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We are back to square one

By Tony Momoh
I had made up my mind to go to town on our football administrators when Hannah called me at about 6.10 am on February 24 to inform me that the President had arrived from Saudi Arabia.  The news was on AIT.

I sent text messages to some friends saying, “I hear Yar’Adua is back but I don’t know in what state.”  When my papers arrived, I discovered that all of them made the story front page news.  It was therefore obvious to me that the arrival had been very well orchestrated.  It was in the dead of the night.

The footage I saw on a foreign station showed the arrival of a plane, then another.  As would have happened, there was no guard of honour for the President to inspect; no line-up of officials.  Even the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory who was reported to have driven into the airport on arrival of the aircraft did not seem to have performed any official function of welcoming the President.

If that happened, the media were not permitted to cover it.  It seemed they had all been asked to come to witness the arrival of aircraft whose identity they were told were a presidential jet and an air ambulance.

Those who painted a picture of what happened were quite sure they saw the arrivals, but none knew who came.  The story broke all over the country early in the morning of February 24, and that was the beginning of the problem, for me.  And I had to put aside what I was doing to attend to this latest proof of the unstable polity we are operating; unstable because we have bold and strong and desperate individuals and very weak institutions to call them to order.

I told a friend that the arrival of the President has returned us to what people call square one.  In constitutional terms, we are back to sections 5(1) and 148(1) of the Constitution which provide for the President assigning functions to anyone of his choice.

With one single paragraph in the statement of Yar’Adua, broadcast through the mouth of my younger  brother Segun Adeniyi, all those arrangements that were cobbled together on the dictates of the doctrine of necessity, had been dismantled.  Section 145 of the Constitution as interpreted by the National  Assembly must be a two-way traffic.

If the BBC broadcasting to the world is the medium that is a communication to the lawmakers on which they could announce the appointment of an Acting President, then a statement by Adeniyi which the lawmakers would have heard must also be a communication acceptable under the circumstance.

So, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is our Acting President, but to Yar’Adua, he is Vice President who must continue in that position and report to him as he recuperates! The established line of communication for 93 days of his absence has emerged to be the wife Hajia Turai.    Can’t you see it?  As far as the President is concerned, the party is over.  He is back at post and the Vice President, not Acting President, must do the work he is asked to do,  under section 5(1) and 148(1) of the Constitution.

The immediate outcome of this scenario is that Dr. Jonathan has already taken the wrong step of accepting briefing from Turai.  On what? As Acting President, the ball stops on his desk.  He can do what he deems fit with the team he now works with.   He needs no clearance from anyone as Acting President.  In fact it is not the President that makes him or should make him Acting President.

It is the Constitution.  But the moves being made by Turai and the kitchen cabinet of the President make me uncomfortable.  Jonathan’s reaction will show whether or not he knows what being Acting President means.

Or does he want history to repeat itself  when as Acting Governor of Bayelsa State he refused to continue the work when Alamesieyegha disappeared from the watch of the Metropolitan Police in London and emerged miraculously in Government House in Yenagoa!  But the salvage work is not to be left to Jonathan.

The ball is back in the court of the Federal Executive Council that must press for a medical board to establish the health status of the President, failing which the National Assembly must initiate impeachment proceedings against the President for his failure to defend provisions of the Constitution he swore to uphold. We are dealing with a group that has more interest in the hostage state of the President than his health.

Oh yes, I was going to discuss our sports before the Saudi tree fell on the route to South Africa.  I understand we are looking for a foreign coach or technical adviser to take us to the World Cup. Coaches do not play football.  Players do.  But there is more to coaches and players, even to coaching and playing.  We stand indicted as a nation for either not knowing the difference or deliberately ignoring the obvious.

The obvious is that if nothing else, football is the most single unifying game this country can point to.  Yet, we toy with this great asset.   Football is big business and must be seen as one, treated as one, so run as one.

Think.  In pushing for a foreign coach to take us to the World Cup, we destroy those who won laurels for us and want to ask those who have nothing to show to take us to where we want to be.  Look at Egypt for instance.

The chief coach of their national team we were asking to come over to take our team to the world cup made it because he was given an opportunity by his country, by those in charge of administration of football.  Hassan Shehata is being celebrated because he won for Egypt the African Cup of Nations three times – 2006, 2008 and 2010.

He had played for Egypt in three cup of nations competitions in 1974 in Egypt, 1978 in Ghana and 1980 in Nigeria.  He started coaching and managing teams in 1983.  In 2004 Egypt sacked its Italian Coach Marco Tardelli, and Hassan Shehata took over the national team.

He has been with the team ever since, and knows every player who can do Egypt proud as he has handled teams at all levels, from club levels to the different age-group teams.  But of the 19 times that Egypt has entered the World Cup competitions, that is between 1934 and 2010,  it has qualified only twice.

It was knocked out in the first round in each competition, never beat any team.  In the two times, it played four matches; drew two, lost two.  It scored a total of three goals and conceded six.  Nigeria’s case is one of change of guards, but the progress we can point to shows that those who stayed long enough to handle our teams made the impact.

Clemens Westerhof and Amodu Shaibu hold the record of handling the Super Eagles more than any other coach.  Westerhof was there long enough, from 1989, and he took us to the World Cup in 1994. We were there again in 1998, and back there in 2002.  We missed it by  ill-luck in 2006 and were more fortunate to make it in 2010.

In at least three of the qualifications, Amodu played a role.

He handled the Eagles in 1994/95; 1996/97; 2001/2002; and 2008-2010.  Every time we need to firm up the hold on the Eagles by empowering those handling them, we hop out in search of a foreign coach! We think coaches score goals.  Goals come when there is order and discipline in our preparations.  Where is the order and discipline where our football administrators gather together a group of reporters and ask them to vote whether we should have a local coach or a foreigner to handle our team.

The result, 17 for a foreign coach and 14 for retaining a local team!   So, less than three months to June 12 when we would be taking on Argentina, we are still asking for a foreign technical adviser!


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