Acta Est Fabula, Plaudite!

Couple of thoughts on the Champions League final………

1. As much as I hate to admit it, the Chelsea ‘club sandwich’ marking system appears to be the only legitimate way to stop Lionel Messi. 
Especially at Stamford Bridge [being a smaller pitch] whenever he got the ball, something like 5 Chelsea players would immediately surround him as if he had a terribly contagious disease and they wanted to take him away into quarantine.
It’s terrible to watch but it’s bloody effective.

If you let him play, he will overwork your defenders….simple.

2. It is the equivalent of hara kiri to go into a game with this Barcelona side without a proper harrying midfielder. You need a completely selfless player who has no interest in glory or going forward.
His remit would simply be to stop the opposition from playing and break up any developing play in midfield.
There is a price to pay for this….effectively this means the ball will never move through your midfield in anything less than 4 passes….thus slowing down your attack.
It also means you are kinda playing a man down as the harrying midfielder is busy man marking the opposition’s creative midfielders.
But when the prize at stake is the Champions League…maybe this is a sacrifice worth paying.

In my opinion, the best player for this kind of hatchet job in the world today is Javier Mascherano.

Man United went into the game with Anderson and Carrick supposed to do this job. Ahem. 

3. Andres Iniesta is the outstanding midfielder in world football today.
Yes he can pick a pass.
Yes he can score goals.
Yes he looks as pale as someone just recovering from a deadly disease.
But the most remarkable thing about Iniesta is his incredible turn of pace. From strolling he can move to sprinting in a heartbeat.
The biggest danger about this turn of pace is that it spreads panic in the opposing defence.

For Barca’s 1st goal, he picked up the ball around halfway up the pitch, by the time he finished, he had displaced Anderson, Evra, Carrick and managed to isolate Eto’o and Vidic.
Except you man mark him and delegate someone to follow him all over the pitch, I dont see how the guy can be coped with.

4. For all of Sir Alex’s experience as a manager, he still decided to take a major gamble in this final.
It was very clear that there was no plan B if Barca scored first in the game.
This was kinda strange because over 50% of Barca’s goals this season have been scored in the first 20 minutes of their games.

Admittedly nobody wants to concede the first goal in a champions league final but when you are playing Barcelona, it’s only wise to at least prepare for that scenario in case it does happen.

This was perhaps the biggest mistake Sir Alex made.
And then playing Giggs in the hole? …..effectively leaving Carrick and Anderson to handle Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets in the Barca midfield.
Yeah right.

5. The game could have been veeeery different if Ronaldo had scored his freekick in the 2nd minute.
Very different.

6. Is this the same Gerard Pique Man Utd sold a couple of seasons ago? Amazing….
He’s not that good but the way he has matured has been really impressive.

7. Pep Guardiola will never have a better season than this. How is it possible that a manager, in his first major coaching job will win EVERY trophy he competed for?
Just thinking about it blows the mind away.
Football’s a crazy game.

8. Young players can be so inconsistent. That’s why they need to be really kept in check when they are still developing to ensure they reach their potential.
Talented young players can have an outstanding game today and then go anonymouse from the very next game.

I am talking to you Anderson.
Great game against Arsenal at the Emirates……what a shocker at the Stadio Olimpico.

9. Man Utd clearly have a problem with teams who know how to keep the ball very well [except Arsenal…maybe because of familiarity].
Watching the game against Barca just brought back memories of the the 2007 quarter final second leg against AC Milan at the San Siro.

It was so painful to watch….the players running about chasing nothing.
That was the game that convinced Sir Alex to buy Owen Hargreaves….hopefully he would be back next season.

But we are making progress….against AC Milan, if I remember correctly, Man Utd didnt have a single shot on target throughout the game.

10. Once in a while you just have to hold your hands up and say you came up against a force of nature.
Some of the football that Barca play is bewitching…..passing the ball in triangles of triangles in the heat of a champions league final….and your opponent cant get anywhere near you even if the game was played all day long.

This is not just skill…it’s supreme confidence.
Even under pressure, they hardly gave the ball away. They dont pass to each other’s knees or bellies….the ball does as it’s told.

