Thanksgiving Message from President of Igbo Organization of New England

PresidentThanksgiving Message from President of Igbo Organization of New England

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, in spite of the pressures of a bloody civil war in which the nation was embroiled, found time to issue a proclamation setting aside the last Thursday in November as a national day of giving thanks. This proclamation set the precedent for the American holiday which we will celebrate tomorrow.

But long before Lincoln, our people, the Igbo people of Southeastern Nigeria, have celebrated Thanksgiving. We have taken the time to offer thanks to God and to Ahajioku the god of yam, for bountiful harvest. We did not need football or roasted turkey or pumpkin pies. We simply needed ji, the king of crops, oji, the symbol of our worship and hospitality, and a grateful heart.

Giving thanks was part of our daily lives. In the morning, we broke kolanuts and gave thanks to God for letting us see a new day. When visitors arrived, we broke kolanut and gave thanks to God for bringing them to us safely. When fortune smiled at us, and when our labors were rewarded, we gave thanks. We also gave thanks when our daughters married, when a new life arrived and when sickness abated. We are simply a people with a heart of gratitude.

Tomorrow, let us join millions of Americans in setting aside a time to give thanks, remembering the many blessings of God in our lives. Let us bless God for family, friends, provisions and each other.

This is wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

God bless you.

God bless Ndiigbo.

 

Dr. Ejike Eze

President, Igbo Organization of New England

Anambra Guber Poll: One contest too many knocks, intrigues

anambraBy CHARLES KUMOLU

THE conduct of the governorship election in Anambra State did not fall short of pre-election predictions that the exercise would fall in line with the state’s predilection to political drama.

Across the 21 local government areas last Saturday’s gubernatorial election was characterised by intrigues and seemingly calculated political anomalies.

No less a person than the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega confessed last Saturday that the governorship election in Anambra State was sabotaged.

The election was indeed one that was for many candidates, party supporters, and voters that was heralded by suspicion, fear, tension and unusual electoral permutations.

- See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/11/anambra-guber-poll-one-contest-many-knocks-intrigues/#sthash.9c5WHfFT.dpuf

Though the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had boasted that the exercise would witness remarkable improvements on previous polls, its outcome, was to a large extent a mockery of that pledge.

So when early yesterday, the Returning Officer Professor James Epoke, declared the election inconclusive, not many were surprised or shocked by the development.

Early alarm by candidates

While promising a credible election at a stakeholders forum held three days to the election in Awka, INEC chairman, Prof Atahiru Jega had said, “we have made meticulous arrangements to ensure that the election is free and fair. We want to make Anambra elections the best elections we have conducted in this country.

We have done some in the past and we have learnt from our mistakes.”

Jega’s pledge was also strengthened by the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar who at the forum said, “It is possible to have a peaceful election but it depends on the people, because we have provided adequate security. I am appealing to Anambra people especially party chairmen to give peace a chance.”

However, whether the commission creditably conducted the polls, is in doubt given the outcome across the 4,608 polling units in the state.

Indications that the elections might not be as smooth as promised by INEC emerged at the stakeholders’ forum, where the All Progressive Congress, APC, candidate Senator Chris Ngige said INEC was yet to prosecute electoral offenders who ensured that his supporters did note vote at the 2010 governorship elections in most parts of Anambra Central and other parts of the state.

Ngige’s assertion added to claims made by some persons within and outside INEC in the days leading to the election that the exercise had already been programmed to favour a particular candidate.

Instructively, Ngige said “I contested in 2010 but could not enter some violent prone areas, we had no agents there but the results were declared.  Result sheets were not brought in some areas and our people were manhandled but results still came out and were recognized by INEC .  There are times when SPOs will come to deliver materials but will not drop result sheets as stipulated in the electoral act.  We need categorical statement on this. This is the first time three commissioners of Police are coming to Anambra for elections but I don’t know what the police has done with the previous reports.”

Election Day realities

In most areas visited by Vanguard on Election Day, it was discovered that materials arrived late, leading to the late commencement of accreditation and subsequently, voting.

The exercise, which was scheduled to commence at 8:00 am, did not kickoff until 11 am, when accreditation started in most polling units across the 4,608 polling units in the state.

Nonetheless, at most polling units in Awka South, Anaocha and Aguata, areas known as the home base of the incumbent governor, Mr. Peter Obi and All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, accreditation and voting started early enough.

