Can Chelsea afford to lose Hazard for two weeks?


Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard will be out for a minimum of two weeks, according to Blues boss Jose Mourinho.
The 23-year-old Belgian was substituted after he picked a calf injury in the early stages of the 2-0 win over Paris St-Germain that put Chelsea into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals on away goals.
Mourinho, who went wild on the touchline after a late Demba Ba strike secured his third Champions League semi-final qualification as Chelsea manager, said after the match, “it is a calf problem, but I have no idea the dimension of his injury.
“Even when they are not serious, you cannot play for a couple of weeks.”
Even if Hazard is only sidelined for a fortnight, it would mean he will miss the Premier League encounters with Swansea and Sunderland.
The first leg of the Champions League semi-finals come up on April 22/23. Chelsea will know their next opponents on Friday.
“If the quarter-finals had eight fantastic teams, imagine the four that are going to reach the semi-finals,” said Mourinho.
“A big opponent is waiting for us but it doesn’t matter who.”
Although The Blues won comfortably after Hazard was withdrawn on Tuesday, the player’s impressive form this season will be missed while he is out. That is something that should worry many Chelsea fans.


Ribadu’s return to familiar territory

When the Ministry of Petroleum Resources announced, with so much pride, on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 that former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu, had been appointed chairman of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force (PRSTF), the first question that came to my mind was, what would the man he calls mentor, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, have said?

Knowing Gani for who he was, he most probably would have told Ribadu that the offer was a Greek gift and a sure road to infamy.

That exactly is the sentiment of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on whose platform the retired police officer contested the 2011 presidential election.

ACN has been unsparing in its criticism of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, even when many believe the party stabbed Ribadu in the back during the April election to add to the President’s basket of votes.

According to ACN, Jonathan’s offer, made through the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, was a desperate attempt by a government deficient in credibility to shore up its image.

A statement from the party’s conveyor belt of press releases told Ribadu that he was on his own if he accepted to serve the Jonathan administration as chairman of PRSTF.

According to ACN’s National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, as members of the party, we “wish to reiterate our position barring any member of our party from taking any appointment whatsoever from the PDP-led Federal Government. Any member of our party who takes such an appointment does so in his personal capacity.”

For ACN, the best it can do as the leading opposition party is continue to “play its role in ensuring good governance and contributing to nation building through its regular constructive criticisms which, hitherto and unfortunately so, have fallen on deaf ears.”

It justified its decision with the argument that “despite its efforts, as well as those of other parties, individuals and organisations, in offering well-meaning suggestions to the inept Jonathan administration, the administration has not demonstrated good faith in this respect.”

For those who may have forgotten, Mohammed recounted how Jonathan invited stakeholders from different sectors in the country to jaw-jaw on the downstream sector of the oil industry only for them to wake up on January 1, 2012, “to learn that the government has unilaterally removed subsidy from petrol.”

His questions: “How then can we, in good conscience, work with such an administration? How can we be sure that these slew of appointments are not being used by the administration to shore up its sagging – or totally sagged – credibility?”

But Ribadu had an answer, in case the party was in doubt about his desire to accept the offer.

Speaking from Afghanistan were he was on a United Nations assignment, Ribadu said: “Regardless of our affiliations, our differences, and our engagements, it is at least safe to say that we have a national consensus on the deadly impact of corruption on our march to greatness, and on the capacity of our people, particularly the youth, to earn a decent, promising, life. If we would effectively isolate and defeat this scourge, therefore, we must all see it as a pre-eminent national security threat.

“We must see it as a war within our borders, a war that has assumed a systemic and endemic character, but to which all must now urgently enlist with our different capacities, or accept to all go down with the ship. At this point in my life, it is also easy to answer the honest question if it is inappropriate to invest my modest talents and capabilities to my country what I have readily offered many foreign communities, from sister nations in Africa to far-flung places like Afghanistan.

“This, if nothing, makes my decision very personal, freeing all affiliations (social and political) of complicity, but investing the decision also with the unique character that when people reach evaluations in favour of their larger communities, it doesn’t necessarily blemish their moral identity.

“This, therefore, is a national call. In answering it, I go back to the template of my own parents, who taught me that honest public service is the greatest asset a person can offer his community. It was the same lesson I learnt from his biographical example when my own father returned home as a federal legislator in Lagos to take job as a local council official in Yola – it is all about the community, and it is sometimes bigger than our personal egos”.

Lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, confirmed during the week that Ribadu knew of the offer before the announcement was made, and that he was going to take a decision after consulting with some trusted political allies. 

By declaring that his decision is “very personal, freeing all affiliations of complicity”, the 51-year-old from Adamawa has responded to ACN’s declaration that he is on his own.

Many people, including yours truly, have expressed fears over the obvious lack of capacity, or will, at the federal level to tackle some of the fundamental problems facing this country. The responsibility of sanitising the oil industry for which Ribadu’s task force has been saddled is the statutory responsibility of some agencies and department already on Abuja’s heavy payroll. By asking Ribadu and co to come on board, President Jonathan has indirectly admitted that some offices, as presently constituted, are not doing their job. The appointment of Ribadu to lead a group of wise men and women to clean the Augean Stables that the nation’s oil sector has become looks good on paper, but a little scratch will reveal it is another episode in our drama of duplication or triplication. It may as well end up another waste of the resources it is expected to manage.

While I do not completely subscribe to ACN’s position that “rushing to poach credible personalities from the opposition without first accepting that it is overwhelmed by the problems facing it (PDP-led Federal Government) smacks of underhand tactics aimed at decimating the opposition”, one is tempted to reason that it could end up “tarnishing the well-earned credibility of such personalities”.

Members, credible or not, of the task force must learn from the history books, which are replete with tales of how prominent people had their goodwill questioned because of the actions of the governments they served, especially at the centre. Names like Wole Soyinka, Tai Solarin and Humphrey Nwosu are mentioned under the evil genius, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida; while Alhaji Lateef Jakande and the late Prof. Sam Aluko got some sticks for working with the late Gen. Sani Abacha. The tradition continued under former President Olusegun Obasanjo when Chief Bola Ige, contrary to the desire of many opposition figures, elected to serve first as Minister of Power, then as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation. Ige did not finish his tour of duty in Abuja alive and his killers are yet to be found 10 years after. It is under the same Obasanjo that Ribadu served as EFCC chairman. Jonathan, who has now offered him his first national appointment since he left that position, also has his own way of doing something to people’s credibility. Everything Mr. President touches seems to turns to dust. Look at what working for him has done to our dear Reuben Abati!

Like ACN said, Jonathan desperately needs people who are seen as credible to launder the government’s badly damaged image and credibility. But Abuja is not the only one guilty of name-dropping. Ribadu looked good as the presidential candidate of the country’s leading opposition party during the 2011 general elections. Just like Jonathan hopes to do now, ACN adopted the former EFCC boss as its flag-bearer not necessarily because it believed he would win the election, but to add gloss to its resume.

The man at the centre of all the attention must enjoy buzz around him. Even with all the odds stacked against him, he took the broom given to him by former Lagos Governor and ACN National Leader, Bola Tinubu, and others to sweep PDP out of Aso Rock in April. I remember his speech at a parley with journalists at Protea Hotel, GRA, Lagos shortly before he publicly declared his intention to run for the presidency. He told his guests at the breakfast meeting that he could not think of contesting under any other party except ACN because that was the only political platform that suited his principles. Describing PDP as incapable of leading Nigeria to the future, he said Jonathan was not the best man for the job of Nigeria’s President. That, according to Ribadu, was why he was challenging him for the nation’s number one seat.

It soon turned out that ACN was working behind the scene for Jonathan’s presidency. I do not know if Ribadu was used or he was using the party, the truth is that his ambition died even before he started a nationwide campaign tour. Former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, saw the writing on the wall at the last minute and pulled out of the party’s presidential race. He has since returned to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). With the scenario that played out before, during and after the election, neither ACN nor Ribadu owes the other any explanation for their actions. Their contract seems to have expired after the election.

No matter its protestation, ACN did not, and may never, offer Ribadu a better deal than PDP. It was a PDP administration that made him EFCC boss and the superstar he is today. He became Gani’s godson because of his exploits under Obasanjo. The jury is, however, still out on how committed Obasanjo was to the anti-corruption crusade and what he really did with the EFCC under Ribadu. Besides, the former has not criticised Obasanjo in the manner his friend and former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, has done.

For those who believe Ribadu was an Obasanjo boy, even while he was contesting the April presidential election, this might be a confirmation of the suspicion that his body was with ACN but his heart was with PDP.

The decision to once again serve a government led by the party with low credibility quotient is his.  So
will be dealing with the consequences.

