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NFF pay the price for hubris, misplaced priorities in Super Eagles’ World Cup exit to Ghana

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Well, as that wizened tortoise Master Oogway – echoing the wisdom of Jean De La Fontaine – pithily observed in ‘Kung Fu Panda’, one often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.

This kernel of wisdom is also one of the themes of the Greek play ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’, apt in the sense that, having fulfilled their own prophecy by failing to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, the present NFF leadership should now gouge out their own eyes in penance and walk into the sunset, never to be heard from again.

What unfolded inside the Moshood Abiola Stadium on Tuesday night was a tragedy in the finest Hellenic traditions, the culmination of a hubristic decision that need not have been terminal. However, he whom the gods wish to kill, they first drive to madness; in bizarrely electing to replace Rohr with Augustine Eguavoen, the NFF sealed their own fate.

The result was predictable, complete with catharsis at the end as an artificially inflated home support poured onto the pitch at full-time to register its displeasure, leaving pillage in its wake.

As on the pitch, so in the stands. Over the course of 95 minutes, a sense of frustration had steadily built as the Super Eagles failed to recover from an early setback. That feeling was palpable among the players as well, especially as it became clear there was little guidance coming from the bench as to how to get around the formidable, well-drilled block visitors Ghana had erected.

Instead, it was the Black Stars who played the role of protagonists, dictating the tempo and intensity of the proceedings – this time without the ball as opposed to with it as in the reverse fixture – and executing a dynamic game plan.

While there was little that could have been done about Thomas Partey’s speculative snapshot, perhaps beyond Emmanuel Dennis closing down quicker and goalkeeper Francis Uzoho actually doing what his job title says on the tin, it was the Super Eagles creating the better openings in that opening period, often by working combinations and overlaps on the left flank. In that zone, Calvin Bassey overlapped eagerly to drill in low crosses and Joe Aribo had a decent effort saved with feet. For all their aggression, Ghana were barely an attacking threat.

However, when the two teams emerged for the restart, Ghana coach Otto Addo altered his team’s shape, going to a back five to blanket the space that Nigeria had revelled in finding in the first half while adding an extra centre-back to deal with the lively, bustling Victor Osimhen, who had proven a handful in the first half.

The gauntlet was thrown down, the challenge set.

Addo, in his first senior coaching role, with far less time to prepare and starting from a lower base, is already the superior coach.

Nigeria have only failed to reach the World Cup twice since debuting in 1994. On both occasions, Eguavoen was in charge during the qualification process. However, while in 2006, he could rightly claim it was no fault of his, while pointing to the fact his appointment was a breath of fresh air that brought two big wins, this time there is nowhere to hide. Given time, even the new broom gets old and frayed too.

For all his faults though, Eguavoen is merely a symptom, a manifestation of a wider cultural malaise within Nigerian football. What he is –and what he has been at every turn – is well known. A man cannot deny his nature, and in the case of the 56-year-old, that nature, at least in coaching terms, has been defined by unrelenting underperformance.

All that said, it was not he who appointed himself, evincing pride and complacency in doing so while seeking to fulfil a vendetta. It is not he who has treated the hallowed position at the head of a nation’s footballing establishment as merely a means to satisfy a personal political ambition. It is not he who should bear the bulk of the censure for this debacle.

That dishonour should be the preserve of Pinnick, a man so wrapped up in his own self-image and consumed by his lust for relevance that he has brought a plague upon Nigerian football. Make no mistake: this failure is one that will reverberate, its shockwaves pulsing through Nigeria’s footballing ecosystem at all levels.

The honourable solution at this time would be to step away at first convenience, and perhaps in doing so the muck and grime of this sordid era can begin to be washed away.



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Angry NPP supporters reportedly set party office ablaze

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There are currently two factions in the constituency, one in support of a re-run of the election, while the other is vehemently opposed to it.

According to the National Council of the governing party, the election in question was bedeviled by irregularities, hence the decision to organise a re-run.

However, the group that has set the office on fire has vowed to resist a re-run of the election.

The unhappy party supporters said in a video: “We will not agree. We will not hold another election. We’ve already voted and the women’s organizer has been removed. Let it stay so. We’ve voted out the person and you want us to vote again because of that?”

