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Mixed metaphors

To Sports Minister Sani Ndanusa: May God bless you! Mr. Ndanusa has declared that Nigeria will use MRI scans to determine the eligibility of Nigerian players for the 2009 Under-17 football World Cup, which our nation will host next month. 


"We will not deviate from Fifa's requirement in terms of ascertaining players' true ages," he vowed to journalists.  "The whole world has gone digital and we're following suit. We're no longer in the analogue era. FIFA wants MRI scans used and we're going to adhere to that, simple."

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And shame to you, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Chairman, Sani Lulu, who had earlier said he would not accept the MRI bone scans, preferring to invite the parents of the players to verify their sons' ages. Many of the team’s players had been dropped following the MRI, forcing Lulu to seek a fig leaf under which to hide.  The MRI is "not in the rules and regulations of the tournament," he said. 
One look at such faces as Lulu’s, and it is easy to see what is wrong with Nigerian sport.

And one look at the tumult Nigeria calls a government and it is easy to see why we are the favorite joke of anyone looking for an easy laugh.  President Umaru Yar’Adua arrived in office swearing by the rule of law.
But who is his rule of law officer?  Michael Aondoakaa, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who is best-known for his personal free-wheeling ways and his legal support of Nigeria’s most infamous former public officials.  As we speak, he is in the United Kingdom in the quest to defend former Delta State governor, James Ibori, a man who has established himself as the new face of Nigerian corruption so convincingly there is a new concept in the country: iborification.

The definition of iborification: the art of ruthlessly sweeping one’s charge clean.  Thus: the iborification of a State; “He was able to iborify the Nigeria Ports Authority in just three months;”  “Do you think he may have iborified the accounts?”

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As Aondoakaa appears in the UK to defend Ibori’s reputation, he is secure in the knowledge that his boss, Yar’Adua, is holding down the Abuja fort.  Other world leaders are preparing for the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  For the second year in a row, the Nigerian leader will not be there.  Neither will Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan.  Instead, Nigeria will send Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe, who will join a handful of Foreign and other Ministers who will largely be ignored by the over 140 world leaders present.

Perhaps Yar’Adua considers the constitutional provision of a Vice-President to be a personal affront.  While I have no love to squander on Mr. Jonathan, on account of his record, he is the Vice-President, and ought to represent Nigeria if the President cannot attend.  It is the only way to ensure visibility for the nation, particularly at the High-Level events.  Otherwise, save us some money and let Nigeria’s Permanent Representative at the UN represent her. 

But perhaps the President is nursing the serial embarrassments he is receiving from various directions:
•    His friend and new Customs boss is facing allegations of a lifetime of forging documents. 
•    His nominee as ambassador to the United States was told not to set foot on US soil, as he would be lucky merely to be turned back at the airport if he showed up; the man has two wives in the US alone, and a son facing rape charges. 
•    African leaders have replaced the leadership of the joint peacekeeping mission in Sudan with a Rwandan, in place of a Nigerian, and over senior Nigerian officers. 
•    His Chief of Staff – or Principal Private Secretary, as the office is now known—faces charges in the United Kingdom in a money-laundering case.
•    Nigeria’s leader, if he went to New York, faced the prospects of watching the September 24-25 Pittsburgh G20 meeting from his hotel room, instead of being a part of it.
•    The Nigerian government recently announced it would need four trillion Naira annually to implement the MGDs between now and 2010.  That was five months after the President himself said Nigeria could not possibly meet some of the targets.
•    Not only did the US Secretary of State embarrass Yar’Adua’s government recently, in Abuja, President Obama is said to have made it clear hell would freeze over before he meets with Nigeria’s leaders, unless they seize corruption by the throat and embark on good governance.

  Unwilling to face any of these issues, it is understandable that Yar’Adua chose to stay away from New York.  But it is the cowardly choice; the General Assembly is about nations, not individual egos.  Actually, some countries do not care about the UN, but they attend the General Assembly because it is strategic for asserting themselves and the interest of their nations.  It is also the only opportunity world leaders have, each year, to hold short, productive meetings with many other world leaders, organizations and businesses within a few days.  No leader in hiding can claim multilateral relevance. 

A ridiculous report out of London says that Nasir El-Rufai, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory has had his application for a passport denied by Nigeria.  El-Rufai was told by an official that they were acting under instructions from Abuja.  It is a shame that any Nigerian should be denied a passport, a document that is the right of every adult, not a favour. 

If this was meant to ridicule or embarrass the former minister, it is serving more to illustrate the impotence of the current government.  El-Rufai was allegedly declared wanted and the case turned over to Interpol.  Yet he walks in and out of the Nigerian High Commission in London as he pleases, before the very eyes of Interpol, just like “fugitive” Nuhu Ribadu walked in and out of Nigeria in honour of his late friend, Gani Fawehinmi. 
The question is: is there a government in Abuja?  If so, who or what does it govern?  Is it respected somewhere?

Information minister Dora Akunyili seems to think so.  Just like other discredited ministers before her, she is now taking her sound-an-colour crusade abroad.  The government, she says, will engage 150 missions abroad and over 17 million Nigerians in the Diaspora for her ‘Rebrand Nigeria’ joyride.

To Nigerians who tell her they want their money to be used for infrastructural development, she says her scheme is complimentary to the provision of “concrete deliverables” by the government. 
No, Mrs. Akunyili, it is not complimentary to anything.  It is propaganda, and propaganda never compliments anything because its objective is to supplement substance or explain its absence.  Did you read the responses to your article on Saharareporters, madam?  I was embarrassed: for you.

Chief Gani Fawehinmi has received a burial worthy of a king, and I could not be happier.  Here now is part of the unusual eulogy of Patrick Obahiagbon, a member of the House of Representatives: “…The grand initiation of Chief Gani Fawehinmi has since brought me emotional laceration and thrown me into a state of utter catalepsy. This was a man who inured himself in the aqua of self abnegation and immolation just to give justice to the down-trodden. Can there be another GANI in Nigeria’s legal firmament? I dare say I have my doubts. Chief Gani Fawehinmi was simply inimitable, puritanically committed, inscrutably remonstrative, ideologically transcendental, quixotically cosmopolitan and a ready conveyor-belt of legal tomahawks which he intrepidly deployed in his cascading fulminations against our philistine military and political class.  His transition is not just the fall of an Iroko but indeed the grand initiation of an iconic legal salamander...’’

Enough said.  Water, please.

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