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Op Ed

2023: Politics without ideas, By Reuben Abati

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Reuben Abati

… the major issue in Nigeria’s democracy – at the federal and state levels today – should be ideas and specific performance. Since the beginning of this campaign, the main candidates have discussed nothing but religion, ethnicity, personal health, clothing, and personality. The 2023 campaign has been dominated by personal ambition and expectations, and trivia. Many of the presidential candidates that have emerged do not even have manifestoes. Nobody knows what they stand for or what they intend to do…

I am concerned, but not shocked in any way, that the most prominent reaction to the interview that Arise News conducted last week with the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar has been sheer tittle-tattle about location, and format and silly ego games. It is a measure of the confusion in the land, and the failure to focus on ideas and concrete issues. The big problem that we face in this country, six months to the 2023 general election, is the obsession with minutiae and the irrelevant. This must be considered a national tragedy considering the challenges before us. Thousands, if not millions of young Nigerians burn hours on the social media/internet abusing persons engaged in productive work, while they idle away in their ignorance and obscurantism. Times like this call for a greater deployment of time and intelligence, because Nigeria, indeed, now more than before in the last two decades, stands at the brink of a precipice. But alas, Nigeria is saddled with a growing generation of idlers who think that their lives are enriched by pulling down others. But while these ordinary, eponymously anonymous persons need not detain serious minded persons from forging ahead, it must be noted that the emergent political elite is not in any way better. Its members are worse in terms of intellect, capacity, and character. This forces us to ask that question again: What a country! Or as the sage, Chinua Achebe, put it: “There was a country!” The race to 2023 is a painful reminder of how the biggest tragedy that has befallen Nigeria is the absence of ideas, the collapse of good reason, and the brazen triumph of mediocrity and selective amnesia.

My concern is this: What is the central election issue as Nigeria prepares for the 2023 general elections? Where is that consensus that propels a nation? It is six months to Nigeria’s 2023 general elections, can anyone put his or her finger on any big issues of direct relevance within the context of the Constitution and the people’s expectations? I will address these same questions anon. But to get an idea of my drift, I would like to draw attention to what is currently going on in Britain. There is a bitter, blue-on-blue acrimonious fight for the seat of the Prime Minister of the UK within the ruling Conservative Party. The battle began with Prime Minister Boris Johnson losing the support and confidence of members of his own party and even if he survived two confidence votes, it eventually became clear that with the party-gate scandal and the abandonment of his government on the grounds of principle by many of his key persons, he had lost the support of his own party. From party-gate to everything else, Boris Johnson was his own assassin. He committed political suicide, damaged his own legacy and lost the moral right to lead. The practicality of his rejection is one of the reasons why I argue that Nigeria, going forward, should consider the option of a return to a parliamentary system of government or a combination of the parliamentary and the presidential, as has been robustly canvassed in the extant literature on the subject. The presidential system creates monarchs, and that is precisely what it does in developing economies. A parliamentary system places greater emphasis on accountability and responsibility at all levels, and the people’s voice. That is what we need. But what do we have?

Nigeria’s political process is inundated with nonsense for structural reasons and what we have is a mad-house. In the UK at the moment, there is a race to succeed Boris Johnson. There is a consensus that the Prime Minister has overstayed his welcome. His party needs to get rid of him, to protect the party ahead of the next general elections. Boris Johnson as Prime Minister has desecrated the seat long enough. He has resigned. He will quit on September 5. But as his party, the Tories seek to appoint a new leader and a new Prime Minister, what we see is a focus on the issues. About eleven candidates began the race for No. 10 but after five ballots within the party, the choice has been narrowed down to former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. Before this Liz vs Rishi moment, it must be noted that the arguments have been about issues and the British people – what can be done to make their lot better, what can be done to reinvent the party and deliver better dividends to the people in the face of an excruciating cost of living crisis – the cost of gas is high, the NHS is in trouble, inflation is so high, the Bank of England has had to tighten rates five times, persons in England now skip meals, confronted as they are by foodflation – so, how to save the Tory party and move beyond Boris Johnson. We have seen in that example, even if the eventual choice would be determined by a minority of about 160,00 Tory party members, a focus on the big issues that are relevant to the people’s interests. Human beings will ways be human, I know that, but even the personal attacks that we have seen in the Tory dog-fight: on Penny Mordaunt, on Sunak’s centrism, Liz Truss’s extreme right politics, have all been within the context of ideas and ideologies. The top contestants are talking about China, immigration, national security, the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, cost of living crisis, climate change, tax cuts and investments. When the British eventually make their choice at the current intra-party level, it would be one between definite ideas, and when they do so in a future general election, it would also be about ideas and the people’s interest.