Eligible voters

For instance when Vanguard visited Ichi Ward 2 polling unit Nnewi, the base of Labour Candidate, Chief Ifeanyi Uba most eligible voters complained about being disenfranchised.

Ubah corroborated this in his country home, that day when he said, “there are a lot of inconsistencies especially on the voters register. For instance in a ward that has about 700 voters, you will discover that only seventeen names will be found in the register. This situation does not speak well and does not signal that we will have a free and fair exercise,” Ubah added.

Across other senatorial districts, it was also the same tale of massive disenfranchisement, late and non arrival of electoral materials, alleged monetary inducements by agents of some candidates, forceful ejection of party agents among others.

Uncommon realignment between friends and foes

Prominent among the surprises thrown up is the uncommon realignment between hitherto political friends and foes.

This played out with the common voice echoed by three aggrieved candidates of the ACN, PDP and LP candidates, who called for annulment.

This development is against the backdrop of the consensus of the trio that the polls were allegedly programmed by INEC to favour APGA.

For analysts and some aggrieved voters, the move by the  candidates, is regarded as  a germane step  towards bringing their grievances to public glare.

At a press briefing jointly addressed by the trio, Ngige, who spoke on behalf of the candidates called for the cancellation of the eventual outcome.

Though the mood across the state is relaxed, many who spoke with Vanguard in Awka and its environs, expressed dissatisfaction that they could not vote despite turning out in their numbers.

For this and other reasons, they called for a fresh exercise.

But APGA is not taking the claims of rigging lightly. Its chairman, Umeh dismissed calls for annulment, adding that the exercise was credible.

He described those, who want cancellation as failed contestants, who have no stake in the state.

“INEC has done well but the few lapses are regrettable, the exercise was free and fair. The people crying blue murder are disappointed that they could not arm-twist INEC, “he added.

Culled from Vanguard

 

Eaglets Beat Sweeden 3-0 to Qualify for Finals

Nigeria were made to work for their 3-0 semi-final win over Sweden in Dubai, a result that sends them to the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Taiwo Awoniyi scored his third goal in two games to help send the Golden Eaglets through to the final, where they will meet Mexico in another Group F rematch.

The game started at a tremendous pace, both sides carving out half-chances inside the first 60 seconds. After the initial frenzy of attacks cooled, the pattern of play became clear. The Nigerians pressed forward in waves, trying to pin Sweden back and cut off the supply lines to foraging striker Valmir Berisha.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – NOVEMBER 05: Taiwo Awoniyi of Nigeria scores his team’s first goal against goalkeeper Sixten Mohlin of Sweden during the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 Semi Final match between Sweden and Nigeria at Al Rashid Stadium on November 5, 2013 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Alex Grimm – FIFA/FIFA

The Africans were far more dangerous in the first half and they got the goal their dominance deserved after just 21 minutes. It was the same combination that produced both goals in the quarter-final win over Uruguay as Kelechi Iheanacho – one of the best players here in UAE – pushed the ball up through midfield and chipped in a looping pass for Awoniyi, who hardly had to break stride before pummeling past Sixten Mohlin for his third goal in two games.

Iheanacho continued to be a thorn in the Swedes’ side, no wonder considering he’s scored five of Nigeria’s goals and assisted on seven. The Scandinavians seemed to wilt in the heavy heat and humidity of their first game in Dubai.

Only seconds had ticked off the clock in the second half when Chidera Ezeh headed against the upright. It was a warning from the free-attacking Nigerians, who kept pressing for a second goal.

Coach Roland Larsson threw on big striker Carlos Strandberg for the last half-hour, desperately trying to find a way to breach the Nigerian rearguard. But the Eaglets kept pushing. Musa Yahaya tried an effort from the corner of the box in the 66th minute that skimmed the outside of the post. Awoniyi had the ball in the net a few seconds after, only to be denied by an offside call, much to the chagrin of the partying fans in green.

Sweden would not go quietly, and Strandberg nearly volleyed home with a quarter-hour to go, only to be denied by Alampasu. The resulting corner kick was headed hard at goal by Linus Wahlqvit, but his try was saved again by the Nigerian keeper, who had his gloves on the right way around at the Rashid Stadium.