A team which had already scored 100 goals in December can never suffer from doubts about it’s ability to score against any opponent.
Inasmuch as Chelsea were robbed in the semi-final, this was the key difference between the 2 teams….Chelsea had no belief that they could get a second goal, so they defended what they had.

There is a temptation to compare this Barca team to the Brazil of 1970.
But this team is not perfect….they still have a couple of dodgy defenders in their midst.
An example being Eric Abidal. 
I was going to say Dani Alves as well but we all know he’s not a defender….just an excuse for Barca to get an extra attacking team on the pitch.

The Brazil team of 1970 was the closest thing football has come to perfection.

Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be the 1958 Brazilian World winning team.
For the attacking triumvirate of Garrincha, Didi and Vava read Eto’o, Henry and Messi.
For the young and still relatively unknown Pele coming of age during the tournament, read Iniesta.

Losing to such a team is not the end of the world.

11. After all is said and done, Man Utd entered 5 competitons this season and the worst performance was going out of the FA cup in the semi-finals on penalties.

That aint shabby.
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The N.C.C Oshogbo Conundrum

CAVEAT: It’s quite possible that I have gotten some facts wrong in the post below. Please feel free to correct me where you spot an error….it’s never easy getting facts out of Nigeria for stuff like this.

Nigeria currently generates electricity through thermal [Egbin, Ughelli, Sapele, Calabar, Ijora…etc] and hydro [Kainji, Shiroro, Oji..etc]facilities.

Like most other aspects of our national infrastructure, neglect and lack of maintenance has been all too obvious and as such the problem, as always, now appears intractable.

It is impossible for any country to serious aspire to development without stable power generation….the core plank of industrial development.
How do you even produce your own food in the 21st century if you do not have electricity?

Epileptic power supply has become the norm rather than the exception in Nigeria today.
In my 30 years as a Nigerian, I have NEVER known uninterrupted power supply in my country.
Even the presidential villa in Aso Rock is known to suffer power outages.

So what do we do to ensure the lights dont go out again and the kids on the street can shout ‘Up NEPA’ for the last time?
Do we generate more electricity?
Do we build more power plants?
Do we import more generators?

First, a basic walkthrough of what’s currently going on.
We operate a power distribution structure that is shambolic at best and primitive at worst.
All electricty generated in Nigeria is routed to the National Control Centre in Oshogbo, Osun State…part of the old Oyo Kingdom.
The electricty is then distributed to all the different parts of Nigeria based on a quota system calculated using stats like land mass, population etc.

Clearly, you can see the problem with an arrangement like the one above.
But that’s not even the half of it.
This formula does mean that Lagos state which produces around 50% of PHCN’s revenues doesnt get anywhere near that amount of electricty from the amount available for distribution.

Welcome to High Voltage Politics.

One of Nigeria’s finest politicians, James Ajibola Ige [SAN]  …The Cicero from Esa-Oke was once charged with the task of sorting out this mess as Minister of Power and Steel.
Some people say it was his attempt at breaking this obvious nonsense that eventually cost him his life.

In any serious country, electricity is used where it is generated. 
This makes all the sense in the world when you consider that it’s quite possible to lose up to 70% of electricty generated during transmission…especially in a country like Nigeria where the national grid is crying out for repairs.

So electricity can be generated at Egbin Thermal Station on  the outskirts of Lagos, fed into the national grid, sent to NCC Oshogbo and then allocated to Bauchi state perhaps.
Because of the high stakes politics being played with the whole power issue in Nigeria, those in charge of maintaining the status quo will rather lose the electricity during distribution than decentralise the NCC.

This also means that building independent power stations might not neccesarily be the solution to the problem as they would simply be doing the nation a favour by feeding the electricity into the national grid to be distributed to God-knows-where.
Except of course a state government is bold enough to somehow go independent of the national grid and use the power it generates.

This was the main reason for the ineffectiveness of the Enron Power Project ….simply because the electricity generated had to be fed into the national grid.
Effectively then Gov Bola Tinubu of Lagos was doing the nation a favour…..what a nice guy.