While the British are in that mode right now, Nigeria is also looking for new leadership, from a choice of 18 political parties and presidential candidates. Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak had their first, major, one-on-one debate at 9 p.m. on Monday. The debate continues today, on Tuesday. Both debates matter because the candidates are spelling out their missions and visions. They will be watched closely and scrutinised by their publics, and whoever wins and emerges through the process would be convinced that the battle was truly won and lost, as both candidates continue to slug it out on the battle-grounds. Here, in Nigeria, the candidates are not talking to the people. With the key exception of Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Omoyele Sowore of the Africa Acton Congress (AAC), who both run movements, not political parties, the other candidates are busy talking to their kind: godfathers, persons they think control Nigeria, and who can fix the election for them, and the party elite. When they remember the people, they throw money at them, and promise to give them more money if they are elected.

Back to our original question: What are the big issues in Nigerian politics at this moment? The multiple reactions that have attended the Arise News interview with PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar simply show the lack of preparedness at the highest levels in this country. Nobody is talking about ideas. The reactions have been about peripheral issues, not ideas. Arise News sat with Atiku for a whole hour and raised issues ranging from politics to economy, relationships and other matters Nigeriana.

Nigeria, like many developing countries of the world that jumped on the democratisation scheme in the early 90s, does not understand what it means nor have the people been able to domesticate the idea of democracy. The democratic project was imposed by the West as a one-size-fits all proposition, but the many contradictions that this has thrown up is beguiling. To use Nigeria as an example, it would be in order to say that our country is not ready for democracy, certainly not in the present shape in which it is. Nigerian politicians are royalists with an undeserved sense of entitlement. They want power because power is sweet and grants a sense of control, relevance and importance. Our democracy is a democracy of terrorists, scavengers and opportunists. This is why there is a terrible gap between those at the apex and those at the base of society. Those who argue that the electorate should get their voters’ cards and make informed choices at the polls next year are all correct, and spot on, but what is anyone doing about the people’s cynicism, and the banditi-sation of Nigerian politics? In the absence of ideas and good conduct by the political elite, the people are in order to be cynical, as they have ever been, and what we see in the current lead up to Nigeria’s 2023 general election is chaotic cynicism.

Back to our original question: What are the big issues in Nigerian politics at this moment? The multiple reactions that have attended the Arise News interview with PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar simply show the lack of preparedness at the highest levels in this country. Nobody is talking about ideas. The reactions have been about peripheral issues, not ideas. Arise News sat with Atiku for a whole hour and raised issues ranging from politics to economy, relationships and other matters Nigeriana. The Nigerian social media mob took up editorial duties that is entirely not their business, as they focused on sponsored and teleguided BS and in their sponsored frenzy, they failed to look at key issues. The only exception in this regard would be, in my view, Farooq Kperogi, the scholar and columnist, who resisted and cleverly avoided a habitual tendency to be unkind to other people’s efforts. He focused on bigger issues. But what came from the other communities, that is, the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Tinubu Campaign Organisation, the Obidient movement supporting Peter Obi, and the Wike Camp, were the usual diatribes about ego: My candidate is better than yours, you lied against me. Within 48 hours, the whole thing degenerated into an ego game. Wike is threatening to talk later and reveal mountains of truth. He should stop threatening. If he has anything to say, let him go ahead and do so forthwith. Tinubu’s people have called Atiku a liar on the subject of the Muslim-Muslim ticket. Atiku says he wants Tinubu in a one-on-one, one hour debate to settle the matter once and for all. Tinubu, we are told, has a memory loss issue.