In the end, the Nigerians were in no mood to be charitable. They got their insurance goals inside the last ten minutes. Samuel Okon cut in from the left and hammered his shot low and inside the post to end Sweden’s dream. It was all over even before Chidera Ezeh added a third seconds later to make it 3-0 and send Nigeria to the final, where they will be pressing hard for their fourth title.

Saturday November 9 is Igbo Work Day at Igbo House

Ndiigbo in Massachusetts have declared Saturday, November 9th Igbo Work Day at the Igbo House. Speaking during the November general meeting of the Igbo Organization of New England, the president of the organization, Omenka Ejike Eze, informed the entire membership that Igbo House is in need of significant work ranging from re-painting to cleaning, repairs and weeding. He encouraged every Igbo person to carve out three hours starting from 10AM through 1PM to come and assist in getting the Igbo House in shape.

Igbo House is located at 1 North Street, Randolph. For more information, contact the Public Relations Officer, Dr. Godwin Otuechere at gotuechere@yahoo.com.

UMAS Boston & Igbo Community to Collaborate on Igbo Language Classes

azuonyeArrangements are in final stages for the launching of the University of Massachusetts African Language through the University College in Boston. A critical component of this program will be the teaching of Igbo. Starting from the spring of 2014, the program will enable the University offer Igbo language classes in collaboration with the Igbo Organization of New England, the Umuada Igbo of Massachusetts and other community organizations. Students who successfully complete the Igbo courses will receive college-level credits at any of the University of Massachusetts campuses. Such credits will also be transferable to other Universities, subject to the academic regulations of such Universities.

Speaking with the coordinator of the program, Professor Chukwuma Azuonye, the President of the Igbo Organization of New England, Dr. Ejike Eze, noted that the advancement of Igbo language and culture was a strategic focus for his administration, and therefore, that he will do everything he could to promote the program. On his part, Azuonye  who is Professor of African and African Diaspora Literatures, and Director of the African Language Program, Africana Studies Department of  University of Massachusetts, stated that for the program to be successful, there needs to be active and continued participation of the community.

The town-and-gown initiative is already receiving unprecedented support from notable members of the Igbo community in New England. The entire members of the Igbo Organization of New England Executive Council have pledged their support for the program.

Acceptance Speech by Dr. Ejike Eze

About eighteen years ago, a group of Igbo patriots, motivated by the earnest desire to create a community in New England, convened to form a union and call it the Igbo Organization of New England. On the night of Sunday August 4, you, the Igbo people in New England reaffirmed that earnest desire to move forward with this union and build an even stronger community. In making this reaffirmation, you also placed the responsibility of charting a new course in the hands of a new set of leaders of which I am honored and excited to be a part.

Dr. Ejike Eze - President

Dr. Ejike Eze – President

 

This year’s election has been long and hard. It brought out the best and the worst in us. It highlighted our strengths and exposed our weaknesses. It tried our patience and tested our values. It created isles and alliances. But in all, Ndiigbo spoke with one voice through the ballots and made it clear that while our thoughts and approaches may differ, there is more that unites us than divides us. On Sunday night we demonstrated the passion that makes us who we are, a nation of intelligent beings, conditioned by our experiences and sustained by the Love of our God and the strength of our rugged republicanism. We demonstrated that we want what is best for us and our community, and that we want our children to grow up in America versed in the cultures and ways of our people. We demonstrated, above all, that we know who we are and that we are willing to be who we are even in a foreign land. I have never been more proud of my people.

 

In the course of the campaign leading to this election, we fought passionately and tirelessly to ensure that the right people take up the mantle of leadership for Ndiigbo in New England. We fought, not for any remuneration, but because we love our community and want to create a new culture – a culture of inclusiveness and engagement. But the battle is over and our people have made a choice to entrust us with the affairs of the community for the next three years. My opponent, Mr. Chris Ekechukwu, and I pledged before the election that, win or lose on Election Day, we would continue to work together for peace and progress of our beloved organization. So, yesterday, I reached out to Mr. Ekechukwu and some members of his campaign team and congratulated them on a hard-fought campaign. I reminded Mr. Ekechukwu that the time has come for us to come together and work for Ndiigbo in New England. I have extended, and will continue to extend my hand of fellowship to all and sundry – my supporters and my opponents alike. This is a clarion call for unity and progress. Indeed, there is no loser in this election. But we do have a winner – Ndiigbo in New England. I want to thank every Igbo person who participated in the election. It does not matter whether you voted for me or for my opponent, or whether you did not vote at all. I will be your president and I will represent you to the best of my abilities.