They blame the party’s General Secretary, John Boadu, for the happenings within the constituency, saying he brought up the idea of a re-run although the committee did not recommend such.

Below is the statement issued by the angry supporter:

JOHN BOADU IS DESTROYING AOWIN NPP

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, kindly accept our warmest regards for attending to our call this crucial moment. Our message to John Boadu and the leadership of the New Patriotic Party is very simple. We will not sit down for John Boadu to destroy the party here in Aowin. About a month ago, the Constituency Elections Committee organized very credible elections after weeks of rigorous campaign, going to electoral areas that are one hundred miles apart all within the very large Aowin Constituency.

The Elections were conducted by the Electoral Commission of Ghana, candidates were voted for by the almost nine hundred delegates and eventually, elections results were declared. Today, we are hearing John Boadu is going to call for a rerun of the elections in positions where persons supported by his Personal Assistant, one Abanga lost terribly.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me pause here and send the strongest signal to John Boadu and those involved in this grand scheme to note that, firstly, WE WONT ACCEPT ANY RE-RUN of the Constituency elections. Secondly, we shall use EVERY MEANS POSSIBLE TO RESIST any attempts of nullification of any of the positions unless the Electoral Commission which conducted the elections has said so or a competent court of jurisdiction

Now back to the lies of John Boadu and his cronies, Ladies and Gentlemen I have a copy of the comprehensive report from the Aowin Constituency Elections Committee. The Committee’s report details all the legitimate processes that were followed and provides concrete ground for every single action taken. Kindly go through the report and know for yourselves the kind of competent and detailed work the committee did only for John Boadu and a few people in Accra to think they twist things and have their way. No! We shall resist them to the peril of our lives because we have suffered enough to build the party here.

Our message is simple, they should not put our patience and resolve to test. They will be in for the shocks of their lives if they think we are far from the headquarters of the party. We will literally wipe out NPP from this Constituency for everyone to see if they think they nullify and an election conducted by the Electoral Commission of Ghana without recourse to the courts of competent Jurisdiction in this country.

We will rest our case here and wait for them.

Meanwhile, the other faction that is in support of the re-run has accused the Regional Chairman, William Benjamin Assuah, and the National Director of Research and Elections, Evans Nimako, of frustrating the process to implement the recommendation of the committee put together to look into the issue regarding the contentious election.



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Law and order restored in Nkoranza, we’re in firm control – Police says

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According to the law enforcement agency, the sustained operations by a high-profile delegation of the Inspector-General of Police, Dr. Akuffo Dampare, led by the Director-General of Administration, have yielded good results.

“The Police announce for the information of the public that through sustained operations, the law and order situation in Nkoranza and environs has been restored and the Police are in firm control of the security of the area,” the statement signed by DCOP Kwesi Ofori, Director-General, Public Affairs said.

“The high-profile team sent by the Inspector-General of Police, which is led by the Director-General Administration is still on the ground, leading the operations.

“The team has met with the family of the deceased, and held engagements with the Regional Minister, other opinion leaders and some community members.”

It went further to disclose that all arrested suspects in connection with the deadly disturbance in the area have been put before a court and have been remanded into lawful custody.

The statement added that other suspects are being pursued to face justice, while a similar effort is underway to re-arrest suspects who were unlawfully freed from detention.

“So far, all the suspects arrested in connection with the disturbances have been put before court and remanded into lawful custody.

“We are pursuing others who have been identified for their involvement in the violent attacks and those who escaped from lawful custody, to bring them to face justice.”

The police further revealed that the ongoing investigation by the Police Professional Standards Bureau (PPSB) has been broadened to include their officers’ responses to the mob attack on the police station.

“We further announce that all the injured persons are in stable condition and responding to treatment.

“As part of our investigations, the Police forensic team including ballistic experts have been deployed to Nkoranza to assist in the investigations. The investigation by the Police Professional Standards Bureau (PPSB) is ongoing and has been extended to include the police response to the mob attacks at the police station.”

The statement concluded by assuring the general public that justice will be served to all affected persons in the disturbance.

“We wish to assure the public that we will continue to work to ensure justice is served to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. However, we would like to caution those who are capitalising on the crisis for their own interests, to desist from it since that will not deter us from executing our constitutional mandate.”