I won’t be surprised if the two candidates start talking about whose wife is more beautiful and who can still crack the best fires in the other room, or who is richer, or more energetic. The Tinubu group picked on the smallest issues in the Atiku conversation, talking about Abraham Lincoln, the politics of running mates, whereas there are more important issues about the economy, privatisation, national security, education and health. The way the Nigerian process is going, nobody will talk about what concerns the people. The politicians will share money on or before election day, and given the arrest of persons during the recent Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial off-cycle elections, the political bandits will find smarter ways of buying votes, and the ordinary people will find new ways of collecting electoral bribe. It is safe to say that there is no tested, effective law in place yet that addresses this challenge.

NNPC has just been unveiled as a new, commercial entity, in an industry that accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. What do the presidential candidates intend to do about that? Nigeria has a debt-to-revenue ratio crisis, with the debt service cost exceeding revenue by about 119 per cent?… But the space has been taken over by spokespersons writing platitudes and reticent candidates who piggy-back on the dominance of their parties and abdicate responsibility without negotiating the issues and a proper assessment of the chaos that is upon us.

So, why are ideas no longer relevant in Nigerian politics? Most of the 18 presidential candidates have no manifesto. For more than two weeks, the Tinubu Campaign Organisation, after rejecting a document that was widely circulated, threatened to release a manifesto. Nobody has seen that manifesto yet. What we see are reactions to rival political candidates on peripheral issues. More serious candidates who could have been on the ballot ironically have since been pushed out of the race. Where is Kingsley Moghalu for example? And why is Omoyele Sowore being treated like a student unionist? And why has Peter Obi been reduced to a social media sensation? Ideas, Ideas, ideas. We can’t get anything concrete. Nobody listens to ideas, because the ones that are ready to promote them are not given the opportunity to do so. Those who try to generate ideas, outside partisan boundaries, are treated badly. In 2015, it would be remembered that the APC, in seeking to wrest power from the ruling PDP, tried to construct its gambit around ideas: Security, the economy and fight against corruption. In 2019, the ruling party sustained the same mantra and asked for an opportunity to complete what it started. In 2022/2023, the main gladiators are terribly distracted.

Yet, the major issue in Nigeria’s democracy – at the federal and state levels today – should be ideas and specific performance. Since the beginning of this campaign, the main candidates have discussed nothing but religion, ethnicity, personal health, clothing, and personality. The 2023 campaign has been dominated by personal ambition and expectations, and trivia. Many of the presidential candidates that have emerged do not even have manifestoes. Nobody knows what they stand for or what they intend to do, not even what they understand about the task ahead. Titles are fashionable in Nigeria. Power is desirable. The allure of position and influence is magnetic. Nigerians would jump at anything along this spectrum. They want titles, not responsibility. This is why I think the reaction to the Arise News conversation with Atiku Abubakar veered off from the centre to the periphery. There are issues indicated in that conversation and alive in the public domain that have been conveniently ignored.

NNPC has just been unveiled as a new, commercial entity, in an industry that accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. What do the presidential candidates intend to do about that? Nigeria has a debt-to-revenue ratio crisis, with the debt service cost exceeding revenue by about 119 per cent? The national grid continues to collapse and function epileptically. Inflation is as high as 18.6 per cent. There is unemployment in the land. Food inflation as well. Life is so insecure, terrorists are threatening to abduct the President, Senators and Governors and either kill them or sell them into slavery, and they sound very serious about that objective. Yesterday, they even made an effort to engage the presidential guards in Abuja. The country also faces a serious foreign exchange crisis – it is so bad that even bread makers are threatening to go on strike because they cannot access forex and raw materials. The aviation sector is down. The nation’s currency has lost everything, including its integrity, the big question is how to save it. In real terms, this country is on the way to Venezuela, if not Sri Lanka or Lebanon. These are important issues that should engage the attention of those who want to rule the country. But the space has been taken over by spokespersons writing platitudes and reticent candidates who piggy-back on the dominance of their parties and abdicate responsibility without negotiating the issues and a proper assessment of the chaos that is upon us. The country’s destiny seems postponed. This trend must change. Every presidential candidate should be shown the video of yesterday’s UK Prime Ministerial debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

Reuben Abati, a former presidential spokesperson, writes from Lagos.

