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Super Eagles and Russia 2018: Don’t Roll Out the Drums Yet

By Adegbenro Adebanjo

The accolades are coming in torrents and some have started the celebration. There is that feel of good aura pervading the whole nation, especially among the legion of followers of the round leather game. Suddenly like a bolt out of the blue the Super Eagles have found their rhythm. And something a number of people thought impossible now looks plausible. Yes hope is rising and the expectation among the country’s legion of football followers is that Nigeria’s name will appear among the best football playing countries of the Globe when the World Cup opens in Russia in 2018. Expectedly politicians, community leaders, sports buffs, football administrators and of course those at the commanding heights of governance at various levels  are falling over themselves to salute and identify with the Super Eagles whose resurgence is at once unbelievable and comforting especially in this season of strikes , kidnappings and general unease in the land. 

Without doubt there is something to celebrate about the resurgence of the Super Eagles. Here is a team that failed to qualify for the last African Nations Cup which was won by the indomitable lions of Cameroon. And when they were drawn against Cameroon, the reigning African Champion, Algeria and Zambia in the World Cup qualification series, the Super Eagles were written off.  But contrary to expectations and the permutations of bookmakers the Super Eagles went to Zambia and snatched a well-deserved three points from the Chipolopolo.  And when the Desert Warriors, said to be the best team in the group came to Uyo, Nigeria, they were dealt a debilitating blow from which they are yet to recover going by their lacklustre performance so far. That 3–1 victory in Uyo was the harbinger of a new beginning for the Super Eagles and things are looking good.  Thereafter it was the turn of the African Champions. The Lions of Cameroon and the perpetual nemesis of Nigeria thought it was going to be business as usual. After all they came to Uyo with their full squad including their young and agile goalkeeper.  In spite of the win against Algeria and Zambia even the incurable optimists could not have predicted the outcome of the two legged encounter with Cameroon. On September 1, 2017 when the battle was joined at the Godwin Akpabio Stadium in Uyo everybody waited with baited breadth. At the end of proceedings the Eagles totally dominated and eventually caged the Lions beating them by 4-0.  Nine points in three matches simply turned the doubting thomases to believers and the road to the World Cup 2018 in Russia seems to be becoming smoother by the day. Four days after, the Eagles made assurance double sure when they went to the lion’s den in Yaounde and came back with a respectable 1 -1 draw further consolidating their hold on the leadership of their group. 

However more than the win against Cameroon, it is the camaraderie, sense of purpose and skills displayed on and off the field of play that is showing that we have a new Super Eagles on the mend.  The impact of Captain Mikel Obi and Victor Moses is worthy of note in the new breadth of fresh air in the team. Of course, Moses Simon, Leon Balogun, Ogenyi Onazi, Aaron Samuel, Kelechi Ihenacho, Odion Ighalo, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Elderson Echiejiele and their other co-travellers have also contributed their own quota. The technical crew led by Gernot Rohr is also showing that it has finally gotten its acts together and it can build a team out of a bunch of individual players with differing skills. 

But Moses and Mikel Obi have stood out  so far.  The work rate of Victor Moses in Uyo and Yaounde was outstanding. He was all over the field. Apart from his good runs upfront, he also came in from time to time to help the defence. The Chelsea man stamped his authority on the two legged encounter with sublime skills that left opponents in quandary time and time again. Such awe-inspiring skill was last seen during the era of the electrifying Kanu Nwakwo and the mercurial Austin J. J. Okocha. Take for instance the run up to the missed goal of Victor Moses during the return leg with the Lion of Cameroon. One of his mates had located him with a telegraphic pass close to the opponents eighteen. He sold a dummy to two defenders, in a split second, he looked up, picked the position of the goal keeper, chose his spot and swerved to his side before sending what the late Ernest Okonkwo would have described as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile of a shot which unfortunately hit the upright to the chagrin of the Nigerian band of supporters and the relief of their Cameroonian counterparts. Indeed we can safely say that the Super Eagles have played themselves back into the hearts of Nigerians and have restored hope and believability in their ability and the competence of Gernot Rohr and his technical bench. 

