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The Great Eagles of 1980 – 38 Years After

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By Segun Odegbami
The ‘Chief Justice’ of Nigerian football, distinguished legal luminary and Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Chief Adokie Amiesimaka was the one who called me up and reminded me it was 38 years to the day on March 22 that a group of young Nigerian footballers won the African Cup of Nations for their country for the first time and created history.
He told me he was celebrating the team in his own way, and was calling up all those he could reach to extend his handshake and a token gift in appreciation and demonstration of how well the Lord has blessed him.
He was graciously extending his ‘token’ support to my school in Wasimi. Within an hour of his call he kept his promise and gave the school what I can only publicly reveal with his consent.
It was a sobering moment indeed. It unleashed memories that raced through my mind.
It is by the Grace of God that we are alive in this wilderness of daily, known and unknown dangers that lurk in every corner of our country and our lives.
Adokie came up with an idea for us to establish a Foundation to cater to the needs and challenges of the less privileged amongst us and amongst the generations of the footballers after. The foundation will provide ‘fishing’ skills rather than fish itself for those in need. Of course, I am game.
So, do not be surprised if in the next few weeks, or months, we launch out on such a project to make a difference applying the gifts and opportunities that God has blessed us with to bless others.
Permit me to recall the members of that 1980 team in my own humble celebration.
(1.)  Best Ogedegbe. Late and resting with the Lord. Brave, and almost ‘arrogant’ in the uncommon level of his confidence in goal. He was almost as good a field player as he was a goalkeeper.
(2.)  Emmanuel Okala. ‘Man Mountain’. Tall, agile, and imposing. His best training was ensuring that the Eagles’ best strikers never scored him in training. He is alive but, like all of us, facing the consequences of the stresses and strains we put on our bodies as players.
(3.) David Adiele. Alive. Now lives in Houston, Texas. Enigmatic. Streetwise. Still doing his ‘thing’, hustling in the US and doing very well.
(4.) Johnny Orlando. Alive. Shuttling between Ghana, where he came from, and the USA where he settled in after the Nation’s Cup. No one can explain how he got into the Nigerian national team and played as well as he did.
(5.)  Sylvanus Okpala – Alive.  ‘Quick Silver’. One of the younger players in the team – strong headed, versatile, all-round player, very hard, very confident on the ball, and a great shot. He rose through the ranks from the junior national team where he was captain. One of the early Nigerian professional players to Europe. Played in Portugal.
(6.)  Okey Isima – Passed on.  Another early export to the professional ranks in Portugal. He was that good. Don’t quite understand how and why he was converted from his attacking midfield role to a left full back even though he was right footed.
(7.)  Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal – too young to have passed on even before the dust of 1980 had settled. He was so good he was the first African player to go to the African Cup of Nations five times; Nigeria’s first official football Ambassador; First Nigerian athlete to be awarded two national honours; One of the best all-round midfield players to don the national colours of Nigeria.
(8.)  Alloysius Atuegbu – Passed on. ‘Block Buster.’ Endless running and tireless worker in the centre of the midfield, with the additional gifts of a great shot and short passing skills.
(9.)  Henry Nwosu – Alive and surviving in the turbulent and uncertain world of Nigerian coaching. The youngest in the team at the time, with such prodigious skills he could have played for any team in the world. ‘The youngest Millionaire’. Played professional football briefly in Africa during the twilight years of his career. Midfield general in the true sense.
(10.) Ifeanyi Onyedika – Alive. One of the younger players. A great centre-forward with silky skills and sharp reflexes in the crowded box of opposing goals. A quick thinker.  I still do not understand why he did not last for a lot longer in the national team.
(11.) Adokie Amiesimaka – Alive. ‘Chief Justice.’ The fleet-footed master of the dribble. Right footed player that mastered playing from the left wing, a system that is now sweeping global football. Graceful and elegant on the ball. Added intellectual depth to his football, always thinking, always creating as he dances and meanders through defenses with such consummate ease. Great crosser of the ball.
(12.) Tunde Bamidele – Passed on. A cool and calculative player in the heart of Nigeria’s defense. His effectiveness was made less apparent because he shared the same space with the great ‘Chairman’ Chukwu. He was the hard-tackling destroyer and hatchet man whilst Chukwu cleared the mess of his tackles.
(13.) Kadiri Ikhana – Alive. A very versatile, effective hardworking player. Not one ounce of flamboyance in his game. Did the dirty work of keeping dangerous players quiet.  ‘Kawawa’, very wise, with a sharp mind. He became one of the most respected and most successful coaches in domestic football in Nigeria.
(14.) Godwin Odiye – Alive. Living a quiet life in the US with an unfortunate ‘scar’ on a great footballing career that was truncated with his move to the US at a young age. Hard, stylish, very fast and dependable defender. He is doing well developing young football talents… for America.
(15.) Shefiu Mohammed – Alive. He is struggling to survive in the hard and harsh environment of Taraba State in Nigeria, away from the glare of stardom and celebrity. Great running and tackling defensive midfield player. A pest to opposing attackers. Not finding life after football easy at all.
(16) Martin Eyo – Passed on. An academic and football player. At any other time but when he appeared on the football scene he would have been better known. Against the array of regular first team attackers in the national team, he became a fringe player. But he was effective whenever he was called upon to add some pep. Fast, strong, good with both feet and had a unique dribbling style.
(17) Frank Nwachi – Alive – Did not play any match during the Championship. One of the players with a degree in the national team. Left for the US shortly after the Nations Cup, and has shuttled between the two countries ever since.
(18.) Charles Bassey – Alive and doing well in Calabar where he was discovered in the great Rovers team of the late 1970s and to where he returned and has remained ever since. Very good player with one of the best shots at goal in the team, but remained on the fringes because of the sea of other exceptional talent.
(19) Moses Effiong – Alive and kicking in Calabar. Third Goalkeeper in the team. Very quiet on and off the field. He was such a gentleman the football fraternity hardly ever remembers him. He stood little chance with Best and Okala in the same team with him, but a great goalkeeper nevertheless.
(20) Felix Owolabi – Alive. ‘Owoblow’. What does one say about this great player who plays like a one-man army? It does not matter where he played on the field, he covered more ground than most others, attacking, defending, marking, shooting, and was felt everywhere on the field. He was like a tornado, unstoppable.
(21) Christian Chukwu –  Alive. ‘Chairman’. The great Chairman was true legend. Majestic and dominating in the defense. A true libero and leader on the field. His actions spoke more than words. Very calculative, immaculate passing skills over long distances, a great shot from incredible distances and a man who led by physical example. He was a born captain, respected and loved by all.  He coached and managed different national teams at different times. Slowed down now by arthritis – the ailment of retired footballers.
(22) Segun Odegbami –‘Mathematical’. He was just one of the boys in a great squad that made history. He played his part.
Please put us all– the living and the dead – in your thoughts and prayers.
Culled from TheGuardian                                                Photo Credit: FCNaija

