to clubs, and ultimately players –thereby giving a healthy shot in the arm to the matter of players’ welfare—is hardly a chimera. With the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians resident in such cities as New York and Houston, a satellite television market is guaranteed.
Dish Network / WebTV for instance, is open to programming from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, India, Egypt and various others [unlike, for example Directv which caters to what it considers a more demographically mainstream market]. The revenue flowing to both the clubs and the NFA from a TV deal involving an octopus of the size of DishNetwork or WebTV will more than compensate for the loss of central government revenue. A market also exists in Europe, with the large Nigerian community resident in England. Nigerians in the Diaspora are ready, willing and able to support Nigerian football in a variety of ways, including TV viewership.
The immediate benefits are as follows:
clubs will become less strapped for cash.
that being so, they will be better able to remunerate their players handsomely.
consequently, players will be more comfortable.
this will contribute to reducing the stampede of our best players abroad before they are ready.
furthermore, the clubs which apply their income wisely will be able to build up their infrastructure.
the possibilities opened up by this kind of opportunity will encourage clubs to explore other revenue-earning methods.
in the long run, privately-owned clubs will be expected to become self-sufficient, while state-owned clubs will also earn a measure of financial independence from the various government agencies to which they are attached.
The NFA, working closely with the clubs, MUST institute a 10-year development plan. This 10-year plan must be based on the outcomes gleaned from item 3 above. Each plan must be broken down into manageable component parts, thus permitting step by step progress assessment, fine-tuning, etc.
As far as professionalism in the league and its organizing body is concerned, all employees of both the NFA and the clubs must mandatorily attend biennial management training courses organized by a reputable management training organization of the NFA and clubs' choice.
Clubs should be expected to send their coaches on training courses in the top European soccer schools. In this regard, advocating a Dutch school is indicated chiefly because whereas our style originally was inherited from the British, our natural tendency is not towards the British style and we have developed a style of our own distinct therefrom. It is nowhere near the Italian catennacio, or the French flow or even the Spanish style, and our players lean towards flair rather than Germanic method, Nordic simplicity or Eastern European orthodoxy. The Dutch system appears to encourage a fusion of varying styles, and the Dutch influence on our game has been strong of late.
The NFA must create a full time position of Technical Director. The occupant of this position will be the chief architect of the tactical and technical development of Nigerian football. He will be responsible for ensuring that clubs organize viable feeder systems, coaching and scouting systems for youths, thereby exposing players at a very early age to the tactical and technical intricacies of the game. [This is important because, as a BASIC example: tackling is not a matter of technique only but also tactics. Take a player committing to a sliding tackle against a balanced opponent when he is the last man with only the goalkeeper to beat [technique] versus a player who, in the same situation, holds off until help has arrived before launching into his tackle [tactics plus technique]. If our young players can learn these kind of things at an early age, their level of tactical awareness as they mature will be superior to today’s current stars].
In other words, the Technical Director will attempt to influence the development, not of the league in terms of the tactics and techniques which each individual team chose to adopt, but rather of the players that enter the league even before they become Pro League professionals. This is the role the current Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier played within the French Football Federation, and the results have been a World Cup and European Championship victories. Giving credit only to Aime Jacquet and Roger Lemerre is thus ignoring the importance of Houllier's quiet background work over several years. The tactical nous and technical adeptness of the Anelkas, Vieiras, Petits, Desaillys and a host of others can be traced to the sterling work of Gerard Houllier in laying a general foundation for French football.
Imagine the impact on our league! And subsequently, on our national team! Such a person might be Chief Adegboye Onigbinde.
The rule should be established that all national age-grade selections MUST emanate from within the Nigerian league, YSFON and the secondary schools games. This will be a way to keep in line with FIFA's proposal to ban the sale of any player under the age of 18 years to another country. In fact if the rule is applied to ALL age grade selections, this age restriction will be increased to 21 years minimum.
