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Taiwo Awoniyi: Future at Anfield in Doubt?
After helping Nigeria to win the U-17 World Cup in 2013 with a splendid performance, observers were of the opinion that the Super Eagles have a future in Taiwo Adeniyi. It indeed came as no surprise when English Premier League club Liverpool signed him two years later. However, he has gone on his sixth loan spell since joining the Reds and a senior national team place is still far between
In spite of having spent the last four seasons away from Anfield and yet to make an appearance for the club, Awoniyi was last year handed an improved contract by the management of Liverpool.
“I feel excited and I feel very happy. When I was told about the contract I was so eager to get it done, to move onto the next stage, going out on loan or being a Liverpool player,” Awoniyi told Liverpool’s official website then.
“My ambition is to work hard wherever I find myself and hopefully be a better player.”
The Nigerian striker who has since enjoyed loan stints with FSV Frankfurt, NEC Nijmegen, Royal Excel Mouscron (twice) and KAA Gent was on Tuesday sent on loan for a sixth time by English Premier League club Liverpool since he joined them in 2015 and this time he will spend the season with German Bundesliga side Mainz.
A move to the Bundesliga should be a decent step up for him to continue his development. The fact that he has gone to a club that Klopp knows very well can only be an added benefit as well.
Several young players like Reece Oxford and Jadon Sancho, have headed to Germany to further their careers and Awoniyi will hope he can progress at a similar rate before coming back to Anfield at some point in the future.
The 21-year-old, who is yet to play a competitive game for Liverpool, spent last season at Belgian side Mouscron, scoring 14 goals in 38 appearances.
In April, he admitted his inability to get a UK work permit could derail his hopes of playing for Liverpool expressing his sadness at being unable to feature for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
“It saddens my heart that it’s been difficult to get a work permit for the past four years,” he said.
“At the end of the season, we have to go back to Liverpool to discuss. Everyone knows the importance of the work permit and how it works, and that you’d need to play for your national team. If you don’t get a chance with your national team then it becomes difficult to get it.”
The youngster’s struggles to obtain a work permit come as a result of the difficulties non-EU players face, with footballing hopefuls first needing to demonstrate their worth on the international stage, something Awoniyi is yet to do with Nigeria.
Such issues haven’t dampened his hopes for the future though, insisting he chose to join Premier League outfit due to his love for the English game.
He added: “Personally, I chose Liverpool because I would love to play in the English Premier League for Liverpool. If God says it will happen then it will, but if not then I can only go on with my life and career.
“Going from Germany to Holland and to Belgium was a big career move for me as a player. My thanks to Liverpool for that. It helped me a lot to develop more as a player. At the moment, I don’t have a work permit. I’ll go on loan again and keep on working hard as much as I can.”
Liverpool experienced an unprecedented resurgence last season that saw them win the UEFA Champions League, and central to those feats were African duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
“It was an amazing year for the club, with the likes of Mane, Salah and my favourite player, Firmino. He works so hard for the team, plays for the team and makes the job easier for the team. Mane and Salah have really done well for the club and shown the world what Africa has got. Many African players have this talent – it’s just the opportunity sometimes.”
The striker hopes his showing in another loan spell in the upcoming season paves a way to Gernot Rohr’s heart.
“That is a big part of the ambition for me. I have played for many years with the youth teams and I look forward to hopefully getting a chance with the senior team. This season will be the one they judge me on. Hopefully, I will do it.,” he continued.
His first loan stint was at German second-tier club FSV Frankfurt in the 2015/16 campaign then Dutch side NEC Nijmegen the following season in order to attract interest from national selectors and gain a work permit.
For non-EU players to be granted a work permit, they must demonstrate they are an international player of “the highest calibre .”
This means they must have played in 75 per cent of a FIFA top-50 ranked national team’s matches over the previous two years.
Awoniyi, who helped his country win the U-17 World Cup in 2013, is currently part of Nigeria’s U-23 side vying for a ticket to the 2020 Olympics football event in Tokyo.
After representing the country at all levels, the product of Imperial Academy – owned by former Nigerian midfielder Seyi Olofinjana – is still hoping for a chance at senior level.
He played at the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, scoring twice and then helped Nigeria win the 2015 African U-23 Championship in Senegal.
However, he missed out on playing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio in spite of being selected by Nigeria for their 35-man provisional squad.
In 2010, Awoniyi was voted the Most Valuable Player at a Coca-Cola football competition in London. His performance at the competition was spotted by Olofinjana who made him join Imperial Soccer Academy.