But then it is not time yet to roll out the drums and start painting the town red.  Yes the Russia 2018 ticket is almost certain and only a catastrophic mishap can stop the Eagles. But it is not over until it is over. Therefore, Rohr and his wards should redouble efforts and stave off all distractions. The two remaining matches are critical. However the home match against Zambia in October is more critical as it is a must win one. The Zambians still have an outside chance of snatching the ticket, that is if Nigeria underrates them and allow them to win in Uyo. They have nothing to lose and a lot to gain and would want to throw their all into the battle of Uyo.  So to be on the safe side, the Eagles must feast on the Chipolopolo in Uyo and thereby make their last Match against Desert Warriors in Algiers a mere formality. It is only after the win against Zambia in Uyo that we can roll out the drums and begin the celebration of another World Cup qualification. But then that celebration too should not go on and on. It must be terminated at some point for the preparation for the main event which must begin immediately after the ticket for participation has been won.

  And a note of warning here! Politicians and ethnic jingoists and religious zealots with parochial agenda should keep off the Super Eagles before they derail the march to Russia. Football is one of the few things that bind Nigerians together therefore ethnic colourations and religious calculation on the composition of the team should not form part of the narrative of the New Super Eagles. All extraneous individuals should keep off and allow Nigerians to savour the few moments of respite being provided by the Eagles and their handlers.

Adebanjo, former Sports Editor of TELL Magazine, sent this piece via obanijesu@yahoo.com

 
Economic Crunch: The Choice before President Muhammadu Buhari
By Adegbenro Adebanjo
There is nothing new under the sun so goes a popular saying. But for most Nigerians the prevailing economic crunch is actually something very new in this clime. By the day their means of survival are being eroded to the extent that even eking out a living for those who pride themselves as members of the middle class has become such a herculean task. And for those who are in the lowest rung of the economic ladder this is the worst of times. The truth is that the number of those who are unable to make ends meet and therefore cannot afford the basic necessities of life is growing in geometric proportion in our land. Hunger and despondency have become everyday experiences in many homes. The times are hard, survival is difficult and hope has become a rare commodity.
 Indeed those who should know and who manage the country’s economy have, in a manner unseen before and with unusual candour, owned up and confirmed that Nigeria is in its worst Economic Crisis. And the indices are staggering and numbing at the same time. The prognosis is also very bleak.  According to verifiable statistics close to 26.6 Million Nigerians are out of job with over 4 Million losing their job or being underemployed in the last one year. Nobody can dispute these figures and some would even describe it as conservative. In the last six months a number of banks have shown many employees the way out while more and more businesses are closing shop due to unfavorable economic conditions. And the Naira has taken its worst battering in recent times losing  more than 300 percent of its value further making the economy to become prostrate. I dare say that there is something critically wrong with the economy other than the fall of the price of petrol and the unbridled corruption of the past era. Yes the fall in the price of oil and corruption could have exacerbated the crisis, the fact remains that something is not holding together in our economic policies and its implementation. Inflation now 17.1 Percent Naira falls to N420 to 1 dollar Aero Contractors , several others close shop economy contracting at alarming rate.
For the first time in living memory some categories of workers who no matter what always smiled to the bank at the end of the month are now being owed months and months of salary arrears.  This is the first time that state government and other government owned MDAs are routinely defaulting in the payment of wages. Some states owe workers as much as 15 months’ salary arrears while others have resorted to the payment of half salary to their workforces. Matter got so bad recently that some state governments began to contemplate a three day a week working policy in order to cut their wage bill.
It is double jeopardy for government workers in many states. The State Governments are defaulting in remitting deductions from workers salaries to the appropriate quarters. After saving for years with their Cooperative society they cannot even access loan to send their children to school and meet other pressing needs as government has failed to remit deductions from their salaries while also not paying them the remainder of the salary.  For pensioners the situation is worse. They stay on endless queues to collect the pittance that is no longer being paid as and at when due with some of them actually dying while waiting to collect their entitlements. And since even governments at the state and local government levels are defaulting in salary payments, they have lost the moral authority to compel private concerns that are not paying their workers to do so. 
Not that we have not had periods and even spate of economic recessions in the past. Of course we have had some bad times that have impacted negatively on the generality of the people. But after some rejigging of policies and a number of stimulus plans, relative stability returned and the economy became reflated and respite came the way of the people. But this time around the policies and stimulus plans are not working and there appears to be no end in sight to the suffering in the land. Due to the fall of the Naira and interplay of economic forces the prices of goods and services are not just increasing but hitting the roof. More and more Nigerians are in dire situation and can barely feed themselves. Life is becoming nasty, brutish and short while the crime rates continue to soar partly a direct consequence of the worsening economic situation and the greed of a few desperadoes.
 Recently a friend who bought a dollar at the rate of N408 to a dollar just four days earlier called me frantically and said he was shocked to learn from the local dealer that a dollar now sells for N415. Indeed just within 30 days the Naira has lost close to N200 to the dollar. The Naira is in a free fall and with devastating effect on the economy and more tellingly on the living standard of the people. More worrisome is the spate of closure of manufacturing firms and other businesses on account of the inclement economic condition. The unemployment situation is spiraling out of control and some faint hearted are already giving up why the daring are fleeing through very perilous route to Europe. The gloom and sense of despondency in the land is palpable.
The countrys leaders must rise to the occasion. Something needs to be done and very urgently too to halt the current dangerous trend. It is good to sound upbeat and give words of encouragement to the people. But it is not enough. The leaders must back their words with deeds and we should begin to see some positive turn around in the economy with direct benefit to the generality of the people. The economic managers must reassess their policies and call for help if and when necessary. They may not have all the answers but some Nigerians could have the answer to the free fall of the Naira and the imminent total collapse of the economy. Therefore, this is the time to act before the economy goes completely kaput and you will need about N1000 to buy a single dollar. A National Economic Emergency summit will not be out of place now.
And President Muhammadu Buhari must lead the rescue mission. He must demand from and get his economic managers and teams to take decisive steps and actions to restore confidence in the economy and hope in the people. Their brief is to manage the economy on behalf of the President and make the economy work for the people. Nigerians are tired of being told about their efforts and new plans. What the people need now and demand is that their efforts and plans should begin to yield positive result that will reflate the economy and ease the suffering in the land.   And if they do not get it right within a stipulated time, may be it is time to bring in a new set of managers with the wherewithal to run the economy better. After all nobody can be forced to retain a losing team. And Mr. President still retains the power to hire and fire. This is the choice before President Muhammadu Buhari.
 
