By Segun Olulade
I have watched with keen interest the unfolding political scenarios in our dear country as the whistle on electioneering campaign is about to be blown. I have also watched how various and capable Nigerians have lined up to indicate their interest to contest for the highest office in the land.
I am therefore convinced, more than ever before, that our National Leader in the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the man to beat as the fight for the replacement of our President, Muhammadu Buhari, intensifies. He is the best man for the job at this critical juncture of our history.
Hence, this is no time to sit on the fence; this is no time to prevaricate and this is no time to be just an observer or onlooker; this is indeed, the time to stand up and be counted on the side of merit, experience, requisite wherewithal and commitment to higher goals and vision.
I was a lawmaker in this Lagos State of Excellence for eight years and have had the opportunity to have a ring side seat about how the state is governed. And to also know that the successes that have been variously attributed to the various governors that have ruled this state since 1999 had the inputs of Asiwaju. He has been the engine room behind the curtain that ensures that the state remains on track and that the collective interests of the masses remain sacrosanct and cardinal principle of governance.
I decided to make my voice heard now because I have had the privilege to know Asiwaju at close range, both as a political leader and great thinker; and a very meticulous and organized leader who does not take decisions without looking at the pros and cons. Even before I became a student of Lagos State University (LASU), I had always admired him as a distinguished senator with his political sagacity and unusual capacity to predict the political direction of both the state and the nation.
It was therefore not a surprise to me when I became an active player in the politics of the state to witness first hand his dexterity, sense of purpose and commitment to ideals and ideas of a better society. For him, people’s welfare and interests should take precedence, other interests might follow. That, to me, has been largely responsible for the development and growth the state has recorded in the last two decades. And the more reason why the shelter he spreads to cover his followers never folds up.
We easily forgot that when he became governor in 1999, he appointed the best eleven to push his various agenda and developmental programmes. It was within this period that he established the various efficacious institutions in the area of waste management, revenue collection; traffic management, transportation, road construction, rehabilitation, women and youth empowerment, computerization of the Civil Service, land and Housing, among others. These are indelible initiatives that put the state on a sound footing to be able to face the challenges of a city-state like Lagos.
When he left office he continued to play an active and leading role in making sure that the democratic train does not derail. And when other former governors were angling to retire to the Senate, he refused to follow the trend. He, infact, gave his Senate ticket to Senator Ganiyu Solomon to represent Lagos west after deciding not to contest. That altruistic decision raised the political profile of Asiwaju and catapulted him to the enviable position of a power broker and a man who is ready for the big stage.
Since then, he has been on the rise to the extent of being described by observers as the main issue in Nigeria’s politics. It was therefore predictable that he would play a major role in 2015 if the opposition hoped to dislodge the then ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), from power and prevent them from fulfilling Vincent Ogbulafor’s prediction of ruling for 60 years.
Coming together with other political parties and groups, Asiwaju assembled a team that was just unbeatable; a coalition whose core objectives were to wrestle power from a party that has become rudderless and arrogant with power. He galvanized the opposition by mustering human and material resources, effectively using the media, to convince Nigerians that the time had come to take a look at a robust alternative to the ruling party.
The result of his efforts and that of others was the Buhari presidency. So, it will not be out of place for Asiwaju to take a cursory look at the future of the country and map out the contributions he thinks he can make to make it a better one for us and our children. With more than four decades of public service, he absolutely has what it takes to lead Nigeria to the next level.
The country at this time needs a steady hand who has seen it all; a man who has the reach and contacts, both home and abroad; a man who is not a neophyte and will not learn on the job; someone who knows the right button to press to get the job done; and someone who is both pragmatic and visionary. That man in my view is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu!
Tinubu is bringing to the table enough experience in politics, economics, human capacity development, the right temperament and persuasive powers. And I have no doubt in my mind that he will make a great president if given the opportunity to fly the flag of our great party and extension, occupy Aso rock.
Consequently, we have a choice to make as a party and a nation. A choice between a man who has consistently shown that he’s a fearless democrat; a man who will stop at nothing in making sure that the right thing is done for the betterment of the people; and a man who has tremendous capacity to manage people and their interests.
The APC has a duty to ensure a level playing field for all the candidates to stand a chance in the general elections. With that, I have little doubt that our own Asiwaju will get the ticket and subsequently win the presidential election.
Olulade, was a two-term member of the Lagos State House of Assembly and currently a House of Reps aspirant from Epe, Lagos State
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Peter Obi As Nigeria’s Rosa Parks
By Festus Adedayo
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, a 42-year-old woman named Rosa Parks did what philosophers call against method. Paul Feyeraband, an Austrian philosopher, had in 1976 pioneered that thesis. In a racial American society of the time where blacks were inferior and were expected to leave their bus seats for whites, Parks refused to give up hers for a white male passenger. Her refusal sparked a boycott that changed the paradigm of racial relationships in America. It even shot the less-known Martin Luther King Jr. to world recognition. At the risk of sanctions for her impudence, Parks had reportedly told the Montgomery bus driver: “My feet are tired”.
