A word (or 600) for the guys

This is inspired by a conversation on twitter that I followed from a distance.

Most people will remember the movie ‘Coming to America’ where Akeem, the future king of Zamunda (not the club), went to America to find a wife. Even though he came from a privileged background, he opted to go as a regular person, to meet someone who would love him for who he is, not because of what he had. He eventually found that person, only for her to discover later that he was royalty. They eventually rode off into the sunset (predictably).

There is a lesson here though. Many guys who are successful (or are on the way to achieving it) complain that they can’t find good girls to date and eventually marry because most are after the money. This is not the full story. There are as many girls who are not after material possessions as those who are. First, let’s just get something out of the way: it’s very natural for a female to want comfort. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Indeed, many guys won’t mind spending freely on their women; after all, what is the money for? However, we see more & more women go after the good things of life on their own, without waiting for a guy. The ambition and the hustle some ladies show is refreshing.

As a result, my experience is that fewer women would date a guy if money is largely what he has to offer. Guys have a big role to play in how they are perceived by ladies, and that is what I want to focus on. Akeem won Lisa because of his personality. He didn’t try to buy her love or flaunt his social status. Just like we say females who make their bodies the focus are shallow, so also men who make their wallets their main selling point should be considered shallow as well. If a guy flaunts his wealth to get girls and attracts gold diggers in the process, he really can’t have any complaints. Even if he meets a ‘good girl’, she might consider him too puffed up and move on, leaving him to the sharks. For example, why would you meet a girl for the first time and begin to tell her about your rich background, how much is on your credit card, or other such details? If you go to a club (or anywhere else, for that matter) and spend a lot of money, who do you think you will attract? Miss Independent? Or the kind of woman talked about in track 4 of ‘Late Registration’?

I think we guys need to be more like Akeem’s character. Play down your money (or lack of it) and just be you. Let your personality do the talking. Be interesting, engaging, (add more adjectives here) know what you want out of life and work towards it. Women admire certainty & focus in men (the ones I’ve met anyway). It makes them feel safe, like they can trust themselves to you. The best girls around are more interested in a guy’s personality, his vision, whether he is ambitious or not, and of course whether he loves her, rather than the obsession with his pocket. Contrary to popular belief, they are not scarce. Just ensure that when you meet someone like that, you play for keeps.

On a final note, the above may not apply to you if you are not interested in a serious relationship. Feel free to disregard.

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Will the new faces please stand up?

With about 6 months to a pivotal presidential election in this country, if it is to be held in January 2011 as widely reported, you wouldn’t really know it is that close by. It feels like a year or two years to the elections. There has been the usual declaration of interest in the Presidency, first by Donald Duke, then Ibrahim Babangida and Bashorun Dele Momodu but we have seen zero campaigning so far from the two new candidates, or even IBB. It seems like everyone is waiting to see if the zoning formula by the PDP will be scrapped and whether or not Goodluck Jonathan will contest. I could understand the case of IBB as he belongs to the PDP, but Dele Momodu is contesting on the Labour Party’s platform and Donald Duke has left the PDP. I bet he didn’t foresee what is happening now though. I am quite surprised that we haven’t seen any manifestos or policy positions from these candidates. It has been mostly slogans that leave me in particular largely unimpressed. This presidential race is begging for someone to take control of it and a real leader would have done so by now. Dele Momodu for instance is not yet seen as a serious candidate even by many of the youths he claims to represent. The perception is that he is just looking for relevance and he hasn’t done much to change that. Donald Duke has the same problem. Although he’s been governor of Cross Rivers state, he also doesn’t have that instant name recognition throughout the country. It’s also instructive that he declared his ambition in London. Is 6 months enough to convince a majority of people to vote for either of them? Is 6 months enough for a truly nationwide campaign? Is 6 months enough to build a national profile? The answer is no. Barack Obama declared his intention to run for President of the US on February 10 2007, 11 months before the Iowa caucus. David Cameron was in the opposition to the Labour Party since 2005 before toppling them in the UK elections.

My main problem is the lack of real excitement around either of them and i think it’s because people sense the lack of command, the lack of leadership on display. It’s not just about uniting around one person for the sake of doing so, but we need to know that even one of these men understand the scale of the problems we face and have a good road map to solve those problems. With so little time to go before the elections, we don’t know the positions of our candidates on all the key domestic issues. We don’t even know how the plan of one candidate differs from another. I expected to see both of them make the rounds on all the TV stations, give interviews in newspapers and go on radio programmes to meet the press and the people to push their case, but none of this has happened. Many, many people are slowing leaning towards Goodluck for the elections if he decides to run because he has shown a capacity for strong action by removing Maurice Iwu & Vincent Ogbulafor in quick succession, removing Ibori’s protection and bringing back Nuhu Ribadu & Nasir El- Rufai. You can query the overall motives, but the fact is that those moves have been effective in winning him public support. People also see the hand of God in his life in the manner of his ascendancy into high office. The longer other candidates wait before giving Nigerians a credible, fresh alternative the closer we will move to a Jonathan presidency by default. Time is running out for the new faces on the block to make their case. If the ‘youth can lead’, then ‘the time is now’ (pun intended).