Man City Begin Title Defence with Visit to West Ham
Manchester City will begin their Premier League title defence as they visit West Ham United this afternoon having already secured a piece of silverware. The top-flight champions withstood a Liverpool fightback to claim the Community Shield in a penalty shootout at Wembley Stadium last Sunday. However, appearing in an extra fixture came at a cost to Pep Guardiola as one of his key men left the pitch during the early stages due to injury
anchester City have Premier League immortality in their sights as they start their title defence this weekend, but Liverpool’s burning desire to get their hands on the trophy will fuel a heavyweight battle for supremacy.
In the blue corner, treble winners City are at the peak of their powers and look capable of enjoying a period of sustained dominance not seen since Manchester United earned three successive Premier League titles from 2007 to 2009.
But in the red corner, European champions Liverpool, chasing a first English title since 1990, have more than a puncher’s chance of ending City’s reign after pushing Pep Guardiola’s side all the way to the final day last season.
The first blows was landed this week as Liverpool kicked off the new Premier League campaign against promoted Norwich at Anfield yesterday, before City head to West Ham today.
Sunday’s no-holds-barred Community Shield clash showed the growing rivalry between England’s pre-eminent teams, with City beating Liverpool on penalties following a 1-1 draw that underlined how little there is to separate the sides.
Adding Atletico Madrid’s Rodri for a club-record £63 million gives Guardiola an even greater embarrassment of riches.
With five major trophies over the past two seasons – including Premier League crowns clinched with unprecedented hauls of 100 and then 98 points, City are the bookmakers’ favourites to become only the second club to win a hat-trick of English titles in the past 35 years after United did it twice.
Guardiola is a keen student of football history and has revelled in City’s record-breaking feats, so the opportunity to further bolster his team’s credentials as one of England’s all-time greats will not be lost on the Spaniard.
Although City have never won the Champions League and Guardiola last lifted it back in 2011 with Barcelona, he said domestic bliss remains his preferred passion.
“To maintain the health and focus of the team, the most important thing is the Premier League,” Guardiola said.
“It is the standout competition because it is every weekend. In the Champions League, many things can happen in one or two games. We will be closer to achieving in Europe when we have more Premier League titles. That is a nice process and the right process to do at Manchester City. If I could have one thing this season, right now, it would definitely be the title.”
It would be a surprise if Liverpool do not make City sweat right to the finish once again after bouncing back from last season’s agonising near-miss in the title race by winning their sixth European Cup.
No team has ever gathered more points without winning the Premier League than second-placed Liverpool did last season with their tally of 97.
Jurgen Klopp’s side lost just once in their 38 league games – crucially that defeat came against City but their 2-0 Champions League final win over Tottenham ensured there was no title hangover.
Liverpool had the Premier League’s meanest defence last season and boast an attack featuring two of the campaign’s three leading scorers in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Despite that wealth of talent, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum admits making a fast start is essential to stop City establishing a stranglehold at the top.
“You just have to collect as many points as possible, especially in the beginning, and try to build a team who will be even better at the end of the season,” Wijnaldum said.
“We can try and do even better than last season. Basically it starts now because now we have the whole team together.”
Challengers to City and Liverpool are likely to be thin on the ground.
Since winning the Europa League, Chelsea have lost star playmaker Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and hired an idolised but inexperienced new manager in Frank Lampard, who is working under the club’s transfer ban.
Guardiola suggests Manchester United are contenders after making £80-million-man Harry Maguire the world’s most expensive defender and landing young talents Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James.
But it is hard to imagine United, who ended 32 points adrift of City in sixth place, bridging that gap this season.
Arsenal have the look of pretenders rather than contenders, while Tottenham have not invested enough to satisfy boss Mauricio Pochettino despite a paying a club record of around £54 million for Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele.
However, the standout fixture for this weekend is the visit of Chelsea to Manchester United.
Frank Lampard might have hoped to ease his way into the Chelsea hotseat at his beloved Stamford Bridge but his top-flight managerial bow takes place on hostile territory -Old Trafford.
The return of Chelsea’s record goalscorer to west London as manager was the most intriguing development of the summer and Sunday’s blockbuster is the standout clash as the Premier League cranks back into life.
Lampard will start with goodwill aplenty but needs only to look as far as the United bench during Sunday’s baptism of fire to know that being a club great takes you only so far.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed a dream start to life as Manchester United manager last season, taking 26 points from his first 10 league games after replacing Jose Mourinho.