Source: Premiumtimesng

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Op Ed

Time calls time on Chief Duro Onabule

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Chief Duro Onabule

An outstanding journalist, editor and newsroom manager in the best traditions passed on yesterday.

Chief Duro Onabule provided me with an entry into journalism as a cub. The year was 1982. I was on vacation my first year and did not fancy idling away. National Concord was reigning, and it was a walking distance for a young man from our home in Mafoluku, Oshodi.

So off to Concord, I went. Dele Giwa informed me that there was no room for an intern. I then walked up to the daily editor. He asked critical questions and sent me to Mrs Ebun, Chief Sub-Editor. That’s how I commenced journalism on the sub-desk: editing and fitting copy, trimming and casting headlines.

Chief Onabule wrote with wisdom, moderation and candour. He said it as it is and was never afraid to run contrary to the day’s wisdom. Fare thee well, Sir.

The IBB era dampened and almost smudged his reputation. But he rallied based on a record of good works and a strong network.

He earned the Double Chief cognomen from being a Chief and leader of the Press pack at the time to become Chief Press Secretary to President Ibrahim Babangida.

Onabule was born on 27 September 1939 in Ijebu-Ode. He was at CMS Grammar School and the School of Journalism, London. His first media work was as a reporter for the Daily Express in 1961; three years later, he joined the staff of the Daily Sketch. He spent some time with the Daily Sketch before returning to his previous employer, the Daily Express.[2] In 1969, he served as the London correspondent for the Daily Express. In the mid-1970s, he worked for the Daily Times, rising to become a deputy editor of the Headlines magazine. When MKO Abiola started the Concord Press, Onabule was appointed features editor and became the National Concord editor in 1984.

Onabule died on 16 August 2022, at 83.

By Chido Nwakama

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Op Ed

The secret diary of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

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Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of Nigeria

If Buhari had supported me, I would have been the presidential candidate of the APC.


This morning, after my praise and worship and morning prayers, I scanned through online newspapers. As usual, I read both the local and the international news headlines. Apart from the election in Kenya, the other headline that caught my attention was the New York Times’ story about how General Mark Milley, President Trump’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, almost resigned. According to the newspaper, he wrote a resignation letter that was biting. It made me have a flashback. I remembered my resignation letter, which, just like General Milley, I did not submit.

General Milley wrote his resignation letter days following the killing of George Floyd and the protest that followed. What triggered him was the event of June 1, 2020, when Trump took him and other top government officials, like the Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr and others, on a walk from the White House to St. John’s Church in Washington DC. As part of the walk, SSS deployed security personnel to clear people protesting the death of George Floyd along the path. In his letter, General Milley told Trump that he ruined the international order and caused damage to America abroad. He reminded Trump that the Greatest Generation fought a war against tyrannies, dictatorships, fascism, and Nazism, that killed over 150 million people to put in place that order.

From the extract the paper published, it was a fascinating letter of resignation. CNN said that General Milley was set to excoriate Trump. My resignation letter had gone a step more than denouncing Buhari and blaming him for destroying what remained of Nigeria’s unity, for which millions died in the war to keep Nigeria one. I laid bare how Buhari weaponized religion, ethnicity and nepotism to blow up the remaining guardrails that separated the veins of the nation from hordes of people drunk in ignorance and wallowing in poverty of the minds.