The Kwara State government has recently had the same issues when it tried to generate power from the Ganmo sub-station.
In one of the more bizarre stories in a nation suffering power supply issues, The NCC, Oshogbo issued a directive to the sub-station not to generate more than 50% of the electricity it was capable of producing.
Power production now has nothing to do with competence and production capacity and all to do with politics and an antiquated quota system.

Incompetence and corruption are so deep rooted in the system that it’s rather difficult to know even where to start from.
You cant simply generate more elctricity and hope for the best….you’ll still have the NCC to contend with.

And so billions  of dollars have been poured into the black hole that PHCN has now become and the lights still go out.
The problem now seems even bigger than the office of the president.
In recently assesing his 8 year tenure as President, Obasanjo recently claimed that provision of stable electricity was not one of the things he was elected to do.
This is a clever way of saying ‘I tried to address the issue but I failed woefully’.

President Yar’Adua is currently, pardon the pun, fumbling in the dark.
After initially talking the talk, he now finds it a rather fearful thing to walk the walk.

Fidel Ramos faced a similar problem in the Phillipine in 1992. The congress of that country went as far as granting the president special constitutional powers to solve the problems.
They clearly saw that this was a huge issue for the country.
By 1994 the power crisis in Phillipines was resolved and Ramos was nicknamed ‘the president who turned on the lights’.
Interestingly, the barges that were used to provide electricty in the interim in the Phillipines while the country fixed it’s power sector were the very same ones that were brought to Lagos to be used in the Enron project…the results were of course different.

We are still doing things the same way and expecting different results….. a foolish consistency is the hobglobin of small minds.

It beats the imagination as to why we are still doing things this way expecially because our infrastructural problems make it a much better idea to transmit whatever electricty we have over much shorter distances for the best effect.

Only a fool will underestimate the craziness of the bureaucratic system in Nigeria at present.
Many many good men have been swallowed by the system, chewed up and spat back out…upon which they are totally unrecognisable from the men they were.

Untangling Nigeria’s power mess is not the job of a minister [as Bola Ige’s experience proved] or even a senate or house committee alone.
Some of the vested interests in the system have been there for so long that progress is virtually impossible with them in the system.
An example [without mentioning his name] is the case of a man who as the minister of power and steel during the transition government of Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar.w
After the democratic elections of 1999, this same man accepted what was effectively a demotion as the managing director of NEPA.

Apparently Bola Ige was so irritated by a man who wanted to remain in the system at all costs and a power play ensued.

In 2008 this same man was appointed to head the rebranded PHCN despite widely being criticised as part of the team that ran NEPA into the ground.
He was sacked or he resigned for the umpteenth time again this year.
Dont hold your breath because if the recent past is anything to go by, he will be back again in some capacity as an enemy of progress in Nigeria’s power sector.

It’s worth repeating …. a foolish consistency is the hobglobin of small minds.

And we havent even talked about the diesel and generator business……

4,000

In a democracy, the most important office is the office of citizen – Justice Louis Brandeis

Once again we have managed to out do ourselves at this democracy business in Nigeria.

Governor Segun Oni who has been in office for 21 months as Governor of Ekiti managed to defeat Kayode Fayemi by around 4000 votes in the rerun elections.

To my mind this is the most bizarre aspect of everything that went on in Ekiti before, during and after the elections.

A simple question needs to be asked of Gov Segun Oni; why in the world do you want to continue as governor of Ekiti state?

Having been aided and abetted by gun wielding senators and all manner of thugs and hooligans, he managed to win the rerun held in 10 local government areas.
No point going over the sideshow that the dissapearing Mrs Adebayo turned out to be…. the blame goes to whoever decided that it was a good idea to put a 74year old in charge of what had already promised to be a very volatile election.

There’s no doubt that we have a serious problem with the quality of leadership available in Nigeria today. 
Other than money, there doesnt appear to be a prerequisite for aspiring to elected office in Nigeria today…..if you dont have loads of money, it’s impossible to run for office in Nigeria. 