But the bounce did not last and the Norwegian will find himself under intense scrutiny as fans seek tangible evidence that United can challenge City.
Solskjaer has been backed in the transfer market with Swansea City flying machine Daniel James and Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka snapped up before United this week paid an eye-watering 80 million pounds ($97 million) for Leicester City’s commanding England centre back Harry Maguire.
While United have spent big, Chelsea’s transfer ban has taken them on a new course and Lampard will continue the methods that served him well at second-tier Derby County last season and promote youngsters such as Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and the currently injured Callum Husdon-Odoi.
Lampard can still call upon plenty of top-quality internationals such as France midfield anchor N’Golo Kante and Willian, but Chelsea appear short on attacking star quality now that Eden Hazard has departed for Real Madrid.
American striker Christian Pulisic is their only new addition, having signed in January before returning to Borussia Dortmund on loan, so Lampard will be given breathing space.
The status quo is likely to remain in the top six and the early weeks might offer clues as to the order.
Tottenham over-achieved last year after signing no players and having to play home games at Wembley until April, plus dealing with injuries to leading striker Harry Kane.
This time they start in their 62 000-seater stadium, have Kane fresh and in 65 million-pound midfielder Tanguy Ndombele, signed from Olympique Lyonnais, have made a statement signing.
Today’s opponents Aston Villa, back in the top flight after being relegated in 2016, have signed 12 new players and look the best-equipped of the promoted sides to survive.
Arsenal, fifth last season, travel to Newcastle United on Sunday where the hosts’ manager Steve Bruce will hope to placate the fans still angry at the departure of Rafa Benitez.
Light Dimming at Arsenal
News was rife last week that Kelechi Nwakali had dumped Arsenal and moved to Spanish Segunda División club SD Huesca, but his agent and brother was quick to debunk the story. He, however, admitted that the former Nigerian junior international would not stay at Arsenal this season
panish news outfit, Dairo AS broke the story last week that Arsenal have sold Nigeria midfielder, Kelechi Nwakali, to Spanish Segunda División club SD Huesca and that the Spanish side are on the verge of announcing the deal.
However, the brother to the Arsenal midfielder was quick to say Nwakali was not closing in on an Arsenal exit despite media speculation and that he was not on the verge of joining SD Huesca contrary to reports.
However, he added that the 21-year-old was likely to leave Arsenal this summer. Although the reports linking him with an imminent move to SD Huesca are wide off the mark, Nwakali is still likely to depart Arsenal either on loan or permanently.
The once-capped Nigerian international has never played a senior game for the Gunners. But he has tested some first-team action during loan spells away from the club.
In his short career, Nwakali has spent time with MVV Maastricht (twice), VVV Venlo and FC Porto B. He has racked up a total of 80 career appearances so far. But his future at Arsenal looks bleak.
“The news that Kelechi Nwakali is set to join SD Huesca on a free transfer is not correct, nothing like that for now. If Kelechi is joining a new club, I’ll be the first person to know.
”I know Kelechi will leave Arsenal either on loan or permanent deal, clubs are coming for him. By God’s grace I know we will be able to get a better club and a club that can play him each game, it’s not all about the money.”
Nwakali is now 21 and this is a vital stage in his career. He is clearly not going to make the Arsenal first-team for next season so he should be let go for the sake of his career.
Reports of a free transfer might still be accurate because Arsenal does not need the young midfielder. But the player is clearly holding out for a better offer than SD Huesca, who are playing in the Spanish second tier this season after their La Liga relegation in May.
Born on June 5, 1998, Nwakali started his career at the Diamond Football Academy and after his performances at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, in which he won the Golden Ball Award, he signed with English Premier League side, Arsenal.
On September 2016, it was announced that Nwakali had signed for Eerste Divisie side, MVV Maastrcht on loan for the season. He then made his professional debut for the side the same day against Jong Ajax when he came on as a 92nd-minute substitute for Thomas Verheijdt as MVV won 1–0.
In August 2017, Nwakali joined Dutch side, VVV-Venlo on loan for the first six months of the season. After the initial six-month loan deal expired, he elected to leave Venlo and return to MVV Maastricht for the second half of the season.
Nwakali returned to Maastricht on loan for the second half of the 2017-18 Eerste Divisie season, having played just 380 minutes of Eredivisie football with Venlo.
He was named to the provisional squad for the Nigeria U-17 side before the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup but did not make the final squad. However, coming into the 2015 edition of the tournament he was named captain as he led his country to the title, winning the Golden Ball Award along the way.