I made predictions, or if you like, prophecies, too. And so far, some of my prophesies in that letter have already started to manifest. Only now, when I release the letter with my memoir, some of you would think I wrote it in hindsight. Thank God I mailed two copies of the letter to two of my most trusted confidants. I may even show the different drafts and editing my letter went through in the memoir.

Here is General Milley in his own words in that resignation letter. “It’s now obvious to me that you don’t understand that world. You don’t understand what the war was all about. In fact, you subscribe to many of the principles that we fought against. And I cannot be a party to that. It is with deep regret that I hereby submit my letter of resignation.”

I had to pause reading General Milley’s letter to attend to the love of my life. She came into my study to show me the viral clip of Peter Obi’s visit to Dunamis Church.

“This could have been you,” she said.

I wanted to say, “Even you.” But I swallowed the words. She apparently did not know how many people had sent that same clip to me in the last few days. I asked Laolu if he thought this could have been me. He was coy, as usual. He shrugged and said, “God knows best.” I looked at him suspiciously. He recovered and rephrased his sentence, saying, “God’s time is always the best.”

I will get to all that in this first entry into my Secret Diary. But first, let me finish the story of Milley’s resignation letter because it is connected to my letter and why I have decided to keep this secret diary.

I am writing this on a password-protected diary website. Even the love of my life does not know the password. Suppose the next president of Nigeria sends the EFCC to search my home and break into my safe in search of documents connecting me to Tunde Fowler, the Executive Chairman of the Federal Internal Revenue Service that Buhari fired in 2019; they won’t see this secret diary. And I know one of the current presidential candidates that won’t wait to do to me what the FBI did to former U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday.

So, General Milley did not submit his resignation letter after consulting prominent military leaders like Gen. James Dubik and former secretary of defence and CIA chief Robert Gates.

I was shocked at the similarities of Milley’s predicament to mine. I wrote my resignation letter after the uproar that followed my firing of the Department of State Services director-general in August of 2018. Nigerians have forgotten the DSS siege of the National Assembly that prompted me to fire the man. As acting president, I ensured that we maintained law and order in Nigeria under my watch. I was not going to compromise such an essential part of my job. Also, it was one thing to sideline and even insult me when I was only the Vice President, but such behaviour was unacceptable to me as acting president. I had to make that very clear.

To have that decision to fire Lawal Daura questioned, to have it considered for possible reversal, to have some people who think they own the country use it as a basis to question my loyalty to the president, to have them instigate my isolation and emasculation, was all that I needed to pen my resignation. In my letter, which you will read in my memoir, I pointed out incredible ways I had been loyal to the president. For example, when he was sick in London, again and again, against every fabric of my being, I lied to the Nigerian people that the president was “hale and hearty.” It was loyalty. But the reward I got was to be disrespected and ostracized more than ever.

After broad consultation, I did not submit the resignation letter that I wrote. Though now, I wonder if those people who advised me were honest. I wonder if they were not moles of the people who did not want me to be president. I was leaning on leaving. If I had done that, I believe I would have been in Peter Obi’s position today.

Unlike Milley, I had another incident down the road that compelled me to update the letter. And I did. But once again, I failed to submit it. You will read all about that and the updated letter in my memoir. A part of me now wished that I did tender the letter. It would have made all the difference if I had done so, either the first or second time. It was not that some people did not advise me to do so. Many prominent people did. Even knuckleheads like Dr. Damages, I saw him running his mouth everywhere. They were talking about how I needed to separate myself from Buhari’s government if I wanted to show that I disapproved of what was happening within the administration.

But I firmly believed that the dividend of loyalty superseded all other contingencies. I underestimated the power of vengeful older men who strode Nigeria’s corridors of power. I trusted God, who took me this far to finish the job that I believed he had handpicked me to accomplish for the country. Unfortunately, God had a different idea in the end. I say so because I have prayed hard and fasted to reach this mild conclusion. I had resisted the temptation to say that God failed me. I was sure that God would turn the mocked mere commissioner into the president of Nigeria. Maybe, what I missed was God’s signal to resign. Maybe.

