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Opinion: Vital Lessons For Nigeria From The World Cup

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By Michael Effiong

It is another World Cup year and already Qatar 2022 World Cup is living up to the hype. The victories, the upsets, the records, the excitement and of course, the controversies.

Talking of controversies, the mere reason that the tournament is holding at this time at in Qatar is controversial why was the country given the nod to host a summer tournament when everyone knows that it is practically impossible to play football in that country in the usual time of June-July?

Anyway, this is a testament to the fact that the only thing that is constant in life is change. But for football buffs, this world cup which has been squeezed into the calendar by FIFA in the middle of the season is none like any other.

Many have applauded it because the players will be in tip top shape, others have said it will be bedeviled by injuries because of the amount of stress the players had gone through before the tournament.

Whatever camp you belong to, one thing is sure, football is a huge platform. From the way Nigerians are discussing Saudi Arabia’s monumental defeat of Argentina and Japan’s silky victory over Germany, you will almost forget that our country is not in the tournament. This means that like all those participating countries, non participating countries are not left out of the FIFA World Cup fever.

In the midst of the frenzy, there are key lessons to learn from oil-rich Qatar as it throws its doors open to the world. The first lesson is that there is virtually nobody in any part of the world who will not know where Qatar is on the map. The country is selling itself big time! Many who thought that Qatar was a part of UAE now know better.

Lesson two is that the infrastructure in Qatar even if it was great before has received a big boost. The country has built eight fantastic stadia for the tournament with the biggest being the Lusail Stadium with its capacity at 88,966.

Interestingly, this giant stadium will be transformed into a community centre with schools, shops, cafes, sports facility and health clinics. This means that we need not spend a fortune on an edifice that is not convertible and after the one-month tournament it becomes a waste.

Lesson three is the fact that football is a big brand. It is a money spinner that can be used to market our country and our culture. Imagine Qatar telling the world that it has its own ideals. For example, fans are barred from drinking alcohol openly,  warned that they cannot cavort in the open or showcase their sexual idiosyncrasies publicly  and many of such cultural restrictions.

From time immemorial, we have imbibed the notion that “when you are in Rome behave like Romans” but some people were bent on forcing their own way of life on the people. But the Qataris have stuck to their guns and said a capital No.

The power of the football brand is also brought to fore Imagine the millions of dollars that will be spent in the country these few weeks, the hotels, the restaurants, local businesses. No wonder, FIFA President, Gianni Infantino the other confessed with a smile that the body was going to make over $700million dollars profit from the tournament compared to the last one in Russia.

The fourth lesson is that in football, like in life, never underestimate any opponent. The Argentine team which includes one of the best football players ever, Lionel Messi, in their training camp, would never in their wildest imagination think that they could be beaten by the Saudis who are ranked 53rd in the world. Of course there were other upsets. Always expect the unexpected.

Lesson five and the most important lesson, only the best make it to the tournament. If you are not there, you were not good enough, Period! You have to be the best to rub shoulders with the best. Nigeria was missing in action because we have fallen way below par. And this is the point that I want to drive home today.

The Nigeria Football Federation or Nigeria Football Association as it is legally known, should begin preparation for the next world cup from now. We have to fix our local league immediately. Amaju Pinnick, the immediate past NFF President has done his best, but his best was to get him a seat at the FIFA Executive Committee but left Nigerian football in doldrums.

With all the talents we have, how come we cannot have a viable professional league?, How aome we cannot have a private sector-driven league? I am told the South African League attracts over $1billion dollars in sponsorship but ours is struggling because of organization. I think the first thing to do is to have a strict entry-level criterion for all clubs that will make it to the professional league: Good facilities, academy, contracts for players and a proper board.

If this is done, we will begin to have stars again in our league and that will not only attract the big brands but will also attract fans to the stadium. As a kid, I was a fan of Stationery Stores aka Flaming. I remember that we used to go and see the club’s stars then getting ready at their Guest House somewhere in Lawanson before heading to the UAC Stadium to watch them play. We had our stars, the Peter Rufai’s that we all envied at the time.

Our players used to shine here in the local league, get into the national team before being headhunted by top European clubs. Today, no one cares about the local league, we struggle these days to have even one local player in our National team. This has to stop.

