By Tunde Odesola
(Published in The PUNCH, on Monday, May 31, 2021)
’Twas a spectacle with all the trappings of a full-fledged drama: conflict, timing, tension, rhythm, mood, language, sound, space, focus, contrast and a crushing climax. ’Twas the UEFA Champions League final played before 50,035 spectators on a 115x68m stage called Dragon Stadium in Porto, Portugal’s second largest city after Lisbon. Believe you me, the dragons that emerged within the stadium and afflicted the Manchester team won’t be exorcised too soon.
It’s not only art that imitates life, sports do, too. And many a time, life, in its fitful drama, offers grapes instead of oranges and waxes bile instead of honey.
For me, the outcome of the impending UEFA finale was as sure as death. Lightning doesn’t strike at the same spot twice. Eewo orisa! Impossible abomination! But I was soon to discover the futility of this age-long belief even as science has proved that lightning strikes the 102-storey Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York, about 25 times every year.
I had it all figured out, or so I thought. I had cast some catchy headlines and thought up some super storyline with twists and turns leading to the ultimate triumph of Manchester City FC in the UEFA final.
But life is quicksand; after Chelsea’s lightning had struck Manchester City twice in England, it travelled an air distance of 1,812 kilometres to Portugal and struck City for the third time in six weeks! Chelsea FC put a grenade to my personal pot of fantasy and shattered the initial layout of this article. Ha! How do I beat my deadline?
Usually, I write my column on Saturday morning but I delayed it till Saturday night – after the epic final – just to accommodate Manchester City’s anticipatory victory, hoping to use the triumph to rile my known and unknown football frenemies, who cut across countries and continents, online and offline.
In England, for instance, I dislike Chelsea FC with passion and long draped it in the garb of an archenemy while in Spain, where I support the club that plays football like angels, FC Barcelona, my archfoe is (un)Real Madrid FC, which I do not dislike but hate for their dominance.
When Chelsea came up against Madrid in the semifinals of the competition, I supported the London club but I silently prayed it never get past Manchester City in the finals.
Worldwide, tit-for-tat aka ‘gbas gbos’ is the language spoken in football fandom, where revenge is never cold, but served hot like the pounded yam of 20 years.
In Porto, on Saturday, Chelsea’s cunning coach, Thomas Tuchel, exacted another pound of flesh from the greatest coach in club football today, Pep Guardiola, who had peppered Tuchel four times while they both coached Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively.
Before the UCL final, Guardiola had only lost in one of the 15 finals in his career while Tuchel had lost in his two finals only to come back a year later and win both titles.
The mantra among Nigerian football supporters is ‘the enemy of my friend is my enemy’, and inter-club banters could spring from trivias such as jersey colour or coach’s height, reinforcing the proverb which says an enemy never kills a big grasscutter, ota eni kii pa odu oya.
To understand football fans’ psychology, a peep into Nigerian politics or polygamy will suffice. Except suspicion, envy and rivalry, nothing is cast in concrete in Nigerian politics or a typical polygamous home. What is sauce for the goose is never sauce for the gander: rules change like quicksilver, depending on the idiosyncrasies of who is at the driver and the convenience of the seat.
For me, May is a month I won two battles but lost the war. One, my preferred team, Leicester defeated Chelsea 0-1 in the final of the English FA Cup. Two, Villareal, a Spanish team, defeated Manchester United in the final of the Europa League final 10-11 on penalties, but the biggest prize of all was lost to Chelsea’s never-say-die spirit and Guardiola’s oversabi which is turning into an albatross over the years.
I’m still in shock as to why Guardiola, like it’s now becoming common to him in the knockout stages of the UCL to come up with questionable line-ups, decided to play without a natural striker and a defensive midfielder on the biggest stage of club football, and Chelsea punished his indiscretion when a Mason Mount intelligent pass split open City’s defence through the very middle for Kai Havertz to maroon goalkeeper Ederson Moraes, scoring the only goal of the match.
Today, I neither intend to bemoan the twin bombs dropped on the city of Manchester by Villareal and Chelsea within three days apart, nor do I intend to count the countless teeth of Adepele, the hyperdontia that Nigeria’s political class has become.