In a Nigeria where the curriculum vitae of some presidential aspirants is as opaque as the sky, birth details shawled in a translucent towel, real name a subject of needless controversy, birth and parenthood a curious pouch fallen from space on an island nobody wants to touch, schooling history smelling like a miasma and wrapped up in a shroud, Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, was born Peter Gregory Obi on July 19, 1961, in Onitsha, Anambra State and attended Christ the King College, Onitsha, and later, the University of Nigeria, graduating with a B.A. (Hons) in Philosophy in 1984. Thereafter, he ventured into business, becoming the chairman of Fidelity Bank, among other concerns.
The most outstanding and worthy narrative about Obi is the records he left in public office. Obi is a refreshing breeze in the governance space, leaving an unbeatable governmental footpath of prudence, probity and empathetic governance towards the people he administered as governor from 2006 to 2014. He was not loved by Anambra political vermin who could not stand his accountable governance and obsession with prioritizing the welfare of the citizens of the state.
Obi disdains waste, whether at the personal or governmental level. Wealthy by any standard but, unlike the typical Nigerian politician who is enveloped in vanity, Obi lives a frugal life that shows that wealth is nothing except targeted at developing humanity. He abhors pretence and vain flaunting of wealth. When agents of the maggots-wriggling political order that has limited Nigeria’s growth for decades criticize Obi for allegedly flaunting inaccurate statistics, ask them when last did any of the senescent candidates they willingly offer themselves as their lackeys, ever attempted to bandy any figure, extempore?
Of all the characters who strut around like turtle doves, pregnant with illicit ambitions to enter the office of the Nigerian president, none demonstrates or possesses Obi’s piety, grasp and depth. When you scrutinize those aspiring to preside over the destiny of over 200 million Nigerians, they have no destiny of worth aside from their unaccountable wealth. On the moral scores above, it will be a crying shame that Nigeria ever allowed them to attempt to square up with Obi for an office that, if we get it right, can forever change our dialogue with poverty and underdevelopment.
In records of fidelity to the public space where they have all been at one point or the other, none of the duo of APC and PDP presidential candidates has Obi’s baffling records of abidance with the oath of governmental purity, virtue, goodness, decency, morality, decorum, modesty and wholesomeness. This is what public officers swear to uphold. Isn’t it a huge disappointment that the narrative of Obi’s investment of Anambra money is what engages these jobless political parasites and not the moral pedigree of those who totally filched investments in their care in office and who, God forbid, are poised to rule and ruin them?
When some Nigerians with ulterior motives now seek to justify the illusion of the Hobson’s choice before them by claiming that morality should play second fiddle in who becomes the Nigerian president in 2023, they must be saying this in their acute naivety of the cusp of Golgotha that immorality has taken Nigeria. For a country which ranked at an all-time low position of 154th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, we must not allow those who want to rule us in 2023 to wriggle out of making corruption an issue at the ballot.
Bloomberg, a media company headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, in a piece published on June 22, 2022, said the candidates dare not campaign that they want to eradicate corruption. Except for Obi. Due to the huge hole that corruption has bored into the fabrics of the Nigerian public and private life, the graft pedigree of the Nigerian public service has become a top campaign issue in Nigeria’s last two presidential elections. Remember the “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us” mantra? Bloomberg then wonders how the two main candidates who are seen as poster boys of corruption in public service and with a long “history of graft allegations surrounding” them, will raise corruption as a goblin they intend to battle if elected the Nigerian president.
According to this June 22 Bloomberg publication, just three decades ago, one of the presidential candidates “fought a lawsuit in which the US government accused him of laundering the proceeds of heroin trafficking and eventually reached a settlement”. Bloomberg also claimed that: “In July 1993, when (the candidate) briefly served as a Nigerian senator, the US government filed a forfeiture lawsuit in Chicago against bank accounts in his name, claiming there was ‘probable cause’ to believe they held the proceeds of heroin dealing. The case followed a probe by the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies into a trafficking network involving Nigerian suppliers”.
The PDP candidate, said Bloomberg, “brought tens of millions of dollars of ‘suspect funds’ into the US when he was Nigeria’s vice president in the 2000s, according to a US senate report, and was implicated in a bribery case that resulted in the imprisonment of an American congressman. Neither episode resulted in charges against the man who is now the PDP presidential candidate”. The report also said that a report published in 2010 by the US senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations claimed that Jennifer, one of (his) wives, was complicit in helping her husband, who was then the VP, bring in over $40 million of ‘suspect funds’ into the US, ‘including at least $1.7 million in bribes paid by Siemens AG”. How can we be stuck with such rotten cabbages for breakfast? As we speak, none of the two candidates has put up a rebuttal of Bloomberg’s claims.