By Olumide Iyanda

A dame like no other

I have had the pleasure of meeting Taiwo Ajai-Lycett a few times and I always end up in awe of her. A great talker who is also willing to listen, there is an uncommon style and grace she brings to the table.

This is one actress who is still ready to break a leg to make her audience happy. Very few Nigerian artistes have covered half the ground she has; even fewer are as humble as she is.

A hopeless romantic, she talks about her late husband with the excitement of a giggly schoolgirl. It may sound weird that she postponed her grief hours after his death to perform on stage before announcing the passing away to others, but she argues that is what he would have wanted her to do.

Among her stage and television appearances are Song of a Goat by J P Clark; Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and The Lion and the Jewel; Wale Ogunyemi’s The Divorce; Fred Agbeyegbe’s The King Must Dance Naked; Wole Oguntokun’s The Inheritors; Arnold Weskers’ Shylock; Laolu Ogunniyi’s television series, Winds Against My Soul; Jab Adu’s The Young Ones; and Nigerian Television Authority’s The Honourable; For Better for Worse, Eyo Fancy and Rasheed Gbadamosi’s The Mansion. She also appeared on an episode of Some Mothers Do Have Them alongside Michael Crawford (Frank Spencer).

Mrs. Ajai-Lycett, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) turned 71 on Friday, February 3, 2012. Here is wishing her many more years of service to humanity.


Where is the luck?

Those who sold President Goodluck Jonathan to Nigerians during the 2011 elections on the promise that his victory at the poll would bring good luck may need to answer charges of deceptive advertising. Little was said about the President’s significant achievements in the past, we were simply told that returning the man to Aso Rock, after he had completed the last one year of late Umaru Yar’Adua’s four-year tenure, would bring “good luck to you, good luck to me, good luck to everybody.” His penchant for being at the right place at the right time had seen him rise from deputy governor to governor of Bayelsa State and from vice president to acting President and finally President. Less than nine months after his inauguration on May 29, 2011, Mr. Jonathan has failed to live up to his first name.

For a man who had never been elected into a political office in his own right before 2011, Jonathan is a classic proof of the wisdom in that popular saying that “no condition is permanent.” Elected deputy governor of Bayelsa State in 1999, he was serving his second term when his boss, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was arrested and impeached on corruption charges in 2005. The canoe-maker’s son from Otuoke simply stepped forward and was sworn in as governor to complete his boss’ second term. He had his eyes on contesting as governor of Bayelsa in 2007, but former President Olusegun Obasanjo had other plans. Jonathan was handpicked as Yar’Adua’s running mate for the presidential election and the duo made it to Aso Rock on May 29, 2007. He became President after Yar’Adua’s death on May 5, 2010.

His story of grass to grace impressed millions of Nigeria. If he could do it, so could we all. His CV was not the most impressive going into the 2011 presidential election but he had his name on his side. There was also the promise of reforms and a breath of fresh air. For all those sympathetic to Jonathan that was all that was needed to become the President of our dream. We have all since smelt the coffee.

I do not know about the President but I know that the last nine months have not witnessed good luck for many Nigerians. And nothing demonstrates that more vividly than the general strike and mass protest that greeted the increase in petrol price on New Year day. Millions of Nigerians were mobilised in civil disobedience against the man they once campaigned for to be made president, and an unpopular Federal Government was forced to back down on Monday, January 16 with a partial reduction from the price announced on January 1.

It is however not yet uhuru for Mr. Jonathan. Terrorist group, Boko Haram, has continued to make the country a living hell for the government and the governed. A series of coordinated attacks by the sect killed more than 200 people in Kano on Friday, January 20. The assault on the nation continues even as Nigerians still mourn victims of the Christmas Day bombings at St Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State and other places. Add that to those that have been killed in Borno, Abuja, Yobe, Plateau, Kaduna and other places and the picture of a nation living on borrowed time becomes clearer.

Perhaps, the last time Nigerians felt this traumatised was during the military dictatorship of late Gen. Sani Abacha. It was under the bespectacled maximum ruler that Nigerians last took to the street in the manner they did to protest the removal of fuel subsidy. Abacha shot his way into Aso Rock on November 17, 1993, replacing Chief Ernest Shonekan who was made head of an Interim National Government after General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the June 12, 1993 election won by late Chief MKO Abiola.

Abacha’s government was unpopular from day one. There was massive uproar and hardship in the land. Many were killed during street protests and in their homes, offices and cars by state agents. While the country burned, the Head of State was hidden behind his dark glasses and the heavy walls of Aso Rock. Nigeria became the poster child for gross human rights violation. Abacha sent Nigerian troops to enthrone democracy in neighbouring countries but denied it at home, with many jailed or hounded into exile.