Spilling over

Like many people around the world, i’ve watched with dismay as oil washed up on the Gulf Coast, threatening living things & livelihoods. This is just the latest in a string of hits the environment takes to satisfy our thirst for oil. So many oil spills that happen around the world are not given quite the same coverage that this has gotten. In Nigeria for instance we have about 2,000 active oil spills as at last year, but no one talks about us. This time, the US has tasted a little bit of the bitterness that comes with crude oil extraction. Before coming into office, Barack Obama said he would not allow offshore drilling. A few weeks ago, he went back on that pledge. That was before the Gulf coast mishap. For years, America has talked about depending less on foreign oil without doing what is necessary and difficult to make that happen. The huge amounts they spend on Middle East oil on which they’ve depended since the 70s goes to funding extremist groups that attack the US, but no one wants to drill in their backyard. 3rd world countries like Nigeria end up bearing the brunt. Weak enforcement of environmental standards due to corrupt government officials enables multi-national oil companies to get away with things they would pay dearly for in their home countries. chief among these is gas flaring. Nigeria accounts for much of the gas flared in the world, along with Russia. It’s no surprise that Russia is also a very corrupt nation. The Federal Government has given many deadlines for an end to flaring, none of which have been enforced and with no appropriate punishments given to the IOCs.

In a way, the oil companies are not to blame. America had the chance to move towards renewable energy in the 70s after the first oil shock but they didn’t take it. Their appetite for crude has known no bounds and they are doing everything to keep up this way of life. Unfortunately, it is not sustainable. Oil majors are having to drill to great depths to access oil. The Deepwater Horizon owned by Transocean and leased by BP is a very advanced rig. It is therefore baffling that whatever measures they put in place to prevent a catastrophe like this failed woefully. A friend of mine said on his blog that offshore drilling is equal to putting man on the moon. I do not argue this. Is it not troubling that this spill is yet to be stopped? there are two clear possibilities. The first is that BP was not prepared adequately for this scenario. The second is that when you drill that far down into the earth, you really have no control over what happens. We have seen time and time again that mankind is no match for the force of nature. The volcano in Iceland didn’t even erupt, it just spewed ash, and it grounded 100,000 flights! People were stranded for days far from home, billions were lost in terms of money and man hours, but not a single life was lost, not a single thing was destroyed. I think it’s high time humanity gives up on looking for crude oil in extreme environments and focus on harnessing what nature gives us freely: the sun, wind, water & geothermal energy. You could also add nuclear energy into that mix. Taken together, it would put us on a surer path to sustainability.

The leadership of the US would be crucial to bring this about in a reasonable time frame. In 1961, President Kennedy mandated NASA to out a man on the moon by the end of that decade. In 1969, it happened. JFK said the words, but also empowered NASA by committing the funds necessary for that herculean effort. Obama must do something similar. He is obviously grappling with a number of things at once and must surely have one eye on a re-election bid, even though it’s in 2012. Sacrifices would have to be made in order to address this energy issue. The whole world respects the US and it still retains a moral authority, even though it’s economic power is not what it used to be. If it leads, other countries would surely follow. I just wonder if these leaders know how high the stakes are.

EPL team of the season

It’s been a strange season in the EPL. No one team has dominated the race this season, with startling setbacks in between equally impressive results for both United and Chelsea. Any team of the season should reflect the fact that some of the usual suspects have not performed anywhere near the required standard with consistency over the last nine months, giving room for other good players to be recognized. The chosen formation is 4-4-2, and without further ado, here is my team of the season.

Jose ‘Pepe’ Reina (Liverpool): In a season to forget for the Merseysiders, Reina has stood head and shoulders above his team-mates. His handling and shot-stopping have been very good and he has been a source of confidence. It is safe to say that without him, Liverpool would have ended up lower in the table because he has a joint-highest 17 clean sheets. A new 6-year deal underscores his importance to Liverpool.

Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea): the Serbian has flourished with the game time afforded him as a result of Jose Bosingwa’s injury and he has been one of the league’s most consistent players. His instincts as a centre-half enable him to balance both offensive and defensive duties. Great in the air, and has 6 assists from right-back.

