By Bisis Lawrence
There were speculations that the verdict of the Court of Appeal on the matter of the Anambra State Governorship case involving Dr. Andy Uba, could create a state of anarchy in the State, if it was not properly handled. Legal tussles of that kind are usually attended by conjectures, and rumours of one kind or the other.

That is normal. What is more, some of them sometimes come out to be true, which can be rather disconcerting especially if they portend disastrous events. Although these undercurrent murmurs among the populace can really forecast occurrences, albeit sometimes in an untoward manner, they have a way of also indicating the popular feeling about any subject.

Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu

People whose positions affect the lives of their kith and kin, and the nation as a whole, therefore feel entitled, and should be entitled, to offer their own qualified opinions about the issue. That was all that Dim Emeka Oduwegwu-Ojukwu did about a delicate issue in Anambra, and some people almost had his life-blood for it. You would have thought he had committed a felony. At the worst, it might have been said he over-reacted, but was that a criminal act – just to over-react?

It is true he mentioned that dread phrase, “civil war.” As we all know, he had led one before which many people, in fact, supported. It ended in defeat, an outcome that many people also still regret in many ways. That cannot be why he should no longer speak his mind, especially over an issue that directly concerns him as it affects the well-being of a people he had once led during a period of great strife.

All that he can now wish Anambra State, and Nigeria as a whole, will only be for the peace and plenty of the populace.

He had once been smitten by the affliction of a civil war –  maybe he still his – and who can blame him now if  he is twice cautious about events that he feels could lead to another? And, lo and behold, security reports are said to have justified his anxieties, at least to some extent…  The fears of dire consequences of a misplaced ruling over the case were not after all entirely unjustified.

The Ikemba is a special person, indeed a legend in his own lifetime, as a recent survey confirmed. He had rejected the notion of existing merely as a living monument, but preferred a real life of activism in line with his nature.

He continues to be a reference point on any issue concerning the state of our nation. One does not have to agree with; that is not what he seeks when he expresses an opinion. He may not even be right, though he would hardly give voice to a view that he cannot defend. But in disagreeing with him it should be with some respect in consideration of what he has been, and continues to be, in the context of our political historical development.

What is our history if it is not studded with landmarks of the memorials of our heroes? Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu may never be awarded a national honour by this country. Gani Fawehinmi was awarded one but rejected it. Where is our history if there is a mutual disdain between it and our heroes?

*the ombudsman cometh

The first I heard of an ombudsman was years ago when Alade Odunewu, the venerable “Allah De”, had a column which performed duties associated with that position on the pages of a newspaper. It is an original Swedish concept installed in the Swedish judiciary to promote equity for the welfare of the citizenry.

An ombudsman is appointed by the authority of parliament and serves four years. He is permitted and enabled to investigate any complaint about wrong-doing against government institutions, and may bring such forward for a court of law’s ruling. That is the Swedish archetype.

Britain seems to have copied that but practices a non-governmental version that attempts to do basically the same thing though at a more subdued level, since there are other avenues of swiftly seeking redress among a very civilized people. There are other versions in almost every European country at present.

I recall that Allah De’s column was very effective. It had a huge response but somehow fizzled out because, I suppose, no one was found to be personally interested in continuing it when it was time for the gentleman to move on to other things.

It is a position that must demand fierce personal commitment, as a basis for the tremendous effort required to perform the task of investigating people who would, in a large measure, be uncooperative.

There is also said to be an ombudsman now –  not a journalist or columnist, but a highly respected former member of the High Bench, Justice Morohunkeji Onalaja. His appointment should have made more impact, I believe, if the members of the public are made to fully understand its existence and functions.

Very little seems to be heard about his office and not much beside about the benefits to the people. I personally sometimes feel I must be missing out on the advantages I might have gained, from a better knowledge of what the ombudsman could do to alleviate the privations that appear to have been imposed on one’s life in our society, and at a time like this.