In all that has been written against Obi, none has been able to link him with dubiety in public service. A few put up are so laughable and effete efforts at placing him side by side with his disreputable allies in the race. Indeed, Nigeria needs a capable leadership that can tackle insecurity, restore public confidence in leadership, bring Nigeria from its consumerist to production economy, lift up the people’s sagging morale and all that, but the mere realisation that an ‘Ali Baba and the 40 thieves’ president inhabits Aso Rock will do incalculable harm to the image of Nigeria, thereby pushing the issue of resolution of the Nigerian graft conundrum far down the abyss. That is why corruption should be more urgent in resolution than, I dare say, restoring Nigeria’s economy to its shape. Western countries which have profiled the APC and PDP candidates as robbers of the public till will most likely hold back in entrusting international funds in their care.
Attempts by vultures of the social media to demonize Peter Obi can be likened to a pithy saying in Yoruba which is expressed as a short anecdote of a sick man who apparently wishes those who tender him on the sick bed to be sick like him. When asked what he would have for dinner, the sick man demanded a green snake-made pepper soup and amala. Who does not know that killing a green snake is fraught with danger? This is expressed as; “da bi mo se da baba olokunrun, to ni omi tooro abirusoro lo wu ohun je oka”. The gambit is that Obi must be brought to their inveterate level by all means. He must also have his own Alpha Beta where he collects 10% from the Anambra state government. His total existence must symptomize fakery. Some of these vultures even go to the absurd level of abusing him for leaving money behind in Anambra coffers, saying he was not elected to save money, unlike their own god who was apparently elected to plunge his state into eternal debts.
To be fair to those fascinated by, in the words of Oscar Wilde, the gutters and everything that is in it, an Obi presidency has the potential of signalling a nunc dimittis to public corruption in Nigeria. Going the other route with the progenies of corruption can only lead to infamy. In Obi is a leader whose life will be a mirror that the led will pattern their lives towards and there will be sanity in public service. Recruits of #OperationPullPeterDown don’t just get it or are too naïve to connect with it. While no one is saying Peter Obi is a saint, the two candidates of APC and PDP are moral midgets beside an integrity colossus like Peter. Rebuilding Nigeria is an imperative but not a rebuilding on quicksand which handing Nigeria into the hands of an amoral leadership epitomizes.
On the superficial, voting for Obi looks like a waste of franchise. How can someone profess a disruptive leadership that will wipe clean wastage, corruption and elite gang-up hope to win a Nigerian presidency that is teleguided by people who Dele Momodu classically referred to as “owners of Nigeria” and who are maggots that only thrive in sewage? However, it is in the interest of the Nigerian political class to redeem themselves by, for once, stepping down from queuing behind the same rotten characters who have kept Nigeria down and with whom there is no hope of redemption for the country.
Unfortunately, the so-called owners of Nigeria, the power daemons, must favour one of these characters to be on the ballot. This is the time that the international community must openly support a quest for a better Nigeria which Obi personifies. On a personal note, my frustration about Nigeria being, head or tail, in a cul-de-sac of a Robinhood-led presidency almost pushed me into despondency. It was the reason why, last week, I had to seek consolation in the APC and PDP candidates’ probable redemptive presidency.
However, the infectious awareness and mobilization campaigns of the Nigerian youth, most of whose future has been rendered opaque by these same characters who collaboratively destroyed their tomorrow since 1999, have lifted my spirit. These same youths spoke in October 2020 at the Lekki Toll Gate and in many parts of Nigeria where they were mowed down by agents of selfsame persons now asking for their votes. With a movement being coordinated by youths like Debo Adedayo (Mr Macaroni); Folarin Falana (Falz), and others, optimism was born in me anew. Whether Obi wins or not isn’t an issue. What is at issue is our collective antagonism against a decadent order. In any case, who says the ancient Latin maxim, Vox Populi, Vox Dei has lost its savour?
The attacks against Peter Obi are ostensibly from rabid supporters of both the PDP and APC presidential candidates. Bloomberg called these candidates “the two wealthy septuagenarians”. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who does not know that the two political principalities however transcend the baggage of their ages into exampling a rotten order of Nigerian politics.
If you listen to narratives by hunters who go into the heart of the forest in search of dangerous animals for venison, you will have a window into an explanation of our world. Hunters tell us, for instance, that when you hear the chirping noise of a squirrel, a snake is loitering by. Squirrels’ chirps are alarm signals given both to warn off a predator and to warn other squirrels of danger. When squirrels give out this noise repeatedly, the hunter’s gun must be at the ready. A viper, boa constrictor or rattlesnake is poised for a strike.
