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Date Published: 07/08/10

Season of Bans and Unbanning By AKONTE SAMUEL


The recent shambolic display of our dear Super Eagles at the South African 2010 World Cup and the brash decisions by the President Goodluck Jonathan to ban and unban team  only goes to show the state of the leadership crisis in our great nation.  The government had decided to withdraw Nigeria national team from participation in all international competitions for two years to enable the government “to put its house in order”. 

The move by the Jonathan government immediately sent the message across that it was no more business as usual, while also affirming the President as listening and independent-minded.   Infact, majority of Nigerians, who have followed the continuous decline of the round leather game in the country over the decade, run by a tiny cabal, applauded the decision as timely. FIFA threatened and the ban was reversed. 

Note that the NFF is largely financed by taxpayers money but FIFA frowns seriously at “government’s interference” in the matters of football and the Nigerian government aware of the risks in banning the teams bowed to soccer body.

No doubt, the President must have been advised on the implications of his actions, but Nigerian leaders are known to take popular decisions, without the political will to implement such. When the late President Yar’Adua came into power in 2007, his widely expected promise of declaring emergency in power and energy sector remained unachievable till his sad death. Who knows, A ‘FIFA’ must have threatened him and till today our power situation remains convoluted and vague.  

Nigeria seems to be at crossroads, with a painful state of indecision whether to go left or right.   The truth we have failed to tell ourselves is that Nigeria is a sinking ship, and it is only a matter of time we all get drowned to our fate due to inconsistent and failed policies.  

As Nigeria edges closer to the celebration of its golden jubilee on October 1, 2010, many commentators have continued to examine our beginnings, painstakingly reflecting on what went wrong and why our march to nationhood has suddenly degenerated from the sublime to the absurd. 

Most Nigerians cannot suddenly fathom the position we have found ourselves, groping with basic issues like good governance, free and fair elections, infrastructural development, food security, education amongst others.  We seem to have lost our sense of direction, falling behind smaller nations (with less resources) which got independence such as ours. 

Interestingly, successive administrations since October 1960, seems to know our basic problems.  They come with clear and well constructed speeches and soothing at the moment. They know what Nigerians what to hear.  Nigerians want basic social amenities, they want job opportunities, they want a peaceful environment, they want all the good things of life.  With these, they promise heaven and earth.  Suddenly, these promises vanishes into thin air; another regime would appear singing familiar tunes.

Nigerians have lost count of unfulfilled promises.  We have lost faith with our government that can not stand by it words, yet we believe that one day the messiah would come to right the wrongs of the past and steer us into a new lease of life.  But while we continue to await the messiah, whom some may never come; it becomes incumbent on us to chart a new course of our national life.  The power to reconstruct this new beginning as we clock 50 years of independence lies with the people of this great nation.

Looking at the recent speeches of Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, which points at a president passionate about the feelings of Nigeria’s towards rapid socio-economic development, one would think that we are in for a new dawn.  Indeed, the president has left no one in doubt where his administration is pointing to.  He has told those who cared to listen, that the issue of electoral reforms and power remains a front burner of his administration, while not neglecting other sectors of the economy. The president said in a live television interview monitored on Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) that he was often embarrassed by “low” envoys who will always raise issues of election anything he meets them abroad hence his seriousness about credible polls come 2011.

Is the President sincere? Even if he is, are the people around him ready for this great revolution?  Are we sure another FIFA threat is not in the wings.  This appears to be the first warning of impending reversals. It is very difficult for Nigerians to believe Mr. President, after seeing elections in this country openly influenced by the government in power. The appointment of Prof. Attahiru Jega, as the new INEC boss has barely changed the perception that soon the electoral body would be in the pockets in the ruling party.  We are seeing now, unless otherwise, is better termed “initial gra gra”.  The same hawks whose stock in trade is to perfect electoral rigging and prevent the right candidates from emerging in our democratic polity are very much around and only waiting for the umpire the start whistle.

But whether Mr. President means it or not we must get it right in this election season. No more doublespeak. Our electoral system must not continue to be a mockery of  our march to standard democratic practice.  In forging a new Nigeria, political parties, especially the ruling the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must inculcate on its members that it is no more business as usual.  Parties must imbibe the spirit of the new era.  Indeed, internal democracy must come to play.  The party structures must be reformed to put away acts of Godfatherism, money politics and all forms of malpractices which have continued to spill over the main general elections, thereby affecting the spirit of sportsmanship, and the conducive environment needed to conduct a free and fair election.

To confront these challenges, the Goodluck Jonathan administration must go beyond rhetoric.  All partners to the success of our election must be reorganized. The role of the police and other security agencies in elections must be clearly outlined. Instances where the Police provide escorts and all sorts of security for politicians on election days, creates the spirit of fear and scares the electorates.  This is the time to get our voters register right.  INEC should immediately start the review of ours voters register. It is saddening that few months to the Presidential election, nothing has been done in that regard.  Most importantly, INEC must ensure that votes count.  The idea of one man one vote is pivotal to the credibility of the electoral system. It is path to the emergence of true leaders who be the drivers of a new Nigeria. 

It is when we get our electoral system right that we can begin the process of putting our house in order.  Life footballers, Nigeria has abundant resourceful personalities who, given the right environment, would turns things round for the better.  But most times, these persons are not usually given the chances to make headway.  They are usually stopped halfway, by desperate politicians, who have hijacked the electoral system and institutions as personal estates.  If we get our leadership right, we would get our football right.  It follows naturally, then it is needless to ban or unbanning.


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