But in all of the chaos, Nigerians still had few occasions to smile. His name might not have been Goodluck, but fortunes smiled on Abacha, and the people occasionally forgot their sorrow. The late Head of State’s guardian angel sure must have understood the importance of sports in healing or unifying a troubled nation. The military ruler got away with some of his excesses because Nigerians were celebrating one victory or another.

Who knows, maybe Nigerians would have had something to cheer them up if our Super Eagles were at the ongoing African Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

It was under Abacha that Nigeria won its second and last African Cup of Nations trophy in 1994. The first time was 1980 under President Shehu Shagari. The Super Eagles went to Tunisia 18 years ago at the start of a glorious era for Nigerian football. At the end of the contest, the boys in Green triumphed over Zambia in the final. Stephen Keshi, now the head coach of the Super Eagles, led a team of bright and hungry young men to continental glory. Tutored by Dutchman, Clemens Westerhof, the Nigerian squad became the number one in Africa. Nigeria achieved its highest FIFA ranking in history when it clinched the fifth position worldwide in April 1994.

Nigeria also reached the final of the World Cup for the first time in the 1994. Managed by Westerhof, the Super Eagles topped their group ahead of Argentina, Bulgaria, and Greece. Nigeria defeated Bulgaria 3–0 in its first game, lost to Argentina 1–2 in the second, and qualified for the second round after a 2–0 victory over Greece. Two goals from Roberto Baggio of Italy knocked us out in the second round.

Can anybody ever forget the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, USA? Nigeria came home with two gold medals. Chioma Ajunwa won one in long jump and the Dream Team got the other in football. Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, religion, class or political affiliations, came out on August 3, 1996 to celebrate on the streets as Nwankwo Kanu and co defeated Argentina to win the much sought after football gold. The picture of the young men lining up to receive their medals is forever framed in the heart of millions of Nigerians.

The major sour note in the sporting calendar of that year was the refusal to defend the 1994 victory at the Nations Cup in South Africa. The country was subsequently banned from the 1998 edition.

Even with Abacha becoming increasingly erratic and Nigeria almost isolated in the international community, the country still managed some success in the sporting arena. At least we qualified for the France 98 World Cup, which kicked off two days after Abacha’s death on June 8, 1998.

Fast forward to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Nigeria qualified for the tournament on November 14, 2009 after defeating Kenya by 3–2 in Nairobi. That was nine days before President Yar’Adua was taken to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. He was dead when the finals began in South Africa.

Jonathan opened his World Cup account as Commander-in-Chief with a 1-0 loss to Argentina at Ellis Park Stadium. Nigeria was leading in the second game against Greece by a goal from Kalu Uche when Sani Kaita saw red for a reckless challenge. The Super Eagles eventually lost the game 2–1. Nigeria’s slim hope of qualifying for the second round was lost to a 2–2 draw with South Korea after goals from Kalu Uche and Yakubu. Our collective enduring memory from the match is that of Yakubu doing a Fernando Torres in front of goal.

In a knee-jerk reaction to the poor performance, Jonathan ordered a two-year withdrawal from international football competitions on June 30, 2010. He argued that the country needed to go back and re-strategise in order to come out stronger. With Nigeria at risk of being banned from international football by FIFA, the President rescinded the order on July 5, 2010. That move was a pointer that this was a government that acts first and thinks later.

The luck that brought the present administration to power is obviously not rubbing off on our sports. Other sectors in the country are not smiling either. The Nations Cup is not the only stage where Nigeria won’t feature this year. Yes, we are going to the London Olympics but our male and female football teams won’t be there. Going by the preparations so far, there is little to inspire hope in the other sports.

Jonathan still has a little more than three years to put a smile on the faces of Nigerians. He can start with people-friendly policies. The Abacha style of deploying troops against harmless protesters won’t do his professed democratic credentials any good. It is not too late to deliver on his promise to transform the economy by cutting waste, investing in critical infrastructure and wooing investment. He may also add success in sports for good measure.

I wish him luck. God knows he needs it now more than ever before.

By Olumide Iyanda

Spectator General of Police

Ask many Nigerians what they think about the query given to Inspector General of Police (IGP), Hafiz Ringim, on Monday (January 16) over the escape from custody of a Boko Haram suspect, and they will probably tell you the action was long overdue. If the citizens of this country had their way, Ringim would have been sacked almost as soon as he became the Number 1 man at Louis Edet House, Abuja. Nothing demonstrated the low the Nigeria Police Force got under him than the query he got from a government as permissive as that of President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday (January 18).