The forest is a huge resource for the explanation of the human world. It is why hunters claim to have access to three worlds – the animal world, the spirit world and the world of the forest. For those who think this peculiar world ends with humanity, those scary stories show us clearly that this cosmos is one huge world where human beings act as one leg of a tripod of a dramatic space relationship.
If you possess the inner, third eye of the hunter and his alertness and you see the desperation and multiplicity of attacks on the social media against the person of Obi, it will make you recall that squirrel narrative. It will seem to indicate that, in Obi, for the Nigerian politician who is acquiesced to ruining the lives of the people in every election cycle, danger lurks in the neighbourhood. Yoruba hunters eventually wove this squirrel narrative into an aphorism. They say’, “he who will live old enough to bury their parents is never found where there is a chirp of squirrels” – “eni ti y’o sin’ya ati baba re ki duro ni’bi okere ba ti nse”. Like the squirrel narrative above, blessed with clairvoyance deep enough to see danger and threat to a long-established graft empire far off, Obi’s emergence typifies an acute danger to this decadent order. And thus, the chirps.
On the road leading to the 2023 election, Peter Obi seems to have cloned Rosa Parks. Like Parks who refused to accept the intimidation of the white establishment and accept racial evil as fait accompli, Obi is biting the bullet for us and our children yet unborn. He is daring these daemons and maggots of power.
Our children in universities are five months at home, idling their future away. Diesel is almost N1,000 while the Nigerian currency is flat on its belly, grovelling before other currencies of worth. Nigerians are foraging through debris containers for daily bread. Terrorists rip off our bellies at their whims. Our country has become alien to us. The almost eight years of leadership tragedy that Muhammadu Buhari presides over is comatose while he is busy drinking cold fura and nunu.
Peter Obi, on our behalf, is saying that our feet are tired. Nigerians should refuse to give up their votes to those who took us down this dungeon of hopelessness, damn the consequences by voting for who will reshape our lives.
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Oyebanji: Taming The Jinx Of Ekiti Succession Bogey
By Wole Olujobi
The Ekiti State’s succession jinx is finally doomed and the ashes of the spell interred in the bowel of its doomsday June 18, 2022 poll verdict. In an unmistakable bang, the eddy of regimental succession blackout has been unbundled and shattered by the furious thumbs of foresighted Ekiti voters that have since been hungry for the sustenance of development strides midwifed by Governor Kayode Fayemi between 2010 and 2014, before the outage between 2014 and 2018 reversed the Fayemi-inspired fortunes. Now that the succession current flows and the tide is smooth, inspiring rank fortunes must of necessity set sail through the canvas of June 18 political duel to set Ekiti State on the interminable voyage to self-redemption.
As the June 18 poll did the magic, it was indeed a masterful summary arrest of growth arrester that had stalked Ekiti State since democratic governance berthed in 1999 in the Fountain of Knowledge founded on the Land of Honour.
Fayemi, a legacy governor and visionary of no mean depth, has set the records, breaking the unedifying cycle of power rotation bug between the earnest visionaries and vicious potentates whose creed is the beatification and canonisation of genteel poverty sainted and scented in “suffering and smiling”, as a way of life. For the latter, to be ungenteel is far worse than to admit failure in their development strategies.
In the sustained thirst for unbroken governance process for development, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji (BAO), in the manner of John the Baptist, bore the torch of Fayemi’s visionary leadership and rang the bell of redemption, quixoting in the scintillating slopes and luscious hills of Ekiti landscape to seek the approval of Ekiti people to make him the captain of the political missioners that will shape the fortunes of the state for good.
Oyebanji’s political bible of six chapters in his mission is in form of a six-point agenda incorporating Job Creation; Human Capital Development; Agriculture and Industrialisation; Arts, Culture and Tourism; and Governance.
His priorities include growing the economy and creating jobs for youths; investing in human capital development required to safeguard people’s lives; completing strategic infrastructure projects in transport, agriculture and power projects to improve quality of life; and making the state competitive for businesses of all sizes while also providing a conducive environment and sustainable welfare package for workers, retirees and traditional institutions.
In Youth Development and Job Creation scheme, Oyebanji promised during campaigns to exploit his initiative in four major areas of emphasis. These include developing Ekiti Knowledge Zone to ensure broadband connectivity within five kilometres of every location in Ekiti State, concluding Special Economic Zone status for Ekiti Knowledge Zone to deepen attractiveness to investors and attracting critical mass of technology companies to the zone.
Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency, according to him, will be restructured into public-private partnership with the government providing seed funding to ensure adequate access to finance medium and small scale enterprises while vocational training, incentives, and reward schemes for value-creating industries to encourage better loan performance and business growth would be provided.
