Mixed Metaphors: It Is Injury Time By Sonala Olumhense

imageI CONGRATULATE PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN for finally visiting Borno State, the heartland of the insurgency in Nigeria, last week. His stop was Maiduguri, the state capital, where he guaranteed his personal security inside layers of soldiers and officials.

Did he praise the military or encourage them? Check.

Did he remember the internally-displaced and promise help to rebuild their homes? Check.

Did he mention the word, Chibok, or reflect on the abducted? No.

Did he recognize Nigeria’s territories lost while he wined and danced and boasted he would exercise presidential power as he pleased? No.

That is because Mr. Jonathan’s trip was really about his re-election desires, not the insurgency. The “surprise” visit to a place he had said he dared not go “because they will just kill me” was designed to corral some votes for him on the presidential ballot on February 14, less than one month away.

It was a pathetic, cynical design, and the trip did not help his cause. On the contrary, it illuminated his desperation. He did not look like a leader who is interested in his people; he looked like a Nollywood actor pretending to be a caring president.

He did not sound like a leader who is interested in whether his people live or die; he sounded like an actor trying to appear believable.

But surely it is clear to him that the Jonathan of 2015 is different from the Jonathan of 2011? In 2011, he did not have to work hard; he had the leverage of the PDP behemoth; in 2015, he has on his shoulders the weight of the PDP, whatever is left of it.

Still, I encourage all those in Borno who believe in Jonathan to vote for him. If he wins, they deserve him; if he is buried in the polls, they will be a footnote to what follows.

IS IT COINCIDENCE that as Mr. Jonathan was performing his Borno State chores the electoral commission was announcing there might be no elections in the area?

It seems fairly clear that in view of how much territory and control has so far been surrendered in the states under emergency rule no reasonable polling can be expected there.

Put another way, with one month to the election, the electoral commission ought to be announcing final plans for everywhere in the country: why is it impossible to say what those credible plans are for the three states?

What all of this suggests is that the electoral commission is not ready—if you have generosity to spare—or that it has dubious plans for the process.

Professor Attahiru Jega and his commission must come clean; there is nowhere to hide.

A WORD FOR MUHAMMADU BUHARI, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who has been quoted as saying that should he win the election, anyone who is caught stealing government funds would go to prison.

I applaud the idea, but it is not enough. There must be a bigger, broader anti-corruption regime that would not only separate the innocent from the guilty, but also separate the guilty from the proceeds of corruption as deeply as their roots can be pulled.

I advocate a rigorous anti-corruption regime rooted in the Nigerian who know the pain of the corruption, but also their corrupt elements, and where the bodies and treasures are buried.

As President Jonathan has reasoned, Nigeria is not poor because it has some very rich people. It is safe to say he knows many of them. While it is impossible to investigate everyone, I believe that some of the filthiest-rich of whom he speaks can be encouraged to return to the state—voluntarily and perhaps anonymously—some of their declared loot in exchange for some consideration should their cases wind up in an investigation.

This would enhance the public purse even as official commissions go after those thieves who choose to hide, and their expensive property, accounts and businesses at home and abroad are cornered and sold.

Last week at the Star Awards of the International Table Tennis Federation in Dubai, the federation crowned NIGERIA’S ARUNA QUADRI its Male Table Tennis Star of the year. He was also the Table Tennis Star Point winner.

The principal awards of the night, including Quadri’s Male Table Tennis Star award, were undertaken by an expert panel using 60,000 public votes from all over the world.

Quadri, the African Cup champion, won the award over illustrious company: world number one XU Xin and Youth Olympic Champion Fan Zhendong, both of China, and European Team Championships gold medalist Marcos Freitas of Portugal.

What is perhaps more remarkable about the 26-year old Nigerian is the decisiveness of his rise. He began the year ranked number 237 in the world, and ended it at number 30, the highest level ever reached by any African player.

It is amazing to consider that despite the accomplishments over the years of such players as Babatunde Obisanya, Atanda Musa and Segun Toriola, this is the first time a Nigerian has climbed the ITTF rankings as far as Quadri has done.

Unfortunately, table tennis is not soccer. If it were, Quadri’s feat would have been a national spectacle, with Abuja finding time to recognize its significance.

“This is the best day of my career and my life,” the young man said after collecting his award. “I feel so great to be the winner in the midst of the world’s superstars. This award means the world to me.”

It ought to mean the world to him, and to his country. Not since Nduka Odizor’s fourth round appearance in Wimbledon in 1983 has a Nigerian made as much impact in a tennis sport of any kind. The following year, Odizor rose as far as 52 in the world tennis rankings. In contrast, in 2014, there was no Nigerian in the top 1000 in tennis.

But Quadri’s achievement must be put in context. He plays and trains in Europe. In other words, his training and conditioning is owed to another country, as is often the case these days.

Still, he is a reminder of the wealth of talent that exists everywhere in Nigeria but is often ignored or deliberated discouraged and frustrated by officials, the private sector and the press.

Quadri is another reminder of Nigeria’s mixed blessings and missed opportunities.

FINALLY, I wish to apologize for an error in last week’s column. I wrote, “We live such chores for “drivers” who often cannot read the manuals…”, when I meant to write “leave”. Thank you to my diligent reader, Babs Ajayi in Quebec, Canada.

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Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense

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