I remember all this because I had received over a dozen times the clip of what transpired when Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labor Party, visited Dunamis church in Abuja. When I saw him with Pastor Paul Enenche, I felt it could have been me if only I had resigned. It could have been me if I had read the handwriting on the wall. It could have been me if only I had been bold. It could have been me if only I had not confused loyalty to a man with loyalty to my country and God. It could have been me if only I had understood all these years of being a pastor and following in the footsteps of my Daddy GO that God had not stopped treating us like his sheep. He would take us to the pond but would not force us to drink. 

These are the two things that have prompted me to start this diary. In the days to come, as I recuperate from leg surgery done in Nigeria by excellent Nigerian doctors, I will have enough time to reflect on the events of the last few months. In my remaining months as the Vice President, I will be putting my thoughts on paper. I will use some of these reflections in my memoir when this is over. I already have a title for it: “God is not mocked” with the sub-title, “Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s years as Buhari’s Vice.” While going through my squashed presidential dream grieving process, I considered some controversial titles. 

At one point, I blasphemously thought of calling it “Why I am disappointed in God.” Because I prayed hard… and my people also prayed. There was a time when I wanted to incinerate everything. Then, the title running around in my head was “No brotherhood in a zoo.” But thank God, cool heads have prevailed. But I can assure you that I will not bite my tongue when I finally put pen to paper. I have had enough of sitting in this office and crushing my testicles.

Watching Kenyans vote and the president’s candidate Raila Odinga on the road to victory even though he is from the opposition party, I got angry again. Undoubtedly, if Buhari had supported me, I would have been the presidential candidate of the APC. But he didn’t. And because of that, a grossly infirmed man is leading our party. Lurking behind him is a hyena, waiting to take over. When he does take over from our man with a fake name, fake age, fake state of origin, or fake school, he would be lenient to our Igbo brothers and sisters but not to my Christian family. 

For those who accused me of betrayal, I will address you all, too. Real betrayal would have if I had revealed what I knew about Alpha Beta and some under-the-radar, never disclosed deals that happened while I was in Lagos. There is a reason why people like Babatunde Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode, Rauf Aregbeshola, and I purse our lips, skin our smiles, and wrap our winks when you see us around the man.

Even though I still feel disappointed in myself, my advisers, and others that I will name in my memoir, I sincerely believe my Father in the Lord when he said to me days after the APC’s primary, “God is not done with you.”

Looking at this election season, I can see a possible outcome and permutation that will have the whole country begging me to come and take over in 2027. Forget Peter Obi and his dance in the market square. The big moment has not eluded me. It has only been postponed.

Alright now, I have to stop here. The love of my life is coming over for us to take our evening walk. I can hear her ever-soft footsteps that serenade my soul.

Source: Gistcore

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Op Ed

A new star is born!

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Amusan: Buhari Congratulates Gold Medalist

There was celebration amongst the stars. It had been long in coming.

For several years, a young Nigerian female athlete had been knocking on the door of success, to be let in.

It was always so close that it became only a matter of time before she was going to make it, and to win at any one of the major events around the circuit of a track event that combines sprinting and scaling over hurdles for 100 metres. Hurdling is one of the most technical and challenging of races on the tracks.

Not too long ago, she mouthed her frustration to friends and thought briefly of accepting her fate, giving up the sport entirely, and thanking the Creator of the Universe for the relative success she had achieved in her life – fame, a sound grounding in education, a good income from running in the European circuits, and the opportunity to start a project to touch the lives of young girls in Ogun State of Nigeria where she comes from and to make her life a model they can emulate.

Earlier this year, in February 2022, she visited Nigeria and together with her mentor and greatest supporter (Omoba-Abiola Onasanya – a former national sprinter and US-trained athlete, coach and administrator) they funded the establishment of a sports program in Ijebu Ode that was to eventually become an annual clinic for the certification of coaches, to discover young talented athletes in selected secondary schools in Ogun State, to train those discovered locally, and to prepare the best of them for placement in American Colleges and Universities, a similar path she had trodden successfully on her own journey.