Richard Dunne (Aston Villa): Martin O’Neill needed to replace the influence of Martin Laursen at the heart of the Villa defence with the Dane’s career cut short by lingering knee problems. In Richard Dunne, he found the perfect player. Flogged off by Manchester City for a mere 6 million pounds, the Irishman has been at the heart of one of the best defensive units in the league. He is one of the main reasons why Villa kept up their top 4 challenge right to the last few games. Compare this to the abject displays of both Toure and Lescott, his replacements at City, at the combined cost of over 40 million pounds. Interestingly, City also didn’t make the Champions’ League.

Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal): the step up in class from Holland to the EPL is one that has been achieved mostly by strikers, and I for one was skeptical about this signing by Wenger. After all, his last 12 million pound buy is yet to yield dividends. Thomas Vermaelen has proved me wrong though. Technically he is very good, scores goals and is very composed. 12 million pounds is starting to look like a bargain. He has scored 7 goals from centre-half.

Patrice Evra (Manchester United): The best left-back in the world. For his height, Evra is remarkably good in the air and together with his 7 assists, it is a major reason for my choice. His constant runs from the left are a good outlet for his team and he’s a clean tackler.

James Milner (Aston Villa): I agonized before picking the player for this position. I feel Antonio Valencia runs him really close, but Milner just nicks this one for me. This has been a break-out season for him as he looks certain to be in the England World Cup squad. Originally a winger, he has been used to good effect in the middle of the field. His energy and drive stand him out, and he shoots very well. He has 7 goals to his credit, with 12 assists.

Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal): there really can’t be any doubts about this particular selection. This has been a break-out season for the Spain international in terms of scoring goals, with the 4-3-3 used by Arsenal giving him more freedom to play closer to goal. This has led to 15 goals & 15 assists, making him second only to Frank Lampard this season. His centrality to the Gunners’ play can be summed up in a very tight game against Villa in December, when he came on as a 2nd half substitute, with the game at 0-0. He played only 28 minutes before again going off, but had scored twice.

Frank Lampard (Chelsea): As scandals threatened to derail his team, Lamps has remained outstandingly consistent and ever present in the Chelsea team. 17 assists and 22 goals from the England man are a big reason Chelsea won the title and his four goals against Villa ranks among one of the best individual performances of the season.

Florent Malouda (Chelsea): one of the players of the second half of the season. He has started to show the form that persuaded Chelsea to buy him from Lyon. He crosses the ball very well, and has scored a few himself. He even had a couple of games at left back. 12 goals and 9 assists for the Frenchman this season.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United): in the wake of the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, Rooney has become the focal point of the United team. 26 goals in the league is the result. Were it not for his injury against Bayern, it would surely have been a bit more and the destiny of the title race might have been different. His importance to England is such that some have said they shouldn’t bother getting on the plane if he’s not fit. They are right.

Didier Drogba (Chelsea): the sharpest end in a record breaking Chelsea team in an offensive sense. Drogba’s style is all action His share of 29 out of his team’s 103 goals this season is the most by an African player in the EPL. He has 13 assists as well, showing his contribution to team play. This is the best form he could possibly be in going into the World Cup. His national team-mates will need him to be on top of his game in the Group of Death.

So that’s my team of the season. As usual, I welcome all comments.

A President and a victim

‘Umoru, are you dead?’

This was the question Olusegun Obasanjo asked then candidate Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in that famous interview on NTA in March 2007. In the heat of campaign, Yar’Adua had to go abroad for treatment. Little did we know how grave his health condition would become. It took less than 3 years for the strain of Presidential duties to break him. In between time, his health became the subject of constant rumour and conjecture, and worse still as a bargaining chip, with his wife and closest aides, later to be known as ‘the cabal’, completely manipulating the information regarding the true state of his health for political gain. In so doing, they cut off the citizens from their President. The constant stream of lies from government officials turned genuine concern of the citizens into exasperation, anger, indifference and last night, relief.

Since he became President, his medical trips abroad were always masked as ‘lesser hajj’ or some other clever excuse. Crucial national and international engagements were left to cabinet members to handle, with the Vice President completely sidelined. However, the announcement that he had gone to Saudi Arabia for treatment on November 23, 2009 struck me as odd. I remember telling my mum that I felt it was really serious, or else they wouldn’t have told us. It was the last time he was seen in public. He left the nation essentially in a vacuum. With no formal handover letter sent to the National Assembly empowering his Vice President to act on his behalf, several crucial matters of state went untended. There was a complete lack of coordinated government response to any issue. The amnesty programme for which the administration takes credit, went backward in the President’s absence. Also, Nigeria was put on a list as a ‘country of interest’ in the aftermath of Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab’s failed suicide attempt on a US plane on Christmas Day. There was also a fuel scarcity of several months and an ASUU strike to end all strikes. In all this, Nigeria was leaderless.