The Ghana Police Service has been under the spotlight over the past few days following the killing of Albert Donkor and the subsequent violent protests at Nkoranza South that led to the alleged shooting of civilians, injuring many, and the killing of one person.



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CEO of Paga Tayo Oviosu discusses the next phase of innovation for African fintechs

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Although born and raised in Nigeria, Tayo had left the West African country when he was just 16 years old. So, he was basically returning to a totally different country from the one he once knew. But that didn’t deter him. He had seen a huge opportunity in the Nigerian market and came up with an idea that would disrupt the country’s financial services industry. That idea gave birth to Paga, one of Africa’s earliest fintech players.

In this interview, he tells Business Insider Africa what the journey has been like so far and what to expect going forward. Enjoy the conversation.

BI Africa: It’s nice to finally have this interview, Mr Tayo. For the benefit of some of our readers across Africa who may not know you, could you kindly introduce yourself

Tayo Oviosu: Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you. A little about my background; I am Tayo Oviosu, the Founder and CEO of Paga. I was born and raised here in Nigeria until I was 16 years old. And then I moved to the US to study for a degree in Electrical Engineering. I come from a single-parent family. My mum raised five boys all by herself. I am the last of the five boys and probably the most troublesome of them all.

So, yeah…I studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California. Afterwards, I worked for a couple of startups during the initial stages of the dot.com boom. I also worked for Deloitte Consulting at some point before going back to school to obtain an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business . Afterwards, I worked for about three more years in the US before I decided to come back to Nigeria to become a part of the country’s economic development process.

Upon getting to Nigeria, I joined a private equity firm called Travant Capital Partners. But I soon left that company to go do something entrepreneurial. I was very excited about what I had seen in Nigeria. This was around 2009 and the growth/opportunities of the private sector here was immense. So, I spent about three months looking at different ideas before really honing it on what is now Paga. Out of all the ideas I looked at, Paga was probably the one I spent the least amount of time considering before I was convinced.

So, I got started. I only boot-strapped for the first six months. And really, what got me going was the fact that a lot of the transactions in Africa’s largest country and largest economy was still largely cash-dependent. How can everyone just be carrying large sums of money around? For both individuals and businesses, it was so inefficient and we had to be able to solve that. And that was the simple idea —there had to be a way to solve this problem and make it more efficient for everybody. And that’s what we’ve been doing till date.

More about me… I am now happily married. I have a 2-year old that keeps me excited alongside Paga and my wife. My wife likes to joke that Paga is my first baby but I disagree with that. Anyway, outside of work, I really enjoy running, swimming, reading and my Chelsea Football.

BI Africa: A lot of people regard you as a pioneer in the African financial technology (Fintech) space. Tell us what that feels like and what you are doing to maintain that status.

Tayo Oviosu: Well, it’s absolutely interesting when people say things like that to me because I didn’t set out thinking I want to become a pioneer. But the fact that my progress has inspired a lot of people is a good thing. And my hope is that those who are coming after me, in terms of starting companies in Africa, can have it easier because of the success that we’ve experienced. That said, I do have in my head now the idea that I am some sort of role model and that I have to think about my actions and how I operate our business at Paga because we are at a very interesting place in the world right now where there’s more and more interest on the African continent. And it’s only good examples that people know and can relate to that will continue to drive that interest.

BI Africa: Let’s talk about the digital payments revolution in Africa and the ongoing financial inclusion efforts. As you know, there have been lots of advancements made in these regards by companies such as yours. Yet, a wide gap still exists. What do you think needs to be done in order to accelerate the growth of fintech in Africa?

Tayo Oviosu: Let me begin by noting that there are multiple goals when it comes to accelerating fintech growth in Africa. Financial inclusion is just one of those goals. But I think that in general, anything that can make it easier for fintech ventures to thrive is welcome. Let’s start with the government; they should just continue making it very easy to do business in Nigeria and other African countries. Speaking of which, I would like to quickly shout out this current Nigerian administration for what they have done in terms of even having someone focus on “how do we make it easier to do business?”. They don’t get enough credit for that to be honest. I think that’s a big deal. I’ve seen it in the course of our business that that team has stepped in moments where they were things going on that shouldn’t have been the case. I really do think that’s the most important thing a government can do – just create an enabling environment and continue making it easier to do business because doing this will open up opportunities for more foreign investments in these fintech startups.