The Gunners paid more than three million Euros to sign Nwakali from Diamond Academy in the summer of 2016.
However, the midfielder has not played competitively for their teams because of a work permit obstacle.
GOTV BOXING NEXTGEN 5
Alumona Gives Reason for the Choice of Ilorin
Managing Director/CEO of Flykite Productions, organisers of GOtv Boxing Night, Jenkins Alumona, has explained why Ilorin was chosen as host city for the fifth edition of GOtv Boxing NextGen Search.
Alumona, who spoke in Lagos on Thursday, said his organisation decided to have Ilorin host the programme, which seeks to find young boxers good enough for the professional cadre, because boxing administrators in other parts of the country demanded that it should be taken round.
Kwara State, Alumona noted, also has a strong association with the sport, dating back to the days of Joe Ray Amao, Lasisi, Victor Oseni and the late Hogan Jimoh, something he said accounts for the popularity of the sport in the state.
“We’ve had four editions, two in Lagos and one each in Ibadan and Abeokuta. We have been receiving requests from boxing associations and boxing clubs in other cities to bring the programme over. We are happy that it is going to Kwara State, which has produced top boxers and where the sport enjoys popularity. We hope to find as many good boxers as we can,” he said.
GOtv Boxing NextGen Search 5 will hold on August 29 and 30 at the Kwara Stadium Complex, Ilorin. The programme, which began in 2015, is open to boxers between the ages of 18 and 25. They are expected to take part in sparring sessions for assessment by top coaches, who will also nurture them. Boxers selected at the programme will have their professional licences and comprehensive medical examination paid for by the sponsors in addition to the possibility of fighting at coming editions of GOtv Boxing Night.
Registration forms for the programme are available for free at the Nigerian Boxing Board of Control (NBB of C) Secretariat and the Lagos Boxing Hall of Fame Gym, both in Lagos; Kwara Stadium Complex, Judges and Referees Office in Ilorin, Akure Township Stadium, Akure and Alake Sports Centre, Abeokuta.
Over 100 boxers from across the country attended each of the previous editions.
INTERNATIONAL PAIRS 2019
Race to National Finals Begins in Lagos
The race to the national finals of this year’s International Pairs competition will begin at the golf section of the Ikoyi Club 1938 today, with over 50 pairs battling for the 20-slots available for the South-west region, the Chief Executive Officer of Falcon Golf Development Company, Remi Olukoya has revealed.
The competition which is already generating lots of excitement within the club will feature golfers drawn from Ikeja, Lakowe Lakes Golf and Country Club, Dolphin Golf Club and other golfers from neighbouring states of Oyo, Osun and Ogun.
The Lagos leg of the qualifiers, Olukoya further revealed would be followed by Northern regional qualifiers which will hold at the IBB International Golf and Country Club in Abuja on September 6-7, 2019
The South-south & South-eastern regional qualifiers will hold at Arsenal Golf Club, Owerri on September 20-21, 2019
The 2019 event is sponsored by AirFrance, CAP Plc, Megamound Investment, RwandAir, Hilton Legend Hotel, SevenUp, Lords Gin and DO. II Designs, among others.
Speaking ahead of this year’s event in Lagos, Olukoya said lots of innovations have been added to this year’s event so as to make it more attractive, noting that so many prizes have been lined up for winnings at all the Regional Qualifiers level and the lots more at the National Finals in Uyo in October 4-6, 2019.
As expected winners at the National Finals will be given an all-expense paid trip to the World Finals of International Pairs in Portugal on November 19-23, 2019 while flying Business Class on AirFrance.
“Those who want to take part in the World VIP Guests events are not left out as they will also enjoy 15 per cent discount on AirFrance flights to Lisbon Portugal,” Olukoya added.
“There are two Business Class tickets to Kigali & Cape Town up for grabs during this event courtesy of RwandAir. There will be weekend stays at Legend Lagos Airport and Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja. We shall also be selling Raffle tickets and shall be giving away some exquisite furniture pieces by Do. II Designs” he further explained.
“The whole essence of this event is to raise funds for the setting up of Falcon Golf Academy to develop young boys and girls to be educated golf professionals in future .”
This year’s edition of International Pairs is the fifth in its series.
Oyegun @ 80 Golf Tourney Tees-off Today
Benin City will be agog for the Chief Odigie-Oyegun @ 80 Golf Tournament which tees-off today at the Benin Club golf course, GRA, Benin City.