Mr. President had glossed over Ringim’s incompetence as IGP too many times in the past. Instead of receiving deserved knocks, the police chief received accolades from a Commander-in-Chief who has tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to dodge the burden that comes with that title. Jonathan pampered Ringim so much that he must have thought he could go to sleep with the whole nation up in flames. Ringim was even decorated as a Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) at a national honours bazaar in Abuja two months ago. The ceremony took place three weeks after more than 100 people were killed in coordinated attacks by Boko Haram in Damaturu, Yobe State.

Ringim’s query this week followed the escape from police custody of Kabiru Sokoto, believed to be the mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing of St Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State which left more than 40 people dead. Jonathan, who had raised an alarm recently that there were Boko Haram members in his cabinet and security services among other places, must have hugged his wife Patience when he heard the news of Sokoto’s arrest. Given the havoc Boko Haram has wreaked in the country, especially since 2009 beginning from Bauchi and Borno states, the arrest of a key member was considered a matter of urgent national security. It would have looked good on the CV of the President and his police chief. Nigerians however woke up on Tuesday to hear that the suspect had escaped from police custody. 

Both the arrest and escape of Sokoto reaffirms the widely held belief that Nigeria is a poorly policed country. The ease with which the suspect gained access to the Borno State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja where he was arrested on Saturday should cause all Nigerians to sleep with one eye open. Maiduguri, Borno State capital, by the way, is the headquarters of Boko Haram.

Giving a migraine-inducing account of how Sokoto got to the Governor’s Lodge, Secretary to the Government of Bauchi State, Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda, said via a statement that “On the evening of Thursday, January 5, one Ibrahim Umar Abba, an indigene of Borno State and a post-graduate student at the University of Birmingham in the UK, called the permanent secretary of the Borno State Liaison Office in Abuja.

“He said he was scheduled to catch a British Airways flight back to the UK the following day and would like to spend the night at the Governor’s Lodge in Abuja. The permanent secretary, who at the time was in Maiduguri, granted Ibrahim Abba Umar permission to spend the night at the lodge.

“When Ibrahim Umar Abba turned up at the lodge, he came with two other persons, one of them an Air Force officer, the other a civilian. Neither of them is known to His Excellency the Governor, or to any other official of the Borno State Government. It turned out that the security agencies were on the trail of one of the three men, later identified as Kabiru Sokoto. The security agents arrived at the lodge and arrested the three ‘guests’ as well as all the staff of the Governor’s Lodge.”

The Borno Governor’s Lodge must be one of the most unprotected places on earth if Jidda’s account is to be believed. Even some beer parlours do not admit strangers on the basis of bookings made over the phone. Anyway, the police trailed the ‘three wise men’ to Abuja and hit a jackpot with the arrest of Sokoto. But like a bad gambler who does not know how to handle the gaming machine, Ringim’s men soon lost one of the most wanted men in the world through what could be a combination of carelessness from the top, to the infiltration of the security system by the same Boko Haram which has proved several times to be several steps ahead of Ringim, National Security Adviser, General Andrew Owoye Azazi (rtd) and everybody who has so far done a shoddy job of protecting lives and property since Jonathan became President.

Addressing journalists on Tuesday, Force Public Relations Officer, Olusola Amore, said Sokoto was handed over to Zakari Biu, a commissioner of police, who Nigerians were shocked to find was still in the Force. Biu belongs to that part of the nation’s dark history under the dictatorship of late General Sani Abacha. He was the leader of the anti-terrorist squad believed to have engineered the killing of Bagauda Kaltho, a journalist with TheNEWS magazine and former chief security officer at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, Dr. Sola Omatsola.

It turned out that Biu could, or chose, not to handle Sokoto with the same surgical precision with which his squad dealt with those opposed to Abacha’s despicable rule. He was said to have directed his men to take the man to his home in Abaji, near Abuja on Sunday for further investigation. The police claim that some youths attacked the Toyota Hilux van the team and the accused were travelling in, thus facilitating Sokoto’s escape. Nothing was said of a gun battle. Sokoto and those who allegedly rescued him from the police simply disappeared into thin air.

That, however, is not the end of the story.

While announcing Biu’s suspension on Tuesday, Amore said, “If a criminal case is established against him and his team, they will be prosecuted.”

Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade, said Ringim should share the blame for the escape of Sokoto and had been issued a query which he must answer within 24 hours.

“He is the field officer; he has the responsibility to ensure all operations regarding arrest and all that are conducted in the usual manner,” Olubolade said, adding that. “If he is found guilty of complicity, he himself will have to account for his mistakes.”

As for Biu and the other men who bungled the investigation, Olubolade said, “I have also directed that the officers involved and the personnel involved should be detained immediately.”

If he is found guilty and penalised for his obvious shoddy handling of the Sokoto matter, Ringim, who is due to retire from the Force next month would have outdone himself in inefficiency. Like other IGPs before him, the only thing the police under him seems good at is harassing unharmed civilians seen as enemies of the state.  It is instructive that the IGP had only last weekend threatened to arrest and prosecute anybody who hints at a change in government for treason. That followed the series of protest that greeted the removal of fuel subsidy as announced by the Federal Government on January 1.

While Ringim flexes muscles and talks tough at ordinary Nigerians, he has proved ineffective time and again against both petty and hardened criminals. The spate of armed robberies which reduced in some states before he came on board reached the most chilling height before and after he was handed the CFR national honour in November. Bandits moved about in daylight from Port Harcourt to Abeokuta, killing and maiming anybody along their path. It got so bad that banks stopped operating in some states of the federation shortly before Christmas. His men simply ran away anytime they heard rumours of robbers approaching.

Nothing has however demystified Ringim like Boko Haram. The Islamist anti-government sect showed him who the boss was when it sent a suicide bomber to the Police Headquarters in Abuja on June 16. At least six people including the suspected bomber died in that attack. Ringim himself escaped death by the whiskers. Policemen had been objects of Boko Haram targets practice before that assault on Louis Edet House. The situation became worse thereafter. 

Other coordinated attacks have seen Boko Haram bomb the UN building in Abuja on Friday, August 26, 2011 killing at least 21 people and injuring more than 60. There is hardly a day that goes by without the sect killing innocent Nigerians. They killed Christians in churches in Niger, Plateau and Yobe states on Christmas Day. They have since ordered Southern Christians out of the North or they will be killed in attacks. Southerners, particularly of Igbo origin, have been killed in attacks at churches and social gatherings since then.

With people from across the country calling for an urgent action to stop the menace Boko Haram has become, the last thing Nigerians wanted to hear was that a suspected mastermind of the heinous massacre on Christmas Day had vanished without a trace. That alone is enough to cost Ringim his CFR honour, if not his uniform.

The man has spent too much time as a mere spectator in the theatre of violence Nigeria has been turned to. He should be shown the way out of the Police. And he should take Biu along with him. Our lawyers will advise on what to do with them after.

*This article was written on Thursday, January 19, 2012. Boko Haram killed more than 200 people in coordinated bombings and gun attacks in Kano on Friday, January, 20, 2012. Ringim was sacked as IGP on Wednesday, January 25, 2012.

By Olumide Iyanda

Like Police, Like LASTMA

Whatever sins Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu may have committed in his eight years as governor of Lagos State, many will readily point to the establishment of the Lagos State Transport Management Agency (LASTMA) and anointing of Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF) as successor his redeeming factor.

Fashola is the governor many states wish they had. He simply can’t do any wrong with his supporters. If the Constitution is altered to allow for a third term, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) will probably coast home to another historic victory.

The people stood by Fashola as Tinubu tried to pull the rug from under his feet when they fell apart last year. Attempts by a group called Face of Lagos and the State House of Assembly to do the governor in over allegations of financial recklessness were unsuccessful because Lagosians stood by him. Yes, he later went on all fours before his predecessor to get back in his good books but even Tinubu knew that getting rid of a popular figure like the governor would be cutting his nose to spite the face.

With Tinubu graciously giving Fashola the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) ticket to run for a second term, the governor went to the April 26 governorship poll and left his closest opponent bruised and battered. So generous is the goodwill BRF enjoys in Lagos that he is one of the few governors who can safely walk the street with little or no security.

Unfortunately for Fashola, LASTMA, which is now under his watch, is no longer the darling Lagosians used to know. The men in cream and wine have stopped being a sight for sore eyes. They are barely better than their counterparts in black who seem to have taught them more than the average driver can bear.

It must be said that Nigerians are generally bad drivers. Almost every rule in the book is broken without recourse to decency. It is common to see a typical ‘Lagos Driver’ ignore traffic light, drive against traffic, on the sidewalk or make illegal U-turn.

