UBER VS DRIVERS LEGAL BATTLE; A WAKE-UP CALL FOR NLC AND TUC

 

Alas! Victory is already in the air (at least for now) for the two British cab drivers of arab descent that took cab hire giant app company ‘Uber’ to court recently in the United Kingdom. The legal suit filed by drivers Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar against ‘Uber’ over its failure to streamline its working conditions with British Labour Union wages and salary thresholds had seen many take ‘the-sit-back-and-watch approach’ as the app giants and its supposedly employees slug it out in the law court.

A keenly and closely fought legal tussle between Uber and the drivers had somehow successfully tested the credibility and structure of Britain’s employer-employee’s relation and code of conduct as laid down by law. It was a confrontation that had a reverberating effect; sending a message to many ‘Uber-like’ companies that are yet to treat their employees fairly.

It is an event that clearly attests to not only the responsiveness and responsibilities of Britain’s political institution and her judiciary, but also approves of the country’s labour union influence and proactiveness. What this means is that, the law is non-partial, and a reliable tool that adequately provides succor and refuge to the defenseless in the society.

Although Uber, has revolutionalized the cab industry ever since its inception, however, the contradiction in the app giant’s policy that borders on employment and its ‘modus operandi’ had somewhat become its nemesis as the recent happenings suggested.

Drivers Aslam and Farrar had accused the cab app giant of depriving them benefits, and other incentives as contained in the UK’s labour regulations. Both had taken Uber to court for its failure to treat them as employees thereby denying them of full benefits and wages as enshrined in the country’s labour laws.

And after ‘back and forth’ arguments and defense from both sides,  the employment court ruled in favour of the two drivers saying, that they deserved to be paid ‘national living wage’ that entitles them to holiday, sickness, pensions pay and other workers right.

The verdict though, a monumental one, still has some meandering to do as regards the interpretation and definition of what Uber represents and its services. Meaning: the battle is not yet over as Uber plans to appeal the judgment at the UK employment appeal court.

Uber’s predicament could have a tremor effect on other companies in the UK that have adopted the ‘Gig economic business model’ in their operations.

The ‘Gig Economy business tool’ is a technology-driven business model that deals with providing goods and services through networking and apps. It is a flexible model that has been lauded for creating self-employment work-force but, now faces scrutiny from the UK regulatory authorities who believed some companies have now wrongly classified their workers as self-employed in order to avoid paying taxes to the government.  A dangerous trend that Number 10 wants to arrest as reports suggests the country loses $314m yearly to companies running on the ‘Gig model’.

Guess it will no longer be business as usual for Uber and other app-based giants in the country as the GMB Union seek to rein in these companies’ growing influence and control over their workers.

The UK example is a sharp contrast to what exists in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, the story of workers and their plight have not been an encouraging one. Sordid or scurvy tales abound with no sign of reprieve or hope in sight. And to make matters worse, those in charge of guaranteeing workers’ rights, the Nigerian Labour Congress  (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) have become either ‘fangless’ or ‘toothless’ in fighting for the rights of workers in both the public and private sectors.

Exploitation, debasement and unimaginable wages, and unfavourable employment terms like ‘contract workers’ have been the lot of the Nigerian workers over the years. It is a ‘fly-infested’ rot that even foreign owned companies from Asia have further desecrated- A terrible situation that has gone unchecked by not only the Unions but also the government.

The government’s laxity in ensuring the dignity of the Nigerian worker through its Ministry of labour, employment and productivity coupled with the two Union bodies have left workers vulnerable and at the mercies of employers in both the public and private sectors.

Paul Kaigama, TUC president and his NLC counterpart should reflect and evaluate the roles their respective bodies have played in protecting the rights of Nigerian workers. It is quite unfortunate that contract employment still holds sway in the Banking industry and other sectors of the economy right under the nose of these leaders.

Not only that, their failure to make the government review workers’ salaries and ensure that the 36 state governors align with the FG in the face of growing inflation and increment in petroleum price clearly shows a gloomy and pathetic picture of the average Nigerian worker.

The excuses bandied around by some governors that they can’t afford to pay the living wage nay pay salaries owing to drop in federal allocation as a result of dwindling oil revenues smack of hypocrisy and mischief.

While it is admissible that the country is in recession however, these governors and law makers have carried on with ‘the-business-as-usual mentality’ not giving a hoot about the economic downturn in the country when it comes to their own salaries and other benefits. It is already in the public sphere how these governors after completing their terms in office smile home to the bank on outrageous pensions for life benefits at the expense of the workers that plough the ‘farm land’. It clearly paints ‘ a monkey dey work, Baboon dey chop’ scenario.

Nigeria is not the only country facing recession. Venezuela an oil driven country like the African giant is going through tumultuous times too but, President Nicolas Maduro has been sensible and responsive enough to increase workers’ salaries by %30 to cope with the hard times.

This clearly contradicts and indicts those in government. The fate of the average Nigerian worker is nothing to write home about. Structures put in place to fight their course have been dealt serious blow owing to the failure of Union leaders to provide undiluted ‘comradeship’. It won’t be out of context to say they have somewhat used the Union platform to meander themselves into political offices. The past governor of Edo state avidly serves as a good reminder.