Now that the hurlyburly’s done and the battle is won and lost, Chelsea, worthy Champions of Europe, deserve their time in the sun for ‘Blue is the colour, football is the game’.
I doff my hat for Chelsea, whose fans, britannica.com describes as one of ‘England’s most notorious gangs of football hooligans known as Headhunters’, and ‘have been responsible for organised violence in the stands since the 1970s’.
But as the euphoria of victory and the bitterness of defeat ebb, I guess it’s also time the Nigerian leadership looks in the mirror and takes lessons from the Chelsea triumph.
I wish Nigerian President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, watched the match. I don’t give a hoot if they oohed or aahed during the match. All I care about is that they both did not lose the lessons inherent in the Chelsea victory.
I also wish the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, his deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege, and the leadership of the House of Representatives – all watched the match, and not lose sight of the lessons in the exemplary leadership of Tuchel, who took Chelsea from the ninth position in January this year to the pinnacle of club football four months later.
Tuchel, unlike the Buhari-Osinbajol-led government, didn’t whine about the players he inherited from Chelsea’s former coach, Frank Lampard, but settled down to work and turned an average team to Europe’s best.
I wish Nigerian political leaders at all levels saw the economic stupidity in our love for foreign football and truly develop our local leagues to partake in the multi billion dollars venture football has become globally.
As I said early on, this article is a salute to Chelsea’s indomitable spirit, and not a criticism of the inept Buhari-Osinbajo government. Tuchel picked the best available legs for every game. He wasn’t nepotistic like the Buhari-Osinbajo rudderless government, which has never criticised killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen across the country.
Tuchel understands the burden of leadership. He knows the goals of the board and the expectation of the club’s teeming supporters worldwide, and he rose to the occasion by constantly communicating with his players, never absented himself at critical moments, demonstrating compassion, exuding confidence and building trust – virtues lacking in the Buhari-Osinbajo government.
It’s Chelsea’s moment of joy, I won’t spoil their fun by allowing what a popular ex-Edo lawmaker calls ‘odoriferous saga cum gargantuan saga’ to take the shine of their victory. I won’t allow the Buhari-Osinbajo government to take the centre stage of this piece.
May was a month of Chelsea triumph. It was also a month when Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Bashir Magashi, delivered a ‘heartless’ speech at the funeral of former COAS, Lt.-Gen Ibrahim Attahiru. May was the month when the new ‘Aide-de-Camp’ to the Aide-De-Camp of Governor Nasir El-Rufai was unveiled and the incoming First Lady got into a fresh ‘thug’ of war.
May was the month when the parents of kidnapped Greenfield University students paid N180m and bought many motorcycles to secure the release of their children from kidnappers.
May Buhari and Osinbajo take the lessons of Chelsea victory beyond May.
Facebook: @tunde odesola
Opinion: Nigerian embassies of shame (1) by Tunde Odesola
Opinion: Buhari is worst president, Ortom is right, by Tunde Odesola
(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, September 6, 2021)
Hooray! The leaves are falling! It’s autumn, the evening of the four seasons. Harvested crops and fruits, in baskets, are heading to barns from farms.
Winter, spring, summer and autumn. Each period of the season walks on three legs. December, January and February are the three legs of Winter, Spring springs on March, April and May; Summer walks in the sun of June, July and August while Autumn descends the stairs of the season into September, October and November.
Autumn is the birthing of the farmer’s long-planted seeds of hope, which undergo fertilisation and growth in spring, and maturation in summer. It’s the period when farmers reap the fruits of their labour. When sweat is sweet.
Autumn, aka Fall, is the period before winter which is the coldest of the seasons. And winter connotes nightfall or death when to sleep is to wake and to die is to live.
But autumn is not the period when Samuel Ortom, governor of Nigeria’s food basket, Benue State, should dare Nigeria’s President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), a 78-year-old herdsman, whom he described as the worst leader ever when it comes to security, corruption, economy, human rights, press freedom and keeping promises.
Not a herdsman, Ortom, a governor and a rancher, made some of his bulky allegations in August. And as the allegations rage into autumn, Ortom has yet to renounce his heresy against Buhari, the great Fulani president.