Nigeria’s amateur golfers from Ikoyi Club, Ikeja golf club, UBTH golf Club, Ogunnu Golf Resort, Warri; Ibori Golf and Country Club, Asaba; Sapele Athletics golf club, among others will join their counterparts from BCGS.
BCGS, competition secretary, Dr. Emmanuel Ighodaro stated that the tournament organised by the State government in honour of Odigie-Oyegun will feature over 150 golfers.
“He has distinguished himself in all fields of politics. He is a pride of Edo State, whose contributions to sports are immeasurable.
“This tournament is put together by the state government as part of the 80th birthday celebration, while other activities include a gala night dinner,” Ighodaro expressed.
“It is based on his antecedents that Edo State Government deems it fit to celebrate him having attained the group of octogenarian . It’s the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous to celebrate an icon of good governance in Edo State and Nigeria in general,” he said.
Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, will play alongside Oyegun, while his friends and associates across the country will feature too.
Presentation of trophies and prizes for winners in various categories will hold during the dinner ceremony.
D’Tigress Hail AFA Sports as Company Unveils Jersey
Nigeria’s representative at the ongoing AfroBasket, D’Tigress has hailed the official kitting company of the women basketball national team, AFA Sports as the company unveiled a new jersey for the team as it kicked off their Afrobasket title defence in Dakar, Senegal.
The elated D’Tigress who were in high spirit thanked AFA Sports for providing them with quality jerseys and promised to do everything within their power to repay the kind gesture and belief the company has in them by successfully retaining the AfroBasket title.
At the unveiling on Sunday at the corporate headquarters of AFA Sports in Victoria Island, Lagos, members of the team were on hand to model the new jersey to the admiration of the guests who were present. According to Chief Executive officer of AFA Sports, Ugo Udezue, the jersey was designed putting the weather of the host country into consideration. He said the jersey was light which would enable the players to excel even in intense heat, while a touch of African prints had been added to it.
He assured the players that the jersey would bring out the best in them while noting that all other apparels had been designed to make them look smart on the court while doing their country proud.
“The idea behind the design is to make the players excel while on the court. It has been designed with the players comfort in mind so that they can give their best at all times. All other apparels have also been designed to help the players perform optimally,” Udezue added.
He also urged the players to do their best at the championship and defend their title with gusto. “I am sure the team has the players to do the country proud by winning back-to-back title. It won’t be easy but with the Nigerian spirit, you will beat all comers to retain your title.”
Captain of the team, Adaora Elonu, who modelled the jersey alongside, Evelyn Akhator, commended AFA Sports for the jersey and the support given to the team since the sponsorship began. She stated that as an African brand, AFA had continued to excel with its top-class sportswear.
She also stated that the team would go to Senegal to do the country proud. “It will be tough in Senegal but we are prepared to give our best and retain our title. We have been training hard to be in top shape and I am sure we will all be fit when the championship begins.”
She urged Nigeria to support the team as they gun for a back-to-back title in Senegal. Nigeria is drawn alongside Cameroun and Tunisia in Group B.
The reigning champions head to the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2019 as the best team to stop the hosts who are also record 12-time winners so the big question is, can D’Tigress defend their crown? They have done it before when they won the 2003 title in Mozambique and went on to defend it two years down the road in front of their home crowd in Abuja.
In 2017, when they lifted the trophy in Mali, not many saw that coming. It was a surprise and that confidence heading into the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018 in Spain that saw them finish eighth will come in handy when they step onto the court in Dakar. They are a completely different team now – improved in every aspect.
Boasting of one of the strongest FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2019 rosters, Nigeria comes into this tournament as a title favourite and if their form in the past two years is anything to go by then winning their two Group B ties should not be a problem.
Nigeria’s most outstanding player two years ago Evelyn Akhator is expected to once again play a very key role for D’Tigress in Dakar. Her humility off the court misguides many but instead, her statistics on the court say otherwise. She prefers to do the talking on the court – where it matters.
Captain Elonu’s efficiency, leadership and experience on court as well as point guard Ezinne Kalu leading the backcourt should add flavour to the D’Tigress squad.
Making it out of Group B should be a piece of cake for Nigeria but thereafter, they have got to do away with any complacency within their squad. On paper, they have what it takes to go all the way to the final and therefore a chance to defend their title.