I will also recommend that the government should consider making it possible for Nigerian pension funds to invest in startups. Right now, these pension funds only invest in treasury bills and I believe they could make a lot more money by taking a little more risks of investing in startups. Figuring out how the government could make that possible would really go a long way in accelerating things.

That said, I think that the Central Bank of Nigeria has done a fantastic job by creating the fintech categorisations and clarifying what each licence is allowed to do. They’ve done a really good job at setting the fintech industry up for success and I really want to commend them on that.

The last thing I would recommend has to do with improving the quality of our education system. This is very important towards ensuring the continuous growth of fintech in Africa. Now by education, I am speaking particularly about STEM, especially as it relates to the girl child because that’s where we have the biggest gaps. So, the government should focus on that and make it easier for young boys and girls to learn how to code, learn engineering skills and Maths skills.

BI Africa: You stressed the importance of ease of doing business and we will like to focus on that a little bit. Last year, your company relocated its headquarters to the UK from Mauritius. Up until then, a lot of people didn’t even know that Paga wasn’t domiciled in Nigeria. Talk us through the peculiar challenges of doing business in Africa as an African and why a growing number of startups like yours are choosing to domicile abroad.

Tayo Oviosu: So, let me start by clarifying the misconception about our relocation and where our headquarters is domiciled. We do have a Nigerian company. And that company is the one that hires our team in Nigeria and it is licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The company is fully operational and we invest heavily in it.

However, our holding company is domiciled abroad and there are several reasons for that. For first reason is because we have plans to be in more countries besides just Nigeria. We currently have people in Ethiopia other parts of the world. So, our initial idea is to have a holding company that would own the subsidiaries in different countries. The question then became ‘where should the holding company be headquartered?’. And I guess you could ask the question ‘why is the holding company not in Nigeria?’. That is a possibility.

But there is a good reason why we chose the UK as our headquarters. For the kind of international investment we are undertaking, we needed to be domiciled in a place where the rule of law is clear and very effective. In fact, I was recently interviewed on this topic of ease of doing business in Nigeria and here’s what I said: the government really needs to work on the judicial system. We’d like the judicial system to move a lot faster than it does today because already, we have good laws but it just takes a long time for anything to get adjudicated. And that’s not good for business.

If the rule of law would get adjudicated quickly and fairly in Nigeria, then you would see more businesses signing contracts with Nigeria as the governing law. When investors consider where to set up their holding companies, one of the things they are consider is the worst case scenario —can they trust that they would be fine if the worst should happen?

You typically want to be in a jurisdiction where you are comfortable with the rules, understand the the tax laws and have faith in the rules. We initially chose Mauritius because we thought that’s one place in Africa where this could work. But we’ve now moved to the United Kingdom because like I said before, we now want to bring global investors into the picture and these global investors are more comfortable with the United Kingdom.

BI Africa: Do you think Africa’s tech space is currently being over-regulated, particularly in countries like Nigeria?

Tayo Oviosu: I actually don’t think we are over-regulated. However, I do think we are regulated and that the government should continue to ensure strict adherence to these regulations. I can mention a number of companies that are not abiding by the regulations and they are just sort of getting by with nobody doing anything to them. And sometimes that can be really frustrating. That said, I strongly believe we are properly regulated, especially here in Nigeria. I can’t think of a single regulation that the Central Bank of Nigeria has come up with without fully consulting with all the necessary stakeholders to get their inputs. It doesn’t mean that they always agree with the stakeholders’ ideas. In fact, they hardly ever do. But at least, they always consider stakeholders’ perspectives before implementing any policy. And whenever something is not clear to them, they ask questions. Unfortunately, because they are not so good at public relations, it often comes across like they are over-regulating us when that’s not actually not the case.

BI Africa: There are some people that believe the African fintech ecosystem is becoming too saturated/competitive. Do you think that’s the case?