Call it a jinx, I don’t care; August is never Buhari’s lucky month, it’s December, the month of his birth, when like Macbeth, ambition overtook him and he stabbed to death the democratically elected government of the late President Shehu Shagari, a fellow Fulani, in the final hours of December 31, 1983. Macbeth wasn’t lucky with August, either – he was killed on August 15, 1057.
Call it the height of cold-bloodedness, if you care; the bloodiest of Nigeria’s generals, Ibrahim Babangida, likewise, chose his birth month, August, to drive the dagger into the back of Buhari, his former boss, in a palace coup on August 27, 1985. Is there an art to find the mind’s construction on the face? I doubt it. But I know karma is consistent.
According to the Ortom of Benue, nothing good can ever come out of the Buhari regime in all the periods of the season – winter, spring, summer and autumn.
In August, Ortom said on Channels TV, “Mr President has a set mind. Mr President believes that for peace to reign in Nigeria, there must be open grazing, there must be provision for cattle routes…It is very clear that he (Buhari) wants to ‘Fulanise’ Nigeria. But he’s not the first Fulani president, (Shehu) Shagari was Fulani president, (Umaru) Yar’Adua was Fulani president, they were the best presidents in history, but President Buhari is the worst.”
There seems to be nothing august in August for Buhari. Reacting to the abduction of a major and the killing of two soldiers at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, in August, retired Navy Commodore Kunle Olawunmi, who described himself as a Professor of Global Security Studies, in an interview monitored on Channels Television, said known sponsors of Boko Haram live in Aso Rock.
He said, “Recently, 400 people were gathered as sponsors of Boko Haram. Why is it that the Buhari government has refused to try them? Why can’t this government bring them to trial if not that they are partisan and part of the charade that is going on?
“You remember this Boko Haram issue started in 2012 and I was in the Military Intelligence at that time. We arrested those people. My organisation actually conducted interrogation and they (suspects) mentioned names.
“I can’t come on air and start mentioning names of people that are presently in government that I know that the boys that we arrested mentioned. Some of them are governors now, some of them are in the Senate, some of them are in Aso Rock.
“Some people have the mindset to Islamise the nation and they are in government. The DSS knows them, the NIA knows them, the DIA knows them because it is the DIA that conducted the operations that arrested the (400) suspects.”
To whom much is given, much is expected. If a commoner like me know that August isn’t Buhari’s favourite month, why didn’t Ortom, a seasoned politician, and Olawunmi, the courageous navy commodore know? This is why I will depart, at this juncture, from Ortom and Olawunmi, and return my unalloyed allegiance to President Buhari, who is bigger than Nigeria’s Constitution.
If you think the President isn’t bigger than the country plus her Constitution, why was the Central Bank Act prohibiting the abuse of the naira suspended whenever Buhari’s children are wedding?
Even Buhari is bigger than religious laws. Or, why was the merciless-on-the-poor, acquiescing-to-rich Kano Islamic police, Hisbah, not at the wedding of the President’s son, Yusuf, to Zahra, the daughter of the Emir of Bichi, Nasir Ado Bayero, to arrest guests who wore outlawed haircuts such as Afro and mohawk?
Some of the great Hisbah police prescriptions for godly living include banning of lewd music, banning commercial motorcyclists from carrying two females at a time; banning of alcohol consumption, and banning boutiques from displaying clothes on full mannequins – you must remove the heads of the mannequins because they promote idolatry.
Many poor people have received varying degrees of punishments, including public shaving of hair and public flogging for contravening these paradise-seeking laws.
But the ears of Hisbah police were deaf to the lewd Naira Marley song, “I’m Coming,” sung at Yusuf’s wedding and its eyes were blind to the cleavage-revealing clothes worn by some female guests.
Did you see the video of the prodigal bus ride of Yusuf’s silver-spoon friends that attended the wedding, and the security around the bus?
Did you see the hysterical sons of Nigeria’s leaders donating naira and dollars worth over N500,000 to their bus driver, who was merely doing his work, even as they made a lousy show of it?
A particular scene in the viral video shocked me. Yes, e shock me. It was the handsome young man referred to as Osinbajo by his boisterous friends. He donated $100 on behalf of ‘me and my brothers in the South-West’. I ask, are the millions of unemployed graduates and touts in the South-West part of the young Osinbajo’s brothers? There’s God o.