We must encourage our young players to establish themselves in Nigeria first before they go abroad, for these reasons:
The trade in our young players is bad for our National team and football development in Nigeria because it leads to problems with call ups, creates a superiority complex amongst some players thereby causing disharmony, creates problems in player development, and is a factor in players’ exploitation by unscrupulous agents and clubs.
In order to fulfil the mandate to organize the local scene before soccer glory returns to Nigeria, we must recognise the importance of ensuring that our players have good grounding in the Nigerian league in the same way that the Keshis, Amunikes, Amokachis, Rufais, Shorunmus, Yekinis, Siasias and a host of others did before venturing abroad in pursuit of professional careers. It is noteworthy that even though we had mostly Europe-based professionals in our 1994 squads to the CAN and World Cup, most already had a good grounding at home before going professional overseas. Consider the goalkeepers and the entire back line during the 1994 World Cup finals: while all of them played professional soccer abroad they had made their mark at home.
It is recommended that only the full squad may be the exception to that rule.
The NFA must take steps, as the body responsible for the OVERALL organization of the Nigerian game [and not just the league], schoolboy football inclusive, to resuscitate the Principals' Cup competitions. We have all noted that the Principals' Cup is a veritable hunting ground for the best schoolboys, whom will in turn, hardened by serious inter-school, inter-local government and inter-state football, populate and drive the clubs, with the upper strata thereof wearing Nigeria’s colors eventually.
The Principals’ Cup has had a long and illustrious history, and the benefits accruing therefrom to Nigerian soccer have been innumerable. The likes of Sam Okpodu, Tarila Okorowanta, the star players of the Nwosu-Keshi era at St. Finbarrs, almost the entire complement of the late Christopher Udemezue’s Flying Eagles of 1983, the preponderance of whom would go on to win full honors for Nigeria: these are products of the Principals’ Cup. This competition must be brought back to life.
Our current football governing authorities need to get with the program. The issue at hand is a visionary overhauling of the administration, the creation of an efficient organization which will stimulate the proper development and deployment of talent.
Additionally, all those calling for Johannes Bonfrere’s head must tarry a while and reevaluate our situation with a critical, emotionless eye.
Since 1994 when Clemens Westerhof left Nigeria after the World Cup finals, we have had the following succeed him:
Shuaibu Amodu
Carlos Alberto Torres
Johannes Bonfrere
Philippe Troussier
Bora Milutinovic
Thijs Libregts
Johannes Bonfrere (again). This high turnover of Technical Advisers has been in the space of less than 6 calendar years.
It is not arguable at all that stability as a factor in progress and development in all fields of human endeavor is a sine qua non. Thus, if the aim in Nigeria is to restore Nigerian soccer to its former preeminence in the African and world game, then a continuation of the Technical Advisership merry-go-round is hardly indicated.
The complaints against Bonfrere has been well-documented in headlines and stories by such reputable papers as The Comet, The Guardian and The Vanguard, chief of which includes:
Bonfrere’s glaring lack of respect for his employers; and
Bonfrere’s unrepentant refusal to cast his eye on the domestic league for international quality talent.
It appears that Bonfrere’s attitude should not be condoned, because, in the first place, nowhere in the world do employees dictate to employers; and secondly Bonfrere’s brief as contained in his employment contract includes the task of developing domestic talent, a task which Clemens Westerhof, for all the criticism he endured during his tenure and has endured since, performed with remarkable sedulousness.
It appears that the NFA must now revisit this contract with Bonfrere in some sort of mandatory evaluation meeting, which would remind all parties involved of each one’s responsibilities.
The way forward for Nigerian football is arduous and filled with many tough decisions, which require not only to be made, but also to be correctly made. However, provided that the guiding principle, the prime directive, remains the enlightened best interests of Nigerian football, the end results should see a pleasing renaissance of our domestic and international game profiles.
Being of the old school, a return to the Sunday Dankaro days when Nigerian teams stalked the African continent like Alpha wolves will be the realization of a dream.
(Signed.)
Tokunbo Ojo
‘Gbenga Aina
Osheiza Abdulmalik
Adeolu Adejokun
Placidus Amama
Tajudeen M. Balogun
Fisayo Fakunle
Peter Johnson
Dele Kilanko
Ladi Kukoyi
Rodney Lassiter
Hussein Mahmoud Wada
Lawrence Musa
Tokunbo Ojo Bode Olajumoke Femi Onibudo
George Oti
James Temidara
Ejovi Ughwanogho