This did not worry those who kept him away from all contact. In fact, it was reported that no more than 7 people had set eyes on him in the time he was away. 234Next reported on January 10 that he was brain-damaged, only for a famous interview with the BBC on phone to surface three days later. As far as I was concerned, it was not his voice on that phone and nothing since then has changed my opinion. An angry nation began to take to the streets, demanding answers about his health. Only then did the cracks appear in the cabinet. Apparently tired of all the lies she had to tell Nigerians for several weeks, the Minister of Information Dora Akunyili was the one to bell the cat. We were also introduced to a novel idea called a ‘doctrine of necessity’ by lawmakers eager to be seen as taking action while protecting themselves in the event of Yar’Adua’s return. Those around the ailing leader proved to be specialists at blackmailing Nigerians with his ghost, preventing us from addressing urgent national challenges with a substantive person in charge. The former Attorney General was employed to good effect in this regard, interpreting the constitution in the way he saw fit in a bid to defend the indefensible. Needless to say, when Goodluck Jonathan was eventually ‘allowed’ power to steer the ship of state, he was the first to go. In a frantic bid to sustain their narrow ambitions, Yar’Adua was rushed back under the cover of darkness. A number of clandestine meetings were arranged with Christian and Muslim clerics in order to remind us that he was still relevant. Once again, I seriously doubt if these meetings ever took place.

Now that he has passed on, all designs to prevent Jonathan becoming President as our constitution stipulates are naught. There must be forces at work around Goodluck that we can’t possibly fathom. He is obviously a man of destiny. Now that the cloud hanging over Nigeria has been dispelled, I’m sure he’s all the more emboldened to take the kind of action that’s necessary to save this nation. All accounts of the man Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was say he was a good man, a gentleman. However, it was never going to be enough for this country. The constant policy reversals give evidence that he was probably not in total control of his government. The ease with which he was sealed off from his Vice President and those he was meant to rule is further evidence of a lack of strong character, made a lot worse by constant illness. I would remember him as a President who never succeeded in implementing his vision for Nigeria, if he had one. As a person, I feel no sense of sorrow or mourning. I have no image of him after November 23, 2009. I, like millions of Nigerians have their own problems made worse by the standstill his administration brought Nigeria to. Out of sight, out of mind.

If we needed another reason to come out en-masse and vote next year, we have one. Never again should we allow the occupier of our highest office be so cut off from us. Never again should we allow leaders to be imposed on us. Never again should we as citizens permit an Invisible Presidency. We must not postpone this urgent task for another 4 years. It is up to us to make our rulers take us seriously. We haven’t done a good job of this so far. It’s my hope that as our kidnapped President is returned to dust, a new Nigerian consciousness rises up in time to vote for change. The past is gone, and the future awaits. In October, Nigeria will be 50 and we must give our nation the best gift possible: our votes. Caesar said: ‘there is a time in the tides of men which, taken at the flood, leads to fortune’. There is no time like the present.

Liverpool & Lazio, Donald & Dele

If you’re not a football fan, please bear with me for a couple of minutes. Two eerily similar scenarios played out last Sunday in two different leagues. In the Premiership, Liverpool welcomed Chelsea to Anfield, with Manchester United hoping for Chelsea drop points so they can win the title. They are tied with Liverpool on 18 titles and winning the title this season would make United the most successful league team in England. The Scousers themselves have endured the most anti-climactic of seasons, after coming 2nd last term. They came into the game with an outside chance of retaining their Champions’ League spot. Being fierce rivals of United, a lot of the Liverpool fans were loathe to do anything to help the ‘enemy’, even at the cost of ending their top 4 ambition. Too often, the attitude of the fans filters down to the players on the pitch and this was one such example. I personally cannot remember such a quiet atmosphere at Anfield. Liverpool’s fans did not want their team to beat Chelsea, and the players, led by Steven Gerrard duly lost. Interestingly, it’s going to do more harm to Liverpool that United. Missing out on the Champions’ League means they won’t get the extra money that comes with it. Improving on a squad that’s average in most areas will become harder, and with Tottenham & Man City fighting it out for 4th, it could be a little while before Liverpool make it back into the elite.

In Italy, something similar happened. Lazio entertained Inter Milan in Rome, with Roma trying to catch the defending champions. They could hope for no favours from the Biancoceleste, who despite being 2 places above the relegation zone actually had sections of their home support that cheered Inter’s 2 goals! What I saw from both sets of fans wasn’t passion, it was stupidity. Both their clubs are headed in the wrong direction, but all that matters to them is preventing a ‘rival’ from gaining an advantage. Both teams have a proud history, but it has been tarnished a little by those events. It is for me, a teachable moment: the minute you begin to be an obstacle to the success of another, you have a losing mentality. It’s probably the reason so many people wallow in mediocrity. The stone you put in the path of another person ends up bringing you down.