I Have Benefitted from the Kindness
of People from All Over Nigeria
I Have Benefitted from the Kindness of People from All Over Nigeria
Magnus Abe, politician and lawyer, was born just before the Civil war in 1965. The war experience remains indelible in his memory. Strangers in Umunkwo village, somewhere in Igboland took good care of the young Magnus and his family during the war. He remains ever grateful for this. The boy from Ogoni moved on after the war to become a success in law and politics. He was a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, a commissioner, a secretary to the state’s government and Senator of the Federal Republic. This son of an Anglican priest shares the story of his eventful life with Onyebuchi Ezigbo
rowing up during the civil war
I believe that life is a continuous process of learning and improvement. I was born in Eleme which is in Rivers state. I was born just before the Civil war in 1965 and after I was born, my father left for England and when the war started, my mother had to run with five of us to Igboland, somewhere called Umunkwo, which we had to trek to. I still have vivid memories of that experience; we were running with other refugees. My sister was in her teens at that time and she was very fair and very pretty and the story about a fair girl then was premium so we had to be hiding her in a basket and all sorts of things while we ran from the soldiers on both sides and there was no transportation. It was a long hard journey. Strangers in Umunkwo village, somewhere in Igboland welcomed us, they gave us a place to stay and we spent years in that community and I remain forever indebted to them for the protection, love and support that they gave to my family.
In fact, even up till last year, one of them had a severe medical emergency and was still reaching out to us. So, we have maintained that relationship since after the civil war. When my father came back and found us, he took us back to Rivers State. My father was a priest of the Anglican Church. He had six children and he was earning barely N90 a month at that time and with six children but was determined to give us education because he kept promising us that was what he owed us. He said we were here to struggle for ourselves but he would do everything he could so that we can have an education and he did his best.
I am a product of a public school system
I am a product of a public school system because my father didn’t have any money to pay for private tutors or private school and I keep telling people that if our public schools were the way they are now, I will not be speaking the kind of English I can speak today. I probably would have been a tout or a militant because the opportunity of public education, quality education for the children of the poor was something that the leaders of that time understood as a basic foundation for life and the growth of the country so that was one of the things that made me so passionate about education because I know if not for public education, if not for public libraries, I wouldn’t have had any opportunity to be the kind of person that I am today. So that is my story growing up and my father as a priest was transferred from place to place, so we had to keep moving. We moved to Okrika to Calabar then later on he joined politics and we came back to Rivers state.
I have a different world view from a lot of other people
First of all, I find out that I have a different world view from a lot of other people because I was privileged to benefit from the kindness and from systems that worked for everybody. I tell people about the experience I had when I was a student in Saint Patrick’s college Calabar and my father retired from the Anglican Church and moved back to Rivers State so I was left to stay in Calabar on my own. I could remember one instance I fell ill and the school bus in Saint Patrick’s College took me to Saint Margaret’s Hospital, which I think that is what it is called in Calabar and the hospital took care of me. They gave me so much food, the nurses were nice to me and I was so at home in the hospital that when I was discharged and the school bus came back to return me to school, I was hiding in the hospital, I didn’t want to go and they had to be chasing me up and down, I cried they pursued me to go back to school.
These were nurses, these were strangers, these were not Rivers people and I wasn’t a child from South Eastern State as it was called at that time; I was just a Nigerian child and I didn’t have anybody and the system provided for me. Today, the kind of quality healthcare and support that I got as a Rivers child in South Eastern state, today, no child even those from Cross River will get that kind of support from the system. So like I said, I have benefitted so much from strangers, people from different tribes and ethnicity and so I have a wider world view, I know that human beings are basically human beings, they are good and bad people everywhere and you can never find me either in thinking, action or words to be stereotyping people saying ‘oh Igbo people are like this’ because I know that if Igbo people were bad I won’t be alive. ‘Oh Calabar people are like this’ I know that if Calabar people were bad I won’t have been alive.
I have benefitted from kindness from people all over this country
I have benefitted from kindness from people all over this country and that was the kind of place Nigeria was. I remember as a teenager, myself and my elder brother drove round the country. We drove from Port Harcourt to Jos; from Jos we drove to Maiduguri, we spent time in Maiduguri, we went to Lake Chad and we made friends everywhere, we partied everywhere. Nigeria was one family and we never had any iota of fear that we were strangers in any part of Nigeria. We felt totally at home. So, in a lot of ways, that kind of upbringing gave me a very clear idea of the kind of society that Nigeria was and Nigeria can be and Nigeria should be and I think that shaped my gratitude towards human beings everywhere. I accept people for who they are, how they present themselves and when I get to know them better for what they actually represent.