That done, and firmly set in her sights, she somehow dug deep into the spirit of determination, perseverance, even more hard work and a single-mindedness that was the last ingredient in the final fine tuning of her running and jumping skills, inching ever closer to perfection in a long, lonely, and frustrating experience of always ending up in the periphery of success, and never getting there.

The heavens watched her put in all the work and effort essential for success, and as Eugene, Oregon, beckoned, ministered to her spirit to take it easy, relax this time and enjoy her running because as there was nothing more to do that she had not done. All she needed now is the wind of luck, staying fit and being healthy on the night of her events.

Last week, the heavens looked down favourably on her in a spiritual conspiracy that could only have come from the Throne of Grace. No one on earth had prepared for what was to happen, no one, least of all, Oluwatobilola, herself.

When the World Athletics Championship 100 metres hurdles event started, there was the blazing fire of determination and focus in her eyes, and the wind on her feet.

Many ‘bad bele’ analysts shamefacedly demanded an investigation into the make and length of the spike of her Adidas shoes, because they saw that she ‘flew’. Even the Black African/American legendary sprinter, Michael Johnson, a former world record holder in multiple events, shocked and bemused his many fans with his skepticism by claiming, without any justification, minutes after the races, that he doubted the integrity of the timing machines used. Pure balderdash. His bias and envy were obvious. What he also forgot was that the holder of the world record in the 100 metres hurdles event going to the championship, Ms Harrison, was in the same race, and Tobi had left her trailing in both of her races with a yawning margin. 

Skeptics checked everything checkable to diminish two of the greatest sprinting events over hurdles the world has ever seen before that day, and found nothing but a slight tail wind over the limits, to deny her the pleasure of the ultimate achievement of breaking the world record twice in two successive races within minutes of each other! At last, her first record was ratified and her second time accepted, but not recorded as the new World record.

In the end, both decisions did not affect the reality of a race that was run to perfection every step of the 100 metres distance, to perfect picture of a beautiful, young Nigerian female gliding over the hurdles with consummate ease and efficiency, effortlessly and flawlessly leaving the world in awe as history unfolds. This lady was to go on to earn a deserved place amongst mortals, a seat with the gods, and sporting immortality in history.

For those interested in the stars, I urge all to look up on any bright clear night and find the brightest star in the constellation. It is a newly-birthed star named Oluwatobiloba Amusan.

She is an ordinary girl from Ijebu Ode, an ordinary town in Ogun State, Nigeria. She went to an ordinary school in the town where her talent as a sports girl was discovered. She was initially a football player , but was converted to a runner when she was found to be running faster than the ball on the field.

There is something about Ijebu Ode and that entire environment that requires some scientific inquiry. Tobi was discovered as an athlete when she was in Our Lady of Apostle Secondary School in Ijebu Ode.

She tells the story of how her father angrily burnt her running shoes one day when he felt she was devoting more time to sport than to her academics.

Looking into their past, the school and the town have a rich but quiet history of producing some extra-ordinary athletes in sports.

That’s the environment that produced Falilat Ogunkoya, the Akinremi sisters, Ajoke Odumosu, Fatimo Mohammed, Anthony Joshua, Isaac Adenuga and many other exceptional athletes. I am personally interested in pursuing that research.

Discovered by American College coaches Tobi simply followed in the footsteps of other athletes from Nigeria before her that had benefited from the training programmes offered by the University of Texas, El Paso, and went to the same university.

El paso has honed the talents of many Nigerian greats in athletics, providing them with athletics scholarships that gave them a grounding in education whilst making them exceptional athletes.

Last week, everything came together in two unforgettable races.  With billions of eyes across the planet trained on her, she put up a performance that was too good to be true – a perfect race on a perfect night.

The biggest conversation around the world now may be: ‘where were you when Tobi Amusan, the Nigerian goddess of the track, broke a world record twice on the same night?’.

Author: Segun Odegbami

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