Other plans to achieve this include strengthening vocational training centres to have capacity to fill identified skills gaps and supporting Ekiti State Polytechnic to ensure it can provide the talent required for agribusiness while digital skills training of at least 5,000 youths would be commenced to provide the talent required to be globally competitive.
Others are strengthening collabotation among the state’s tertiary institutions by optimising the Ekiti Regional Education Network and introducing coding camps and classes in primary and secondary schools across the state.
The goal in Human Capital Development, he said, is to provide quality education with foundation required to build successful lives and ensure access to affordable and quality health for all and to protect poor people while water and sanitation services would be provided to improve hygiene for all.
To achieve this, Oyebanji assured that he would continue Fayemi’s free and compulsory education up to SS3, improve learning environment and deepen the use of Internet while teaching staff would be motivated to improve learning and outcomes.
He added that health insurance scheme would be provided to guarantee access to basic health care, even as hospitals renovation would continue while practice standards would be set across the hospitals.
The social investment component, according to him, will emphasise partnership with the civil society and social enterprise to deliver sustainable solutions to community needs while investments will be made in programmes, infrastructure and human capacity for the welfare of the elderly people and people living with disabilities, including strengthening the existing laws to protect vulnerable people.
Water and sanitation schemes, he promised, would be enhanced to ensure access to safe water supply, including encouraging private sector and community initiatives to encourage delivery of sustainable water and sanitation services to reduce hygiene-related sickness and mortality, while Egbe and Ero dams would be optimised to supply water across the state.
In his Agriculture and Rural Development plan, Oyebanji said his goal included developing rural communities, supporting farmers and improving productivity in agricultural sector. He is to achieve this by creating Special Agriculture Processing Zone with focus to provide infrastructure for agribusiness; enhance all the dams in the state and support the development of pipeline infrastructure for irrigation coverage within the zone; and provide incentives that will encourage establishment of agricbusiness factories across the state.
In the rural development component, Oyebanji planned to embark on rural roads covering 500 kilometres of farm roads, all completed by 2024, while cooperatives and associations would be strengthened to improve productivity in cassava, rice, cocoa, cashew, maize, yam and vegetables.
According to him, communities will participate in budget and planning processes that inform the implementation of community-led projects while Ekiti State Community and Social Developmemt Agency ( EKSCIDA) will be empowered to implement projects that enhance the socio-economic status of suburban and rural communities.
According to the blueprint, Oyebanji’s goal in infrastructure and industrialisation is to deliver new and ongoing projects that will increase power supply and extend and maintain the state’s transportation networks; deliver selected intercity roads for phased rehabilitation, including strengthening the capacity of the Public Works Corporation, to maintain all state roads and deliver selected intercity roads that connect major towns and boost commercial activities; and commence full passenger and cargo transportation at the new Ado Airport.
The power infrastructure is part of the bargain with emphasis to deepen Independent Power Projects to cover both industrial and knowledge zones while mini- grids will be developed to ensure power supply to unserved and underserved communities, even as his administration will collaborate with the Federal Government to complete the Ilupeju and Ijesa-Isu substations and 132/33KV transmission lines to increase electricity supplied to Ekiti State.
In his Arts, Culture and Tourism policy, Oyebanji’s goal is to develop the state’s tourism industry by investing in the state’s attractions, cultural endowments and assets.
To achieve this, he plans to designate the Ipole-Iloro-Ikogosi corridor as a Special Tourism Zone, including providing security, infrastructure, power and broadband within the Zone and encourage public private participation schemes to develop a Film Village and other cultural attractions while Ekiti Airport will be provided with a special section on tourism to drive domestic and international tourism activities. Concessions on existing tourism assets in Ikogosi, Ipole-Iloro and Ero Dams will be optimised.
According to Oyebanji, he also plans to enhance Arts and Culture sector by developing strategic partnership to grow Ekiti State’s tourism assets while support will be given to young creatives entrepreneurs to grow their skills, including identifying strategic locations in the state, such as Ero Dam, Ipole-Iloro and Olosunta Hills, for hospitality development.
In Governance, Oyebanji’s goal is to focus on the 30-year development plan guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. His plans to achieve this include designing a sustainable programme to clear all outstanding salary and pension obligations and ensure full compliance with the contributory pension scheme policy and improving the working environment of the civil service, including the renovation of the state secretariat, to include provision of broadband connectivity.
He is also to enhance security across the state by providing logistic and equipment supports to the security agencies and deepen use of CCTV and drone surveillance for security and achieve synergy across various security agencies, including recruitment of more officers into the Amotekun Corps, to complement the existing security agencies.
The new governor in his planning and development agenda will prioritise implementation of the 30-year development plan and ensure policies and budgets are aligned with the plan while also deepening collaboration with the Federal Government and development partners in support of Ekiti State to achieve the sustainable Development Goals and targets.