I reverend my parents
Everybody who knows me very well knows that I reverence my parents. My dad as I told you was an Anglican priest and later went into politics. He was a member of the National Council of Nigeria and later became a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly represented the Kana constituency that same constituency, which I later grow up to also represent as the minority leader of the state House of Assembly. But substantially, a lot of things that I hold dear to my heart are things that my father taught me by constant repetition and by constant examples and I try to share a lot of principles, which with he brought me up amongst the younger people around me.
Like I always say to everybody in Rivers state; my father taught me that ‘I can inherit his friends but I should make my own enemies’ and I try to share that with my children and with everybody because the kind of politics that we have today not just in Rivers State but in Nigeria is such that if I have an issue with somebody, anybody who is my friend can’t be a friend to the other person who is my enemy, which is not how I was brought up. My mother also taught me to accept my situation in life. My mother was a petty trader and a petty farmer who was very content and she had a very strong opinion of who she was and who she felt we could be and has never allowed us in any way to be defined by what we have or what we didn’t have.
Even in my old age now, I am not afraid to learn new things
The best version of Magnus Abe would be the one that is buried; so, until that day, you can no longer breath and move you have the obligation to your God to not only maximise your talent but to constantly and consistently improve them. Even in my old age now, I am not afraid to learn new things. The other day I went to learn lawn tennis and then my son was saying ‘ah, daddy people are going to laugh at you’ and I said ‘they are welcome to laugh till I start playing better than them’. So at every given point in time I am free to learn new things, free of the challenge that a lot of people face; of constantly worrying about what people will think of you, that has never been a part of my life and in a lot of ways that has given me the courage to try things that others would be afraid of and I owe that to my parents.
The best gift I ever received as a child
A book called ‘Island in the Midst’ that was given to me by my father when I was about seven years old. That book introduced me to the love of reading. By the time I was 10 or 11, I had read all the books in the children section of the public library in Calabar and it was all because of that one book I was given so that book introduced me to the love of reading and if anything shaped my life, it is was because of my devotion to reading which politics has now taken from me.
I got married rather late
I got married rather late. I think I got married about 15 or 16 years ago, about the 1st of November and I was thirty something by the time I got married, which is not early by African standard and I thank God I didn’t get married earlier because I probably would have married somebody else because of when I got married, I married my own wife.
The story of how I met my wife
It is a story which I don’t know if I should tell and I don’t know if my wife would be happy that I am telling the story; but funny enough, somebody actually brought up the idea of me meeting my wife. The person was a politician and he came to see me and he said he has seen a girl that in fact he was full of hyperboles and all that, saying this is a girl that can be anything and he went on and on so I got curious and I asked him to set up a meeting. Of course my wife didn’t like the idea of being introduced to someone he didn’t know so she kept dodging at that time but later on as faith would have it, I finally found her and that was it, we just took off from there.
My most difficult situation
I have been through a lot of challenges in life but you know I see every challenge as an opportunity or a lesson. I don’t see anything as the most difficult thing that can happen to me. I accept life as it is. There are things that I can control and there are things that I can’t control. The things that I can’t control I accept them but the things I can control I do my best to try to control them, but the most important thing is to make the best use of the fact that you are actually alive and to thank God for the fact that you are healthy. So, for everyday that you are alive and healthy, every other thing is a walk in the park. Some of the things that one will ordinary consider as difficult or challenge are actually things that at the end of the day help to improve you in many ways. Like they say, ’whatever doesn’t kill you makes you a better person’, so the most difficult thing would be the one that takes your life, every other thing is an opportunity you can benefit from no matter how bad it is.
Make the best use of the day you have because today is given to you without the promise of tomorrow
Like I said, there are so many things my father taught me and there was something my father used to constantly tell me and he would make me repeat it. It is: ‘yesterday you dream and tomorrow is only a vision but today well-lived makes every dream a dream of happiness and every vision a vision of hope; so look ye therefore onto this day’. So I grew up repeating that. I actually thought it was my father that taught us that thing and said it. When I got to the university and I shared that with my friends and all of us kept repeating it, we always attributed that quote to my father until when we started working and a friend of mine called me from the USA saying ‘do you remember that thing your father used to say, it wasn’t your father that said it. He got it from the Sacristy’, so it is actually something that is in the Sacristy and what it means is that you make the best use of the day you have because today is given to you without the promise of tomorrow; Whatever choice I make, whatever decision I take today is the one that at the time I am taking it, I am convinced that is the best thing for me to do. So after doing it, whatever is the outcome there is no room for me to regret it.