Did you notice the dexterity with which Osinbajo peeled a $100 bill from inside his bag with his two hands, a move suggesting that a lot of more dollars were still in the rich black bag.
I watched another viral video. This time, from Afghanistan. It taught a great lesson in integrity. It was the video of Afghanistan former Minister of Communications, Sayed Sadaat, who now delivers food on a bicycle in Germany.
Talking about his new job, the 49-year-old British-Afghan dual citizen said both his job as minister in Afghanistan and delivery man in Germany involved serving people.
Sadaat, who holds degrees in IT and Telecommunications, and hopes to take up a job in the telecoms industry as soon as he learns basic German, said he was not ashamed of his current job.
Sadaat served for two years as minister, and voluntarily quit his post in 2020 because he didn’t want to soil his hands.
Explaining that he was proud of his new job, Sadaat said he could have made millions of dollars as minister.
“I could have bought buildings in Germany and hotels in Dubai, I wouldn’t have needed to work. But I’m proud that my soul is happy and I have nothing to be guilty (about). So, I’m doing an ordinary job. I hope other politicians also follow the same way to work with the public,” he told journalists.
May God bless Nigeria with leaders like Sadaat, amen.
Facebook: @tunde odesola
Opinion: Buhari: Our president, their patient, by Tunde Odesola
(Published in The PUNCH and Tunde Odesola.com on Monday, August 23, 2021)
His name outnumbers the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Arguably, the most creative hands to ever hold a chisel and a paintbrush, but unmistakably the sublime genius embodying the inventive force of the Renaissance Age.
A sculptor, painter, architect, poet and engineer, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni is the 38-letter name a little wizard was given at birth. But the world picked Michelangelo from the names and stuck it to his forehead.
A year before he died at age 88, Michelangelo, an Italian, who lived between March 6, 1475 and February 18, 1564, wrote in Italian language on a sketch he was working on, “Ancora Imparo,” meaning, “I’m still learning.”
The quote is akin to the pearl of wisdom from compatriot, fellow polymath and older rival, Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452–May 2, 1519), who had earlier said, “Learning never exhausts the mind.”
For Michelangelo, every work of art he embarks on is a challenge, a task accomplishable on the flourish of his brilliance. He defines his raison d’être in these enduring words, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
I affirm that Michelangelo’s imperishable legacy stands on four cardinal pillars: learn, discover, act and set free. These, for me, are the hallmarks of great leaders, great epochs.
Depressingly, however, these same pillars are conspicuously absent in the regime of Nigeria’s President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), which comes across as standing on the pillars of ignorance, neglect, inertia and persecution.
Whereas Michelangelo describes learning as a life-long process, President Buhari appears to see life from a short-sighted spectrum, having not learnt any economic and patriotic lessons from his over 40 years of medical tourism to the United Kingdom.
In an unlearned defence of government policy, Information and Culture minister, Lai Mohammed; and Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, severally said it was right for the President to patronise foreign medical services for over 40 years.
This is despite the fact that Made-in-Nigeria doctors, who migrated abroad as a result of the rickety state of Nigeria’s medicare, today hold vital positions in first-class hospitals worldwide, potentially including Buhari’s hospital in the UK.
Last Thursday, Mohammed, in a display of the confusion that has continuously characterised the Buhari regime in the last six years, said those criticising the President for seeking medical care abroad were making ‘inconsequential attempts to de-market him’.
In a jejune defence, Adesina also said, “President Buhari has been with the same doctors and medical team for upward of 40 years. It is advisable that he continues with those who know his medical history and that is why he comes to London to see them. He has used the same medical team for OVER 40 years. Once you can afford it, then stay with the team that has your history.”
With soaraway inflation crippling Nigerians, Adesina should know that Nigeria cannot afford the unending presidential flights to the UK and the sacks of pound sterling in medical fee for gerontocratic ailments treatable in Nigeria.
The hotness of Lai Mohammed’s sophistry and the coldness of Adesina’s remarks will win trophies in Sodom and Gomorrah.
