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The story of Rivers state top politician, Chief Allwell Onyesoh has many facets of uplifting the spirit of any talented and intelligent youth who dreams big and aspire to be great. The Etche born Onyesoh who is the PDP Senatorial aspirant for Rivers East in next year’s election has been a rough ride.The former Sports Commissioner who regularly offer scholarship awards to Etche Youths in various universities across Nigeria told the story of his life especially how he lost his father at a very tender age and how the onerous task of raising him and his siblings solely fell in the hands of his late mother. Onyesoh spoke at his last birthday party where he dished out scholarship to deserving students of Etche.

 

Why are you giving out scholarship?

 

I had this lack of fifteen shillings which was a lot of money at that time and equivalent to fifteen naira today meant for College examination fees which others paid and I didn’t pay for the filling of the exam form. This is because I didn’t have the capacity to do so. So, people went and wrote and I did not write. I had this impression of trying to grow up quickly and to help my Mum because she was a very young person and most times she appeared to be overwhelmed and I saw her crying. So, I try not to increase the problems for her. Even when I don’t feel fine, I will pretend as if I was okay. So, when she said look you can’t write till the next one, I said okay no problem.In my Primary school, I was the best in the school. However, a man came when people had gone for the exam. In those days you can have a Primary school of Class six of about 30-and only two will gain admission to secondary school. So, one man from my place called George Nwala asked where are the people who passed and went to secondary school. In those days, we used to call it College if you remember.They mentioned one or two persons and he said what of that small boy(referring to me) I came and he asked why and I explained to him that my Mum asked me not write that she hasn’t the money. Later the man drove to our house to look for me. He was very angry and he said why didn’t your Mum meet us, because he came from my father’s senior brother’s place. He was very angry and he left. I had already registered it on my mind that till next year. I still do that till today, if I can’t afford anything, it will never get over to me. Two weeks later,he came back and then he told me saying now If you go to write late entrance will you pass? I told him, well I don’t know as others will also write. Then, the man said prepare yourself,I will take you there this weekend. So, I prepared. Then the last weekend of September of 1973 he came and took me to County Grammar School Ikwerre-Etche. It was a Saturday, we wrote the exam. And the first working day of October 1973 he came back to me and he paid everything and he took me back to that school and it was announced that I was admitted as I had three Hundred over three Hundred. I got scholarship immediately on that day. And since that day till now, I have been moving. That movement changed a whole lot for me. And now that I am here, why can’t I help people. It was even more difficult helping people then than now. So that is the lesson I have learnt about life,help if you can!

 

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My Problem With Sunday Dare and His Pretensions By Fred EDOREH

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I have read the article titled: “Edoreh, Pinnick’s Errand Boy and the Limits of Amnesia.” It was a rejoinder to my earlier article titled: “Sunday Dare and the Facade of Nigeria Football Reforms.” In some platforms it was indicated as written by one Mansoor, in some other platforms it was indicated as written by Bello Makarfi. Notwithstanding the variations, I know Sunday Dare’s language.

 

Though they stated that I am “inconsequential,” they still considered my piece “consequential” enough to deserve a response. Gladly, their response did not debunk nor counter any of the issues nor points I raised on the banes of our sports development. That helps us to continue the conversation.

 

The writers, possibly with Dare’s ensemble of clappers, were piqued that I used harsh words on him. So, in retaliation, they merely threw back all sorts of invectives and petty lies at me.

 

I do not consider that I insulted the “big man’ and Sports Minister but if they feel so, my apologies.

 

They also felt that I insulted Segun Odegbami in spite of his legendary. For sure, “Big Seg” knows that I respect him for his playing days but I do not appreciate his shallow, deceptive and pretentious single stories in our national papers to twist the narrative of our sports to serve his personal interest.

 

He knows that I hold that merely having been a fine footballer does not translate to being a good sports administrator nor manager and that he personally underscores that by his failure to deliver in the several positions he had been entrusted with in our sports. I do not have any apologies for this.

 

I also actually do not understand how Amaju Pinnick came into the conversation because my article was not about him. It was about the dishonesty I perceive in Sunday Dare’s acclaimed football reforms which resonates with similar pretensions of his predecessors.

 

I itemised the incidents which, from the period of Tammy Danagogo through Solomon Dalung to Dare, show a recurrent pattern of merely scheming to put their persons in the leadership of our sports bodies while shying away from the real issues affecting the development of our sports. I enumerated the incidents which the writers agree are “issues.”