In the June 18, 2022 governorship election that followed, Ekiti people were convinced that Oyebanji, who has climbed to their hearts and having never failed in integrity test, deserved their support. They gave him a resounding victory, polling 187, 057 landslide votes to defeat his closest rival, Segun Oni, who scored 82, 311 votes in the victory that sent Ekiti people into wild jubilation amid drumming and dancing.
The soapbox rhetoric is over for Oyebanji after collecting his Certificate of Return at INEC office, Ado-Ekiti, today June 22, 2022. Now is the beginning of the scheme to execute the much-needed interminable voyage to the Promised Land that has been elusive since 2003. Fayemi is the incubator of that dream and history. Oyebanji is the child of destiny that will bear the tabernacle of the sacrament of continuity agenda for sustainable development and progress for Ekiti people.
It is a new dawn in the state’s development process that must be jealously guided to avoid the pitfalls of the past that fated succession schemes to the devouring tongue of sphinx. Ekiti State must remain firm in the loop of growth and development to maintain her sovereign sway in the league of developed societies.
Deputy Director, Media and Publicity
BAO Campaign Organisation
June 22, 2022
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How NBA Players Ignite Basketball’s Exciting And Finest Moments
By Ehi Braimah
The National Basketball Association (NBA) season ended last week on a high note with so many bright spots that included excitement, competitive spirit, glamour and honours. The best four of seven series finals had Golden State Warriors taking on Boston Celtics. After six games, the Warriors beat Celtics 4 – 2 and were subsequently crowned champions of the basketball league – their first championship since 2018, making it their fourth title in the last eight years.
In those eight years, Warriors appeared in the finals six times (2015 – 2019 and 2022). The team’s great come back and their journey to NBA success was fueled by a determination to shake off the lethargy that refused to go away, especially in the last two seasons when the team could not make it to the NBA play offs. Golden State Warriors struggled to return to the limelight mainly due to injuries of the players.
The trio of Stephen Curry, arguably the best shooter in the world and Warriors’ point guard; Klay Thompson and Draymond Green supported by Jordan Poole, Anthony Wiggins and Kevin Looney gave the team a great lift throughout the season.
The streets of San Francisco, California, USA were turned into huge carnival grounds with a cheering and appreciative crowd rejoicing with the NBA Champions when they returned to their base.
Denver Nuggets (owned by Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, owners of Arsenal FC), Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks could not stop the Warriors before the final playoff with Boston Celtics on their way to winning the tile.
It is important to point out that Curry, Thompson and Green share the distinction of playing the highest number of championships together, matching the record of the trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili of San Antonio Spurs.
Whereas we cannot rule out moments of exaggerated swagger among the players, which can be associated with typical American “confidence” culture, one fact cannot be dismissed: NBA players have style, great skills and confidence that can be mistaken for arrogance. Overall, the teams have a winning attitude.
Legends of the game include Michael “Air” Jordan, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jaber, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Nigeria’s Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon.
But 34-year-old Stephen Curry stole the show during the highly entertaining Game 6 to close the 2021-22 season, winning his first Most Valuable Player award (MVP) – also known as the Bill Russell trophy awarded since the 1969 NBA Finals – in six Finals appearances. He can be compared to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in tennis, and Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo in football – renowned sportsmen who are household names and belong to the same generation.
When the final series began, it was Celtics that won the first game, beating Warriors 120 – 108. It was tied at Game 2 when Warriors beat Celtics 107 – 88. It became a ding-gong affair or what we popularly call “family game” because Boston Celtics won Game 3, beating Warriors 116 – 100, followed by Game 4 won by Golden State Warriors, 107 – 97. It was a tie (2 – 2) after four games but the NBA Finals champion is the first team to win four games.
Warriors won Game 5 (104 – 94) and Game 6 (103 -90), thereby clinching the top prize after the buzzer sounded the end of fourth quarter. Boston Celtics could easily have won the NBA title because they had taken the lead 2 – 1 in Game 3, but Warriors, inspired by superstar Curry, fought back, winning the three straight games that followed.
Even in Game 6, Warriors had a 22-point advantage which Celtics closed down to nine points – a commendable and dramatic turn around which created more exciting moments inside TD Garden, the home ground of Boston Celtics. Curry’s MVP recognition was clearly the icing on the cake of the Warriors’ NBA title.
By winning his fourth NBA championship title which looked unlikely a year ago, Curry entered an exclusive club of players who have won four titles and two regular-season MVPs: Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and LeBron James. Curry becomes the seventh.
At 6’2, Curry is currently the toast of basketball fans worldwide after his superlative performance and Finals MVP recognition. He scored 36 points in Game 6 and it is therefore not surprising that he is being described as a player who has changed the face of basketball the most since Wilt Chamberlain.