I have no room for regret
I have no room to regret any decision I have taken. I am very proud of the things I have done and if I were to be transported back and repeat my decisions as at the time I took them, I am sure I would have probably done the same thing because those were the things I thought were right for me to do at that time and looking back, a lot of those decisions got me to where I am right now. Like I always tell the story of when I was to be made chairman of my local government and I turned it down because the law provided a certain age and I wasn’t up to that age and people wanted me to go and change my age and do an affidavit but I refused. Now, the person who went ahead and got that job went in a different trajectory but because I didn’t become a chairman at that time I went on to become a member of the House of Assembly, I became a commissioner, I became secretary to government, I became a Senator. So, if I had tried to take another decision at that time and I had become a chairman because I must be chairman, probably that would have been the end of my career. I am always very proud of the decisions I have taken in life and I will continue to live that way, confident that whatever decision you took in good faith would bring its own reward.
I love to impart ideas and my own version of how we can create a better society
Everyday offers a unique opportunity for me to do the things I love most to play, to teach because I love to impart ideas and my own version of how we can create a better society. I love to do that with people at every given point in time, which is something I do at every given opportunity of the week. Everyday should be an indelible day; I woke up this morning, I played tennis with my son, which is an indelible day for me and him. So the little things we do count as much as the big ones; that is my way of life.
My biggest fears
Every human being has hopes, aspirations and desires. My biggest hope is that we should be able to build a country here that works for everybody equal and that will convince the rest of the world that black people can actually do things and do it right and do it better. My biggest fear and what will be my greatest disappointment would be to die without being sure that the vision of a society built and run by black people that would be respected for what it is able to accomplish for its own people would be realised. If I were to leave this world without seeing that, I would be disappointed.
Life has taught me that human beings basically are the same
Well, life has taught me that human beings basically are the same. There is no perfect person. There are lots of times people act out of selfish so what they say is directly related to what their expectations may be and if those expectations change, their positions may also change. So managing people will require that we understand that you come to appreciate that nobody is perfect including yourself and all the other limitations you see in other people are also in you in one way or the other and the same understanding and compassion you show to yourself when you fall short, you should also extend that to other people as they fall short because inevitably, everybody is falling short in some way or the other.
That I think is the most important lesson I have learnt. I tell my children everyday ‘don’t think I am some kind of super hero’. I struggle and I expect you people to also struggle but I want you to understand that nobody is perfect and human beings invariably will be humans in all the failings and shortcomings that come with humanity and ultimately our mortality.
You have a responsibility to try and struggle, never give up
I believe that once you are here and you are drawing breath, you are already here and that your presence here is an engagement between you and your God that gave you breath. It is not between you and your father, not between you and your mother, it is not between you and any other person; it is between you and God. You have a responsibility to try and struggle, never give up, use the best of the opportunity that you have been given. Part of what I see today in a lot of people not just young people in this country is that there are two things I see in people; firstly, the entitlement mentality where people think everybody owes them anything and secondly, a victim mentality. A lot of Nigerians today feel they are victims of the fact that they were born here so there is nothing they can do. I was talking with some leaders last night and I said listen, these are the things we can do to move our party forward and move our country forward and all of them said but you are not the leader, it is the leader but they have forgotten that everybody is a leader.
So people are beginning to develop a victim mentality, making themselves out that they are helpless, that there is nothing they can do because some other person has to do it. That is not how life works. I keep saying to people, you have an obligation to create the world you want to see. You have a duty to live the life you want to live. So for anybody to sit down and feel either a sense of entitlement or you feel that you are a victim of your circumstance, then you are to blame for your life, you give up and then you imagine that it is the governor, the president or the local government chairman that should do this for you and haven’t done it, therefore there is nothing you can do. I don’t think that is the spirit that builds great society. That is the advice I would like to give to everybody; not just the young or old but every human being. You are here now; do your best, struggle as long as you can and be confident that the best life that you can build for yourself is the one that you will have. I was talking to someone the other day; you talk of Beyonce, you talk of Mike Tyson these people are the great grand-children of slaves. Their great grand fathers were in the hole of a ship. Everyone was dying around them, they struggled and refused to die but if they had given up and died there, there would be no Beyonce. So no matter how bad the life is, it still has purpose, you still have something you can contribute, you still have value you can add and you know the struggle to do your best no matter what it is and delivering that value to humanity is what makes you.