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We’re Not ‘Officially Aware’ of Anyone Working Against Tinubu’s Victory – FG

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The Federal Government, on Wednesday, said it was not “officially aware” of any entity in the Presidential Villa working against the victory of the All Progressives Congress’ flag bearer, Bola Tinubu. It also said that President, Muhammadu Buhari was neither favouring nor disfavouring any presidential candidate ahead of the February 25 election.

“If there’s anybody who is working against any candidate, we don’t know officially,” the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, told State House Correspondents after this week’s Federal Executive Council meeting chaired by the President at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, alleged that some “elements” in Aso Rock are working against Tinubu’s emergence as President.

El-Rufai, who spoke on a Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, explained that the persons in question were aggrieved that Tinubu defeated their candidate in the June 2022 APC presidential primary.

He cited the naira redesign policy as one of several schemes targeted at the APC presidential candidate, Tinubu, who also made a similar claim a week earlier.

According to El-Rufai, “I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way; they had their candidate. Their candidate did not win the primaries.

“They are trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the President’s desire to do what he thinks is right. I will give two examples: this petroleum subsidy, which is costing the country trillions of Naira, was something that we all agreed would be removed.

“In fact, I discussed with the President and showed him why it had to go. Because how can you have a capital budget of N200b for federal roads and then spend N2 Trillion on petroleum subsidy? This was a conversation I had with the President in 2021 when the subsidy thing started rising. He was convinced. We left. It changed. Everyone in the government agreed, and it changed.

“The second example I will give is this currency redesign. You have to understand the President. People are blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for the currency redesign, but No. You have to go back and look at the first outing of Buhari as President.

“He did this; the Buhari-Idiagbon regime changed our currency and did it in secrecy with a view to catching those that are stashing away illicit funds. It is a very good intention. The President has his right. But doing it at this time within the allotted time does not make any political or economic sense.”

But fielding a question on the issue on Wednesday, Mohammed argued that the Buhari-led government has been fair to all candidates regardless of party affiliations.

He said, “On a more serious note, one thing I can assure you is that, no matter who, this administration is focused and determined to ensure a free and fair election. And I think this administration, and for that matter now, the most important person in this regard is Mr. President.

“I think he has shown by words and deed that he is committed to a free, fair and credible election. And fair, free and credible elections mean not favouring or disfavouring anybody.

“Everywhere he goes, he makes that very clear, even as recently as Friday, when he was in Daura. He said the same thing. So if there’s anybody who’s working against any candidate, we don’t know officially.”

Speaking in Ogun State last Wednesday, the APC presidential candidate alleged plans to sabotage the coming election.

Tinubu cited the naira redesign policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the lingering fuel crisis and as part of plots to thwart the polls and his expected victory.

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2023 Elections: INEC Deploys 707,384 Presiding Officers

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The Independent National Electoral Commission will deploy 707,384 presiding officers for the general elections scheduled to commence on February 25.

The commission also said that since electoral education was important, there was a need to infuse it into the National Values Curriculum of primary schools in Nigeria.

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, stated these during the public presentation of the Electoral Education Curriculum and Teachers’ Guide for primary schools.