Friday, June 13, 2008

THE ROT IN NIGERIA JOURNALISM IS MUCH DEEPER THAN WE THOUGHT

“A petty reason perhaps why novelists more and more try to keep a distance from journalists is that novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction.”
–Graham Greene (1904-1991) English writer

The above quote aptly summarizes the present state of our fourth estate of the realm in Nigeria. Nigerian journalism is indeed in dire strait, and sadly I am gradually giving up hope that things will get better. In the past I wrote about newspapers publishers turning news organization into music concerts and award ceremonies event sections. Today, my focus is on the Nigerian journalist and the continued rot of the much esteemed profession in Nigeria.

Last weekend, Nigeria played a World Cup qualifying match against Sierra Leone which Nigeria won by 1 goal to nil. Virtually all Nigerian newspapers sent their reporters to cover the match and they along with BBConline reported that, Joseph Yobo notch home the lone goal with his right leg in a goal post melee. You will think that Nigerian sports journalist who could not make it to Freetown to watch the game, will at least stay glued to their television set, after all the match was broadcast live; especially if they are going to be writing about the game.

Well, wait for this shocker and welcome to the world of Ade Ojeikere and his copy editors at The Nation newspapers. Here is an excerpt of their report published online on 8/6/08:
“Yobo, in a move reminscent of his goal scoring form for English Premier League club, Everton rose to meet the kick with a header for the goal which shocked the hopeful Leone Stars.
The problem with Mr. Ojeikere report is that the goal in question was not scored by a “header.” Yobo scored the goal by a kick with his right leg and not with his head. A header, for those not familiar with soccer, is any contact with the ball with your head.

The second problem with the report has to do with the pejorative employed by Mr. Ojeikere: “in a move reminiscent of his goal scoring form for English Premier League club Everton.” The real fact however is that in the season just ended, Yobo made a total of 39 appearances in Everton uniform and he scored only one goal! And that goal was not recent, that goal was scored on April 27, 2008 in a match between Everton and Aston Villa that ended in a 2-2 draw.

Throughout his entire club career, Joseph Yobo made a total of 272 appearances for his club and scored a total of 9 goals. I pulled all these stats from BBC online within minutes of reading Mr. Ojeikere’s warped logic and subverted facts. My question is what happened to those good old Nigerian sports journalistic pedigree established by the likes of Trigo Egbegi and Yunusa Akee?

It might appear to some that I am picking on fictional writer like Ade Ojeikere wantonly, and I agree. The reason being he still calls himself a journalist. I believe he is part of the decay, along with the likes of Onochie Anibeze, Feyi Ogunduyile et al. They ranked themselves as “landlord” of Nigerian sports journalism, where they reign and rule. They hobnobbed with the sports minister and sports council administrators. Woes betide the minister or national team coach who will not pay obeisance to them upon assumption of office. They read ethnic meaning to every move by the national coach. They openly slant match reports to suit whoever paid their way to the match venues. They are part of the reason Nigeria soccer league is in doldrums.

The main problem however is that they often take their zealous advocacy for “filthy lucre” above the national good. Most of them operate as consultants to many soccer clubs, the Nigeria Football Association and the Nigerian Football League all of whom they draw money from whilst they report the same entity to the reading masses who pay them to be independent news journalist. The blatant hypocrisy and conflict of interest inherent in these practices is often subtly expressed in their reports. Like other sector of Nigeria journalism today, no attempt is made to disclose the relationship with the personnel they are covering and reporting on.

Take for instance, the well known relationship between the erstwhile secretary general of NFA, Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi and Mr. Ade Ojeikere. It took the firing of the former from his “exalted position” and an attempt by the latter to cultivate another relationship with his successor before the readers of Ojeikere knew that all along whilst he turns out lofty reports of NFA spotless preparation for the world cup, he has actually being working as consultants and adviser to the secretary general of NFA!

Everyone (except the readers of Vanguard) also knows about the relationship between the national soccer coach of Nigeria, Shuaibu Amodu and the Vanguard sports editor/columnist, Onochie Anibeze. The chummy relationship was such that Amodu once asked one of his players to disembark from the team bus so he could accommodate Mr. Anibeze. The reward for Mr. Amodu is unquantifiable; every critic of the national coach can bank on a rejoinder from Anibeze, laced with ethnic diatribe against whoever dared to criticize his benefactor. The symbiotic relationships have worked well for this journalist at the expense of their profession and the Nigeria masses.

As a result of such unholy alliance, the age old trust in Nigeria journalism has been seriously eroded. We now have journalist who covers a minister for a year or two, only to report nothing but glowing attributes about that minister and ministry. Only for us to find out later that the same journalist has been working as media consultant to the same ministry. If you read any glowing reports about a Nigerian soccer player, you need to check out the writer, he is probably also working as agent to the same player or media consultant!

