Many followers of football in Nigeria are still in shock as Chelsea’s Victor Moses failed to make the cut for the final three shortlist of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF)’s Footballer of the Year award.
During the week, CAF came out with the names of the last three nominees for its award slated for January 4 in Accra, Ghana, with the name of Moses missing. Sergio Mane, Muhammed Sallah and Pierre-Emerrick Aubameyang made the cut for the gong.
We want to emphasise that Sallah was very consistent in the first half of the year with Italian team, Roma, and after he joined Liverpool in the summer, he again stepped up his game. He has scored 20 goals in all competitions for the Reds and he is the leading scorer in the EPL with 14 goals. For Egypt, Sallah was a key figure as he scored five goals and assisted in two out of the seven goals that qualified the North Africans for the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Also, Mane was the best player for Liverpool last season and the best for his country that also picked a ticket to the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Aubameyang was prolific by scoring 40 goals in all competitions in 2017 and won the German Cup with Borrussia Dortmund. He was the highest scorer in the German Bundesliga last season ahead of highly-rated stars like Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Rubben and Frank Ribbery.
We make bold to say that any Nigerian player aspiring to win the Africa Footballer of the Year award must first be the best or one of the best two players in his club and his league. For example, Sallah is currently the best player or one of the best two players in the English Premier League while Aubamayang is also one of the best in the Bundesliga.
We cannot say the same of Moses. No doubt, he did well in the team’s run, but he was not the most influential or the best performer in the team and in the league last season.
For the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)’s Footballer of the Year award, Chelsea and Moses were in the last five along with Egypt and Liverpool’s Sallah, RB Leipzig and Guinean midfielder, Naby Keita, Borussia Dortmund and Gabon forward, Aubameyang and Senegal /Liverpool’s Sadio Mane. Sallah won the award but, again, many Nigerians felt Moses was cheated.
It is important to evaluate situation without sentiments. We can say without fear or favour that Nigerian players were simply not good enough in the year under review.
We recall that Victor Ikpeba, in 1997 in the colours of Monaco, won the award ahead of Japhet Ndoram and fellow Nigerian, Taribo West. It was Nwankwo Kanu’s turn in 1999 as he won it ahead of Ibrahim Bakayoko of Cote d’Ivoire and Samuel Kuffour of Ghana.
18 years down the line, no Nigerian has won the award and this, we believe has affected the thinking of many followers of the game as they always want their countryman to be at the top.
On merit, it’s easy to evaluate athletes, especially footballers, because the statistics of every game will be there.
We are aware that due to club sentiments, nationality and preference to style of play, opinions are always divided on who wins the coveted Player of the Year award. For example, Cristiano Ronaldo was outstanding by winning the European Cup with Portugal and the Champions League with Real Madrid in the outgoing year, but some followers of the game preferred Lionel Messi of Barcelona. Ronaldo scored two goals for Real in the final of UEFA Champions League and he was a key figure in his country’s European glory.
The coaches and captains of national teams vote to help FIFA determine the winner, but it is interesting that they have different opinions, even when it is obvious that a particular player was exceptional. For the Ballon’ Dor and FIFA awards, some votes still went to Messi and even Neymar.
No doubt, the controversy on the nominations and eventual winners of this award at all levels will continue to recur over and over again.
The performance of the Super Eagles in the qualifying series of the Russia 2018 World Cup is a clear indication that Nigeria currently parades some of the best players on the continent. But it is time for these players to raise their game and be the best or among the best in their respective teams and leagues.
We believe it is embarrassing that despite the pedigree of the country in football on the continent, Super Eagles’ players remain on the back seat when it comes to the ultimate award in Africa.
The Russia 2018 World Cup is a big stage to perform well and be counted. We challenge the Super Eagles to double their efforts so that they can match the expectations of Nigerians who want to see them at the very top on the continent.
Ikorodu-Sagamu road: Matters arising
The Ikorodu-Sagamu road, which used to be the only road connecting Lagos with other parts of the country before the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, had been in a deplorable state and total neglect for many years. The strategic nature of the road makes it to bear heavy vehicular traffic, mainly petrol tankers and other haulage vehicles servicing Ikorodu Industrial Estate and the Ogijo Industrial hub, said to be the second most industrialised area in Ogun State. The economic importance of this road is not in doubt: 42 communities and 45 industries are situated along this road and its adjourning areas.
Of note among the industries are PZ Cussons at the Lagos end of the road, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC)’s Mosimi depot and Lafarge’s Cement factory at Sagamu at the Ogun State end. The Lagos State Polytechnic is among the educational institutions situated along this road, while the road also serves the 174 Battalion, Nigerian Army barracks. The movement of essential goods and petroleum products take place along this road and the arduous transit often leaves broken down trucks in its wake and the delays, which results are significant economic losses for those involved.
The road remains an alternate route linking Lagos to other parts of the country, especially on such days when there is heavy traffic on Lagos- Ibadan Expressway. That this road is economically significant is an understatement. Successive administrations in the country have ignored calls for the rehabilitation of this road.