Three points scoring specialist Curry did not hide the fact that his wife, Ayesha, has been a strong and constant pillar of support, especially after missing three months due to a broken hand. Ayesha’s emotional support from the home front helped the healing process of his hand.
After the Warriors win, love-struck Curry embraced his wife in the middle of the court to show his appreciation. His father, Dell, and mother, Sonya, a Christian of deep faith, were present during the tension-soaked game alongside other family members. Sonya revealed in her book, ‘Fierce Love: A Memoir of Family, Faith and Purpose’ released May 3, that she nearly aborted Curry’s pregnancy but the Holy Spirit intervened. Curry is also a devout Christian with a heart of gold, expressing love and affection for the needy.
Losing to the Warriors was painful as Ime Udoka, a Nigerian-American and coach of the Celtics, later admitted at a post-game conference. “The defeat will hurt us for a while but the future is bright,” Udoka said confidently. Keeping up the score was not easy, especially with MVP Curry lurking around for his 3-pointers.
Udoka, a former assistant coach of Brooklyn Nets, is the first Nigerian and African to be head coach of an NBA franchise. Celtics’ colour is green and each time they play, you will see Udoka, players and fans donning the green jersey, reminding one of Nigeria’s unmistakable green identity.
It was a “Proudly Naija” moment for me as the green colour evoked Nigerian sentiments, connecting me and other Nigerians who watched the game to Udoka, 44; a worthy ambassador who is doing Nigeria proud with his accomplishments at Boston Celtics.
Udoka played for and captained D’Tigers to the AfroBasket tournament in 2005 and 2011, where they won bronze both times. He also represented Nigeria at the 2006 FIBA World Championships, leading the team in scoring, assists and steals.
His sister, Mfon, also played for Nigeria, captaining D’Tigress to the 2004 Summer Olympics, where she was second in the tournament in scoring and rebounding even as Nigeria finished 11th out of 12 teams. They became the first African team to ever win a game at the Olympics. Udoka also led Nigeria at the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women.
Mfon played in the Women’s NBA and also worked briefly as assistant coach of D’Tigress.
The NBA is an excellent model for basketball development anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) has been rocked by a leadership crisis that has torn the basketball federation apart since Tijani Umar’s tenure as president ended. NBBF has not known peace since then.
Umar refused to follow through on an agreement of a two-term tenure limit at the expiration of his second term. We have been saddled with a needless crisis in NBBF resulting in two factional leaders since 2017, with Umar and Musa Kida claiming to be presidents. This madness has been going on for five years. Can anyone tell me what Umar and Kida are fighting over?
There was a sort of uneasy compromise at a stage, with Kida in charge of the national teams and Umar handling domestic matters, including the leagues.
However, as the crisis lingered, sponsors began to withdraw from bankrolling domestic tournaments. Kwese ended their sponsorship of the men’s league and Zenith Bank stopped paying for the women’s league after the 2019 championship.
Since 2019, there has been no major basketball tournament in the country. FIBA, the sport’s global ruling body, intervened several times and there appeared to be a resolution ahead of the 2021 elections.
However, despite FIBA being present at the Congress in Benin City in January this year where Kida was re-elected, the crisis did not end. A hastily put together parallel election was held in Abuja which produced Mark Igoche as another factional president, believed to have the surreptitious backing of sports minister, Sunday Dare.
Citing the crisis, the federal government in May, prompted by the sports ministry, banned Nigeria from taking part in international basketball events for the next two years. It was a rather queasy way of de-marketing Nigeria and hurting our players.
The ministry also cited the withdrawal of sponsors from the game, court cases holding up the national league and a lack of home-based players in the national team, even as the men’s and women’s teams continue to make giant strides in recent years.
Some of the other reasons include the inability of Nigerian clubs to participate in the NBA-backed Basketball Africa League because of the leadership tussle, threats by the men’s and women’s national teams to boycott tournaments over unpaid entitlements, and the refusal to allow the sports ministry’s intervention.
Sports lovers and basketball fans as well as stakeholders of the game are disappointed over the leadership crisis that is largely motivated by selfish interests and an over bloated sense of entitlement. The implications of the two-year withdrawal are grim for Nigeria’s national teams who are doing well.
D’Tigress, the women’s team, will not be able to attend the FIBA World Cup in Australia in September for which they have already qualified. FIBA has already replaced them with Mali.
Both D’Tigress and D’Tigers, the men’s team, will miss the AfroBasket tournaments. D’Tigress are the women’s champions and have won the last three editions of the continental tournament.