For the new NFF boss, Ibrahim Gusau, I believe this is the time to tear up Amaju Pinnick’s template, cut himself off  Mr.  Pinnick’s apron string and begin to build a pathway for himself.

He can carve a niche for himself  and make history by being the man to bring back the glorious days of Nigerian football. He should begin to work with the State FAs after all, they are the cabal that voted him to power. They must restructure grassroots football. He should work with the NPFL to make Nigerian league viable. If we can watch Zambian league, Ethiopian League and Kenyan League on TV, are these football administrators not ashamed that Nigerian league is missing?

If he learns this very vital lesson and begin the rebirth, Nigeria will have a firm foundation which would help to build a team that can compete favourably with the best in the world. We would be able to produce a team that will not only qualify effortlessly but shake the world like we did in USA 1994.

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You’ve Nothing to Offer Nigerians, Only Insults, Akwa Ibom Gov Slams Tinubu

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Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, on Monday, replied the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, saying that he (Tinubu) always resorts to abusing and insulting people during campaigns because he has nothing to bring to the table for Nigerians.

He also said that despite being insulted by the former Lagos State Governor, he would prefer to allow peace to reign by ignoring him and focusing on helping install good governance to rescue Nigerians from their present woes.

Emmanuel spoke on Monday evening at Government House, Uyo while inaugurating newly appointed Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen and Members of Boards and Commissions, as well as a Transition Committee to ensure the smooth transition of power to the next administration.

Recall that Tinubu had during his rally in Uyo Monday afternoon, reportedly said, “Akwa Ibom, that boy wey bring Atiku here, wey de call himself Governor, tell him enough is enough! He lives in my backyard in Lagos, If no be say we be one, I would have driven him home. You see that mansion he is living, I would just use lizards, pigeons and scorpions to put him inside.“

But reacting few hours later, the Akwa Ibom State Governor said, “for the country to remain in peace, one party must ‘play saint’ and that is why he would refrain from replying Tinubu.

Emmanuel who is the Chairman of the PDP presidential campaigns said, “I also go to other states, and if you watch our campaigns, my principal (Atiku Abubakar) has never spoken about any Governor, he has never spoken openly about Asiwaju before.”

He added that it was unfortunate that Tinubu, who was granted state-owned facilities such as the airport, security, stadium, and a good atmosphere to come in and sell his manifesto, ended up coming to insult the integrity of over 7.9 million Akwa Ibom people.

The Governor wondered if it is possible for any Akwa Ibomite to go to Lagos that Tinubu stays or the actual state that he hails from, to insult Tinubu in like manner and still be allowed to safely return home, “but here our people at the stadium including some state governors just laughed and applauded him.”

“What makes him think he will govern Nigeria? If I reply him now, people will call me and say, haba oga you are not like that. But I will reply him one day. There is nothing like ‘emilokan’ (it is my turn) here, Nigeria is in God’s hands.”

He maintained further that despite being the highest revenue contributor to the federation account, Akwa Ibom State has not gotten a single kilometre of road from the APC-led Federal Government for nearly 8 years adding that the poor response from the Federal Government also caused the delayed commencement of the seaport in the state.

Meanwhile, the governor thanked the newly appointed Permanent Secretaries for accepting the onerous task of service, and urged them to see themselves as ambassadors and work towards raising the bar of leadership which would encourage productivity and promote good working relationship with subordinates in the service.

“This is one thing I promised Akwa Ibom people that appointment of Permanent Secretaries shall be totally on merit and not by mercy, let those that can do the work be given the opportunity. Permanent Secretary is not a promotion, it is an appointment on merit.

Governor Emmanuel also reiterated his commitments towards enhancing efficiency within Civil Service, noting that during his administration civil servants have been promoted on yearly basis.

He assured that before he exits office more Permanent Secretaries would be appointed into the service to fill vacant positions left by the ones who retired.

Addressing Chairmen of Boards and Commissions, Governor Emmanuel who described them as pillars in government, acknowledged their commitment particularly, Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection & Waste Management Agency, Prince Akpan Ikim, for winning laurels for the state through his outstanding performance in keeping and making the state the cleanest in Nigeria for five consecutive years from 2018 through 2022, and tasked others to create an impact that will stand them out.