Whatever the situation is, all hope is not lost. There is no harm in starting afresh hence the leadership of the two Unions must endeavor to re-write a new chapter for their members. Workers are the engine room of the economy; it is a fact that cannot be discarded.

The Uber-driver standoff in the UK should serve as a wake-up call to not only NLC and TUC but also the government.

NLC'S PRESIDENT
NLC’S PRESIDENT

 

NIGER DELTA DEMANDS: THE ‘UNWISE’ MEN’S VISIT TO PRESIDENT BUHARI

 

 

Questionable characters are lot of those that constituted the group from Nigeria’s Niger Delta region that embarked on a mission to Aso Rock to find a lasting solution to the restiveness and militancy that has plagued the region that has pumped the country’s oil since 1956.

The history of violence and militancy in the region is a virus well documented that has defied every form of diplomacy or resolution from successive governments-Military and Civilian.

The Niger Delta has become an Achilles heel for the country’s Political leadership that has continually haunted and desecrated the edifice called Nigeria.

Although, it is not that previous governments in the last six or seven years have not shown resolve, however, their approach has always been in the short and not long term. The late Musa Yar Adua made effort as his ‘down to earth’ approach brought about an amnesty program for the militants which his successor, Goodluck Jonathan continued before he was voted out of office in 2015. But, they were largely efforts that only ‘scratched the surface’.

The Niger Delta issue has become a quagmire that has marred and questioned the principle of equity and fairness in Nigeria’s fledgling democracy. It is easier to point accusing fingers at successive governments that have looked the ‘other way’ smiling home to the bank while the ‘goose that lays the golden eggs’ suffer.

But, to be fair, the Federal government has made a giant leap in at least placating the aggrieved people of the region in recent years. Rather than condemn and blame Abuja for the region’s deplorable state, the militants in the creeks alongside the intellectual crusaders and activists should ask their past and present governors what they did with the 13% derivation funds and the other allocations that had gone to the region in the last decade.

These governors and the political elite should account for their stewardship and result-oriented programs to the people (That is if there is any).

That is why the recent visitation by an elder consultative group that claimed to speak on behalf of the Niger Delta people quips imagination and deserve scrutiny.

Having made their voices heard from the creeks over the skewed development and abject poverty that has epitomized the region they call home, the militants who are mainly unemployed youths should be mentally discerning enough to identify with honourable men and figures that would lead the dialogue between them and the Buhari administration.

It is rather disheartening to see some questionable characters whose brands are ‘unsellable’ join the bandwagon and posing as stakeholders as the FG seek ways to ‘mend the fence’ with the militants.

Florence Ita-giwa, Victor attah, ex Akwa Ibom state governor and Ijaw leader, Edwin Clark to mention a few are personalities that cast doubts on the credibility of the struggle of the militants. The former and the latter most especially are unworthy representatives of the people from the region. These are personalities that have smeared their aura and national relevance for cheap political gains. Guess the recent bombing of forcados oil facility by the militants after the much publicized visit of these leaders to President Buhari cements this assertion.

Nonetheless, ‘throwing the baby along with the bath water’ is not an option. The 16 point demands made by the group should be cautiously looked at and revised to ensure that it does not enrich the pockets of few opportunists parading themselves as ‘freedom fighters’. In this wish list presented to the Federal Government, efforts must be made to scrutinize the oil bloc demand and pipeline security contracts pact.

It is important to subject these two to scrutiny and evaluation in order to determine the intent and objectives, and sincerity of the agitators and their so-called representatives. This is needed so as not to institutionalize the illegality and absurdity of the previous government that contracted the nation’s oil pipeline security to private individuals in the Niger Delta region and ethnic militia group in the southwest.

For the APC led government to convince Nigerians that it is willing to restore peace and commit to the Niger Delta course, it must be flexible to allow ‘originality’ take its course and not ‘fakes’. The militants are willing to come to the table provided the government allows them to choose their representatives; men of national relevance, true champions not ‘cosmetics’ and ‘quickly assembled’ folks whose public appeal is insipid within the region ,nay nationally .

“By their fruits we shall know them” is a biblical verse that best reflects the present scenario. It is a crescendo that currently is appalling to the ears. A fact further accentuated and rubber-stamped by the militants blowing up of the Forcados oil terminal.

Whoever is going to lead the talks on behalf of the militants must be a (wo)man of honor that is not disconnected from the people. They must be personalities that carry weight and are driven by nationalism to see the ‘years of hurt and injustice’ on the region finally laid to rest through constructive and concrete dialogue.

It is important for Nigeria to get it right. And the Niger Delta would be a good way to prove critics wrong that the ‘Nigerian project’ is still viable.

The 16 point- demand submitted to the government must not compensate only a few. It must be all encompassing, positively impacting on the lives of the average Niger Delta people. The average Niger Deltan that wakes up in the morning and goes to bed in the night watching fiery flames of fire cloud the sky because of gas flaring; the average Niger Deltan that has been economically dislodged and marginalised because the rivers where he fishes and the land he farms on have been destroyed and left desolate through oil spillage and pollution.