It is the season of elections in Nigeria. With elections to take place in January 2011 in line with constitutional amendments, candidates have begun to come forward. Most notable among them is Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. Donald Duke and recently, Dele Momodu publisher of Ovation magazine have also joined the race. The reaction to Dele Momodu’s declaration of intent has been largely dismissive. Many don’t believe he has the experience for the job of President. There is a distinct lack of enthusiasm also for Donald Duke’s candidacy. I think that we should give all candidates a fair hearing. Governance is not rocket science. In the US, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a body builder before becoming Governor of California and Jesse ‘the Body’ Ventura was a professional wrestler before becoming Governor of Minnesota in 1999. Each of these aspirants will have to prove their capability to rule Nigeria, but we the citizens must ask the hard questions of them and hold them to their promises. All over the world, the trend is towards a generational shift towards younger leaders. The same thing must happen here as we have nothing whatsoever to gain from an IBB presidency. To effect this change though, we must unite behind the best possible younger candidate and elect him (or her) to lead us. As young people, one of our best characteristics is that of an open mind, a mind open to possibilities. We need not write anyone off just yet. Rather, we must give them ample time to articulate their positions and query them aggressively till we are satisfied. If we do not do this and if we do not at the end unite behind a single candidate, we will find that the ‘Baba Syndrome’ will take over again, postponing once more the opportunity of the youth to lead to another ‘tomorrow’ which would in all possibility be bleaker than today.

Barca had the ball, Inter had Mourinho

This is exactly what Mourinho came to Inter for. Despite dominating Serie A in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal and its effects on Milan & Juventus, Inter continued to be poor in Europe. Massimo Moratti’s dream has been to bring the European Cup back into the Nerazzuri after the glory days of ’64 and ’65, when his father was Inter president. After getting their hands on the league title repeatedly under Mancini, largely due to the weakness of their rivals, attention now shifted sharply to Europe. Mancini’s inability to deliver meant he had to make way for Jose, who himself was unceremoniously booted out by Roman Abramovich. Chelsea have not been the same since and their quest for a first ever European Cup has slipped away progressively since the Special One’s departure.

Envious glances would now be cast at the San Siro from all connected with Chelsea, should Inter lift the Cup at the Bernabeu. They have gotten there through two games against Barcelona varying in their approach: the first a ruthless exploitation of the weakness of their opponents, the second a defensive masterclass the likes of which are rarely seen. Both bear the hallmark of Mourinho. An obsessive attention to detail, a winning mentality instilled in his players that has been absent in most of Barca’s opponents, an above all a tactical knowledge that is unmatched in world football. Taking a 3-1 lead to the Camp Nou was healthy but events conspired against them as Thiago Motta, instrumental at the San Siro, was sent off very harshly for an ‘elbow’ on Pedro who made the most of the contact. What followed was a defensive display that will live long in the memory. After less than two full seasons in charge, Mourinho has made Inter into his winning image. No more wilting under pressure, no more mediocrity at the highest levels. In the first knock-out phase, he dismantled another machine he built from the ground up, Chelsea. He has now completed what must be his greatest ever triumph. He made Barca look ordinary for large parts of both legs, granting them possession far from goal, and a lot of it at that. The now former European champions ended the game with 86.4% of the ball. Inter only completed 63 passes ALL game. Barcelona are a super side, but Mourinho is a super coach. If therefore goes to show that the coach should get all the accolades and much of the blame for a team’s performances.

Things I learnt from Inter v Barca

Samuel Eto’o now plays in his 3rd UCL final. His shabby treatment by Barca last summer must have hurt, but he now has the ultimate revenge. Zlatan is not half the player Eto’o is. Samuel Eto’o is the best African player ever.

The debate about the best right-back in the world is now resolved. Maicon was excellent home and away and has been the best in the world for about 18 months now. Alves is not quite there, plus he’s a poor crosser of the ball.

Iniesta is such an integral part of Barca’s play. They’ve missed an extra level since he’s been injured. Toure, Keita and Busquets are nowhere near as creative.

It’s still too early to crown Lionel Messi as the best player in the world. Inter shut him up, and didn’t even have to foul him that much. Coaches all around the world must watch the tapes of both legs, not least Lars Lagerback, the Super Eagles coach.

Pep Guardiola needs to come up with a plan B for his Barca team, maybe one that includes 2 strikers. when confronted with the Inter wall, the ideas were lacking desperately. it took a great finish by a centre-half to pull a goal back.