Adebanjo sent this piece via obanijesu@yahoo.com
 
 
Nigeria’s Riotous Road to Rio and the Looming BLLB
 
By Adegbenro Adebannjo
But just as the ship of state is being steadied for what is generally anticipated to be a steady four year cruise, Ambode has given critics some new ammunition to pummel him while shaking the faith of some believers in his credential as a humane leader. It all started when he enunciated his readiness to ensure that Lagos lives to up to its billing as a mega polis of international dimension. The route to the new Lagos, according to Ambode, includes new and audacious plan for the Oshodi heartland and a cleaner and saner highways and streets across the State. To achieve the Lagos of his and our dream Ambode wants to  and has actually decreed  street trading and hawking out of existence. To show his seriousness and determination to stamp out this blight he has prescribed a humongous fine of N90, 000, a princely sum in this time and clime, for hawkers and their patrons who run afoul of the law and those who cannot pay will spend six months  in jail.  Some offenders will get both at the same time.
Yes it is important to ensure some order on the streets and inner roads particularly relating to hawking on highbrow streets and in traffic on major highways. I support the ban on hawking on highways. It constitutes clear and present danger to the hawkers, their patrons and other road users. It is also a sore sight to first time visitors and foreigners who daily throng our Lagos from other climes. But this matter of outright ban on street trading and hawking without providing any workable alternative is an invitation to a bigger problem. The Governor of Lagos will allow his good to be evil spoken of through what I consider a certain bravado bothering on the reckless and utter disdain for the common man and by extension the common good.  Simply put Ambode will create a bigger problem in the process of solving a big problem. And common sense dictates that this is not the path to thread. It will cast him in the pantheon of elitist rulers of the people. And compounding it with a N90, 000 as fine for hawkers and their patrons is overkill. Our overcrowded jailhouses will burst at the seams and we will be manufacturing more and more social misfits and troublers of the society. If you drive away street traders without building markets or designating trading areas for them you are spreading poverty and depriving people of their livelihood. It is cruel. It will lead to more poverty and possibly a rise in the crime rate.
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JONATHAN, BUHARI AND THEIR SUPPORTERS

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By Adegbenro Adebanjo

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The build up to the 2015 presidential election was akin to that of a Nation preparing for war. The two main political parties threw ineverythinginto the battle; name calling, character assassination,loads of criticism most of which were completely unnecessary. Tension was high and it was obvious that the country was sitting on the keg of gun powder that needed just little nudge for a cataclysmic explosion. The prediction that heavens would fall during and after the election was looking like a Nostradamus forecast.Some even said that it would signal the end of Nigeria. Yes both sides beat the drums of war. Yes both sides called out their strong men and asked them to go for broke. Unfortunately some persons danced to the drums of war and tension and violence gripped the nation in the jugular.  In some locations heads were broken, limbs were shattered, guns boomed and peopledied including innocentbystanders. And the fear was that if the situation was that bad then what would happen during and after the election? Were these wars in the name of election about the greater good of the Nigerian Nation or personal aggrandizement and positioning to get a bigger cut of the National cake?