We need to start asking tough questions from our mainstream media in Nigeria. Whatever happened to investigative journalism? Where do they stand in the struggle to defend our hard earned democracy? Where were they when the minister of Health approved 10 million naira for National Assembly members junket to Ghana? Where were they when Nigerian online alternative media breaks news of corruption in Nigeria? We can’t continue to put up with fiction writers masquerading as serious journalist, commission agents pretending as defenders of the masses.

Friday, June 6, 2008

CAN WE NOW AGREE THAT THE WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION IS DEAD IN THE WATERS

'THOU SHALT NOT FOLLOW A MULTITUDE TO DO EVIL' -Exodus 23:2


Nigeria welcomed her first female anti-corruption czar last week, when Ms. Farida Waziri was confirmed by the senate and sworn in by the Attorney General, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa. The news itself would have been a “causa celebra,” worthy of celebration had it not been overshadowed by what preceded the senate confirmation hearing.

Two of Nigeria’s foremost gadfly, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Professor Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s one and only “nobel laureat”, came out forcefully in opposing the confirmation. The crust of their allegation is that Ms. Farida had conflict of interest, giving the fact that he had posted bond for one of the corrupt suspect being prosecuted by the same office she is now going to head. The duo also submits that half of the senate is under investigation and as such could not be trusted to impartially conduct a hearing that will shine the light on Ms. Waziri’s relationship with corrupt suspect under investigation by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

As we have witnessed time and again with the current legislators in Abuja, the hearing was turned into a fa├žade. No attempt was made to ask Ms. Waziri any probing questions. Her tenure as police chief was completely whitewashed and the hearing summarily concluded with her coronation. The hearing turned out to be a comical farce that during the hearing Times of Nigeria online reported in“breaking news” expose that it reliably learnt while the hearing was still going on that Ms. Waziri appointment (read anointment) is a foregone conclusion.

As it turned out, Ms. Waziri could not cleared herself of the allegation, no efforts was made by the National Assembly staff to reach out to those who made the allegation to come forth with evidence that Ms. Waziri did posted bond for suspect under investigation by EFCC. No attempt was made to reach out to EFCC current staff and civil servant to ascertain the accuracies of the allegations against Ms. Waziri.

Again, the mighty power of People’s Democratic Party was displayed before our very eyes. The party to which Ms. Waziri is a card carrying member had earlier endorsed her. A final imprimatur was given to her appointment by the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, who of course can’t see anything wrong in having compromising relationship with corrupt former governors, given the fact that he used to represent many of them in court. The zealous representation he had transferred to his current job as Minister of Justice.

One of my friends enthused thus, upon hearing the news of Ms. Waziri’s confirmation: “there goes our hard earned democracy.” I sincerely believe that the present crop of politicians cannot be trusted with democracy and I wrote elsewhere that the interest of Nigeria is not the directive principle of People’s Democratic Party or any other parties who remains “leprous fingers” in Nigerian’s hand. We are indeed in trouble as a nation.

I am willing to give Ms. Waziri Farida a chance to defend herself, but she cannot do so as chief executive officer of EFCC. She needs to clear herself of the charges that she is deeply connected with corrupt ex-governors who are holding our governance hostage to their whims and caprice. After all there was no vacancy at EFCC when she was appointed so she should do the right thing, withdraw her name and have the civil servant at EFCC investigate her connections with the rogues suspect in EFCC’s net. If they found the allegation to be bogus, then she can swung to action and start the arduous task of investigating corrupt entrenched politicians.

I know I am living in “la la” land if I expect her to resign after her confirmation. I can’t recall any Nigerian in recent memory who had resigned from office to clear her name. Everyone look at government appointment as entitlements, a personal fiefdom! The days of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe had long gone! Virtues are hard to find in Nigeria of today as perfidy is the order of the day.

With an attorney general, intent on defending corrupt criminals rather than prosecuting them and an EFCC czar with questionable suspected allegiance with corrupt governmental official. I think we have reached a point to formally declare the “nunc dimitis” of the war against corruption in Nigeria. The war is over! We can’t continue to live in denial. It is not going to happen as long as President Umar Musa Yar’adua is in power in Aso Rock and David Mark at the helms in the senate. If we add the fact that the House of Representative is also headed by the son of a second republic NPN politician, who got the position of speaker by promising not to rock the boat, then you get the picture.

Bye Bye, War against Corruption!

Francis Adewale
Spokane, WA
U.S.A