Claims by a former Minister of Works under the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime to have rehabilitated the road turned out to be untrue. Since the inception of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, however, there had been cries from different quarters for the reconstruction of the very important road, necessitating visits by the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
One of such calls was by a member of the House of Representatives representing Remo Federal Constituency, Hon. Oladipupo Adebutu, who noted on the floor of the House that the road, which hosts several strategic installations and industrial plants such as the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company Limited (PPMC), is in “deplorable condition” and “continuously poses great danger to lives and property in the surrounding communities.”
The lawmaker noted that “the situation had caused high rate of fatal crashes, created gridlock and provided ample opportunities for armed robbery attacks on commuters and residents.”
Also, on May 9, 2016, the Lagos State House of Assembly urged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to repair portions of the Ikorodu- Sagamu Road to alleviate the suffering of the over 42 communities, estates and industries along the axis. It did not, therefore, come as a surprise when, on March 28, 2018, the Federal Government announced the reconstruction of the road at a cost of N20 billion.
A few weeks before the reconstruction nod by the Federal Government, however, Ogun State government suddenly commenced work on a portion of the road. Laudable as the move would have been, we make bold to say that the job being done, to say the least, was shoddy, as the already asphalt portion started giving way, two weeks after, necessitating patching.
This calls to question the ability of the construction company handling the job for Ogun State government to deliver the expected standard if allowed to continue the work. We believe that before any tier of government will embark on reconstruction of a federal road, agreement should have been reached on the quality and scope of work to be done, but in this instance, this definitely is not the case.
Considering the importance of the road to the nation’s economy, the need for an internationally accepted standard in road construction cannot be over emphasised.
We hope the eventual outcome of the recent disagreement between the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing and Ogun State government on the scope of work done and its quality will not result in compromise on standard construction work, which will be to the detriment of the larger society as anything short of a standard and long lasting reconstruction of the Ikorodu-Sagamu road will portray the Federal Government as a deceit. With the flag off of the project yesterday, we think it is imperative to alert the construction firm on areas of expected concentration such as the fly over on the slope before the Lagos State Polytechnic, the front of Ogijo Community High school, which requires a deep and wide bridge to discharge flood water from the adjourning areas, another suspended bridge at Labori Oloja, among others, should be specially attended to.
Ending assault on judiciary
What happened in Rivers State last week where a group of youths backed by some powerful politicians attacked the judiciary, chased away lawyers, judges and litigants out of a High Court premises during proceedings should be condemned by stakeholders if Nigeria’s democracy must thrive. It is bizarre that politicians have always seized every available opportunity not only to launch tirade against the judiciary when displeased with its verdicts, but engage thugs and hoodlums for physical attack. This is unacceptable.
The attack on the Rivers court amounted to abomination. It must be condemned as these hoodlums not only viciously attacked the premises of the High Court of Rivers State, Port Harcourt Judicial Division but destroyed property valued at millions of naira while leaving several persons injured.
According to reports, the gangsters with their backers, allegedly aided by security operatives invaded the court’s premises and chased away judicial officers following a disagreement between two factions of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over local government congress, where an aggrieved faction had gone to court to seek redress. And while the siege lasted, the hoodlums freely harassed innocent persons, leading to destruction of public property such as equipment, furniture stolen, vehicles were ransacked and damaged. This is not the first in our history.
Four years ago, a judge in the Ekiti Division of the court was assaulted while presiding over a political case. Thugs loyal to the then Governor-elect, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, disrupted proceedings and chased judges, lawyers and litigants away. Although Fayose denied that his supporters beat up a judge, describing the allegation as not only unfounded, but spurious, the thugs were allegedly identified by the then Chief Judge, Justice Ayodeji Daramola.
Four years on, perpetrators were not brought to book despite an open letter detailing the attack by Justice Daramola. It is also on record the judiciary has always been assaulted since the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari to power.
J u d g e s ’ residences were raided and Justices arrested in the odd hour of the night like common criminals. It is sad that those that are constitutionally charged and empowered to protect us from tyranny and the abuse of power are themselves under siege.
The judiciary needs to take its stand to forestall further recurrence of such if not it will become a recurrent decimal”. The Rivers court’s attack must not go the way of Ekiti State; it must be investigat-ed and perpetrators must be brought to justice as mere condemnation by stakeholders would not assuage the judiciary of the negative impact the assault had caused the third arm of government. We support the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, that perpetrators must be brought to book.
If they get away with the assault on the judiciary and the perpetrators allowed to go the way of Ekiti, the criminals may be encouraged to launch similar attacks on the appellate courts especially when they p e r c e i ve that a judgement would go against their interest. Judiciary must be strengthened not weakened; this is not too much for the country especially when another elections beckon.
There is no doubt the attacks on the Rivers court was an ominous sign of a constitutional crisis already founded and being funded by the political class. Our country cannot afford a constitutional crisis at this time. This, however, called for quick intervention of stakeholders in the judiciary.