 

 

I thank the Almighty God who had His way in this election. The glory is Him and Him alone. I would also like to thank members of my campaign team led by the fearless warrior, Nze Richard Obilor (Eze Mbaise), and my special adviser and friend, the indomitable Emeka Ihionu (Agbalusiangene). You stayed the course as a team. My gratitude goes to you all especially for respecting my values and my decision not to run a negative campaign. Even at the risk of losing the election, you did not deviate from the guidelines I provided.

 

The members of the electoral committee did a great job of keeping the election free and fair. My gratitude goes to the following members of that committee: Chief Mike Okafor (Chairman), Okwukwe Ibiam (Secretary) and Ezinne Florence Enere (Treasurer) for their selfless service, thoroughness, and sacrifice throughout this election season. Credit is also due to the out-going President, Mr. Chike Odunukwe for his selfless service to Ndiigbo. History will vindicate him.

 

I am grateful to Maazi MacPhilips Kamalu for buying into my vision for Ndiigbo and accepting to work with me as Vice President. I have benefitted from Mr. Kamalu’s wisdom and foresight and I am thrilled to work with him for the next three years.

 

I would not have attempted to run for President of this great organization if I did not receive the consent and blessing of my best friend and the love of my life, my beautiful wife Njideka Eze (Mkpulumma). I thank her for allowing me step out to serve Ndiigbo. The sacrifices she made during the campaign period are too numerous to mention and are appreciated. The massages helped too. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the sacrifices my children made as well. They inspired me and reminded me every day that “it is not complicated – doing the right thing is better”.

 

It will not be business as usual for Ndiigbo in New England. You elected us to focus on the affairs of Ndiigbo for the next three years. I accept to serve you as your President and I have put together a great team to accomplish the tasks before us. I encourage every Igbo person to participate in the process of rebuilding our community. It is a new dawn! It is our vision that Igbo Organization of New England will again take its rightful exulted place in comparison to all other Igbo organizations in the United States of America. For those who left the organization for one reason or another, I encourage you to return and make your contributions towards a new IONE. This is a task for all of us. We owe it to ourselves and the future generation. The best days of Igbo Organization of New England are ahead of us.

 

Thank you, Ndiigbo in New England. God bless you. And God bless Ala Igbo.

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Ejike Eze (Omenka n’Udi)

President-Elect

(c) August 6, 2013

Achebe on Corruption in Nigeria

ACHEBEWriter Chinua Achebe, who passed away, shared his thoughts last year about what’s wrong with his home country of Nigeria and what hope there is of fixing it.

 

In January 2012 celebrated Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, who passed away, spoke with former Monitor Africa correspondent Scott Baldauf about his political views, the extent of corruption in his homeland, what hope there is for change, and the dangers of “leaderless uprisings.” Achebe was a winner of the Man Booker prize in 2007 and the Gish Prize in 2010 and has been an influential chronicler, in both fiction and non-fiction, of post-Colonial Africa. His novels include “Things Fall Apart,” “A Man of the People”,” Arrow of God” and “Anthills of the Savannah” and his body of work includes literary criticism, memoirs, poetry and even children’s books. Probably the most widely read African author in the world, at the time of his death he held a teaching post at Brown University. His final work, “There was a country: A personal history of Biafra,” was published last fall, and is a personal look at the bloody war there with the Nigerian government in the late 1960s. – Dan Murphy

 

Question: In your 1960 novel, “No Longer at Ease,” you write about the coming problem of official corruption in Nigerian society, told through the rise and fall of your main character Obi. What do you think are the roots of corruption in Nigerian society – colonial legacy, corporate power, local business elites – and what will it take to uproot it?

 

Everything you mentioned has played a part. Nigeria has had a complicated colonial history. My work has examined that part of our story extensively. (No longer at ease, A man of the people and later Anthills of the savannah also tackle Nigeria’s burden of corruption and political ineptitude…) At this point in Nigeria’s history, however, we can no longer absolve ourselves of the responsibility for our present condition. Corruption is endemic because we have had a complete failure of leadership in Nigeria that has made corruption easy and profitable. It will be controlled when Nigerians put in place checks and balances that will make corruption “inconvenient” – with appropriate jail sentences and penalties to punish those that steal from the state.