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The election of Saturday March 28 held and the result began to trickle in. And the social media heightened the tension as both sides began to claim victory and call their forces to war. Exodus began in different parts of the country as people felt they were no longer safe in places outside theirethnic origin. Then before our very eyes at the National Collation center a drama that could have plunged the country into chaos began to play out onTuesday March 30.One of the officers of a party seized the podium to reject and try to abort or stop the democratic process. An action the late M.K.O Abiola would have described as trying to abort the pregnancy of baby that was already born. Tension gripped the land as many watched the macabre drama on live television. Many hearts skipped a beat. Offices in different parts of the country began to shut down and a number of people voted with their legs.  The country was on the edge. Everybody including the international community was expecting the worst explosion.

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Then enter President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. With a phone call to candidate Muhammad Buhari  conceding victory the tension was diffused. By not following the path of the hawks that championed and canvased and worked behind the scene and openly for the‘Orubebelization’ (Cancellation) of the electoral process Mr. President deserves the appreciation of Nigerians. By conceding defeat and congratulating the winner, General Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. President has shown that He is a patriot who has lived up to his claim that the ambition of being president is not worth the blood of any Nigeria. Thank you ,Mr. President, for steering Nigeria away from the precipice and refusing to follow the inglorious path of Laurent Gbagbo who plunged Cote Divoire into avoidable crisis that led to thousands of death and carnage of unimaginable proportion. Mr. President Your decision to ensure the full ‘Jegalization’(Sanctity) of the process and rejection of ‘Orubebelization’ in its entirety has become a major milestone in our history. You are truly a Grand Commander of the Federal Republic and a Defender of Democracy.Let us nominate and welcome our dear President Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan into the league of respected statesmen.

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Thankfully the action of Jonathan struck the right chord with the President elect, General Muhammadu Buhari. Hear him, ‘President Goodluck Jonathan is a great Nigerian. He deserves our respect. This is how a decent Nation treats those who have served it. At exactly 5:15pm(on (Tuesday, March 31,) he called to congratulate me on my victory.“For this I want all Nigerians to join me in congratulating and appreciating Mr. President for his statesmanship.I extend my hand of fellowship to him. I look forward to meeting him soon as we plan the transition from one administration to another. He will receive nothing but understanding, cooperation and respect from me and my team.’ This is very elevating and synchronizes with the intent of the Election peace building Committee headed by another greatNigerian, General Abdulsam Abubakar.

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Thereafter the tension died. The elements knew too. The Salubrious air from the open environment gushing with refreshing verve and caressing and soothing the body, accentuating the joy of the old and young was clearly discernible all over the country. The environment too is leaping for joy joining the people of Nigeria to praise our God for the Great Things He Has Done for our land.

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However it would appear some Nigerians especially supporters of both men don’t want the war to end. They have continued the war songs. And some have stepped up the campaign to denigrate the person of the outgoing president thereby raising tension in the land. Of course we must speak truth to power. By all means we must criticize our leaders and point out their frailties, foibles and what they have done and are doing wrong. But when we begin to mock, debase, disrespect,abuse humiliate and denigrate them with our words in the name of criticism and expressing our opinion it smacks of malice. I think some persons are going overboard in their criticisms of the outgoing leader. As the incoming leader has affirmed he deserves to be shown respect as the man who currently occupies the number one position in our land. We should start winding down on politics and begin to focus on how to guide the incoming order. What is clear is that the last act of Jonathan has won a lot of admiration for our country in the international arena. He has saved our country from a potentially   debilitating politically induced self-immolation. He has given a refreshing fillip to our democracy. This is an imperishable legacy. If you think the concession of Jonathan is nothing go and ask them in Kenya and Cote Divoire where Uhuru Kenyatta and Laurent Gbagbo refused the result of Presidential elections some years back. Thousands were massacred and the scars of the political war are still hunting and hurting both countries.