No one denies that 21 months is not enough to turn around a state. Certainly even a miracle worker cant achieve that.
But in 21 months you can show the people the stuff you are made of. 
In 21 months, you can put in place plans that show you have an idea where you are taking the state to.
In 21 months you can win the battle of ideas and successfully familiarise the people with who you are and what you stand for.

In 21 months any serious governor should not be winning an election by 4000 votes.

Governors in Nigeria are very powerful people by virtue of the quiet and deliberate devolution of power to the states over the 10 year life of our current democracy.
Until EFCC recently, governors could practically get away with anything they did in office as the Nigerian state had no powers to hold them accountable.

A governor is even immune from prosecution as a result of section 308 of the 1999 constitution.

Mercifully, a governor can now be removed from office by an election tribunal where irregularities have been found with the election that brought him to power.

But no one seems to have bothered to articulate what exactly is the responsiblity of an elected official.
We have been operating our democracy without any meaningful or defined standard for our leaders.
Recently, former President Obasanjo was reported to have said he wasnt elected president to repair roads and/or provide electricity.

As cynical as it may seem, he can get away with an outlandish claim like that.
What exactly were Nigerians expecting of him when he was elected president twice?
What is the contract that elected officials have with the people who elected them?

Governor Babatunde Fashola is all the rage right now among Lagosians and people all over Nigeria for the urgency and sense of purpose the man has brought with him to the job of Lagos state governor.
One thing is clear about Gov Fashola (perhaps by virtue of having worked with Bola Tinubu when he was governor); the man came into office with a plan and a vision.

But we musnt forget that Gov Fashola was a ‘happy accident’ for Lagosians.
Lagosians had no clue what his pedigree was before electing him…..people basically accepted the character reference he was given by his former boss, the ex-governor.

In effect, Lagosians took a punt on him….akin to rolling the dice the first time and turning up two sixes.

He’s turned out alright….and everyone’s happy and wishing him well….but it had nothing to do with Lagosians making a judgement on him.
It was pure luck.

If a democracy is electing it’s leaders on a wing and a prayer, then we are bound to lose more than we win.
Every so often we will get a good governor or a decent senator or even a visionary president….but we will suffer each time we get it wrong.
And the job becomes harder for whoever comes in next….even if he comes with all the good intentions in the world.

A country that runs it’s democracy like a betting shop is bound to get more Segun Onis than Tunde Fasholas…..afterall the odds of winning on a gamble are always much higher than the chances of losing.

I havent been to Ekiti state since Segun Oni came to power in 2007 but from what I understand, he might as well not have been there……nobody would have noticed.
In any case, if Gov Fashola was to contest an election in Lagos state today, it’s safe to say that he would certainly win by more than 4000 votes. Q.E.D.
Not because he has fulfilled all his promises or he has built the light rail train he has promised Lagosians…..but because people are happy to follow a leader who knows where he’s going.

The election in Ekiti should not even have been a contest at all. Segun Oni could have and should have won by a country mile if he had managed to win over the people since he was sworn in the first time in May 2007.
When you consider the circumstances of his win now, it doesnt exactly fill you with hope that he’s going to improve in the remaining 2 years….but there’s no crime in hoping.

We are getting to the point now where Nigerians, we the people, need to take charge of our very own destiny.
People are getting elected into high office without having a clue as to what the job entails never mind how to go about solving the problems facing the nation.
President Yar’Adua is a prime example of this brand of leadership.
The man appears to have happened upon the leadership of the largest black nation of the world in the same way that you enter a dark room and fumble about looking for the lights.

How do we ensure that whoever is elected governor or president adheres to a minimum non-negotiable standard of performance?
How do we guarantee that the next governor of Lagos state doesnt roll back the Fashola years with a succession of bad policies?
How do we get our leaders to stay connected and true to those who elected them?

There are no easy answers to these questions but we must start from somewhere.

It’s not easy being the average Nigerian who’s mainly preoccupied with sorting out the next meal and will sell his vote to the highest bidder.
I was an election monitor in Lagos during the 2003 elections and I witnessed people sell their votes for a plate of rice and nutritionless fish.

If 21 months in office can only get you a 4000 vote majority, something’s terribly wrong.