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Boko Haram

By Bisi Lawrence
President Goodluck Jonathan was asked to resign and become a Moslem by the irrepressible Boko Haram, while Dr. Doyin Okupe has been hired as the vocal defender of the President, though there appears to be no direct link between the two happenings.

In the meantime, Nigeria did so badly at the Olympic Games in London that some people may be wondering why we sent a contingent in the first place; if we didn’t, we could hardly have done worse—we won nothing… And you can now serve a jail term for driving against a one-way street in Lagos State as a deterrent, they say, against the breaking of traffic laws in the metropolis.

All that and more in a short fortnight— what a country! Let’s take a panoramic sweep across the horizon of events and see where it lands us

Boko Haram continues to grab the headlines as the operations credited to it create havoc in their chosen area of concern at the moment.

That is still in the Northern parts of the country. The members seem to enjoy what they do and believe that they are on top of the situation, a view contradicted by the security agencies in similar words. It is really not very clear who is ahead at the moment. Several attempts at mayhem from the group have been foiled by our security agents in the past few days.

The latest, at the time of writing this, is a fearsome discovery of a houseful of bombs in Kano. It was all dismantled without the loss of a human life. Such exploits come in twos and threes these days, but regrettably bombs make little noise, naturally, when happily detonated without injury to anyone.

So, it is not really as though the so-called Islamic sect is having its way, though that is what its arrogant and insolent demand about the President would suggest. It is not. Military action against it is now firmly established, even if it is mainly more successful at a preemptive stage.

The direct verbal assault on the President to the effect that he should resign from office or embrace Islam, could be taken with dismay or rejected as an affront. And the response to this menace will be measured accordingly in the days ahead. The activity which the Ramadan celebrations generate—or do not generate —will speak in their own way on where this terror organization actually lies in its religious considerations.

While those who have the stomach for “dialogue” still counsel that weak-kneed approach,” the security forces must continue with their efforts of ensuring the safety of the citizenry. With Dr. Doyin Okupe now firmly in place as the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, there can be no one in a better position, or with a more caustic gift of utterance to give intransigent elements like the Boko Haram their verbal comeuppance.

The man, variously described in somewhat unbefitting canine terms, took off in fine fettle to “run interference” for President Goodluck Jonathan, by taking on Pastor Tunde Bakare, of The Latter Rain Assembly, and Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, to announce his arrival on the course.

These are two controversial figures who are perennially exposed to criticism by their antecedents. You might say they are ready-made for “bashing” even when the effort is unproductive. What can you say about el-Rufai that is yet to be said, or how much can a trained medical practitioner who abandoned his stethoscope for a mess of publicity, claim over a religious leader who mingles his talk on the pulpit with his walk in civic demonstrations? Each to his own, eh?

It is the opinion of many that Okupe was brought in to effect the presentation of a good image for the President and his wife. Rueben Abati, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, would appear to have made unsatisfactory returns in this regard. Well, if the type of vitriolic onset which Okupe has proved to be capable of delivering is what the President needs, or requires for the improvement if his image, he is certainly not going to get it from Rueben Abati. That is not his style for it is devoid of dignity and polish.

He cannot see himself descending to that level of scant decency, nor can the people who know him well and respect him so much. The manner of the approach to the issues that irk the presidency in general, calls for the retention of a certain standard of decorum that is, and must be, associated with the President himself. That would have been a constraining factor in the perception of Abati to his duties. His position still has a cause to serve in Aso Rock, if we are not to have a “cowboy” presidency.

But so does Okupe’s position too. We hear that Boko Haram is now desirable of holding talks with the Federal government. Well, how about letting the specialist who advises of public affairs handle that for us? That is how much one believes in the hocus pocus of a dialogue.

The terrorists are going to the table with an agenda that cannot be accepted, except they have changed it—and they are never known to have changed such an agenda before now. It is not a personal agenda. They want Nigeria within the Islamic fold as other nations who are bona fide members of the Ole. Would any faithful Muslim sincerely oppose that? It is not negotiable. History scoffs at the very idea. We can therefore dialogue with all our might but “keep our powder dry”.