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Apart from the different political platforms there is no fundamental disagreements among the Nigerian ruling elite and class. The key supporters who made the Buhari project to gain ground and eventually succeed were formally on the other side. It can be argued that they left the camp of Mr. President not mainly for altruistic and patriotic reasons but for personal ambitions and in order to get a bigger pie. Even the bitter feud over the 2015 election will soon be over among the political class. I strongly believe thatthe difference between politicians in both main parties is that between six and half a dozen. Therefore no sane Nigerian should go to war over their choices. What is going on is a power game and contest for power among members of the same political and ruling elite.

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Nigerians should note that Power is Transient. There is life after this election and Nigeria is bigger than all of us, without Nigeria there will be no PDP or APC. It is also clear that History is recording the utterances, actions and inactions of all the main dramatis personae in the unfolding electoral drama.If you win today a time will come when you will have to vacate the seat. Generations yet unborn will read of your heroism and infamy as the case may be. Nobody wins in a war involving brothers and kith and kin therefore let us stop fanning the embers of war.

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For friends and acquaintances who have turned this election into a war of words, time to ceasefire. For pundits and politicians and hack writers   who are misleading the people and churning out lies and half-truths please change course. For those who have vowed to cause chaos and mayhem if this election does not go their way, kindly have a rethink. Let us disappoint the prophets of doom and the enemies of Nigeria who have predicted that this election will lead to war.  In the Presidential election, it is not a victory for Candidate Buhari neither is it a defeat for candidate Jonathan. It is simply a victory for Nigeria and its democracy.

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Sai Jonathan, Sai Buhari, Sai Jega, Sai Democracy, Sai Nigeria.

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Citizen Adegbenro Adebanjo sent this piece via obanijesu@yahoo.com.

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TERRORISM:  BETWEEN FRANCE AND NIGERIA

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By Adegbenro Adebanjo

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Nicolas Sakozy the immediate past president of France and his Successor, François Hollande are bitter political rivals. They don’t see eye to eye on most issues and it is an open secret that there is no love lost between both political leaders. The reason is not far fetched. It was the victory of Hollande that prevented Sakozy from savoring the joy of winning a second term in office. He has not forgiven the man who so roundly defeated him and he has not also jettisoned his ambition of returning to the Elysee Palace, the official residence of the President of the French Republic for the second time and term. Indeed by permutations and calculations both men are likely to square up again for the coveted post of the Presidency of France in the foreseeable future.

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However when terror was unleashed on France on  Wednesday January 7,2015  political rivalry took the back seat as the bitter rivals were united in grief  and together mourned  the death of 12 people who were murdered in cold blood by terrorists who invaded the offices of a newsmagazine and summarily executed workers and some policemen on guard duties.  That day of infamy united the political rivals and they jointly sent a message to the terrorists that the French  will stand together whenever their  polity or people are in danger.

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Sakozy was to later pay a solidarity visit to his arch rival restating his support for the fight against terrorism. Both men know that political rivalry should always take the back seat when there are clear and present dangers against the polity and the well being of its people. That is what statesmanship is all about.

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In Nigeria the reverse is the case.  Leaders play politics with everything. The kidnap of the Chibok girls , the incessant bombings across the country by insurgents of  Boko Haram  , the capture of Nigerian territories and the trial of soldiers accused of sundry offences by the military high command have become pawns in the deadly political games going on in Nigerian. All the major political parties and leaders are guilty.

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When there should be a common front against terrorism what we see is the exploitation of the situation to gain political capital and score cheap shots against opponents, government and rival political parties. The kidnap of the Chibok girls has been so politicized that the sheer human tragedy that it is has been watered down. It got to sickening level when some associations even issued ultimatum that somebody should not be voted for except the girls were rescued.  How did our nation get to this sorry pass? Where are the statesmen? Where has our sense of patriotism and fellow feeling gone to?

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We have elevated politics to statecraft  and just anything  however sacred can be destroyed on the altar of politics to the extent that revered men of God have been drawn into the fray. They are now prophesying and reversing themselves perhaps to suit the whims and caprices of certain individuals .The Pulpit has been turned to a Political Rostrum. We now have tailor made prophecies delivered to ensure that some political ambitions are imbued with ‘messianic endorsement’.  The men of God should and must speak the truth to power be it incumbency and or those angling to become the next tenant at the corridor of power.  But they should not under any guise be campaigning or be seen to be campaigning for the incumbent or his main challenger. This is not the time for the pulpit to be used as a campaign rostrum for or against any individual. The pulpit should declare the truth no matter whose ox is gored. But the pulpit must never be tainted by politics.