The curriculum which was developed by the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening  – Sustaining Electoral Engagement for Democracy project funded by USAID and FCDO and implemented by National Democratic Institute and IFES, was in partnership with the Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council, INEC (through the Voter Education Department), National Orientation Agency, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All and academia from across the country.

Okoye said, “We believe that electoral education is important in the goals of our nation. Electoral education is a specialized area and that is why we have this curriculum being infused into the National Values Curriculum in our primary schools.

“For instance, for the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, the commission will deploy a total of 707, 384 presiding officers and assistant presiding officers.

“These presiding officers will be drawn from the crop of young men and women doing their National Youth Service Corps, while the assistant presiding officers will be drawn from students from federal tertiary institutions.

“It is therefore important for us to understand the importance of electoral education in the development of our democracy.

“A national civic education curriculum and teachers’ guide with a specific focus on electoral education will prepare our children for the challenges ahead and also prepare them on how to respect other people’s races and also prepare them to assume leadership in future.”

The President of IFES, Anthony Banbury, said its contribution to the project was to strengthen Nigeria’s electoral process through effective teaching and learning of civic education in primary schools.

“To catch them young, the revised curriculum is a hallmark innovation that will introduce children and youth very early to the concept, processes, ethics, and values of democratic systems and governance.

“It will be essential for the young people’s orientation to initiate a shift from the existing norms. In the long term, it will increase civic participation and knowledge of democratic systems and values, as the children of today become the adults and the voters of tomorrow,” Banbury said.

The Executive Secretary of NERDC, Prof. Ismail Junaidu, said the aim was to strengthen the fabric of the nation’s democracy for sustainable growth and development.

According to him, since the return of democracy in 1999, citizens’ participation in elections and the electoral process had remained an issue of concern.

He also said that a known reason for this was the lack of adequate electoral knowledge.

“Hence, promoting democratic electoral culture and developing civic skills are therefore necessary for well-informed and responsible participation in elections and in the electoral process,” Junaidu said.

He said that the above informed the initiative of the NERDC in collaboration with IFES to develop the Electoral Education Curriculum for primary schools in Nigeria.

According to him, the curriculum, generally, is developed to expose young learners to the rudiments of democracy and inculcate in them the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for active citizens’ participation in the democratic process.

“Specifically, the curriculum is designed to achieve five key objectives, which are to: equip learners with basic knowledge of the concept of democracy, the role of elections in democracy and good governance.

He said the choice of primary school learners was hinged on the core principle of using education as an instrument of socialisation for the young to assume adult roles for the good of society.

“Thus, the teaching of electoral education at this level will ensure that when children reach voting age, they would have already understood the fundamentals of active participation in the political and electoral process,” Junaidu said.

While commending the management of NERDC for the initiative, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, represented by his Senior Technical Assistant, Dr Claris Ujam, said the curriculum had become a dynamic process for sustainable national development.

He said, “Every time, there are changes or developments happening around the world, the school curricula are affected.

“Therefore, the inclusion of concepts and contents of electoral education under Civic Education is in line with the drive under the Ministry’s Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan.

“This is to enable the acquisition of citizenship values and skills through quality education. The electoral education curricular contents constitute a remarkable step to create positive change in the election landscape and political development.”

The Punch

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Pro, Anti Ekweremadu Protesters Storm UK Trial

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The human trafficking case against a former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, and his wife, Beatrice, resumed in a London court on Tuesday.

However, anti- and pro-Ekweremadu protests were staged in front of the court ahead of the proceedings.

AFP reported that before court proceedings, there was a gathering of protesters, some of whom were in support of the lawmaker while others were against him.

The lawmaker was in June 2022 arrested alongside his wife at Heathrow Airport in London on the allegation that they flew a young man from Nigeria to the UK to harvest his organ.

The allegation added that the organ was meant for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, who is currently hospitalised with a kidney-related illness.

Some Nigerians had in October 2022 protested in Abuja against the continued detention of the lawmaker who has now spent 223 days in the custody of UK authorities.

Protesters, once again, gathered at the court on Tuesday to either support the embattled lawmaker or protest his continued detention in UK custody.

“I mean, this case is unbelievable,” one protester, Citizen Gbola, was quoted by AFP as saying.

“Where else in the world would you have a deputy senate president, who is still a serving senator, he’s still getting his regular wage?”

According to Daily Mail, Sonia couldn’t make it to court on Tuesday but sought permission with a psychological report by her team claiming she was not fit to stand trial.

She had pleaded not guilty to the allegation of trafficking a homeless man into the UK to harvest his organs for herself, when she appeared in court on November 7, 2022.

The young man, who levelled the allegation against the Ekweremadus, told Staines Police Station that he was made to undergo some medical tests, none of which he consented to.

A 50-year-old medical doctor from South London, Obinna Obeta, was also arrested in connection to the allegation.

During proceedings at the Old Bailey court, Ekweremadu who wore a grey tracksuit top only said “Yes, miss” when asked to confirm his name.

Seated beside the lawmaker in the dock and dressed in black was his wife who was granted bail in July 2022 while her husband was said to be a flight risk.

The Punch

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