Archive for January 2013

AFCON 2013: LET THE EAGLES SOAR!   2 comments

The AFCON 2013 has finally gone underway and Nigeria’s Super Eagles are set to begin their campaign today in a charity-begins-at-home fixture against their West African neighbours, Burkina Faso. One can only hope that the Eagles will proceed to get the better of their other group opponents, Ethiopia and Zambia, from East and Southern Africa respectively, and then go ahead to conquer Africa!

After a string of bad results at recent AFCON tournaments, with disappointing quadruple bronze medal standings between 2002 and 2010 and a disgraceful absence from the 2012 edition (a first since 1986), the mood in the Eagles’ camp is now that of a team braced up for nothing less than the ultimate prize! A number of semiotic underpinnings can justify this claim. To begin with, and on a light note, the 2013 AFCON marks the tournament’s return to odd number years. Perhaps, the Super Eagles were waiting for odd number years to make things even!

On a more serious note, there’s plenty of wisdom about eagles from wildlife science, in favour of the Super Eagles’ getting victorious at the AFCON 2013. For one, wildlife science has revealed that eagles perch on top of tall trees and watch for the direction of the wind before engaging it for a stress-free flight. Similarly, by thrashing Liberia 6-1 in their final qualification match for the tournament, the Super Eagles can be said to have psychologically perched on their highest score in the process from where they can now engage themselves in the direction of a triumphant AFCON 2013 pursuit. Supersport described that victory saying, “Nigeria’s Super Eagles were ruthless en route securing a ticket to the 2013 AFCON.”

Secondly, wildlife science has also revealed that the mother eagle takes its eaglets on a number of trial-flights before it eventually releases them to begin flying on their own. Incidentally, the captain (leader) of the Super Eagles, Joseph Yobo, can be rightly considered the ‘mother eagle’ in our present context. That he has featured in five previous AFCON tourneys and that he’s likely to not feature in any again is sufficient reason to spur him to give his best and mobilise the relatively younger Eagles, with a good majority having less than 20 caps each and no previous AFCON experience, to go for the kill! On January 17, upon the Eagles’ arrival in South Africa, Yobo said “I want to leave the stage by winning something for the team… I believe in this team… this is a good team going into the tournament…”

In addition and most importantly, wildlife science equally demonstrates that eagles engage in partnerships to hunt and share the spoils of their kill. In fact, the Bible in Matthew 24:28, attests to this: “For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” The relevance of this to the present crop of Super Eagles is that team spirit must be their safeguard. Thankfully, for the first time in a while, there has been little emphasis on key players and rather, greater emphasis on the team as a unit. On October 18, 2012, Sports Motivation (@Sports_HQ), an entity that shares insights on the ideals for sports excellence, tweeted thus: “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” Hopefully, the Eagles will draw inspiration from their creative attack led by the likes of Ahmed Musa, Ike Uche and Victor Moses as well as their midfield commanded by the experienced John Mikel Obi with ‘mother-eagle’ Yobo, skipper Enyeama, Kenneth Omeruo and co, guarding the back.

It is interesting to note that the AFCON 2013 hosts, South Africa, and the defending champions, Zambia, both specifically wished to avoid playing Nigeria in the group stages. The Zambian coach, Hervé Renard, said: “If I can avoid Nigeria [in the AFCON draws that were then pending], I would be very happy.” Likewise, South Africa’s coach, Gordon Igesund, said “To be honest, I want a favourable draw. I’m not going to declare I want Nigeria in our group. I would prefer to avoid them.” When coaches, especially of other respected teams speak of the Super Eagles in this manner, it is because they acknowledge the high level of confidence with which the team currently plays. Meanwhile, as a token of the confidence he has in his boys, Nigeria’s coach, Stephen Keshi, said “I am not scared of any country. Let’s be put in any group.”

It was precisely this confidence that resulted in the Eagles not losing any warm-up game ahead of the AFCON 2013. In fact, though pundits and many fans wrote them off, they were quite impressive against an FC Barcelona star-studded Catalonian side in that January 2 friendly which they drew before defeating a Dutch top-flight team 1-0 on January 12 and wrapping it up with a 5-0 thrashing of Portuguese club, Farense, on January 15. Alluding to this, Mike Umeh, the NFF’s first vice-president said, “The victory is a morale booster for the team. It shows that the Eagles are consistent.”

