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Sports To The Rescue- GEJ Turns Defeat To Victory




Thanks to sport GEJ performed the greatest miracle of his life last Monday night. He must have recited a prayer verse I also picked up from reading Neale Donald Walsch a couple of years ago.

‘May the moment of our greatest challenge become the moment of our greatest triumph.’

From the brink of the worst moment of his life, one simple single act catapulted Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, outgoing President of Nigeria, to the pinnacle of glory and greatness!

His action last Monday night was like pouring water down a raging inferno!

The moment President Jonathan called up General Muhammadu Buhari, his political opponent in Nigeria’s presidential election, and congratulated him for winning it and wresting power from him, the unprecedented tension that had gripped the entire world for several months up until that moment, was completely doused.

All the talk about a possible end to the nation through the massive violence expected to take place in several parts of the country no matter the outcome of the election evaporated into thin air!

The fight went out of all Nigerians. Everyone had been apprehensive about the election and its aftermath where the only visible option was a promised fight-to-the-finish by the side that loses. So acrimonious and bitter were the campaigns that the entire country was under the siege of fear.

In my write ups in recent times I had been advocating that both sides draw lessons from sport where life is an endless series of contests producing both a winner and a loser every time, and both accepting the verdicts graciously in order for another contest to be held another day. That is the definition of sportsmanship.

I had appealed to the political contestants to allow that same kind of spirit that had given sport the power to produce winners and losers without recourse to violence, irrespective of the differences that may exist between them, to permeate the elections.

The contestants may not have even read me, but looking back at what has now panned out, it is as if President Jonathan feasted on my message.

In the most shocking development, however, even before the last votes were collated and announced, GEJ went ahead to demonstrate uncommon sportsmanship in politics. He called up his main challenger on telephone and congratulated him for his victory!

It is uncommon practice in Africa, almost heard of.

True, Nigerians were fed up with a system that had impoverished them for 16 years and were yearning for a change and a new leadership.  How to achieve this change became the most intractable challenge in our political history.

The apparent credibility of the elections, despite the avalanche of flawed processes and malfunctioning card readers, were the factors that helped to unlock the chains of the integrity of previous elections.

The umpire of the elections also displayed courage, transparency, incorrigibility and neutrality despite his being the appointee of the president and the leading contestant.

Sport won at the end of the day. The ‘handshake’ of surrender by the president doused all the national tension.

With that singular act President Goodluck Jonathan rewrote the closing chapter of his place in Nigeria’s political history. From the brink of his going down as the worst president in the history of Nigeria, his act of Sportsmanship has raised him to the pinnacle of greatness as a true patriot and statesman!

When the subject on how to be a winner is to be taught in political class, Jonathan’s concession phone call and speech would find adequate space for mention.

Those of us in sport have always known that, ultimately, you do not have to come first to be a winner.

Founder of the Olympic movement, Coubertin, put it slightly differently in the Olympic charter at the inception of the Olympics that there is greater glory in participation than in winning.  Ben Johnson as well as many other athletes in his academy of cheats can testify!

President Goodluck Jonathan reminded the world that in politics, as in sports, winning is not just about coming first!

Nigeria’s political El Clasico!
Permit me to play a ‘dangerous game.
Having just witnessed a political El Clasico in Nigeria during the presidential elections, my mind started to draw parallels between them and football. If the two political heavyweights in Nigeria’s political game were football teams how well did the players play?
I sat down to draw up the teams and analyse the performances of the key players during the elections.

Team Buhari
Goalkeeper  – John Oyegun, Right back – Ibrahim Kwankwaso, Left back –  Ibrahim Tambuwal
Central Defense – Bola Ahmed Tinubu (Captain)
Left half Back – Muhammadu Buhari, Defensive Midfield – Rotimi Amaechi, Central Midfield – Bukola Saraki, Attacking Midfield – Lai Mohammed
Forwards  – Kayode Fayemi, Centre Forward – Kasheem Shettima

1.Babatunde Fashola, 2. Rochas Okorocha, 3. Shehu Garba, 4. Rauf Aregbesola, 5.Wale Oshun, Manager  – Chief Bisi Akande

Team Jonathan
Goalkeeper – Doyin Okupe, Right Back –  Mrs. Alison Madueke, Left Back– Babangida Aliyu, Central Defence – Patience Jonathan, Left half Back –  Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Defensive Midfield – Ayodele Fayose, Central Midfield – Federick Faseun, Attacking Midfield – Remi Fani Kayode, Outside Left – Gani Adams, Centre Forward – Goodluck Jonathan, Outside Right  – Olusegun Mimiko

1. Namadi Sambo, 2. Godswill Orubebe, 3. Sule Lamido, 4. Joseph Yobo, 5. Tompolo, 6. Asari Dokubo, Manager – Tony Aneni
Analysis of the team and players
Team Buhari, like FC Barcelona, played with a 5-man midfield.