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Even has the final countdown to the elections begins there is nothing elevating or inspiring in the campaigns of the leading parties and candidates.  All we have been treated to so far are abuses and name calling.  Please it is time to change course, enough of abuses and shadow chasing.  Let us have issue oriented campaigns and debates devoid of name calling, abuses and threats and violence. And please and please the parties should not use the human suffering in the North East and the insurgency being championed by Boko Haram as their main campaign strategy.  They can tell us how they will better handle the war against terror but they should not gloat on this tragedy.

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Let’s take a cue form the example set by Sakozy and Hollande.

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Adebanjo sent this piece via obanijesu@yahoo.com

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The World Cup and the Rhythm of Samba
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By Adegbenro Adebanjo
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Ordinarily there shouldn’t be anything extraordinary about a round leather object. After all there are so many objects of varying shapes and sizes all around us that hold little or no attraction. But when this round object is a ball being kicked around by 22 men on a well groomed grassy synthetic pitch it commands instant attention. Football, whenever and wherever it is played, has always managed to grab the attention of all categories of people. And when the stage changes and it becomes a contest among the best 32 football playing countries of the world who want to have the distinction of being called the world champion, the excitement gets to fever pitch. And with the infusion of the vivacious samba rhythm on and off the field of play it will be an enchanting and electrifying experience. That will be the setting from June 12, 2014 when the attention of the world especially the many fans of the round leather game shifts to Brazil, the host of the 20th edition of the World Cup.  From that day the World will go football Crazy until Sunday July 13   when a new Champion of the World most popular sport would emerge.
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This is going to be a world cup with a difference. For one, it will be the championship that is coming after the traditional winners failed to put their acts together in South Africa, the host of the last edition in 2010 and they allowed Spain to have the distinction of winning the 19th edition of the World’s most coveted trophy. Before then Brazil, Italy, Germany and Argentina had dominated successive world cup competitions.  The Super powers of football or the Big Four, as they are called, have won 14 championships among them. Spain stopped this run and showed class and tenacity in the land of Nelson Mandela. The Spaniards overwhelmed perpetual underperformer, Netherlands in a pulsating final. The Super Powers are expected to reassert themselves in Brazil.
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 For obvious reasons the pundits would put their money on Brazil. Not because they are hosting the Mundial for the first time. Brazil has shown over and over again that football is in a way made in the Samba Nation. They follow the game with unequalled passion and their players play the game with refreshing verve and rare artistry. Brazil gave the legendary Pele to the world. And his romance with the world’s most popular game remains an epic tale .So everybody expects them to deliver on home turf. The Brazilians will also want to take an unassailable lead and become the first country to win the mundial for a sixth time as the Italians are close on their heels with four wins. To drive home their determination the official slogan for the Brazilian team is, ‘Brace Yourself, the Sixth is coming’.   If they don’t deliver then the other Super Powers may well rise to the occasion.
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That is not to say that this world cup will only be a Brazilian show or the championship of the Big Four.  France, Mexico, Netherlands, Belgium and United States and England are also going to test might and give the front runners a run for their money. Outsiders like Australia, Croatia Greece, Japan, Mexico, Russia and South Korea, are also countries to watch out for. And for some pundits the Spaniards are still lurking in the corner to defend their title and overwhelm all comers once again. Many still believe that Spain has the best National team currently and they are well and able to go all the way in Brazil. Indeed when it comes to fantastic team work and cohesive play on the field, Spain towers above all others.
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And Time was when Africa was treated as a mere footnote. Now it is clear to all that you ignore the African challenge at your own peril. Cameroun was the first country to win respect for Africa with a Quarterfinal placement when Roger Milla was Africa’s most deadly marksman. Nigeria was to follow suit after its scintillating performance during its maiden outing in United States in 1994. The Super Eagles overwhelmed Bulgaria and Greece to book a Second Round Ticket. But for a last minute lack of concentration the Super Eagles would have defeated the eventual finalist Italy in the second round held at the Foxboro Stadium, Boston Massachusetts. In 1998, the Super Eagles humiliated Spain with the legendary Goalkeeper Zubbezurreta in Goal being sent to retirement after their 3-2 defeat by Nigerians. Ghana was to up the ante in South Africa in 2010 when it nearly qualified for the Semifinal but for a stroke of ill luck against Uruguay and the famous hand of Luiz Suarez which stopped a goal bound shot in the quarter final. So in Brazil the African representatives Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroun, Ivory Coast and Algeria will not be treated as underdogs.
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Of course football is a team event but then as with the past editions some players will still grab the headline with scintillating performances. All eyes will be on the Brazilian named Nemar. He is fast, deadly in front of goals and shows mastery of the game whenever the stakes are high. He leads the Brazilian challenge. Other players expected to light up Brazil 2014 include the mercurial Lionel Messi of Argentina, and the controversial Balotelli who will star for Italy. Fernando Torres, Andre Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas of Spain, Luiz Suarez of Uruguay, Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney of England and Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podoski of Germany should also give fans a lot to be excited about.
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But one man that many believe will hit the headline is Chsitiano Ronaldo who will be starring for Portugal. Ronaldo is a bundle of talent. Fast, sleek and business like, he is the nightmare of goalkeepers with his rocket like shots, mesmerizing dribbling runs and tailor made passes. This should be the World cup of Ronaldo, the current best footballer in the world.
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Africa has its own fair share of stars that should be able to hold their own in Brazil. Cameroun old war horse Samuel Etoo, the Ivorian trio of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Yaya Toure, Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan, Jordan Ayew and Mike Essien and Nabil Chilas of Algeria, the Nigerian quartet of John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Peter Odewingwe and Goal keeper Vincent Inyamah should let the world know why pundits believe that the future of the round leather game is in Africa.
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It is a little bit difficult to make a prediction about how far Nigeria will go in Brazil. For one there will be no hiding place for the Stephen Keshi led Squad as they are going into the game as African champions . Again the exploits of Nigeria  in the past will see their first round opponents  Argentina, Bosnia and Iran  going all out to overawe the Eagles. But one thing we all expect is that they will put up a respected performance and get a second round ticket.  If Keshi is able to  hold the team together and the usual  in fighting and politics  do not feature prior to and during the main event  they can go all the way. And this is well captured in the Eagles official slogan, ’Only Together We Can Win’. One thing is certain the Eagles can only be said to have done well in Brazil 2014 if they make at least the Quarter Finals.
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While the  fate of the Eagles and the other 31 countries is still a matter of conjectures and permutations  , what  is not in doubt is that the World Cup this time around will take on a different hue especially since  the setting for the showdown is Brazil, land of samba , country of origin of the legendary Pelé and the nation where football is more than a passion but almost a religion. It will be a carnival of many colours with the fans adding their own fair share to make the World Cup the most exciting sports fiesta in the World. The fans and followers of what is unarguably the world most popular and most exciting game are in for the thrill of a lifetime. Blow the whistle, kick the ball, let the game of football made in Brazil and infused with the samba rhythm begin.
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Adebanjo, former Sports Editor of TELL Magazine, sent this piece from Akure.
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PRINCESS ADETUTU ADESIDA - The Radiance of the Regent