After their first training session in South Africa, Super Eagles’ striker, Victor Moses, stated that “The boys are looking sharp. We are looking forward to the tournament.” Moses had previously passionately declared that “…I look forward to making Nigeria proud at the AFCON 2013. I want to give everything in all the [AFCON] matches.”

On his part, soon after the final qualifying match for the AFCON 2013, midfield maestro, John Mikel Obi said “I am very happy that the Eagles have returned to winning ways in grand style. I am happy that we won the game in the manner we did, it was great… [The fans] haven’t seen anything yet from me and the Eagles. They should wait till the Nations Cup…” Mikel later touted coach Keshi as being capable of making history by winning the AFCON as a coach after having won it as a player, in 1994.

Furthermore, in December 2012, Nigeria’s former captain and football ambassador, Nwankwo Kanu, declared that the Super Eagles will win the AFCON 2013 if they have the belief. Kanu said, “We should all believe in this; the players should believe that we can achieve it…”

From the foregoing, there is clearly no shortage of motivation for the Eagles to cruise to victory at the AFCON 2013. The very idea that the winner of the trophy will feature as Africa’s representative at the 2013 Confederations Cups in Brazil, alongside world-class teams, in what will amount to an acclimatising dress rehearsal for the 2014 World Cup, is a very great incentive.

Moreover, one of Nigeria’s best-ever strikers and the first Nigerian to receive CAF’s African Player of the Year award, Rashidi Yekini, passed on in May 2012, at the age of 49. An AFCON 2013 victory will be a great posthumous golden jubilee honour to his memory. The victorious AFCON 2012 Zambian team was inspired, in part, by the tragic loss of their forebears in 1993. Here’s to hoping Yekini’s death, also in tragic circumstances, would inspire the Super Eagles with the élan to aim for nothing short of the AFCON 2013 trophy!

In all, as they get their AFCON 2013 underway, the Super Eagles must work hard whilst firmly holding on to their confidence and determination to win. Belief and determination made the difference for Zambia in 2012. Belief and determination will make the difference for Nigeria in 2013. I have the conviction that the Super Eagles will do Nigeria proud by winning the AFCON 2013!


OHIMAI, WE’RE NOT ALL PDP!!!   6 comments

“We are not all PDP. I disagree with Ohimai. We don’t all belong to a party of murderers, looters and political juggernauts.” –Babatunde Rosanwo

As an avid reader and a very politically-conscious person, I read Ohimai Ahaize’s article, Like it or not, we are all PDP:, with keen interest and an open mind. Ohimai acknowledged that it was his first article in three years or so. That set the tone for the seriousness with which it was written, which seriousness was not betrayed by the article’s overall compelling message. I therefore invite Ohimai and indeed everyone to equally accord this rejoinder, interspersed with citations on the subject from Babatunde Rosanwo, the open-mindedness and seriousness it deserves.

Ohimai articulated cogent and valid arguments but betrayed his bias for the PDP when he said “The current fad is how well you can demonise the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). I have seen young people on Twitter curse PDP like our problems as a nation begin and end with the PDP.” Ohimai is wrong! Of course, the current fad is not necessarily how well one can demonise the PDP. Rather, most Nigerians on Twitter and Facebook, including me, lambast President Jonathan for his many blunders and failures. Many, again including me, who criticise the PDP have also criticised the ACN on a good number of occasions. In fact, some like me have had reason to express kudos to a PDP governor like Akwa-Ibom’s Godswill Akpabio. More importantly, Ohimai should know better that, given that the PDP has been in power, at the centre, since our present democratic dispensation in 1999, and considering world renown leadership expert, John Maxwell’s aphorism that “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” it is very safe to say Nigeria’s present and ongoing problems begin with the PDP and the buck that could help resolve many of those problems ends at the table of a certain PDP politician called Goodluck Jonathan!

In 2012, on the sidelines of the Olympic Games, Ohimai met and took a snapshot with one of Hollywood’s greatest actors of our time, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Such moments are special because people of great stature like Van Damme should inspire us to emulate the strides that made them great. Well, Ohimai may have kept such lessons (my literal assumptions) for future endeavours because at the moment there’s a great variance between the ideals captured in Van Damme’s showpiece of force movie (Street-fighter), for example, and Ohimai’s tour de force article.

