Saturday, 10 December 2016

Super Falcons as Federal Government’s albatross

The Aso Villa Chapel was always a beehive of activities during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. I featured activities in the worship centre many times in this column during that administration.
When members were not celebrating Fathers’ Day, they would be marking Mothers’ Day or other Christian festivities with fanfare. Many people would be falling on one another with the sole purpose of attracting the attention of the then President, his wife and many other powerful men in the government.
The worship centre came alive again last Sunday when it held its end-of-the-year special thanksgiving. All former Nigerian heads of government and their deputies who are Christians were invited to the service.


Former Nigerian leaders who attended the service included former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.);  former Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan; former Chief of General Staff, Gen. Oladipo Diya (retd.); former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme; and Rear Admiral Ebitu Ukiwe (retd.).
For Obasanjo, it was a homecoming because it was during his civilian administration that the chapel was built. He was the one who handed the chapel over to Jonathan who was Vice-President to late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
The former President was asked to read the first lesson of the service. He did not carry out the assignment without adding drama in his usual manner. “Good morning, children of God,” Obasanjo started off after clearing his throat in what appears to have become his trademark. “Good morning, Baba,” the congregation replied in unison. “For me, it is a pleasure to be with you this morning,” the former President added before finally proceeding to read the first lesson from Luke 17: 11-19.
Later on as the service progressed, Obasanjo was asked to come and pray for the congregation. He mounted the podium but politely rejected the offer. “In our (military) profession, there is seniority. So I will defer to Gen. Gowon, my boss to come and pray,” he said amidst a loud applause from the congregation.
Unknown to many people, it was Gowon who was first contacted to offer the prayers and it was the former military leader that nominated Obasanjo for the assignment. So what Obasanjo simply did was to adopt the “back to sender” approach.
Gowon let the cat out of the bag when he finally agreed to pray. But like Obasanjo, he also started the prayer session with preambles during which he accused Obasanjo of successfully plotting a coup against him. For somebody who said he was in the chapel for the first time, he did not allow that opportunity to go without talking at length about the efforts made by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to ensure that he attended the service.
Gowon said, “What has just happened is that Gen. Obasanjo has just done a coup against me. This is not the first time. The pastor approached me to pray and I said Gen. Obasanjo should do it. Did you see what he did? There is always seniority in the Army.”
Turning to Osinbajo, Gowon recalled how the Vice-President contacted him personally and invited him for the service. He told the congregation that his immediate response was that he had an appointment to keep at about the same time in Benin Republic. The former military leader said Osinbajo promised to arrange an aircraft to pick him in Benin Republic in the morning, which he did.
Attributing his presence at the chapel to God, Gowon said the aircraft that came to pick him initially had difficulty in landing because of poor visibility. He said the pilot had to do a return and later came back to pick him. “It is Almighty that made it possible for me to come,” he said.
All this while, the congregation members were already in the mood of prayer but Gowon was not done yet. He again told them how he does not normally pray although he organises a national prayer programme called Nigeria Prays. He confessed that during the prayer meetings, he only orders people to pray.
When it was Osinbajo’s turn to move the vote of thanks, he also attracted a loud applause when he described Obasanjo as the founding bishop of the chapel by virtue of the fact that it was his administration that built the worship centre. So in case you hear about one Bishop Obasanjo, the man in question is the same Ebora Owu that you know.
With the service over, the Vice-President granted a short press interview before he led his august guests to his official residence popularly called Aguda House for breakfast.
Super Falcons as Federal Government’s albatross
The nation’s senior female football team, Super Falcons, again did the nation proud last Saturday when the team won the CAF African Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon. They beat the host country, Cameroon, to win the trophy for a record eighth time.
The country erupted in joy. President Muhammadu Buhari led other top government officials to congratulate the ladies. He described the “hard-earned” victory over the Indomitable Lionesses as “very sweet and well-deserved.” He commended the Nigerian women for their “indomitable spirit, resilience and team work” which spurred them to victory in spite of a vociferous home crowd.
But that joy was short lived when news broke on Tuesday that the victorious Super Falcons had seized the trophy they won. The players had said they would hold on to the trophy until the authorities concerned offset the  N238.05m accumulated bonuses which they are being owed. They threatened that if Buhari refused to address their grievances at the Federal Executive Council’s meeting on Wednesday, they would embark on protest on the streets of Abuja.
When I asked the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, to react to the development after the post-FEC briefing on Wednesday, the minister attributed government’s inability to meet the demands of the players to what it called “biting economic situation.”
The shocker however came from the Minister of Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalung, when we asked him the same question on Thursday. The minister said the government did not expect the Super Falcons to win the competition and that was why the government was currently facing difficulties in paying the players’ entitlements!
How can the Federal Government send players to compete and it will expect failure? Dalung cannot be right on this matter. I recall that on November 8, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo paid a surprise visit to the Super Eagles and Super Falcons during their training sessions at the National Stadium, Abuja.
During the session with the Super Falcons, Osinbajo expressed the hope that the players, as defending champions, would retain the trophy in Cameroon. “I am happy that you girls are the reigning African champions, and I believe you will go to Cameroon and retain your trophy. The whole nation is behind you. You must start by beating Mali and then going all the way so as to bring the Cup back to Nigeria,” he said.
Is Dalung telling Nigerians that Osinbajo did not mean what he told the team?




Punch

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