If Diego Maradona doesn’t take Javier Zanetti to South Africa, he’s off his rocker.

When nature strikes, and other things on my mind.

When Nature Strikes

As you should know by now, there is a very famous volcano that has shut down much of Europe for much of the last week. Its name is ‘Eyjafjallajokull’ (no, don’t pronounce that). The ash from its increased volcanic activity has stopped planes from flying, stranding many thousands of people, including Dora Akunyili and some governors (what are they always travelling for anyway?). Let me not digress. When the ash enters the turbines of a plane, it quickly turns into glass in the blades, and makes the plane impossible to control. Based on this, airport authorities across Europe closed down airports since Friday, leading to loss of revenues $200m and above. I can see why such actions would be taken though, because at 35,000 feet a pilot doesn’t have many options if a plane’s turbines don’t work. Life is more important than anything else. The real interest for me is how easy it is for nature to disrupt man’s activities. Despite all our technological advancement, we are still at the mercy of nature. Humans first appeared on earth about 2 million years ago, but the Earth itself has been around for a couple of billion years. We are only passengers. Nature doesn’t need us, we need nature. If the elements turn against us because of our activities that alter the balance of the Earth, nothing we have can withstand its force. It’s a humbling thought for me and it should be a humbling thought for everyone else. We must treat the Earth with respect.

IBB’s 2011 ambition

The declaration of the self-styled ‘Evil Genius’ to seek the Presidency has drawn a lot of interest, mostly negative. He has always been a news-worthy person and this time is no different. Those who oppose say he has a lot to answer for: the annulment of June 12, the Gulf Oil windfall, Dele Giwa’s assassination among so many others. There is an irony about it though: the man who annulled a free and fair election wants to seek election into the highest office in the land. Naiwu Osahon dubbed him the ‘Evil Candidate’ and Pastor Tunde Bakare called for him to be stoned. Simply put, he’s a hate figure among the majority of Nigerians. So why then has he declared his ambition? In his Op-Ed on Sunday, THISDAY Editor Simon Kolawole puts forward a theory that he won’t seek the PDP’s ticket unless he’s ABSOLUTELY sure he will win. IBB picked a nomination form in 2007, but stepped aside when it was clear that Obasanjo had other ideas. Simon thinks that IBB loves the limelight and wants to preserve the myth around his personality. I personally think that we shouldn’t obsess over IBB, because that’s exactly what he wants. The focus should instead be on putting in place a framework for free and fair elections where the people’s votes will count. I am not too concerned about any of his alleged ‘sins’. My main problem is that he’s been there before, yet Nigeria went backward and has been going backward since then. We need change and he can’t deliver that. #Ontothenextone

Jonathan’s coming out party

The Acting President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was the guest of the US President last week over nuclear non-proliferation matters. He made a pledge to put in place electoral reforms and make power a top priority. He also gave interviews to the BBC and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. What struck me in those interviews was that he seemed very relaxed throughout. Goodluck also strikes me as someone a citizen would like to ‘have a beer with’ in the mould of Bush 43. He has also been given the nickname ‘Bros J’ by Nigeria’s blogosphere. It was a good outing for him, but the now the hard work begins. There is such a short time to achieve his targets and I’m very sure he knows this. It’s a little early to talk about a possible campaign run, but if he delivers it would be a very real possibility. Time will tell.

Ohakim and jobs

In the news yesterday, I saw an advert by the Imo State Government to recruit 10,000 graduates into its civil service. At first, I thought it was a good move but feedback I got from my Imo friends on Facebook showed they were very skeptical about its success. First of all, applicants are to purchase scratch cards at N2, 000 each. That is a minimum of N 20 million for the Government and could go as high as N 100 million depending on the demand. My guess is that it’s to cover all kind of costs that such an exercise will incur, plus good profit for the stakeholders. This is not my main concern, however. Increasing the size of the Imo State civil service by such a large number will only increase bureaucracy and the number of ghost workers. It’s also a lazy approach to job creation that promotes waste of tax payer’s money. The money can be better used to teach real skills that will help them succeed, and create the environment for industry to thrive. Ikedi Ohakim needs to teach the youths in his state how to fish, instead of giving them fish to eat.

The revolving door

One day you’re in, then you’re out, then you’re back in again.