 

It was therefore not about running errands for Pinnick. A number of top stakeholders who have engaged me know that I did not support Pinnick to re-contest for the NFF Presidency, knowing how his second election was trouble enough, how the then Minister assembled forces in our football to sign a resolution disclaiming him in his bid to contest into the CAF Executive Committee, how the Minister sat down with former CAF President Ahmad Ahmad in Alexandria, Egypt, to lobby for his removal as CAF Vice President, how the present Minister dodged endorsing him for the FIFA Council election even when the President asked him to do so for a compatriot, until the Permanent Secretary took courage to call a conference to endorse him, how Segun Odegbami celebrated Harrison Jalla’s petitions to FIFA and CAS to disqualify him from contesting into the FIFA Council, the several false corruption charges against him aimed at either sending him to jail or having the government seize his home and other properties.

 

Most worrisome has been the resort to blackmailing him before the Presidency with such phrases as “sovereignty of Nigeria” “the laws of the land” and, as they recently deployed in their rejoinder, referring to him as “chosen to confront Nigeria and sparing no one from President Muhammadu Buhari…”

 

That kind of scheming speaks to the darkest of heart. It is a terrible wickedness obviously aimed at having the government to regard and declare Pinnick an enemy of the state, simply for coming into public service or out of envy for surviving strong in the position they desperately want for their friends or for making inroads into the top ranks of world football politics.

 

I feared for him and advised him that enough was enough, especially having succeeded in serving two tenures which no other NFF President had done. Besides, despite the “bad belle” from home, he won into CAF with 42 votes far and above the then incumbent, championed the removal of Issa Hayatou as President and still got into the FIFA Council. Any which way, he is a priceless asset to CAF and FIFA and any succeeding President of the NFF would still need him to penetrate world football.

 

But, talking about running errands, I think I have run more errands for Sunday Dare. We have engaged on issues relating to the development of our sports from the very month he was appointed. We have regularly exchanged notes. He has asked me on a number of occaision to write on certain perspectives he considered should be highlighted. He has called me to help reach out personally to some athletes on certain issues. I ran all the errands in the understanding that they were in the interest of our sports.

 

He, himself, summarised our relationship in these exact words: “Fred, thanks for supporting and criticising me always.”

 

Those words satisfy me as a journalist. They clearly acknowledge my being of independent mind: that I write with no fear nor favour nor consideration for friend nor foe.

 

If I had considered “stomach infrastructure” as Dare’s apologists suggest, I most probably would have always been clapping around him for a piece of his ministerial largesse, but as he has acknowledged, I “support” and “criticise” him “always” which I know many politicians do not enjoy.

 

They also tried to make an issue about my belonging or not belonging to a media. I find that most unintelligent.

 

Though I proudly publish and edit Sportstalkafrica.com, at my own pace, I thought that the Minister and his men should have known the place of freelance journalism and independent production in our modern world. Even more important is that I write, they see, read and even now respond to my writings. How more effective can one be in practice than writing, being read and responded to by a minister and his coterie of sponsored cabaret dancers?

 

They also pettily raised issues about Lagos SWAN. I served meritoriously as Secretary and Chairman. I was mentored by Frank Ilaboya and was instrumental to the biggest achievements of the chapter till date. I successfully handed over a huge physical and social asset base, conducted a final Congress at which my audit and reports were unquestioned, adopted and approved and I left gloriously to pursue other things while still keeping an eye on journalism and sports.

 

True, there was a disagreement between National SWAN and the former EXCO of Lagos SWAN. It had to do with the registration of the association at the CAC and the decision to de-affiliate from the NUJ, both of which Lagos SWAN and a few other chapters challenged. A Full Council Meeting of SWAN looked at and resolved the issues. They called for an amendment to the constitution submitted at the CAC which was done. They examined the NUJ Constitution and SWAN Statutes and, finding no strong legal string attaching SWAN to the NUJ, majority of the state chapters voted to ratify the de-affiliation from the NUJ while allowing individual members who wished to remain members of the NUJ to so do at the level of their individual organisations and Chapels, but the Lagos EXCO refused to go with the majority.

 

They held an election which they say was supervised by the NUJ, outside the statutes and constitution of SWAN. The National SWAN rejected the election and later set up a Caretaker Committee to organise another election in line with the rules of SWAN.

 

The disagreement landed both parties even at the DSS which sought to broker peace to avoid institutional and public breakdown of law and disorder. All parties, including the leadership of the NUJ in attendance, examined all the statute books and it was established that the NUJ has no hold on SWAN and, indeed, by its registration at the CAC, it is a full, separate, legal entity. After a long wait for the needful to be done, the DSS supported the Caretaker Committee to go ahead to discharge its mandate.

 

I state that I have nothing personal, whatsover, to do with all that and I have not been near the Lagos SWAN office for about two years now. Even when they tried to implicate me and the DSS invited me, the Director finally shut me up from speaking, pointing out that I had no locus in the matter.

 

Perhaps, defending myself on these petty personal attacks are unnecessary. I wished their rejoinder had been limited to the sports development issues I raised in my article, but just to keep the records straight in the interest of the public.