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By Adegbenro Adebanjo

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She came on board at a very difficult time not only for her kingdom but also for her family. The kingdom of Akure, one of the major cities in South west, Nigeria was mourning the demise of its king while the family was mourning the loss of a husband and father. Weeks before becoming the Regent of Akure, Princess Adetutu Adesida  had lost her father the Deji and paramount ruler of the Kingdom ,HRM Oba Adegboye Adebiyi Adesida, while Akure , the  Capital City of Ondo State had lost its beloved monarch. It was a big blow to the family and kingdom since nobody expected the Monarch who was installed on Sunday September 5, 2010 to join his ancestors so soon on December 1st 2013.

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Her ascension has however become a soothing balm on the frayed nerves of her people. She has invested the monarchy with a refreshing verve and endeared herself to many with her comportment and sense of duty.  She had to. Her father on coming to the throne had given hope to a people who had a not particularly rosy experience with their former king who was deposed over some unpalatable indiscretion. Before the enthronement of King Adesida, the institution of monarchy in the ancient town was severely jolted and not a few people lost confidence in it. The coming of Oba Adebiyi Adesida brought hope and burnished the institution. And when the people thought that the Monarchy had been restored to its pride of place and they had become enamored with the panache and grace of their new natural ruler, the king died.

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And in consonance with the tradition of the people, the first daughter had to become the interim ruler for the period of the interregnum before a new king is selected. And it had to be a female because making a male the regent could portend danger and a succession crisis may ensue. The choice of Princess Adetutu  was therefore by consensus deeply rooted in the mores of her people. Of course she comes to the throne with an impressive credential.  A trained pharmacist who lives in the United States, Princess Adetutu is a combination of brain and beauty. This Princess, our Regent,   is graceful and charming. What more she is  well aware of the enormity of the responsibility of presiding over the affairs of Akure with its ancient tradition and political vitality. And the consensus with unambiguous unanimity is that she is discharging her responsibilities creditably well.

