President Jonathan and the Bayelsa guber circus

November 10, 2011
6 mins read

LAST week, I spoke briefly with a top helmsman of the PDP, on the controversy around the PDP candidacy for the upcoming gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State. I was assured that the case would “soon be resolved”.

But as I write these lines, the controversy around the sitting governor, Timipre Sylva, has transmogrified into a political circus. What should be a straight forward issue has exposed for the umpteenth time, the depth of rot at the heart of the Nigerian political process.

Various groups have been holding meetings with President Goodluck Jonathan with the hope of ‘begging’ him to ‘intervene’ to ensure that Sylva gets the opportunity to contest for a second term in office. What that tells us is that, at the heart of the crisis, is the PERSONAL interest of President Jonathan, and not necessarily that of the people of Bayelsa.

I have NEVER met Sylva and have not even visited Yenagoa since he came into office, but I recall that but for the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s insistence, Sylva would not have been governor today. There is clearly a bitter edge to the relationship between Governor and President leading to the President’s direct intervention in the gubernatorial process in his home state at a time when presidential attention ought to be directed at the myriad of problems threatening to take the nation down under! But what exactly is the problem between the two of them? Yes, soft sell magazines are reporting allegations that Sylva threatened to kill the President and his family, but is that really possible? Or could political degeneracy have topped the height of absurdity to the extent that such threats could even be contemplated? And at such levels of state power?

Isn’t it time, that the ruling elite begin to seriously reconsider the patterns of leadership recruitment that lead to consequences we all suffer from? This is in the interest of the ruling class project itself. Why is the political process so inorganic, that personal preferences trounce every other factor, in the attempt to choose candidate for a gubernatorial election? Does the President even care about the harm that his insistence upon political revenge can wreak on the entire system which he presides over? If that is what it really is? But presidential power is everything here, and whatever the President wants, he is most likely to get.

In this case, it seems President Jonathan has decided that Sylva’s ambition must be taken dead on arrival, to the mortuary of Bayelsa politics. This is why we are treated to a circus and a farce at the same time. ‘Transformation’ politics in the hands of its protagonist, President Jonathan, is like a Janus-faced monster, all sides vindictive and self-serving.

What is playing out in Bayelsa, underlines the presidential commitment or lack of it, to the ethos of democracy; and we might even be saying too much, since the Nigerian political process is everything but democratic, and those who cream clique culture, will chop and change for as long as personal interests are satisfied. As for the Nigerian people, they remain as always, inconsequential in these matters.

 …And it’s Stephen Keshi’s turn

UNLIKE the buzz and expectation which welcomed Samson Siasia into the position of Nigeria’s national football coach a few months back, the arrival of Stephen Keshi carried the air of fatalistic acceptance by the football community in Nigeria.

The Siasia denouement took the wind out of the sails for many Nigerians who rooted for his appointment, including this reporter. Siasia’s man-management deficiencies were pitifully exposed during his very short tenure, as it became clear that there was a gulf of difference between coaching age-group teams and the national team.

Frankly, I could not understand why Samson had a preference for certain players, sourced from obscure leagues, in his team, while those we saw regularly, playing in the best leagues around the world, never got a look in. Then the absurd fights with his players which finally did him in. It was clear, that Siasia just was not mature enough for the position he won by national acclaim.

That is without prejudice to the incredible rot in the administration of the game. Amos Adamu instituted a system which was lucrative for him and cronies, but is incredibly corrupt and has systematically ruined the game in our country. As for Keshi, let me confess that I admired his service to our country as a footballer, despite the controversy about “mafia” which dogged his leadership of the national team. He captained the Eagles through its most successful phase.

But I have been ambiguous about him as a coach. I remember that he succeeded in qualifying Togo for the World Cup, which was no mean achievement, before a disastrous run at the African Nations Cup led to his sack. He did not make an impact in Mali and was sacked also; while at home, he failed with an Under-20 team; was part of a crew led by Shuaibu Amodu which rescued our 2002 World Cup campaign, after Johannes Bonfrere lost the plot.

But somehow, Keshi has not fully convinced me he is the man for the job. I’ve listened to him speak with a labored American accent, attempting to analyse the game on television, but even that has been unconvincingly flat with me each time. So I do not expect much from Keshi as national coach, but I will give him critical support.

Sir Alex Ferguson and my Manchester United passion

“ONE of my earliest memories of Alex is going abroad with him and some other managers to see an international game. For dinner he wore the most immaculate white dinner jacket. But what struck me was his socialism, his intelligence and knowledge of things like history and politics. He has always been a great friend of other, lower managers” – David Pleat (Ex-Tottenham manager)

“We’d just got promoted when my phone rang, and it was Alex, telling all about what to expect in the Premier League….It was quite unsolicited. I didn’t go begging for help. He just rang me up and offered all sorts of advice, because he wanted to help. That says everything about him. He is a fantastic fella, and he always has time for you. He never ever doesn’t return your call. It may be a day later, depending on what he’s got on, but if you leave a message, he gets back to you, without fail”. Tony Pulis (Stoke City Manager)

When Sir Alex Ferguson was appointed manager of Manchester United, 25 years ago this weekend, the team had gone 26 years without winning a league title. Over the last quarter of a century, under his watch, Manchester United has won 37 major victories, including 12 Premiership League titles. Sir Alex Ferguson has become one of the most successful personalities in the history of the beautiful game of football. From whatever field of human endeavour, we can draw inspiration from his incredible commitment, competitive spirit and determination to win; not to forget his humanism.

I have supported Manchester United from the age of eight, since 1968. That was the year they won the old European Cup. It was the generation of Bobby Charlton, Dennis Law, George Best and others. I was growing up in Ilorin and there were no television sets to broadcast those games, unlike now. We depended on the radio and Nigerian newspapers. But one of my uncles was a diplomat, and had returned from a London posting with my cousins, who remembered the game and a combination of their account with my newspaper experience and tales from several other sources, deepened my support for Manchester United. Forty-three years down the line, I have continued to support the team. Not even the frustrating, unsuccessful pre-Sir Alex Ferguson years, and the Liverpool domination of the seventies, dampened my feelings for the team.

The Ferguson years have been phenomenal for the team and its teeming supporters. But what has always been very strong for me is that Sir Alex Ferguson has remained a lifelong supporter of socialism and the working class movement. He comes from a Scottish working class background and has never abandoned his class convictions.

The ethos of hard work and his dogged commitment to the cause of his profession came from his proletarian origins which he remains intensely proud of. Over a 25- year period, he has constantly evolved team after team to take Manchester United to the pinnacle of the international game. So much has been written over the past weekend about Sir Alex, but I have really enjoyed Duncan White’s piece for London’s THE TELEGRAPH on Sunday, November 6. He reminded that the world’s population has increased by two billion since he took over at Old Trafford, commending his “belligerent brilliance” and “a phenomenal work ethic” and in a search for telling clichés about the gaffer, talked of “the mind games, the hairdryer, the stoppage time winner”.

As a tactician, Ferguson was a fascinating case of not being an innovator but has shown “an ability to adapt and learn better than any coach in history”. This he argued was the story of “football Darwinism”, because “Ferguson’s United have sloughed off skin after skin. While Ferguson’s presence on the bench remains constant, his ideas about football constantly evolve. He does not just adapt to survive, he adapts to thrive”. I think that about sums up a man with the outstanding career of Sir Alex Ferguson. As a lifelong supporter of Manchester United, I couldn’t have asked for better!

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