 

Back to the real issues, I have stated for the umpteenth time that I agree every institution is subject to reforms and re-invention but my grouse with Sunday Dare is that his reforms lack honesty, deep understanding and grace.

 

For instance, it is not exactly true that the Lagos National Stadium has been or is being fully renovated. The work there is on just the grass pitch and the scoreboard. How can the stadium operate after just those works with the terraces and other critical facilities still in dilapidation? Let’s not even question how much Baba Ijebu and Dangote gave for the Lagos and Abuja stadia? Time will reveal all that, but even the approach to the little work being done in Lagos took the needless expulsion and displacement of over 5,000 businesses and jobs. I consider that most callous under our economic reality, especially so as the businesses were authorised to operate at the stadium by the stadium management and the ministry of sports both of which collected fees and allocated spaces for the investors to establish.

 

How then could the Minister have disregarded such investments by ordinary citizens and thrown them out with no respite? Under the present economic reality and not minding that government is about the people? I find it evil. They also said it is because they don’t want people to be drinking beer at the stadium? So funny. They also said the Minister wants to return the facility to its 1970s design, leading to the destruction of the sports shops. Isn’t that backward? Reforms should be about adapting to the reality, needs and challenges of the time. What is wrong with the stadium providing space for economic activity for the people?

 

The Swimming Pool section, for instance, was so bad for about 20 years. An investor engaged the ministry to use his personal resources to rehabilitate it in return for a concession to operate it for some years to recover his investment.

The ministry granted the concession. After his investment, Dare has now constrained the investor from operating it to recover his investment. The man nearly died from the bank debt and interest he secured to make the investment. I do not agree with such inconsistency because it does not inspire the confidence of private investments for the development of our sports.

 

Also, PUMA got into a $2.7m kit deal with the AFN before the appointment of the Minister but he dismissed the deal ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at which PUMA should have enjoyed the benefits of its sponsorship. Any forward looking leader should have understood to allow the term of the deal to run out but he deceived the Presidency with talks about local content. I doubt if PUMA would want to enter into any deal again with any Nigerian sports federation in the nearest future.

 

At the end, we saw how one of our potential medallists posted a video of himself washing his single jersey at the Olympic Games Village in Tokyo, to the total global embarrassment of our nation.

 

We saw how our world champion in Shot Put was not provided the specified competition shoes at same Tokyo Paralympic Games, leading her to lose the gold and her world championship position.

 

We saw how, in wanting to sack the Ibrahim Gusau board of the AFN, the ministry thwarted its efforts on pre-event doping processes for Nigerian athletes to the Tokyo Games. The consequence was the barring of 10 of our 23 athletes from participation. They staged a protest at the Games Village.

 

That is apart from sacking the boards of sports federations to enable the ministry exclusively control spending at the games.

 

We also saw how, after meddling in the leadership of Nigeria Basketball, he pronounced the withdrawal of our teams from international events only for him to recant after the female team had been substituted with Mali for the FIBA Women World Cup.

 

He claims the success of his Adopt-an-Athlete programme led a state to adopt 10 athletes. Everyone knows that Delta State always programmed and sponsored their athletes and that Ese Brume and many others were already sponsored to the Univerty of Texas in El Paso before his arrival.

 

I thought that Sunday Dare should be ashamed of these inconsistencies because they are bad, disgraceful and do not make any sense in development, no matter his self-glorifying facade of posing with a silver and a bronze from the games.

 

It is worse now that, in Nigerian football, he seems obviously to be acting the script of some disgruntled friends who seem to be using his high office to revenge on the system for their past disappointments and pains in our sports politics. Such mindset cannot deliver any edifying nor enduring solutions for development.

 

A Minister of the Federal Republic should not be seen as acting by the dictation of parochial interests, but Sunday Dare is obviously acting the charge contained in Segun Odegbami’s article of April 2021 titled: “Re-Setting the Button of Nigeria Sports Administration” in which he charged the Minister to tear down the structures and statutes of the NFF and the league body to make way for those whom he claims to be the real owners of the game but who have not succeeded in sports politics.

 

As journalists and watchdogs, we must be bold, at all times, to reject the tendency for our officials to make laws or institute reforms tailored to suit particular interests because it mortgages society.

 

It does not also matter if the Minister has gone on to deploy the powers of state to achieve his drive as he has now done by closing the office of the LMC or having Harrison Jalla and his clique secure an injunction against the holding of the NFF elections just so that they can force their persons into the expansion of the congress to overwhelm the existing members.

 

All might is not necessarily right. It is all a graceless facade of reforms. We saw how, under Dalung, the NFF Secretariat was also seized by same Harrison Jalla and co.

 

The point remains that Dare is shying away from the real issues of our sports development and just cruising on political power.