Two days ago, I watched Van Damme beat the brutally oppressive villain, Bison, in his Street-fighter masterpiece blockbuster. In that movie, Van Damme was courageous to inspire a global regiment to take aim at Bison, a man who tormented people and held some hostage, whereas Ohimai smartly attempts to acquit the PDP, a worse-than any real-life Bison, of its many sins.

Ohimai clearly took the shine off his otherwise brilliant article by entitling it “We are all PDP”. No! My brother, we’re NOT all PDP! He should have been more cautious, especially following the recent pasting of PDP campaign posters for Jonathan’s 2015 re-election bid all over Abuja and the lacklustre reaction of his party to it.

It is one thing to inspire people to get involved in Nigerian politics and it is quite another to ask them to join the PDP. At the moment, there’s so much rot in the PDP that, other than a revolution, it will only take having the right will from its top brass, to effect positive changes. No number of youth joining the PDP will change things for good. As the Jonathan 2015 posters and the pro-Jonathan camp in Occupy Nigeria have shown, many a youth will join the PDP because they want a share of the spoil. Let me ask Ohimai: Does the PDP’s NWC, including the office of its National Youth Leader, have room for youth? Are there any chances that youth will be allowed as members of the body that elects the PDP’s presidential candidate?

Babatunde Rosanwo reacted to Ohimai’s article, saying: “If joining politics is a linear solution to Nigeria’s problems, then Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala joining PDP is not making a huge difference in PDP. The system perpetuated by PDP is one that’s destined to see the crème-de-la-crème fail. Ivy League products are struggling to grasp reality.” How true! The PDP system makes it all too certain for even technocratic Ivy League products to fail. What more of young Nigerian graduates or yet, the Nigerian uneducated mass? It will take political change from the top of both the PDP and the opposition parties to position them to lead a national renewal; not mass enlistment into politics! For now, there may be no difference between the PDP and opposition parties but that instead places a premium on the PDP, as the party in power, to set a positive example. Political power, especially for as many years as the PDP has wielded it at the centre, is one resource no person in their right senses, should overlook.

In addition, contrary to what Ohimai said, it’s not systematically true that Naira notes travel faster than a tweet. In the information age, social media is increasingly becoming a very powerful mobilising tool, even for raising Naira notes for charity. You can never undermine the potency of tweets, especially given the promise by the Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson to facilitate the development of Nigeria’s ICT infrastructure to increase the number of internet users in Nigeria from 33.5million to 70 million by 2015. Let it be known that tweets can spur a revolution!

By the way, if change is what Ohimai seeks, he should be careful to rather help in de-monetising our politics. Nigeria is direly in need of a politics of ideas than a politics of money. It’s time we de-emphasise the demonic role of money in our politics. Ohimai’s point does no justice to that effort.

It’s also not true that big bags of rice inspire more hope than well-written blogs. Blogs like greatly inspire hope – and more so among an increasingly literate and conscious youth. With its exceptional pieces, the award-winning highlights, in very clear terms, what has gone/is going wrong with the system and is thus inspiring hope and rallying good people to take on the challenge of making a better Nigeria more and more possible.

Nigeria’s challenges are beyond political participation alone. Whilst Nkrumah’s charge that we should seek first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto it, is true in many respects, Nigeria needs more than just political participation. President Jonathan is a PhD holder whom Tunde Fagbenle describes as one who “displays a shocking lack of eloquence and depth, even of a good school certificate holder.” What this means is, political participation is only one part of the equation. We must get our education right! We must get our civic responsibilities aright. Again, Rosanwo opines, and rightly so, that: “[There’s a] dire need for Nigerians to pay more attention to their civic responsibilities, Ohimai is right only about those who seek political office.”

It’s not the first time Ohimai has stirred controversy with his affection for the PDP. Months ago, he called the PDP “a great party”. I wonder what form of greatness he was touting. If a catchphrase to his otherwise poignant article is what Ohimai sought, he is intelligent enough and should have picked a non-controversial option.

Lest anyone should say I wrote this rejoinder out of hatred or any semblance of it, for Ohimai, let me state that he’s a friend and I have agreed with him before. In fact, I solicited a meeting with him lately but he wasn’t able to see it through. I still look forward to meeting him someday. As our overall objective is to build a better Nigeria, all hands must be on deck – whether PDP hands or those of the opposition! As Rosanwo concluded, “Yet Ohimai’s clarion call must be met objectively. May the best of us who have something to offer, [lead] this nation.”