In goal
John Oyegun – Calm, cool and calculated. His temperament was infectious. He really was not tested.

In defense
Tambuwal – Youthful, competent and a slick operator. The more you look the less you know seems to be his mantra. He is an overlapping defender selectively probing opposing defenses.
Kwankwaso – Like Tambuwal, a very strong and gifted player that combines guile with a very sharp mind.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu – truly exceptionally gifted and talented. A master strategist and born leader. He sweeps behind the other defenders taking care of all loose balls from the confrontations in the midfield. He is a very dogged fighter. That’s why he is the captain of the team.

The Midfield
Lai Mohammed – astute and very professional, successfully warding off the barrage of tricks coming from the opposition. He was extremely quick in starting a counter attack.
Shehu Garba –  on ‘loan’ from Team Atiku, his partnership with Lai Mohammed in midfield was superb.
Rotimi Amaechi – he is the Rofo Rofo, born to fight player. He challenges for every ball. He has immaculate skills, a never-say-die attitude and unrelenting fighting spirit. Engine room of the team.
Bukola Saraki – a deceptively quiet but effective midfield maestro. Works with precision and accuracy.

Muhammadu Buhari – He is the talisman of the team – a prolific striker – reclusive, serious, single-minded and yet charismatic. He takes his work almost too seriously. His ruggedness is the glue that cements the team.
Ibrahim Kwankwaso – fast and deadly. Kano breeds them fast and deadly as wingers (Baba Otu Mohammed, Ahmed Sani) – capable of inflicting maximum damage upfront.

The Bench
Kayode Fayemi –The intellectual in the team.  Textbook player but with deadly efficiency as a clinical striker.
Kasheem Shettima – Often underestimated at great peril. From a humble start in the team he has trained hard and has become a formidable striker. He is a true El Kanemi Warrior.
Tunde Fashola – He should have been in the first team. Charismatic major national future player.
Rochas Okorocha – Strategically included in the team to offer ethnic balance for political correctness in any Nigeria team. He is a flamboyant team player.
Rauf Aregbesola – The showman extraordinaire with exquisite skills and mesmerising displays on the podium. He brings colour to every venue.  An alumnus of the Tinubu Academy.
Wale Oshun – quietly effective, efficient and masterful. On loan from Afenifere Renewal Group, an intellectual powerhouse.

Team Jonathan
The team plays with 3 midfield players – all women! Must be a historic first. Probably that’s why the team did not click well.

In goal
Doyin Okupe – That role suited him. His massive frame was his weapon. When the opponents discovered he was all smoke no fire, his effectiveness blunted badly.

Aliyu Babangida – Ordinarily very skillful, but appeared lost in the game probably not receiving enough passes or support. Very hardworking but very ineffective midfielder
Fredrick Faseun – An old mercenary player on loan to the team. His antiquated style of play and his penchant for playing only for the money are drawbacks for the team.
Ayo Adebanjo – loaned also from Afenifere. Never fitted the team pattern or style. Too old to be of much use.
Olusegun Mimiko – underestimated the opposition and took on too many roles in the team. coach, defender, attacker – all in one. Haba! He tripped over too many of his own devices in trying to stop the opposition.

In Mid Field
Allison Madueke – Female. Beauty and brain, but too feminine to play in a men’s game.  A tough but vulnerable cookie.  A distraction!
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – Another female in the midfield. Aggressive and unrelenting fighter that could not keep up with the fast tempo of the game.
Patience Jonathan – the Captain and mascot of the team. A ‘digital age’ enigma – the third leg of the female tripod in the team. She plays as an attacker but could never have scored a goal in a million years.

In Attack
Ayo Fayose – Freedom fighter, rough, rugged and versatile. Can play in any position from defense to attack. He is a handful for any opposition but runs a constant risk of a red card as a result of his dangerous play or conduct.
Goodluck Jonathan. Centre Forward that plays without hunger for goals. Considered timid until his team appeared to be losing and he transformed into a versatile attacking and creative midfielder that knits the strategy of the team together. Came out of his shell and took charge of his waning team. But too little, too late!
Fani Kayode – A rough and dirty hard working midfield player that gives away cheap penalties as a result of his crunchy and bone breaking tackles.
Olusegun Mimiko – Underestimated the opposition and assumed too many roles in the team. He tripped over too many of his own devices created to stop the opposition.
Asari Dokubo – Whatever happened to this player that had promised so much? He could not deliver in the end. He was lost in the team, unsure of his role.
Sule Lamido – Had an awesome reputation until the match started. Was supposed to be the deadliest striker from the north but for some reason, as the game went on, he simply faded away until obscurity.
Ayo Oritsejafor – how was he supposed to play this game in a cassock?
Gbenga Daniel – too much baggage. A disaster in waiting. Overwhelmed by the talent and skills of the opposition.
Joseph Yobo – On loan. No impact. Wrong game, wrong timing!

A great game but really one-sided.
The better team won on the night.
There is a repeat performance in four years time!

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