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5000 naira: Reprieve from the pangs

By Bisi Lawrence
It would appear that we now have a sort of reprieve from the pangs of our anxieties about the imposition of the 5000 naira note on our slender economy, but we can only wait and see.

It would also appear that the profligacy of a “supreme sports retreat” would be visited on us just for the purpose of convincing (or deluding) ourselves that we are doing something whereas we will achieve nothing in the end. There are a number of people who know what to do and who would achieve if they are asked  to work for sports —but you can rest assured that would neither be consulted nor assigned. We shall still be here in 2016 after the Samba in Rio.
I entirely disagree with those who are calling for the sack of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi. Rather they should recommend him for a place in the next national honours list. He is qualified.

If the assurance that no contract award has been made for the printing of the awful 5000 naira note and the minting of new coins had not been linked with the Presidency in the double-headed announcement made about the cancellation, or suspension, of the plans to foist the desire of the Central Bank officials on the country, we would have hesitated to believe it to be true.

After all, the President is said to have approved the proposal, a fact over which Okoroafor, a senior official of the Central Bank has been flexing his muscles.

It is somewhat clear right now, however, that the obnoxious proposal will not be executed, which is what a very tiny minority of officialdom is fuming at the mouth to achieve. At the best, we are now left with this “Sword of Damocles” hanging over our heads, while the CBN is supposed to educate us on how to receive the money it did not instruct us how to earn.

All the same, far removed from speculations about the consideration of “impeachment”, we are inclined to believe that President Goodluck may have one or two points of explaining sticking out on his plate right now.

Although it is claimed that no contract has been awarded for the execution of the proposal, the approval of the President appears somewhat precipitate at a time like this; the economy is not enjoying the best of climate; the State Governors are taking the Executive court over fiscal matters; the staple foods of the Middle Class— or whatever remains to be so described—are undergoing a rising spiral in cost; so many pensioners are still clamouring for their unpaid benefits; there is talk of a diversification of the economy while there is a promotion of a “cashless’ economy in which the cash is hard to find, in any case.

So Okoroafor would now thrust a jumbo-size denomination of the currency into our pockets and tell us it does not necessarily make us spend more than we intend to. Anyone who thinks that way must need a “shrinker”.

What more explanation is there to give the citizens of this country about this issue, anyway?

What is there to examine that has not been subjected to extensive scrutiny, under klieg lights even? The so-called suspension, in fact, seems to be no more than a mere ploy to play for time, and one feels extremely uncomfortable that the President appears to be at ease with it.

This then is democracy— the government of the people, by some people, for certain people.

I entirely agree with the Senate President, David Mark that, under normal circumstances, there should have been resignations, forced and voluntary, following the recent revelation of the deplorable neglect of the National Stadium in Abuja. But hardly anything is under “normal circumstances” these days.

If not, what are the credentials of the man appointed as the Stadium Manager, in the first place?

The man in such a position must be one of the best in Africa to match the stadium’s status and prestige on the Continent.

He must be a man of outstanding professional qualification and exceptional working experience which would make him suited to the discharge of his responsibilities, and at home with the

esteem of his standing. Yes, heads should roll, but from the height of what shoulders? There is no doubt that the man was out of his depth in these circumstances that place undue premium on ethnicity and sectionalism in the consideration of suitability for purely professional positions. These are not “normal” times, sir, and that is one of the reasons why we came back from the London Olympics clutching a handful of air.

But the mess at the Abuja Stadium produced a result that fully illustrates the theme of our discourse here last week. The appalling situation was exposed by the press and was swiftly followed by positive action. Contracts are being awarded for the immediate improvement of the facilities, and it is hoped that the stadium would no longer be allowed to fall into disrepair again. Even if that sounds like a vain hope, it still has some footing in the urgency with which the issue has been addressed up till now. All the same, one must admit that it does arouse some cynicism of course, because the case of the Abuja Stadium is typical of the plight of sports facilities, particularly stadiums, in Nigeria. A ready example is the Surulere Stadium— also called “National” unabashedly —which was easily the best in West Africa in the early “seventies” when it came into use. Ghanaians shed their traditional uppity stance to actually admit that it was much better than the Accra Stadium, and stooped low to openly copy some of its features. The Accra Stadium has gone on to better since then. The Surulere Stadium would disgrace a slum facility today. It is not that the press has allowed it to rest neglected and misused but, unfortunately, it has lost its pride of place to her Abuja counterpart, and important public figures like the Senate President now feel far removed from it..