The men, D’Tigers, are the top rated team in Africa having won the AfroBasket title in 2015 and represented the continent at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
D’Tigers, made up of NBA players like Miami Heat’s Gabe Nnamdi Vincent, Toronto Raptors’ Precious Achiuwa, Jalil Okafor (then with the Detroit Pistons but now based in China) and Milwaukee Bucks’ Jordan Nwora and others based in Europe also became the first African team in history to defeat the US men’s team in a tune-up game for the Olympics.
Both national teams will also miss the Olympics in Paris in 2024 because they will not take part in the qualifying tournaments. D’Tigers and D’Tigress will also definitely lose their status as the No.1 men’s and women’s African teams in the FIBA rankings if this ill-advised decision is not reversed.
Nigeria will likely lose its current crop of US-born players who have brought so much success and international recognition to Nigeria in recent years. It is indeed sad that Nigeria will also no longer be attractive to such players in the future.
My son, Ehiaghe, is an ardent fan of Arsenal FC, but he is also a basketball devotee and staunch supporter of Golden State Warriors. Ehis’ knowledge of NBA’s history and records is deep and playmaker Steph Curry is his favourite player.
We watched the Warriors versus Celtics game together with his elder brother Ose, another dyed-in-the-wool Arsenal FC fan but he supports Milwaukee Bucks. My wife was in her corner rooting for Warriors to win because of Ehis.
Ehis explained why he is passionate about the game. “I love basketball because I played the game in high school. The level of competition and skills displayed consistently by great players in the NBA is truly amazing,” he said.
“I know how hard it is to play basketball; a player must be fit because the game is energy-sapping. I started following Golden State Warriors in 2015 after watching the game between Houston Rockets and the Warriors.
“I’d been hearing about Steph Curry but I had never seen him play. On that day, he literally destroyed the Rockets. And I said, ‘Wow, this guy is fantastic’. Since then, I fell in love with the way the team plays, and how Steph dances around the court with his incredible skills, especially his shooting ability.”
My conversation with Ehis, the NBA analyst, continued and he explained that 82 games are played during the regular season by 30 teams in the western and eastern conferences of the NBA league from October to early April the following year, with 15 teams in each conference.
The NBA has a win-loss record system with the 15 teams in each conference that will determine their standings. After the regular season is complete, the first six teams in each conference is guaranteed a playoff spot, while the teams from the 7th to 10th positions will play a play-in tournament to determine the remaining two spots in each conference.
This is followed by three rounds of play-offs before the Finals from April to June. These play-offs begin with 16 teams, with the best eight in each conference. Intra-conference teams play each other not more than four times whereas the inter-conference teams play each other twice.
There’s a first round, second round, a conference finals, and a NBA finals that consists of the two teams that win each conference in a best of seven series, in which the first team to win four games wins the series.
The eight teams in each conference round up the NBA playoff tournament which begins in late March/early April.
In the western conference in the season that just ended, Golden State Warriors beat Dallas Mavericks 4 – 1 while Boston Celtics beat Miami Heats 4 – 3 to set the stage for the Finals between Warriors and Celtics, giving each team seven opportunities to win four games.
Toronto Raptors – the only NBA team outside the United States – won the NBA title in 2019 after beating Golden State Warriors and Kawhi Leonard won the Finals MVP. In 2020, LA Lakers beat Miami Heats and LeBron James won the Finals MVP.
Then in 2021, Milwaukee Bucks beat Phoenix Suns to win the title, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nigerian-born but raised in Greece, won the Finals MVP.
Ehis argued that Milwaukee Bucks would have made it to the Finals again this year but the team lost to Boston Celtics in the second round of the play-offs in the eastern conference. Bucks suffered a major setback as their second best player, Khris Middleton, was injured. Giannis Antetokounmpo, their best player and his other team mates, were stopped by Celtics.
By popular acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest NBA player of all time. He played 15 seasons in the NBA, winning six championships with the Chicago Bulls as a shooting guard. Shortly after joining the Bulls in 1984, Jordan’s defensive skills and leaping ability turned him into a rising star and global celebrity.
His slam dunking and leaping abilities earned him the nicknames “Air Jordan” and “His Airness” which were commercialised through product endorsement with Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers that were introduced in 1984.
Jordan retired three times but his intimidating NBA accomplishments include six Finals MVP awards, 10 NBA scoring titles (both all-time records),five NBA MVP awards, 10 All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honours, 14 NBA All-Star Game selection, three NBA All-Star Game MVP awards and NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award amongst others.
In the 1995-96 season, Chicago bulls won 72 out of the 82 regular games of the season – an incredible feat.
LeBron James of LA Lakers comes close as the only player to have won four championship titles and four Finals MVPs with three different teams, having also played for Miami Heats and Cleveland Cavaliers. James and LA Lakers did not make the playoffs in the highly competitive league.
A new season begins in October and by this time next year, another NBA champion would be known.
Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)
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