That has been the story of this EPL season so far. Even though Chelsea has lead the league for much of it, they have failed to be decisive by dropping a lot of points after going ahead in games. Following Arsenal’s loss at Spurs and Chelsea’s win over Bolton, Manchester United was within 30 seconds of completely dropping out of the race altogether in the derby. Scholes popped up with the winner in a largely unremarkable game. All eyes now turned to White Hart Lane where Tottenham, buoyed by City’s loss were extra motivated to beat Chelsea, which was exactly what they did. They now occupy fourth spot as they go to Old Trafford and City travel to the Emirates this weekend. The big clash between Spurs and City is still to come on May 5th. Liverpool’s victory over West Ham means that even though many have written them off in the race for 4th, the chance still exists that they play Champions’ League football next season. In many ways, the last few games of this season could have big ramifications for the next couple of years. Manchester City have not quite been able to attract the kind of players they would like because they don’t offer Champions’ League football. If they take 4th spot, they have the money to get a squad that could dominate the Premiership, or at the very least, lock Liverpool out of the top 4.

Arsenal’s loss to Tottenham seemed to have buried their title hopes, but then Tottenham repeated the trick against Chelsea in a confident and dominant display. Arsenal could then have put their foot in the door once again by beating Wigan, and were leading 2-0 with 10 minutes to go. Somehow, somehow, they managed to lose that game. They now have the unwanted record of being the ONLY team that have lost a two goal lead entering the 80th minute of a Premiership game. To be sure, the Gunners have suffered a lot from injuries this term, but time and time again their hopes of silverware have slipped through the gloves of their goalkeepers. Manuel Almunia has been seen as a weak link for a couple of seasons now and has not improved. Lukasz Fabianski’s poor handling was directly responsible for Wigan’s equalizer. If Arsene Wenger had gotten a keeper in the January window, it is very likely that the title race would have a very different picture. It’s rather ironic that while they kept up their challenge with late goals against the likes of Hull and Wolves, that same challenge has now ended with the concession of 3 late goals.

Chelsea have had their injuries too. Ashley Cole has been out for about 3 months, Essien has not played since leaving for the African Nations’ Cup in January. A number of key players have also been out for spells of this campaign. Their problem however stems from an inability to hold leads. Chelsea have dropped SIXTEEN points from leading positions this season. Without a doubt, this is the reason they haven’t won the title yet. They also have a nasty habit of putting out poor performances after dominant ones. Both losses to Man City came after dominant performances against Arsenal, and European commitments have also taken their toll. So, why so many dropped points? I think that the team is not fresh enough. A number of Chelsea players need to go and younger players that will inject freshness into the team brought in. My candidates would be Deco, Ballack and Belletti for starters. I am also of the view that Drogba’s presence in the side slows the team down going forward and makes them too predictable. Chelsea have scored 7 goals TWICE in the league this season, and on both occasions, Drogba didn’t play. More than that, Anelka suffers out on the right most of the time. His effectiveness is reduced when he plays with the Ivorien. Carlo Ancelotti came to London from a Milan side that had too many players over the age of 30 in their ranks. Even in a reasonably slow league like the Serie A, this fact has made it impossible for them to combine European and league football over a long season. Roman Abramovich will have to provide the funds to prevent the same thing happening to the Blues.

Manchester United could also have been in a better position than they are currently, but some of their problems are self inflicted. The decision to field Neville, Giggs and Scholes together at the sharp end of the season has back-fired more often than not. At the Allianz Arena, they were ineffective as Bayern upped the tempo in the second half, with Gary Neville committing the needless foul that led to Ribery’s deflected goal in the first. The three of them started again versus Chelsea, which negated the one thing United have in abundance: PACE. The passing in midfield was too slow, and without Rooney in the side leaving Nani out until the last 10 minutes was a disastrous decision. Sir Alex seemed to acknowledge this in the return leg against Bayern and the difference was clear for much of the first half. Leaving Rooney on the pitch even though it was clear he wasn’t 100% slowed down the attack and probably let Bayern off in a breathless 45 minutes. You would have thought the lesson was learnt, but apparently not because against Blackburn, Giggs and Scholes played in midfield. The result was a one-paced set-up that couldn’t drive the team forward with urgency or get beyond the strikers to create chances. United had the ball, but not the goal. The quest for a record- surpassing 19th title seemed over until Scholes’ dramatic winner.

Has the Top 4 gotten weaker, or has the rest of the league gotten stronger? The absence of an English team in the CL final four seems to say weaker, but in the Europa League there could be an all English final. In fact Fulham, who are in mid-table, knocked out last season’s German Champions Wolfsburg in the last round of the competition. Tottenham beat Arsenal and Chelsea back-to-back, City beat Chelsea home and away and Arsenal at Eastlands. Everton beat City away from home and took 7 points off the top three in the second half of the season. The longest unbeaten run this season is 12 games, by Birmingham. The Premiership has gone the way of most of the big leagues by being competitive right to the end of the season but has had arguably more upsets and drama. Whether or not it has lost its place as the top league in Europe cannot be known for another year, but it is definitely the most exciting.