Our people drive with care in places as close as Benin Republic but become maniacs once back on Nigerian roads.

The creation of LASTMA was a masterstroke by the Tinubu administration. It complemented the effort of regular federal traffic controllers, thereby making driving less cumbersome. The usual bottlenecks caused by impatient drivers especially at junctions disappeared. LASTMA did not only open up or close some roads, it stationed men to direct traffic and arrest offenders.

The agency became loved and those who swear by the Highway Code fell in love with it. When former Minister of Works, Adeseye Ogunlewe, buoyed by federal might, crossed swords with Tinubu over control of Federal roads in Lagos, the people queued behind the then governor and the minister beat a retreat. While LASTMA got the applause, Ogunlewe’s Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) got the boos. But like most things Nigerian, LASTMA has become a victim of the rot in the system.

Men of the agency are empowered to impound vehicles and impose sanctions if drivers break the law. The punishment a driver gets depend on the gravity of offence committed. One of the ‘mortal’ sins in the LASTMA’s book is driving against the traffic or one way. The punishment for that includes a N25,000 fine, psychiatric test and compulsory training exercise. Offending drivers must also provide a tax clearance before an impounded vehicle is released irrespective of the offence or fine.

With Fashola’s government serious about internal revenue generation, the Lagos Inland Revenue Service (LIRS) found LASTMA a worthy partner. The bad elements within the system have also found a way of enriching themselves in ways that beat the imagination of the otherwise corrupt Yellow Fever.

Stories abound of LASTMA men extorting money from those they supposedly arrested. A friend told me of how he haggled with some of the agency’s men and a policeman who arrested him in Mile 2 last Saturday. After reeling out his fine and the long road he would travel if his car were impounded they advised him to play ball or get played. At the end of the day he had to part with N4,000 and his wristwatch. Someone also told me of how some LASTMA men who pounced on his car that broke down in Ikorodu on Monday gave him an initial price of N15,000 or they would tow it to their office.

One of the most pathetic stories I have heard is of a woman who, unsure if she was about to make the wrong turn, asked some LASTMA men if she could move and was advised to do so. No sooner had she changed gear than they jumped in front of the car and accused her of driving against traffic. Her cry attracted other drivers who threatened to deal with the men who were then forced to let her go.

An embarrassed Lagos State government has directed that the men should stop chasing drivers who resist arrest because that has caused fatal accidents in the past, but some of them won’t listen. Many have also abused the discretion allowed in arresting errant drivers carrying sick or elderly people or little children.

Commercial drivers now have scant regards for LASMA men as they bribe them openly. Many of them are even believed to own some of the danfo that litter Lagos roads.

A fake message in circulation, which quoted Fashola as saying that LASTMA officials were not empowered to arrest offenders underscores the level to which the agency under former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Young Arabamen, as CEO has become a subject of controversy.

The solution, though is not in scrapping LASTMA, what it needs is closer supervision. A team of ‘traffic offenders’ from the agency should go on discreet patrol to see how some of their men deal with drivers. Lagos works better with LASTMA. What it does not need is the increasing bad eggs in the rank.

It is a joy to see dedicated officials working to keep the traffic moving and Fashola must ensure he hands over a better LASTMA to his successor, even if he has no say over who he or she would be.

By Olumide Iyanda

Cowboy Melaye

I have met former member of the House of Representatives, Dino Melaye, only twice. Incidentally, the two meetings were outside Nigeria.

The first encounter was in 2007 at the Edward Radisson Hotel in Mayfair, London during the Nollywood road show organised by the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB). All we did was exchange greetings because man was interested in more important people to bother about the lowly journalist standing in front of him.

Our second meeting was in May 2008 at the Cannes Film Festival in France. Mr Melaye bumped into me as he was entering the Nigerian Pavilion.

The ex-lawmaker was at both events in his capacity as chairman of the House Committee on Information. I am not sure he added any real value to both events in terms of networking, production development or artistes welfare but his larger than life character made an impact on those who had even the briefest of contact with him.

The London road show took place while the former Speaker of the House of Reps, Patricia Etteh, was facing allegation of spending of N628million on the renovation of her official residence and that of her deputy, Babangida Nguroje, and the purchase of 12 official cars.