The display of profound arrogance by both Buhari spokespersons runs against the time-tested advice for caution in a Yoruba proverb that says, “When a man is sent on an errand fit for a slave, he should display discretion.”
What would Buhari and his image-makers say about Aisha, the wife of the President, who went to Dubai last year to treat neck pain? Dubai doctors must have been treating Aisha from the womb, right?
In a move to deflect public criticism from her neck-pain trip, Aisha spun the red herring fallacy when she said her flight back to Nigeria encountered a turbulent storm, hoping to mask the wastage of public funds, which her trip symbolises, with public sympathy.
Then she pushed her luck over the precipice and rubbed insult into injury by saying, “I, therefore, call on the healthcare providers to take advantage of the Federal Government’s initiative through the Central Bank of Nigeria guidelines for the operation of N100bn credit support for the healthcare sector as was released (and) recently contained in a circular dated March 25, 2020, to commercial banks.
“This will, no doubt, help in building and expanding the capacity of the Nigerian health sector and ultimately reduce medical trips and tourism outside the country.”
What hypocrisy! Scarcely had Aisha’s flight from Dubai touched down than she started to talk about reducing medical tourism. If she knew that medical tourism was a drain on Nigeria’s economy, why did she embark on it? Nigerians, whose taxes are being used to maintain Buhari and his family’s expensive lifestyle, are grumbling, ‘like husband, like wife’.
In 2017, Aisha had lamented that there was no syringe in Aso Rock Clinic, Abuja, when she fell sick. She revealed that, “In the end I had to go to a hospital (in Nigeria) owned and operated by foreigners 100 per cent.”
Similarly, Aisha’s daughter, Zahra had, also in 2017, said there was no Paracetamol in Aso Rock Clinic despite a budget of N3bn for the provision of drugs to the hospital.
That this insane level of corruption could happen under Buhari’s nose without perpetrators fearing the consequences of their action indicates a rudderless Nigerian ship careening against the rocks of insecurity, unemployment, hopelessness and poverty, heading for doom.
When Buhari, who has completely lost the fear factor, doesn’t care about the corruption perpetrated with the precincts of his residence, how would he care about the slaying of farmers by Fulani herdsmen in Igboho or the killings by unknown gunmen in Owerri? How would he care about the kidnapping of schoolchildren in the North or the bloodletting in the Middle Belt? Or care about the worse-than-pigsty hostels in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka?
If Buhari had done something about the anomaly in Aso Rock Clinic since 2017, Aisha wouldn’t have embarked on a neck-pain trip to Dubai in 2020.
When you minus 40 years from Buhari’s 78 years, you have 38 years. For someone who joined the military in 1962 at the age of 19, this means that Buhari had received medical treatment in Nigeria for 19 years, that is, up till 1981 when he was a colonel who had been Military Secretary at the Army Headquarters, a member of the Supreme Military Council, and had been GOC of the 4th Infantry Division, 2nd Mechanised Division, and the 3rd Armoured Division.
I ask, why did Buhari stop receiving treatment in the good, old Nigeria where doctors had his medical records for 19 years?
And if Buhari says he’s been receiving medical treatment abroad in the last 40 years, that suggests that he was receiving medical treatment in the UK between 1983 and 1985 when he headed a military junta that toppled the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983 over allegations that the civilian government was ostentatious and corrupt.
This act of hypocrisy runs contrary to the War Against Indiscipline mantra upon which Buhari and his deputy, Brigadier General Tunde Idiagbaon, rode to power.
In Buhari’s lip-service War Against Indiscipline, public officers were forbidden to own foreign accounts, own houses abroad, send their children to foreign schools, send their underage children on pilgrimage, among other prohibitions.
But when Nigeria’s bloodiest military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, torpedoed the Buhari-Idiagbon fascism on August 27, 1985, Idiagbon had gone on holy pilgrimage to Mecca with his underaged son, Adekunle, showcasing another classical hypocrisy of Buhari’s leadership.
Nothing demarkets Nigeria more than Buhari’s over 40 years of medical tourism.
Then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in May 2016, during a conversation with Queen Elizabeth II, described Nigeria and Afghanistan as ‘fantastically corrupt’.
Cameron is right.
Email: Tunde Odesola.com
Facebook: @tunde odesola
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