They must rise up at this moment to defend the sanctity of the third arm of the government which is the conscience of the people and the last hope of the common man. It is time politicians must have a rethink moreso as we approach another general elections next year. Efforts should also be intensified to ensure that the culprits are apprehended, prosecuted and jailed to serve as deterrent to others. We decry the conduct of the security agencies in the attack. Video clips of the attack show that security agents provided cover for the attackers.
This is unacceptable. We demand probe of the involvement of security operatives in the unfortunate incident. Also, the lack of response from the security agencies when the attack lasted is unfortunate. Does it mean that if the attackers had killed judicial officers, lawyers, litigants and others and burnt the court’s buildings, no preventive measures or help would have come from the security agencies. This is really unfortunate.
The police, for instance, should not dance to the tune of the government in power. Neutrality should be their watchword. Hands must be on deck to ensure that democracy thrives in Nigeria. Also, the Federal Government must develop the will power to address these issues just as institutions must be allowed to evolve on their own.
This has again reinforced call for separation of the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation from that of the Minister of Justice in order to tackle some of these problems. We, like the CJN, condemn this latest act of intimidation of the judiciary. This is a show of shame of the Rivers State chapter of the APC.
World Cup: Rohr’s provisional list
With barely three weeks to the 2018 FIFA World Cup competition, the fever is everywhere across the world as managers of teams released the provisional lists of players expected to entertain the world between June 14 and July 15. Some coaches were brave enough to come out with a 23-man list which could only be changed due to injury. The national team Managers of Brazil, England, France, Portugal, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden and Senegal did not release provisional but final list. We believe they did this due to the chemistry that exists in their teams overtime respectively.
Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, came out with a 30-man provisional list for the competition and we observed that there were no surprises except Junior Lokosa of Kano Pillars and Nwankwo Simeon of Crotone FC of Italy. Lokosa’s exploits (18 goals) in the domestic league has been impressive while the consistency of Simeon in the Serie A is commendable, but whether they have the experience to boost the Eagles’ for Russia is another issue entirely. Of the eight strikers invited, one or either of these two players will drop. Brown Ideye and Henry Onyekuru should have been given another chance to compete for shirts.
The list showed that Rohr has made up his mind to stick with the players that earned the country a ticket. Odion Ighalo is the arrowhead in the attack but there is need for a very hungry and experienced alternative equally as good as he is. We make bold to say that Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi are best as support strikers. The current Eagles attack is still deficient, but we expect Rohr to capitalize on the good form of Chelsea’s Victor Moses to wreck opponents at the Mundial. Only last weekend, Moses was in the Chelsea team that won the FA Cup trophy in London.
We applaud the selection of players for the midfield where eight players were also invited to begin the run-in preparations. This area is the strength of the Super Eagles but the efficiency on the pitch will depend on how the players are deployed respectively. Skipper Mikel Obi is the commander and he has to stay fit because his presence is always a boost to the team. On the other hand, his absence leaves a huge gap in the team.
Super Eagles’ defence is a major area of concern. Rohr admitted that defence was his major headache. Ten players were invited to vie for shirts but we strongly believe one or two more should have been called to give room for competition which will be good for the coaches to pick the best. Efe Ambrose who has been consistent in Scotland should have been invited especially because he scores goals from set pieces due to his aerial prowess for Eagles in the past and also does so currently for his team, Hibernian.
Dele Ajiboye’s inclusion in the keepers list is good for healthy competition but we urge the goalkeepers’ trainers to give the four goalies comprehensive assessment to get the best three. Francis Uzoho and Ikechukwu Ezenwa are sure bets but whether Daniel Akpeyi is better than Ajiboye is what the coaches have to determine.
With the current setting, it is almost certain that Rohr has made up his mind on his final list. At this stage, sentiments must be avoided for merits. We have trust in Rohr to deliver in Russia, but some people around him are working for their personal rather than national interest.
Meanwhile, as we countdown to the event, a report has rated Joachim Low of Germany as highest paid FIFA World Cup coach with an average wage bill of €3.85 million. Next to Joachim is a Brazillian Manager, Tite. Tite’s average wage bill reaches up to €3.5 million which is same as that of Didier Deschamps of France.
Super Eagles’ Rohr earns €500,000 per annum and he is ranked 24th. In Group D, the Argentine coach has the best salary and he is followed by Iceland and Croatia. What the coaches earn is not enough to determine the performance of the team but it goes a long way to show motivation and the football development level in the country.
We urge NFF boss, Amaju Pinnick, to be careful not to allow politics to ruin the good work the federation has put in so far for this team. NFF has done really well.
Let us emphasis that the coaches should be brave enough to drop any player below 70 per cent fitness for the next available player.
So far, it is not clear whether the team has a psychologist and it is very important to have at least one for the World Cup. Overall, the players have a key role to play by coming all out to do their best for the country. The expectations of Nigerians are high and so it is expected they work hard and be determined to excel at the Mundial.
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