The way the fixtures have lined up is very interesting. Liverpool won their game yesterday against West Ham and could yet get a highly unlikely 4th spot. They will be hoping United and Arsenal do them a favour against Spurs and City while they win their own games. United will also be hoping Liverpool beat Chelsea at Anfield on May 1st, with at least one of Spurs and City dropping points when they play each other on May 5th. Rafa Benitez may yet deliver on his top 4 promise, and United may yet surpass Liverpool’s 18 titles. Ironically though, both these clubs will have a direct say in the other’s destiny.

the journey of a 1000 miles.

Today is the first time I’ve ever attended a rally/protest. Ever since it was announced last month that ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH’ Nigeria would organize a rally in Lagos after the one in Abuja, I looked forward to this day very eagerly. My last post talked about my belief in the power of protest as a way of making fellow citizens and politicians sit up and take notice. The roll call of celebrities was impressive: Audu Maikori, CEO of Chocolate City who attended the rally in Abuja and went toe-to-toe with a mobile policeman in an iconic photograph came today. Ali Baba, ID Cabasa, Rita Dominic, Banky W, Knighthouse & Mo’Cheddah, Denrele Edun, Djinee, Kel, Rooftop MCs, ELDee and many others also came to march. We might think celebrities are ‘insulated’ from the struggles of most of us, but we’re wrong. Students from LASU came around to add their own peculiar colour to the proceedings, as well as a couple of mini-vuvuzelas. The noise those things produce is crazy. When I imagined 80,000 of them supporting SA in June, I shuddered. The walk itself was a long and difficult one, especially since it occurred at high noon. Luckily I brought two handkerchiefs and used both to the end. As I marched with my fellow youths, placard in hand, I watched the reactions of onlookers. Many of them encouraged us, a few drivers honked their horns as they passed. Almost everyone looked at the messages on our placards. Mine read: ‘Probe Corrupt Officials Now’. When we got to the Government House, we were told that Gov. Fashola was in the US with the Acting President. Having been informed of our rally, I would have thought that maybe the Deputy Governor, Sarah Sosan, would address the gathering. Instead we got the Secretary to the State Government. I don’t exactly know what happened at the very end because it was taking an awful long time, but for me the success or failure of the rally cannot be determined by the presence or absence of any government official.

While carrying my placard in one hand, I was trying to tweet with the other. Some comments on my timeline reminded me of what the real battle is: it’s a battle to get people to believe that change is possible, and that WE Nigerians are the ones most responsible for that change or lack of it. The real challenge is to get this defeatist mentality of ‘what will be will be’ out of our heads. If Black people had sung ‘Que Sera Sera’ instead of ‘we shall overcome’, I doubt that the many immigrants there (including Nigerians) would find America even half as tolerant as it is now. If the Polish people had sung ‘Que Sera Sera’ instead of ‘solidarity forever’, Communists would probably have continued their stranglehold of oppression throughout Eastern Europe. If the native South Africans had sung ‘Que Sera Sera’ instead of ‘Free Mandela’, Apartheid would still be in charge there. There would be no ‘rainbow nation’, no World Cup to host, nothing. Even the right to practice Christianity that we enjoy, or choose NOT to enjoy was paid for by individuals. The Bible says: ‘unless a seed falls to the ground and dies…’. It is this concept of sacrifice that most of us are yet to understand. We live in an era of instant gratification and when we can’t get it, its not worth the trouble. We need to have a mentality upgrade. This is the real battle, not who is or isn’t running for President and not who is or isn’t head of INEC. In other countries of the world, the right to protest is denied and those who protest are beaten, locked up and killed. People still go out and march. Here, we are allowed to protest yet we make all kinds of excuses to make ourselves feel better. In China, there is no Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Soon there will be no Google as well. Here, we have all these media of self-expression but we fail to maximize its power to effect change in our nation. The citizens of Nigeria must accept responsibility for the direction of this country, because politicians will only ever be politicians. Already, they are decamping and re-camping like prostitutes, trying to get back into the good books of government. Most of them have no ideology, no principle, no honour, and cannot be left to their devices while they rule us. A country’s citizens are the ultimate checks and balances in any form of government, especially in a democracy and today’s rally is an exercise of the right to speak up when things are going wrong.

Make no mistake, the road to a better Nigeria will be a long & difficult one. It will not end in 2011, but it has started this year. If we don’t protest, if we don’t come out to vote, if we don’t defend our votes, what is the alternative? More complaining? More weeping and grinding of teeth? God forbid! Evil only triumphs because good people fail to take action. Our children must not complain about the same things we and our parents complained about. We keep calling on God to save Nigeria, and He has given us another opportunity to make our next 50 years as a nation better than the first 50. We would do well to take it.

'The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.' — Joseph Joubert