But here we have a return, or news about a return, of the ombudsman again in our society. And again, the details are yet to be made clear to you and me. It is said to be a “Press Ombudsman” that would “exercise some form of control” over the press. It is intended to make the introduction of the “self-regulatory” project a speedier and more effective response to the complaints against the press.

I must find out more about all this. My questions right now may appear naive from someone who is supposed to be in the press, but I believe that ignorance should be shared, so that in its being thus reduced, knowledge may be provided.

One hopes that the “Awareness Programme on “The Pressman Ombudsman” organised by the “Media Chiefs”, would soon be enlarged, in one form or the other, to favour the customers of the press who, on the long run, are the projected beneficiaries.

*the end of tribal matches

Echoes: In the 50’s, I think I watched (football) games in Onikan Lagos tagged Ibo versus Yoruba, or Yoruba or Ibo versus the rest. Did you watch such a game? “ … 080919861957.

Of course, I did. They started out as fun games. Although there was a lot of football played in other parts of the country, notably what was known as the Midwest, the East and West dominated the rest in the number of teams and proficiency of players.

The more excellent players gravitated to Lagos where the opportunity for advancement was greater than anywhere else, and populated the teams of the Lagos Amateur Football League (LAFA) league. Mostly the government “departments” which matured into ministries after Nigeria gained her independence formed the teams.

We men had football clubs like the Railways, the Marines, the Nigeria Police, the Lands and Surveys, the Red Roof (which was formed by staff members of the Secretariat), the Corinthians – the team of the Lagos Town Council – and the PWD (Public Works Department) among others. They were supported by a sprinkling of teams from the commercial firms like the UAC and Jalco from the Joe Alien Company. The teams played a full season and the champions went home with the Roger Shield.

Most of the players were Yoruba and Ibo, but they formed a brotherhood that was beautiful. They played together in the various teams, sharing and caring for each other. Football was both their work as well as their hobby. Although they were not full professionals, their main occupation was to play for their department’s or firm’s team, and so they found the off-season period rather tedious with very little to do. It was therefore purely for diversion that the Ibo-versus-Yoruba matches were introduced. But they ran for no more than three years or so,.

They were very popular. The Ibo team was star-studded and was headed by the great Dan Anyiam, ably supported by “Baby” Anieke who usually scored at least a goal in every match from his immaculate volleys, with Ibiam in goal.

The Yoruba team, on the other hand, hardly had more than the maestro, Teslim “Thunderbolt” Balogun – truly masterful, mercurial and magnificent – surrounded by some very good players who could hardly compare, man for man, with their opponents. And so, the Ibo team was expected to win. However, it was the Yoruba side which emerged the winning team every time to the surprise of everyone. The difference between both teams was in the immutable nature of the game. Football is, and has always been, a team game.

The crop of the Yoruba team was drawn from players who grew up in the Isale Eko area of Lagos Island, where they had played together as young boys on the pitch of the Bombata Grounds.

They had well co-coordinated teams like The Black Arrows in which Balogun himself had featured as the central striker, supported by Ekunsunmi (whose sister he later married), “Baba” Shittu (who later became a full Imam), Sulaimon (who was also a boxer under the ring name of Small Montana), and other players who grew up together like that. With them were other players like Muri Taiwo Gbajabiamila, a schoolboy phenomenon in his days, at the right flank, and Jaji in goal. They were playing in different clubs, but their earlier team consciousness and pattern of play stayed with them.

That was the key to their success.
The last match between the two teams ended in a bitter confrontation after the match. The Yoruba won again despite a proliferation of individually more fancied players on the opponents’ side, and the frustration exploded into violence. It was then rightly concluded that the series seemed to excite negative passions inimical to the promotion of a friendly relationship within the society, and so the series was scrapped.

And those were still at a time when we lived in a comparably cohesive community in this country. Were it in these turbulent times, it might have come close to a civil war – sorry, wrong phrase – an armed conflict. It is unsafe to yearn for those bye-gone days, now that a man can hardly express his genuine fears about the welfare of his country without having his head almost bitten off.
Time out.


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