 

The first republic produced political leaders in all the regions who were not perfect, but compared to those that came after them they now appear almost “saint like” – they were well educated, grounded politicians who may have embodied a flawed vision or outlook for the country (in my opinion); but at least had one.

 

Following a series of crises that culminated in the bloody Nigeria-Biafra war, Nigeria found itself in the hands of military officers with very little vision for the nation or understanding of the modern world. A period of great decline and decadence set in, and continues to this day. The civilian leadership of the Second Republic continued almost blindly the mistakes of their predecessors. At that point in our history, the scale of corruption and ineptitude had increased exponentially, fueled by the abundance of petro-dollars.

 

By the time the Third Republic arrived, we found ourselves in the grip of former military dictators turned ‘democrats’ with the same old mind set but now donning civilian clothes. So, Nigeria following the first republic has been ruled by the same cult of mediocrity – a deeply corrupt cabal – for at least forty years, recycling themselves in different guises and incarnations. They have then deeply corrupted the local business elites who are in turn often pawns of foreign business interests.

 

When I have talked about the need for a servant leader, I have emphasized an individual that is well prepared – educationally, morally and otherwise – who wants to serve (in the deepest definition of the word); someone who sees the ascendancy to leadership as an anointment by the people and holds the work to be highly important, if not sacred. I know that is asking for a lot, but that really should be our goal. If we aim for that, what we get may not be so bad after all.

 

That elusive great Nigerian leader that is able to transcend our handicaps – corruption, ethnic bigotry, the celebration of mediocrity, indiscipline etc- will only come when we make the process of electing leaders – through free and fair elections in a democracy – as flawless as possible, improving on each exercise as we evolve as a nation.

 

Once we have the right kinds of leaders in place – the true choices of the people – then, I believe, it will be possible to solidify all the freedoms we crave as a people- freedom of the press, assembly, expression etc. Within this democratic environment, the three tiers of government filled with servant leaders chosen by the people, can pass laws that will put in place checks and balances the nation desperately needs to curb corruption.

 

Question: During a 2006 trip to Nigeria, citizens told me that they welcomed the government’s rhetoric about fighting corruption, but didn’t place any faith in lasting change. Do you think a citizens’ movement like Occupy Nigeria can be effective where official government efforts fail?

 

The right to protest, the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of speech…these are all human rights that should be protected in any democracy, indeed in any nation. Any involvement of ordinary Nigerians in a non-violent (peaceful), organized, protest for their rights and improvement in their living standards, in my opinion, as a writer, should be encouraged. An artist, in my understanding of the word, should side with the people against the Emperor that oppresses his or her people.

 

The hope of course, is that the non-violent protest will eventually lead to change in a positive direction – like the civil rights movement in America, Mahatma Gandhi’s independence struggles in India etc. – if that is the case, then I am all for them.

 

A functioning, robust democracy requires a healthy educated, participatory followership, and an educated, morally grounded leadership. Civil society has a role to play in educating the masses about their rights – making sure that they understand that the elected officials report to them, that those in positions of leadership are not monarchs – and then insisting through the ballot box or other avenues of the democratic system that their voices be heard.

 

However, having said that, it is important to emphasize that Nigeria is a complicated country with more than 250 ethnic groups. Protests are often a symptom of deeper rooted problems – in Nigeria’s case, resistance to a fifty year history of leaders essentially swindling the nation of its resources – $400 billion worth – and stashing most of it abroad with little in terms of infrastructure on the ground. Nigeria continues to be held back by the lack of basic amenities – there is epileptic electricity supply (often times blackouts for months), very poor schools, no standard water supply systems, bad roads, poor sanitation…Nothing works – life, schools, electricity, nothing….

 

Question: The Arab uprisings in North Africa raised hopes that other authoritarian governments on the continent could also be challenged by citizen movements. Do you think the Occupy Nigeria movement has the potential to follow in the Tunisian and Tahrir Square footsteps?