We just let things go to seed—that is the way it happens. Jack Warner, the West Indian international soccer administrator, visited Calabar in 1997 and reveled in the pristine perfection that would delight a World Cup crowd. The Youth World Cup was indeed on the cards to take place in Nigeria two years later and he returned some ten months before the event merely to confirm the golden impression he had experienced earlier, only to find a rot that left him almost speechless. Speaking in a trembling voice, he uttered an unqualified disbelief, not only in the possibility of such a deterioration within a year, but at the prospect of getting the stadium ready within another year for the YWC, otherwise known as “Nigeria 99”. But we did and Warner declared the feat “The Eighth Wonder of the World”. That is what we are—”Wonder Mongers”. Of course, we will get the Abuja Stadium back to its “:spick-and-span” condition in no time at all; after all, the Calabar Stadium is now considered one of the best in the country. But why let it slide to almost total ruin, in the first place? Simple; it was no longer used for its purpose.

While a stadium is pointedly used for competitions, it also serves to prepare for competitions. It houses gyms and practice tracks and pitches, and provides the upkeep of an environment for sports. Its presence is therefore an emotional stimulus, as well as a psychological motivation for sports participation. No matter how expansive or diminutive they may be, sports grounds arouse the passion to dip your oar in and prove something in yourself. In the halcyon days of Youth. Clubs in Lagos, although there were no stadiums attached to the centres, the facilities provided for the indoor-games gave impetus to the engendering of the competitive spirit which manifested in healthy rivalry in the arena.

An even better example is what developed in Bendel in the seventies. That was before it was split into Benin—which became Edo State—and Delta. The Ogbe Stadium was transformed into a meeting-place for sports activities—not just for competitions. It soon attained the status of a Mecca for sports buffs around Benin City. It was crowded every day of the week to the extent that it hardly left any room for serious preparations for systematic preparations. That when that great visionary of a leader stepped in. Let me pause here briefly to wish Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia more years of happiness and usefulness to his fatherland as he attains the status of an octogenarian. The former Ogbe  Stadium has been fittingly named for him, but he still stands out as a case for certain citizens of excellent merit who miss out in the consideration for high national honours.

“Big Sam”, as we used to call him behind his back, knew the value of sports as an instrument of nation building. He succeeded in welding Bendel, a loose mix of various ethnic communities, into a firm front united by a common zeal for sports excellence. He knew that he first had to provide the interest to participate, and so moved away from overcrowded Ogbe Stadium to the fabulous Afuze facility. There he created a sports factory which produced champions in every sport. He set a wonderful example for the entire nation in achieving a common purpose through sports which, regrettably, still has not been heeded. Imagine for how long a sprinkle of medals from London – just say four or five – would have kept us looking in the same direction. Consider the boost in the morale of the national spirit that such a situation would have provided. But it would all have to start from the facilities of the stadium, just as Ogbemudia visualized it, and made it work

There are other necessities—equipment, coaching, competitions and a show of appreciation and encouragement among other incentives —to put our sports in the place where it should be, and we may consider these later. But, please, save me the pain of “retreats”. I have been through a few in the past, and they do not even hold a candle to honest-to-goodness seminars and workshops. But if you have these ineffectual time-wasters on the brain and must have them, then call in the experts and the experienced ones, Ogbemudia should be in such a group. I believe that, even at eighty, he still has unique contributions to make. There is also his successor in office, the incumbent State Gvernor, Adams Oshiomhale, who can go ahead and revive Afuze, with the cooperation of his Niger counterpart. And there is also a man like Awoture Eleyae. He is still alive and, at a time like this, worth his weight in gold—not just silver or bronze, but real gold. And there are a few others with a pedigree that will dispel your anxieties about organizing a revival of sports in this country. They will do a good job. They have been there before. They are not political animals and their whelps who cannot even keep a stadium in good shape. But, once again, please leave out the carnivals. Jamborees are joyful festivals for worthwhile celebrations and cannot be made to replace occasions for hot, sweaty palms and sackcloth .. That is what sports now demands Expect more on sports. You asked for it. .

Time out




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