The Olympic Games comes but once every four years, but it is really a perennial undertaken. The nations that are serious about it hold themselves in preparation for it throughout the year. I am not telling you something new, and you also know that we are not among those nations. We used to be there among those who presented themselves as people to be taken serious. That was some decades ago, when the naira was stronger than the dollar, and the pound sterling was struggling to be at par with our currency. We all know that all that is no more.

We do not prepare for the Games as we used to. Because the concentration is on the money that would be issued for the training of the sportsmen and women, and not on the sportsmen and women themselves; because the right people to train the sportsmen and women are no longer on the job; because the overseers don’t know enough about what they are supposed to be overseeing; because the pretenders have taken over the throne; because the people are less interested in the performance than in the trophy; because … well, quite frankly. I’ve run out of ‘becauses’

I am not telling you anything that you do not know about. You pick up some athletes here and there, add them to some worn-out numbers and place them behind a flag and you’ve got a contingent, right? But you are still looking for a team, because you haven’t got one yet.

We had one or two prospects. We had Chukwumerije in the Taekwando. He was unlucky. But at least, he seemed to know what was going on around him. Our boxers did not. Not through their own fault. They did their best. Our female sprint relay quartet was made up of fine raw material. Two months more, or three, in the hands of a good coach and we might have had something through them.

But do you remember that the coach, poor Innocent Egbunike, was really appointed much more on account of his own past performance as an athlete, not on his track record as a coach? Someone asked me if the Minister of Sports, whose name I really can’t remember, ever knew about Innocent as a quarter-miler. I wouldn’t know if he even ever heard about Egbunike at all

Do you really want me to continue writing this? I could continue all day. Maybe you don’t remember that it was what I used to do for a living.

I wrote sports for over fifty years across the various arms of the media, and on both sides of the Atlantic. It is hardly the moment to display my credentials but I would like to submit, without any show of false modesty, that I know what I am talking about.

I once wrote, on this page, that Nigerian sports was going down the drain. I said that it would take us no less than two Olympiads, if we started serious work at that time, to re-assert ourselves. That was ten years ago. No one seemed to care. Two years ago, in total disgust, I stopped writing sports.

If there is anyone who really cares about sports in Nigeria and now grieves over the debacle in London, he is a hypocrite. We all saw it coming. But you couldn’t even slide a word in edgewise and be heard except you are one of their boys. Well, Awoture Eleyae is too old to be one of their boys; John Ojidoh is no longer young enough either; neither is Jonathan Ogufere nor Peter Osugo.

We can only look on and shake our heads at how what was so beautiful could have been allowed to sink so deep into the mud. Of course, it can be brought up to shine again. Britain went through its own slump in the medals market; so even did mighty America. But it cannot be done through “retreats” and such showy jamborees.

They will probably be conducted by the people who are responsible for the deplorable situation, in the first place. You only need one or two good men who know who to call and what to do. They are not too easy to find these days. There are so few of them. By the way, is Samuel Osaigbovo Oghemudia not still around?

Within a week after Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State stepped out of his car to intercept a military officer in open contravention of the BRT law, there was a stream of vehicles flowing down Eko Bridge on the dedicated lane. It was on a Sunday morning and traffic was quite light, but old habits —especially the despicable ones—die hard. Lagosians will break traffic laws.

More laws are being produced, but the necessary laws are indeed in place already.

WHAT THEY NEED IS ENFORCEMENT. Making new laws is an exercise in futility since, as matters stand, they will not be duly enforced. And higher penalties also increase the incentive to demand, and obtain, higher bribes. This redounds, of course, on the quality of the personnel engaged for traffic law enforcement.

They are hardly better, in character and learning, than agberos — the transport touts which the government is now striving to expunge from our society. One of them recently falsely accused a lady of killing his mate. And he would have made the accusation stick but for some public-spirited citizens who came to the aid of the woman. She almost stood trial for a capital offence in place of a traffic misdemeanour.

But that is in the spirit of the law of the one-way in Lagos these days which specifies a three-month sentence for an offender. It is jurisprudentially accepted that the sublime purpose of justice is to make the punishment fit the crime. Justice, even blindfolded, must turn her back in shame at this.

And with kudos and commendations streaming in from all sides for the Lagos State government administration, here is where sheer hubris has landed us,

Time out.


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