 

Popular non-violent uprisings as an expression of the feelings of the people should be allowed and protected. I have already made that clear. The hope is that such movements coalesce onto a defined platform with a clear direction and leadership. The problem with leaderless uprisings taking over is that you don’t always know what you get at the other end. If you are not careful you could replace a bad government with one much worse! My hope for Nigeria actually is that the people will channel all that pent-up rage towards a fight for sound democratic institutions – a competent electoral body that can execute free and fair elections…in other words, exercise their frustrations at the ballot box. Movements that begin on the streets… on the ground… should channel their frustrations in a non-violent, organized direction – politically. But the great challenge for Nigeria – one that has stunted her development since independence – is how to convince 150 million people to put aside competing interests, sideline different religions, ethnicities, political persuasions, and build a united rostrum or two with strong leaders to truly bring about fundamental change to Nigeria. That is the challenge.

 

Question: The statement you signed supporting the Nigerian protests reads, in part, “The country’s leadership should not view the incessant attacks as mere temporary misfortune with which the citizenry must learn to live; they are precursors to events that could destabilize the entire country.” Nigerians in the past have seen themselves as complacent in fighting injustice. What makes this moment different?

 

Those that perceive Nigerians as complacent don’t completely understand our history.

Nigeria went through a thirty- month-long civil war that cost over 2 million lives (some say as many as three million); mainly children. After that, my people, the Igbo people, for whose survival the war was fought; were economically, politically, if not emotionally exhausted. The rest of Nigeria was also devastated, albeit, to a milder degree. Let us remember that at the time it was seen as one of the bloodiest wars in history. Following this catastrophe were several decades under the iron rule of Military dictators and civilian adventurers. A people don’t just jump up and protest after they have been nearly annihilated by war and then systematically subjugated for decades with their rights stripped from them for so long. In order to survive, people employ a number of tactics– they adopt a posture of subservience, quietness, etc., but it should never be interpreted as weakness. Human beings are alike everywhere you know. All human beings have their breaking point, it could be a big event or a small one; and for most long-suffering Nigerians the removal of oil subsidies made life intolerable because it exponentially increased the cost of living – food, transportation, education, water, you name it – over night. Most clear thinking bureaucrats should have seen this coming…as an untenable situation for the population.

 

Economists often give us condescending lessons in favor of fuel subsidy removal – that fuel subsidies siphon much needed cash away from the treasury of the federal government, that its removal will yield $8 billion; that those who benefit the most in the current system with subsidies are some of Nigeria’s wealthiest citizens; that subsidies further fuel corruption in the oil industry including the state-owned NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation). Other reasons to take away subsidies this group also highlight include the fact that the presence of subsidies prolongs Nigeria’s dependence on fossil fuels, that they are indirectly implicated in the failure of Nigeria to establish and run refineries etc.

 

What has not been pulled into this entire debate is that the scale of corruption in Nigeria – the Nigerian government – and I am talking about corruption at all levels of government – Federal, state, local government, municipal, etc. – amounts to at least $10 billion a year ($400 billion in forty years). Putting an end to this should be the focus of the present government. Is this amount saved by tackling corruption in Nigeria not more than what would be made available with subsidy removal – and at no cost in pain and suffering to the average Nigeria?

 

If the present government reduced its own bloated budget, curbed the outrageous salaries and perks of parliamentarians, state governors, and local government officials – that would yield an additional hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars a year. And that at least would be a start. In an environment where corruption is truly tackled, a conversation can then be had with the people about a gradual withdrawal of subsidized petroleum products. But the way it was done, was harsh, even contemptuous of the average Nigeria and that is why it is being resisted.

 

Nigeria Remembers Dick Tiger

By Ikenna Okoli, FCIArb.

Richard Ihetu, a boxer, who fought under the nom de guerre Dick Tiger, was reputed to possess fists of iron. In a charity bout, in February, 1967 against the then Nigerian middleweight champion, Abraham Tonica, to raise funds for refugees swarming into then Eastern region as a result of the killings in Northern Nigeria, he was reputed to have hit Abraham Tonica with such ferocity, that Tonica, just before throwing in the towel, wondered aloud whether he was being hit with human fists or iron. That story is apocryphal by the way.

Dick Tiger was born on 14th August, 1929 in Amaigbo in present day Imo State. Probably only a few people outside the immediate family would have remembered the great man on the anniversary of his birth, but there are a few who remembered including this writer. And having remembered, there is a need to call attention to the neglect of the great man’s memory by the Federal Government and all the States of the old Eastern region.