In the same vein, the Transition Committee members were handed the task of ensuring a seamless transition of government to an incoming administration, and also verify all projects executed by the present administration.

The newly appointed Permanent Secretaries are; Mfon Inuaesiet Edemekong Esq., Dr. Stephen Effiong, Atim Chelly Okoko, Iquo Okon Abia Esq., Uwem Sunday Andrew-Essien, Isaiah Robson Ntekim and Emaeyak Nyong Akpan as Auditor-General for Local Government.

The Transition Committee has Mrs. Ekereobong Umoh -Chairman, Uko Udom SAN, Prof Augustine Umoh, Dr. Ini Adiakpan, Mrs. Nsemeke Daniel, Dr. Nathaniel Adiakpan, Mr Elijah Udoiyak, Mrs. Esther Inyang, Pastor Uwem Andrew-Essien, Mr. Isaiah Ntekim, Mr. Effiong Ekpenyong and Mrs. Bella Akpanya as members.

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PDP Condemns Attack on Buhari in Kano, Blames Tinubu, Ganduje

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The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Council, has blamed the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, for the attacks on the convoy of President Muhammadu Buhari, during a visit to the state on Monday.

The spokesperson of the campaign council, Dino Melaye, who shared one of the videos from the reported attack, wrote, “The fight between Tinubu and Buhari is entering a new dimension. The attack in Kano was properly coordinated and funded allegedly by Asiwaju.

“The meeting to push Buhari to submission or face sponsored attack in the north was said to be hatched in Bourdillon. Me, I am busy with Atiku.”

A political activist, Deji Adeyanju, who shared another video of the reported attack, said, “They are showing Buhari and APC Shege in Kano and many northern states.”

Similarly, the PDP in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, on Monday also blamed Tinubu and the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, for the attack.

According to the party, the attack was designed to undermine the Presidency, cause confusion, trigger violence in the country, disrupt the conduct of the 2023 general elections “and derail our democracy having realised that he cannot win in a peaceful, free and fair electoral process.”

The statement read in part, “The PDP invites Nigerians to note how Governor Abdullahi Ganduje attempted to abridge President Buhari’s movement and even tried to stop him from visiting Kano State.

“More disquieting is the fact that the APC Presidential Campaign sought to humiliate and harm President Buhari while performing his official duties in Kano.

“It should be noted that the APC presidential candidate has been displaying open aversion and making inciting statements against President Buhari since Mr President’s declaration, in line with democratic best practice all over the world that Nigerians should freely vote for any candidate and party of their choice in the 2023 general elections.

“The apparent frustration of Asiwaju Tinubu to resort to encourage or condone violence is fueled by his entitlement mentality, that it is his turn to be President, despite his numerous ineligibility and disability baggage.”

Ologunagba reminded Nigerians about Tinubu’s infamous statement in London where he declared to his supporters that “political power is not going to be served in a restaurant, it is not served a la carte.”

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Organ Harvesting: Ekweremadu Battles for Freedom, Appears in Court Tuesday

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A former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, will on Tuesday appear again in court in the United Kingdom where he has been accused of human trafficking.

The lawmaker was in June 2022 arrested at Heathrow Airport in London after Staines Police Station received a report from a young man claiming to have been trafficked into the UK.

The young man, who made the report shortly after arriving in the UK from Nigeria, also alleged that he was made to undergo some medical tests, none of which he consented to.

Ekweremadu was immediately arraigned before a Magistrate’s Court for bringing a child into the UK to harvest his organs.

While the lawmaker had been in custody since June 23, his wife, Beatrice, who was arrested with him, was granted bail by a criminal court in London shortly after their arrest.

Monday (today) makes it 221 days since Ekweremadu was placed in the custody of UK authorities.

The case against the lawmaker which had been slated for May was later scheduled for January 31.

The 60-year-old, who denied the allegations against him, will again appear before High Court Judge, Mr Justice Johnson.

His daughter, Sonia, had on November 7, 2022, appeared in court to defend the accusation of trafficking a homeless man into the UK to harvest his organs for herself.

According to Daily Mail, the 25-year-old, who is battling a kidney-related illness, pleaded not guilty to the charge level against her when she appeared again in court on January 13.

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