Tayo Oviosu: Well, there’s now a lot more players. But there are also more and more opportunities in the fintech space. And that’s because companies like ours have built the infrastructure. Take for instance, today Paga is connected to all the banks through multiple routes. We’ve also built a really deep infrastructure in card processing; whether it’s physical card processing or POS machines. We have now integrated into Visa for online card processing and we are directly connected to eight of the top banks. So, we’ve created really deep rails both for online and offline we do believe that in today’s Africa, you need a hybrid approach to scale. So, we’ve solidified on our online and offline payment infrastructure needs, while the competitors are trying to recreate the wheel to leverage that infrastructure.

Earlier this year, we announced the launch of our platform as a service. I think we launched it around May and now we have over about 140 startups using that infrastructure. They are doing many things such as hosting wallets, leveraging it for payment requests, they accessing billers, some of the banks are using it as well. Now to further answer your question, these developments are really showing me that people are like ‘okay! you know what, fintech or the core infrastructure of fintech is already built. Let’s now innovate on solving other problems for companies and individuals and we can leverage and embed those capabilities’. And I think that’s really exciting for the next phase of innovation and the next set of companies that will be focusing on things like asset management, helping people to save, helping businesses to digitise, etc.

BI Africa: Now, tell us a bit more about Paga’s next big moves seeing as you have basically conquered payments.

Tayo Oviosu: There are a number of things that we are focused on at the moment. Fundamentally, Paga is solving payments for consumers as well as for sellers. The Paga brand is actually our consumer brand and then Doroki is our seller brand. We actually just launched Doroki just a few months ago in partnership with Visa. We are really excited about that. So, for us, these are the two core things that we are focused on. We also recently got a regulatory approval for banking licence which we will now use to offer lending to consumers and SMEs.

Underneath all of these, we now have the platform as a service which I mentioned earlier. Basically, it is an infrastructure that we are using for ourselves but also opened up for other people to use. So, we will be executing more deeply on that vision. And what’s exciting to me about it, Emmanuel, is that if you look at the total process value on Paga, it is exponentially growing faster. As of end of October, we have processed N3.5 trillion ($7.2 billion) since 2012. That is really exciting. And it’s coming across the board – it’s coming from the consumer side scaling really fast, it’s also coming from the platform-as-a-service side. And then on top of all these as you should know, we also have over 60, 000 retail agents across the country where people can get services. In fact, we are so widely popular such that the agency banking business in Nigeria is now known as the Paga business. Even agents that are not working for Paga are calling themselves Paga. We’re happy with that. It’s all good. Right now, it’s all about accelerating all of those activities and deepening into the markets. Those are our real focus for now.

BI Africa: Speaking of markets, where next are you hoping to expand to besides Mexico and Ethiopia?

Tayo Oviosu: So, just to clarify that, we are not in Mexico at the moment. We had plans to launch in Mexico but those plans have been completely put on hold. I think we actually just publicly mentioned that recently. So yeah, we’ve put that on hold. But we are in Ethiopia and we are also actively looking at other African countries. In the near term, we will only focus on African countries. But we’re not ready to announce where yet.

BI Africa: Is the Ethiopian conflict affecting your business in any way?

Tayo Oviosu: We are paying attention to what’s going on there because we have about 40 staff in Ethiopia. We are very much conscious of their welfare. And so, we are making sure that everybody is fine. The conflict is not yet affecting our operations on a day to day basis and we do hope it doesn’t. But at this point, the most important thing is the welfare of our team and we are paying attention to that. Of course we have our business continuity plan put together. But really, what’s most important is the welfare of our Ethiopian team.

BI Africa: Last question, you’ve talked some of the expansion plans we have and the new products you’re launching. And all of that will require money to execute. And I know that so far, you’ve raised about $40 million according to available records. Do, you have plans to raise more money?

Tayo Oviosu: Oh definitely we do. But there’s nothing to announce at the moment. Just watch out. We will definitely announce something when the time is right. Our business is clearly the type that requires capital and we are excited that investors are are seeing the depths of what we have built and are interested in partnering with us. We are open to these opportunities, but also being very thoughtful about it because we don’t believe that all money is equal. We are looking out for investors who genuinely believe in the purpose we are going after and share the same values with us. That’s what we are looking for.



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