Dick Tiger became a world champion when on 23rd October, 1962 he defeated Gene Fullmer to win the N.B.A. (later W.B.A.) world middleweight title. The Nigerian government in a show of support sent an official delegation, led by the Federal Minister of Labour and Sports, Chief Modupe Johnson, to the fight. The Governor-General, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe cabled a goodwill message urging him to fight a good fight in the tradition of the manly art.

Dick Tiger won a unanimous decision over Fullmer after comprehensively beating the American in his own backyard. After the fight many Nigerians who kept vigil monitoring proceedings on radio trooped out in celebrations congratulating each other on the great feat achieved by a Nigerian. Meanwhile a party was organised after the fight where Chief Modupe Johnson toasted Dick Tiger as “our champion”. Dick Tiger came back to Nigeria as a hero and was feted by the governments of the Eastern and Western regions amongst several events lined up to celebrate the worthy champion.

In August, 1963  Dick Tiger knocked out Gene Fullmer in Ibadan at the Liberty Stadium to retain his middleweight title in what was the first world title fight to be staged in Black Africa. The fight was made possible by the combined efforts of the Federal Government, the East, West and North Regional Governments. It was one fight that brought Nigerians together in celebration of one of their own who had excelled at the world stage. At this point Dick Tiger was no longer just the pride of Nigeria but had been appropriated by Black Africa. After defeating Fullmer, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah congratulated him on his successful defence of his middleweight crown, remarking that the victory added another testimony to the ability of the African to scale the highest ladder of human achievement.

Dick Tiger lost his middleweight crown in December, 1963 but regained same in October, 1965 to become the oldest active world champion. On 16th December, 1966 Dick Tiger defeated Jose Torres to become only the second fighter in 63 years to win the world light heavyweight title in addition to winning a middleweight championship

By May, 1967 hostilities had broken out between Nigeria and Biafra. Dick Tiger pledged his loyalty to Biafra and declared Nigeria dead. He made a plea to sports writers all over the world not to continue to associate his name with Nigeria. He aborted his retirement plans so as to put Biafra on the sporting map. This singular act caused Dick Tiger to lose much of his wealth and assets which he had accumulated in Nigeria. The Federal Government labelled him a traitor.

By July, 1971 Dick Tiger was diagnosed with cancer of the liver in New York City. He was home sick and wanted to come back to Nigeria, but given his wartime activities he sought assurances from the authorities that he was free to come back to Nigeria. He came back to Nigeria on 18th July, 1971. His international passport was confiscated and the Government refused his request to go out of Nigeria to undergo radical treatment for his cancer. He died on 14th December, 1971.

It is instructive that Dick Tiger was never officially honoured by the Nigerian Government and till date has not been so honoured. The governments of the old Eastern region comprising of present day Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River and Akwa Ibom States have also not deemed it fit to honour the memory of this great Nigerian.

My appeal to the authorities is that in these times where all sorts of characters are honoured for dubious achievements, Dick Tiger should be posthumously honoured. We need to show appreciation to this great and committed compatriot, who is undoubtedly Nigeria’s greatest sports personality.  I therefore suggest that the great Dick Tiger be conferred with a national honour and at a minimum the Abuja stadium named after him. As for the governments of Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Rivers, Cross-River and Bayelsa States they should take urgent steps to immortalize this most illustrious Nigerian.

No Medal For Nigeria

By Onochie Anibeze in London
LAGOS—The story of Nigeria at the 2012 London Olympics is “No gold, no silver, no bronze, N2.3 billion down the drain.”

And now a top Nigerian sports official who is a member of an international sports federation wants the federal government to compel the sports ministry to account for how they spent the N2.3 billion government released for the Olympic Games which ended in London yesterday. He would not have his name on print.

He said the ministry should disclose how much they released to each sports association that presented a team to the Olympic Games.  Athletics, Weightlifting, Taekwondo(athletes) Canoeing (one athlete), Wrestling, Basketball, Table Tennis and Boxing associations presented teams at the games. All the athletes were 51. The number of officials was still unknown as there were many who were not accredited and, consequently, were not useful to the athletes. They stayed in their hotels to watch the games on television. This irked the Nigerian official and he described the action of the ministry as “wasteful.”

He said it was  necessary for the ministry to disclose the allocations to each association because of what he called “the wrong decisions” that partly affected Nigeria’s preparation to the games.