Melaye was an unrepentant supporter of Etteh and was one of the characters seen on national TV throwing chairs when the crisis came to fisticuffs. The man who represented Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal constituency of Kogi State never made a secret of his sympathy for Nigeria’s first female federal Speaker. When other men shouted at her, Melaye and his group carried her shoulder high.

Etteh eventually lost the battle, was forced to resign and a certain Oladimeji Sabur Bankole was chosen as her replacement.

With Etteh out of the way, Melaye soon launched what he described as a campaign to clean the House of its battered image. In 2009, he crossed swords with former Chief Whip, Emeka Ihedioha, and Majority Leader, Tunde Akogun, accusing them of mismanaging the funds approved by the House for celebration of 10 year of democracy in Nigeria and retreats for members.

Melaye announced Ihedioha’s political obituary, accusing him of pocketing N150 million. After boasting that he had the signature of more than 200 members to bury the latter, Melaye turned around to apologise to the embarrassed House.

Many suspected back then that the man Melaye was really after was Bankole.

In June 2010, a group called The Progressives, led by, accused Bankole of mismanaging N9billion of an N11billion budget of the House of Representatives from 2008 to 2009. Just like it happened in the Etteh era, the matter degenerated into a free-for-all on the Floor of the Green Chamber. Melaye and his co-travellers were beaten by their colleagues and their clothes torn. Spokesperson for the House, Eseme Eyiboh, confirmed that minimum force was used on the troublemakers to get them out of the National Assembly complex.

The House immediately announced Melaye’s suspension. Also suspended were Independence Ogunewe, Solomon Awhinawi, Austin Nwachukwu, Hon. Abba Adamu, Gbenga Oduwaiye, Kayode Amusan, Gbenga Onigbogi, Bitrus Kaze and Doris Uboh.

With Melaye out of the way, Bankole’s attention shifted to foes in other places like former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel.

Reprieve came Melaye’s way when the court in December ordered his reinstatement along with five others. All allowances due them from the date of their suspension in June were also ordered to be paid.

They were initially prevented from resuming when the Sergeant at Arms and policemen barred them from entering the National Assembly Complex but threat of contempt of court made the leadership of the House tow the path of wisdom.

It was an unrepentant Melaye that returned to the Green Chamber. He accused the equally unyielding Bankole of refusing to obey the order that their allowances be paid.

Not one to go down without a fight, Melaye challenged the convention in Kogi PDP, which says that members are to get only one shot at the House of Reps. When he lost at the party primaries he quickly defected to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). His loss at the April 9 National Assembly election is still a subject of controversy.

He, however, made sure he left the sixth National Assembly with a bang. Faced with the prospect of not collecting all the N120million accumulated allowance during his period for which he was suspended, Melaye led others to raise fresh allegations of N10biilion unauthorised loan taken by Bankole on behalf of the House. That was what finally did the ex-Speaker in.

Melaye has reportedly collected his accumulated allowances leaving Bankole to answer questions on all the allegations of financial recklessness levied against him beginning with the N2.3billion car purchase scam initiated by lawyer Festus Keyamo in 2008.

Bankole was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Sunday night and arraigned before an Abuja Federal High Court on Wednesday. Keyamo leads the EFCC legal team.

Melaye has been celebrating his ‘victory’ over Bankole. On Monday, he posted the picture of Bankole’s arrest on Facebook with the message: “Victory of evil over truth is temporal and evaporative.”

Like other members of the last House of Reps, Melaye has not collected his entire allocation for the last quarter. But National Assembly will surely miss him for his drama and ‘nuisance value’.

Now that he is out of the Green Chamber, he may want to consider a career in acting. That way, he will justify his trip to Cannes and London for the Nollywood road show.

This bimbo is no face of Nigeria

I must confess that I am not a big fan of the Big Brother reality TV show. There are better ways to waste my time than watch young people idling away and doing what should rather stay behind closed doors.

That does not mean I have anything against those who like the show. But I do have a lot against the choice of Karen Igho as a Nigerian representative in the ongoing Big Brother Amplified. 

I bumped into the opening ceremony at a friend’s place and could not help but wonder how an inflatable doll like Miss Igho managed to beat other young men and women that must have gone for the Nigerian audition. She looks like Lil Kim on a bad day to me.

Nigerian young women do not go about flaunting fake breasts and looking like something the cat dragged in. And what manner of unemployed youth spends whatever money she makes on breasts enlargement, tattoos and body piercing?

This Karen appears too eager to get between the sheets and I will be surprised if she leaves the house with what is left of her innocence intact.

By Olumide Iyanda