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After the onerous task of steering the ship of the Kingdom was transferred to her, Princess Adesida assured her people that she would do her best to give them the best in terms of governance of the town. And she was ready for the job. Hear her, “I know this is a duty I have to perform, so I have called on my God to help me to succeed in the journey and also God will help the kingmakers to choose the right person to be the next king”.

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Of course the home front and her professional calling will not suffer any setback as she continues to serve her people. “ The regency cannot disturb my role as a mother and wife and as a career woman, I have also taken leave of absence from my place of work in the United States, my husband knows that I am a Princess before he agreed to marry me and he also knows that anytime my father died as a king, I have to assume this position, so there wont be any problem,” Princess Adetutu said shortly after taking over the mantle of leadership of the town which is also the administrative and political capital of Ondo State.

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In her remark during a conference of the National Association of Agricultural Economists held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, the Regent who spoke extempore urged the Federal Government to tackle Climate Change through proper funding of the Agriculture sector.  To NAAE she said “The theme of your Conference is apt and timely given the amount of disaster the country has witnessed over the years because of Climate Change.  I urge you not to relent in playing your laudable roles as Agriculturist to tackle Climate Change to reduce poverty and banish hunger in our country”. And during the celebration of the International Women’s Day at the same Institution, Princess Adetutu was at her best. She admonished women and youth to reposition themselves strategically so as to address the teeming challenges Nigeria is facing.  According to her, women as nation builders should live up to the expectation of the society. She got a standing ovation for her insightful contribution.

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Princess Adetutu has brought to the regency certain panache and humility that has endeared her to many. She mixes freely with the people and attends to their needs without much ado.  Her professionalism, education attainment and good upbringing show through her comportment and dedication to duty. Princess Adetutu has elevated the institution of Monarchy and given her people hope. This is a Regent in whom the people of Akure Kingdom are well pleased.

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Adebanjo, who lives in Akure, sent this piece via obanijesu@yahoo.com

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The Yobe Massacre: Time is running out for Nigeria
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By Adegbenro Adebanjo The horrendous and barbaric killing of over 40 innocent students of the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State by the Boko Haram Sect is proof positive that Nigeria is in clear and present danger. That killing has further diminished us as a people. It tells the rest of the World that the worst form of bestiality still takes place in Nigeria of 2014. It is sickening not just because of the number of children killed but also because of the sheer mindlessness and crude manner those kids were summarily executed. There is no justification whatsoever for the murder of those innocent souls. It is pure savagery. Those who planned and carried the crime out are mindless butchers and anyone who supports them one way or the other or who provides any justification for the gruesome act or tries to reap political capital out of this evil is vicariously liable and stands condemned too.

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It should be clear to all of us that our country is dancing on the precipice. This heinous act should shock us to action. It should never be seen as just another killing by the Boko Haram Sect. Of course they have done it again and again and it gets worse every time. No we cannot and should not accept it as something we can live with.  There should not be any feeling of de javu.  If we do, then we all become accessories to some of the worst crimes in history. We will lose our humanity and we will become little better than animals because life in our society will then become ‘nasty, brutish and short’.  Indeed some will argue that the Nigerian state based on its many failings and the sheer murderous brutality of Boko Haram has returned to the Hobbesian State of Nature. They may be right.

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This is also not the time to play politics. Indeed all political activities should be suspended while our leaders work together with the people to drive away this festering evil out our land. There should be all round condemnation in the harshest terms possible. From the palace of the seat of the Caliphate through the  Sultan of Sokoto to that of Emir of Kano and Sheu of Borno, from the palace of Ooni of Ife, Alafin of Oyo, Oba of Lagos, and Obi of Onitsha, from Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdusalam Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari, the National and State Assemblies  to the leadership of the APC, PDP and other political parties, various unions, religious leaders of all faiths, organisations and all men and women of goodwill who believe in the survival of Nigeria there should be unanimous condemnation of this carnage. Our sense of outrage on this collective assault on our nation must be clearly expressed.    The message to Boko Haram, their patrons, supporters and sympathisers like the late Yitzhak Rabin told Baruch Goldstein who committed a similar crime in the Middl