I’m accomplished despite not winning a medal — Odumosu

Ajoke Odumosu is the African 400m hurdles champion but she was hardly seen as a major factor in Team Nigeria until she scaled into the Olympic final. The rule says she finished 8th but the quarter miler says she won a gold medal in an interview withPius Ayinor in London

Ajoke Odumosu is not known to have had major marketing deal for local or international product prior to the London Olympics. She may have been toiling day and night to get a medal from one of the most celebrated Games of all time, but not many saw her as the one that could carry the Nigerian cross. But she believed in herself. Her sparkling entry into the final – finishing first in her heat – instantly put her on the front burner and suddenly those who didn’t reckon with her began to follow her schedule.

And in less than one minute of hurdling, the hope changed to disappointment for many of the fans who had quickly switched allegiance from the popular faces. But the lady has taken it in her strides, insisting that she is happy with her performance if nobody else wants to see it that way.

She said, “Well, my first Olympic final is a very wonderful one but what slowed me down is the fact that I hit the first hurdle very really bad and I wasn’t able to recover from it but I still finished at 51.31 which is really one of my fastest times this year and I am really happy about that,” the America-based athlete told SUNDAY PUNCH in her personal expert review of her outing.

“I ran the Olympic final and that is my medal. I am proud being the only person from Nigeria and indeed the only person from the whole of Africa to get this far. I know I have achieved something good and being the only person from Africa is a medal for me.”

But does she think Nigerians who had waited prayerfully and anxiously for a first medal would see it that way? Would they be satisfied with a medal in the heart instead of one hanging on the chest?

She retorted, “I hope people will not say they are disappointed, but if they do, that is their own cup of tea. I feel good with what I have accomplished. I sincerely ran my best and I feel good about that; I don’t care what anyone else says. I ran my personal best because I didn’t come here to play. I was able to accomplish two things and I am proud of that – I got into the final and I got a new personal best which is something good for me. Some people may feel disappointed but I don’t feel disappointed; everyone has his own opinion. My opinion is that I achieved something and I am satisfied with that.”

As African and Commonwealth gold medallist, why she not rated so highly? Could it be that season’s timing could make many put a bet on her?

And Ajoke was not found wanting in her response.  She said, “Well, I don’t know what people were thinking, but all I know is that I trained very hard to get to this last moment. I knew what I wanted and worked hard towards that. I don’t like to lose; I’m not a loser; I’m not a quitter but I like to win. Before coming here I was ranked 12th in the world and today I have moved up four steps to becoming  best eight in the world and that’s no joke; and that is an improvement for me. It was no joke doing all I have done in this Olympics; I put in my best, I gave it all of my heart.

“This is a technical event which can rattle you once you miss it from the beginning. I hit the first one and then that all I had to do was to be patient and not panic and I just stayed focussed and completed the race. I may have finished last but it is a gold medal for me.”

The 2012 Olympic dream may be over but there are still a lot to conquer on the tracks for the hurdling star.

“All I have to do now is, go back to training and hopefully before the year runs out I will be able to go deep into 54 (seconds) which is my target. Every athlete trains daily to better the time and I will be doing that and so help me God. I want to be at my best.”

By the time Ajoke completed her race many Nigerians had resigned themselves to just watching the Olympics and enjoying rather than be hoping any more for medals. And like her colleagues, the hurdler pleads that Nigerians should be sympathetic to their challenges going into world competitions rather than calling them names.

She said, “Well, we’ve done really, really very great because if you look at the people here (Nigerian athletes) right now it is not like they are young or old; they are just in between both ends. This is my second Olympics but not more than about six of us have been to the Olympics before. Many are coming for the first time and of these, quite a number have not run for Nigeria for more than three years or so. As for me I have been competing for Nigeria since 2003 and I have progressively improved in what I am doing; everyone is improving too. No one wants to come here and not go home with a medal. We all have that goal and I feel that we put in our best shot; we gave all we could but perhaps it is seen as not being good enough. If they see it as not being good enough, then they should support us the more. Athletes need a lot of encouragement to perform. I think we all did our country proud by being here at this stage and we have to understand that those we have competed against here are the very best in the world in their various categories. From the prelims to the semis and the final is a lot of competition.

“I would just say people should pray for us and not criticise us as this cannot make us win medals or get any better.”