Saturday, October 25, 2014

This Week in Nigeria: President Jonathan Fires Defence Chiefs

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A Nigerian police guard. Photograph by S Martin.

This Week: News

Jonathan fires defence chiefs

A major shake up in national security took place over the weekend as President Goodluck Jonathan sacked Minister of Defence Haliru Bello and National Security Advisor (NSA) General Owoye Azazi. Bombings across the north by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram have escalated in recent months and many have criticised the handling of the country’s security situation. Azazi will be replaced by Colonel Sambo Dasuki, cousin of the Sultan of Sokoto and former Aide de Camp to Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s ex-military head of state.

5 killed and 40 freed in Yobe prison jailbreak

Gunmen attacked a prison using explosives and freed around 40 inmates on Sunday in Damaturu, Yobe State. The attackers, suspected to be members of Boko Haram, threw two explosives into the jail premises and opened fire, forcing their way into the central prison. A shootout ensued with the attackers eventually overpowering the prison guards. Reported casualties included four security guards and one prisoner. Commissioner of Police, Yobe State Command, Patrick Egbuniwe said: “Our men arrived at the scene and fought to retrieve some prisoners and arrest the attackers but, at the moment, no prisoner is retrieved nor any arrest made.”

Suspected fraudster dies in custody

Suspected fraudster Mauro Zanin was found dead while in detention at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) headquarters in Abuja last Tuesday. The 52-year-old Italian was being held after being arrested by the Nigerian Immigration Service following allegations he fraudulently obtained $111,000 from his company, Gladwaters Nigeria Limited. Spokesman for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren said: “Though all clues point to suicide, the incident has been reported to the Maitama police station for investigation.”

South West committee for economic recovery inaugurated

Ekiti State governor Kayode Fayemi has inaugurated a 24-member technical committee to drive the regional integration of the country’s south-western states. Member states of the Western Region Integration Agenda include Ekiti, Edo, Ondo, Lagos, Oyo, Ogun and Osun. The 24-member committee comprises three members each from the seven states and three members from the Yoruba Academy think tank. Tasks include designing a road-map for the economic and development recovery of the South West geopolitical zone and examining areas of comparative advantage to increase economic growth in the constituent states.

Belgian football director to be replaced with Nigerian

Belgian Tom Saintfiet, technical director of Nigerian football, has been fired by Bolaji Abdullahi, Minister of Sports and Chairman of the National Sports Commission (NSC). Abdullahi told the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) to look for qualified Nigerians to fill the position and expressed his belief it would better to find an experienced local coach.

This Week: Politics

President Jonathan’s reordering of Nigeria’s security institutions should come as no surprise. For months, not a week has passed without stories of bombings and loss of lives at the hands of Boko Haram. Many attacks have been on churches, creating religious tension between Christians and Muslims, and leading to reprisals from both sides.

Former national security advisor (NSA), General Owoye Azazi seemed to be bereft of ideas. And following his untimely outburst at the South-South Economic Summit last month, it was clear he had to be replaced. Clearly blaming the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the escalation in Boko Haram violence, he stated: “How come the extent of violence did not increase in Nigeria until the public declaration of the people that were going to contest election by the PDP?”

Haliru Bello, the former acting chairman of the PDP, who went on to become Minister of Defence has also been removed from his post. His replacement has not yet been named. For their nonchalance in the face of grave losses of lives the defence chiefs deserved to be dismissed. However, there seems to be something more clandestine at work in deciding their replacements.

The new NSA Colonel Sambo Dasuki, the cousin of Nigeria’s Muslim spiritual leader the Sultan of Sokoto, is a close associate of former military head of state General Ibrahim Babangida. Dasuki was actively involved in the 1985 coup that brought Babangida to power and is deeply implicated in the underhand security network that has been involved in Nigerian politics since the 1970s. I can only question whether placing the security of the nation in the hands of such an individual is the right thing for Nigeria. Could this move be aimed at appeasing powerful northern politicians?

One of the few factors in Nigeria that bridges ethnic, religious and gender divides is football. And although in recent times they have been less than spectacular, the memories of the Super Eagles’ past successes live strong in the minds of the masses.

At the helm of the team there has been no continuity and stability – a ‘revolving door’ policy has seen coaches hired and fired every few years. Both foreign and local coaches have failed to replicate the glory of the early 90s when Nigeria was ranked 5th in the world and won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

However, when analysing trends in football, one must look both at the administration of the game at the highest level and the grassroots. Since 1996, a steady yet unrelenting decay has taken place in Nigerian football. The Belgian coach and football administrator Tom Saintfiet has learnt first-hand how difficult it is working in Nigeria.

He was charged with revamping all sectors of Nigerian football from the academy levels up to the national team. But the lack of patience in the corridors of power led the newly-appointed sports minister to stall his working visa and revoke his contract in the hope of enlisting a local coach as technical director. As is so often the case in Nigeria, progress has been circular and stultified. It is by no means certain that Saintfiet had the capabilities to restore Nigeria to its former level – his CV is not overly impressive, but it is impossible to work without proper support. And which local coach has the expertise to carry out this role successfully? When will those who control Nigerian football realise that Nigeria has only scratched the surface in terms of potential? With the right man and the right ideas, Nigeria can once again reach football’s summit.

Writers of the week:

Reversing Boko Haram's Somalization of Northern Nigeria’ by Sumner Shagari Sambo is an enthralling piece that looks at the current state of northern Nigeria whilst trying to find a solution for the continued unification of the country. Boko Haram takes a central theme in this article as Sambo attempts to decipher the numerous issues that continue to bedevil the region and the country on the whole.

Nigeria at the Rio Earth summit’ by Tunji Ajibade examines the achievements of the Rio+20 summit in relation to Nigeria and other participating countries. The furore behind President Jonathan’s attendance while parts of northern Nigeria are under attack by Boko Haram is explored before the article delves into the pros and cons of the summit.

Website of the week:

iROKOtv is an online medium that brings to you the best of Nigerian and Ghanaian films in high definition. Carving a niche for itself in the Nollywood online viewing market, iROKOtv aims to be the first port of call for Nollywood movie lovers the world round.

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