 

In my career, I have seen over twelve sports ministers before him. I know that I know the history of our sports much more that his advisers may have told him, such that his present ministerial braggadocio do not mean a heck to me outside the real issues.

 

The real issues in the league are, first, the poor facilities, poor management, poor funding, non-business approach of clubs owned by state governments and the poor capacity of complementary sectors to support its functionality.

 

Sponsorships can only reasonably come in if there is broadcast of the league and the clubs are able to amass and retain followers. When Supersport was in, we saw a robust rebound in the league. Contrary to their claim, Supersport left because the cost of logistics for production was terribly high under the reality of our economy. It then preferred it can only pay broadcast right fee if it can receive clean feed.

 

Perhaps the only way out would have been if the league body had set up its own television production company because even the national carrier, the NTA, which it tried to partner, could not fill the space. The FRCN could not also afford to provide live commentaries.

 

I say again that a minister who wants to be taken seriously should have been honest enough to engage these issues and not merely be playing to the gallery of populism.

 

In dismantling the LMC today to satisfy Odegbami and his friends, the Minister didn’t think deep to see that the earlier composition of the league board that he wants to revert to had even greater problems.

 

A 2013 Premium Times report titled: “Nigeran Premier League Broke, as Board Begs NFF for Help,” told how the league board could not pay referees indemnities, could not afford to fund the AGM of its own Congress and had to send an SOS to the NFF to fund it. Interestingly that report was written by my sister, Aderonke Ogunleye.

 

A similar report titled: “Challenges Facing Nigerian League” appeared in Dare’s former newwpaper, PM News in same 2013.

The LMC, at its advent, resolved those issues and jacked up referees indemnity to N100k per match. Unfortunately, after the exit of Supersport it couldn’t sustain the resurgence and there are no indigenous broadcast companies capable enough to step in. In other climes, it would have been a competition.

 

These whole vicious circle indicates that we have failed to recognise and advert our efforts to treat the real issues and, no matter what Sunday Dare does now with his powers, we will still have to come back to the real issues in the future.

 

For now, let him continue to wallow vainly in flexing his political powers.

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Femi Otedola Battles Abdulwasiu Sowami Prudent Energy Over Accrued Debt

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When businessman and investor, Femi Otedola and his company, Zenon Petroleum and Gas reached an agreement with AbdulWasiu Sowami and his company, Prudent Energy, for the purchase of 74 per cent share capital in Forte Oil Plc in 2019, little did Otedola know that four years after, he would have no choice but to battle Sowami for full payment of the cash equivalent of the shares.

Otedola sold the shares of Forte oil for $200 million at the time. The deal was structured in such a way that the Ogun State-born Sowami would pay the money in tranches, instead of paying it in full. With that landmark transaction, Sowami became the owner of Forte Oil, which was later renamed Ardova.

However, Sowami who had been paying, stopped payment this year. The balance of the payment due to Otedola currently stands at $6 million and despite the debt and not yet completing payment, Sowami went ahead to buy a competitor, Enyo retail and supply with about 95 retail stations all over the country.

With the current state of the economy, not wanting to lose out of the bidding process for the five National Integrated Power Projects (his energy company, Amperion Power Distribution Company, the parent company of the Gerugu Power Station, is among the 16 energy companies listed by the Public Bureau of Public Enterprises qualified for the bidding) and also not wanting to risk the sale of his First Bank shares, in a bid to retain dominance in the banking sector, there is no denying that Otedola is in dire need of money.

Ironically, one of Sowami’s companies, Ardova PLC is also among the 16 lucky winners that will bid for the power assets. Tired of serving demand letters to Sowami to pay up his debt, which is long overdue, Otedola approached the court over Sowami’s inability to pay his debt. Whether Otedola will have an upper hand in the unfolding drama remains to be seen. Ardova Plc itself, formerly Forte Oil, has not been without its own fair share of challenges.

Last month the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) lifted a suspension placed on trading in the shares of the company for failing to file their Audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2021. But after the company filed its Audited Financial Statements and Unaudited Financial Statements for the quarter ended 31 March 2022, in compliance with all applicable rules of NGX, the trading house lifted the suspension.

Also, the company suffered some losses from its subsidiaries, Axles and Cartage, and the newly acquired Enyo Retail and Supply Limited, leading to a group net loss position of N3.8 billion.

Unlike Femi who is well known publicly, Sowami likes to operate in the background and abhors the spotlight. Himself and Otedola are alike when it comes to philanthropy. Sowami established the Abdul-Lateef & Sanni Foundation to build schools and provide scholarships to indigent students. He holds an M.Sc. in Corporate Governance from Leeds Beckett University, England and a B.Sc. in Sociology from the University of Maiduguri. He is a member of the Institute of Directors, Nigeria.

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