This should and must be the defining factor in addressing the restiveness that has plagued the region for more than three decades. President Muhammad Buhari must not lose focus of this. He must not allow this imminent breakthrough in talks with the agitators be hijacked by ‘politicians and sycophants’. Already on the spotlights for negative reason no thanks to the failure of his government to start delivering on electoral promises made to Nigerians, another slip in the peace talks with the agitators in the Niger Delta will further distance his government from the people.

Hence, he must listen to the militants in the choice of their representatives if truly he wants to erase the perceived thoughts of mistrust, insincerity and unwillingness that the people of the region have had about successive Nigerian governments.

And allowing the real actors and players in the region the opportunity to ‘separate shafts from the wheat’ would give the peace process more credibility,boost  and hope.

 

 

DONALD TRUMP; A LONE VOICE, A SINKING SHIP


He swept the landscape like a whirlwind. His personality and aura swirled the American populace and made skeptics-who doubted his pedigree and predicted a short-lived campaign in the early stages of the ‘race for the white house’-eat their words initially.

But like the saying “he who laughs last, laughs best”, critics and skeptics alike are having the last laugh as the eccentric billionaire gave in to his weaknesses thereby crashing like a ‘pack of cards’. In short, his un-statesmanlike brashness unbefitting of any candidate that wants to be the next resident in the most powerful presidential house in the World before and most recent vindicated them.

Watching the republican flag bearer fall for Hillary Clinton’s bait (The Democrat’s candidate) in a debate just two days ago over his pro-Putin leanings and his inconsistencies in his immigration policy with Mexico was a further proof of the eccentricities and hot temperament that has not only defined his personality but, has also aided his opponent’s quest for the White House.

The republican president already wound up following heated argument with the former secretary of state called his democratic counterpart a ‘nasty woman’.

How come a man who many had thought-even in his party-had no chance all of a sudden became formidable months back but now, is a lone voice in the ‘wilderness’ not only struggling to be heard but also fighting to keep his ‘sinking ship’ afloat? It is big question that deserves an answer.

Need not go far, the answer is staring everyone in the face: Trump unknowingly had pressed the ‘self-destruction’ button. Hence, it only needed time to explode.

The Republican presidential nominee had dug his grave before now, avoiding a ‘great fall’ was inevitable. Donald Trump’s brashness and temperament eventually nailed his coffin.

In a country that stands for liberty and gender equality, abusing and scoffing the ‘American woman’ was his first sin. His rants towards Megyn Kelly, a fox news female anchor easily comes to mind. And if that was not enough, his smear and un-statesmanlike speeches that carried religious, and racial hate was largely viewed as ‘Un-American’ by not only the Democrats but even his party leadership. It was a flaw that was justifiably exploited by the media and his opponent.

For all the wrong reasons the Republican Presidential candidate brought along with him controversies and negative spotlights.

Still fighting terror at home and abroad, America needed to make her citizens safe however Trump’s muslim profiling remarks on the country’s minority muslim population and his spat with Khizr Khan the father of late muslim marine Humayun Khan did more harm to his image than good. The billionaire ended up receiving flaks at home and even among Washington’s allies in the West.

Not yet done, the volatile presidential candidate went for America’s latino population and its neighbor, Mexico -vowing to deport them and build a wall along the border with Enrique Pena Nieto’s country. A policy that inadvertently affected his rating among the country’s latino population. Although, he tried to ‘mend the wall’ with the Hispanic community in the US and Mexico City, it was a move that came rather too late. In a country with advanced political culture and literacy, making certain utterances and targeting a group could come back and haunt one.

America is highly revered on the international stage hence, aspiring presidents must always strive to maintain the status quo. But Trump was oblivious of this. He felt the White House was another business empire of his hence it was ok to take on the Vatican for branding his stance towards immigration as unchristian.

These encounters coupled with his foreign policy plans- that seek to cozy up to Russia and co-operate with Iran in fighting ISIS -for the United States had left his party members and leaders disillusioned with the 70 year old magnate. It was a reality-check on the Republican leaders. They goofed thinking Trump could beat Hillary Clinton to the seat. So, it came as no surprise to see them withdraw their supports and join the Hillary ‘bandwagon’- A decision that wound up the ever vociferous billionaire as he slammed them and ranted “they are not my leaders.”

What started as a close contest and a keen one is already losing its savour and competitiveness-thanks to Donald Trump. His brashness, and brawny approach that saw him swell his popularity among republican supporters in the early stages of the campaign and got him widely tipped to usurp the white house from democrat’s Hillary Clinton come November is gradually fading away. His tantrums are unhealthy for the job.

Being America’s president takes more than brawn and brashness. Placidity in the face of pressure, calmness in the face of criticism and having enough shock absorber and wisdom in the face of aggression are pre-requisite features deficient in the Trump presidency.

Having a Trump in the white house is as good as having a ‘young kid with a grenade in hand’ occupy such a sensitive seat. The republican candidate has shown this deficiency.

And seeing that he’s a captain of ‘deserted sinking ship’, and trying to hold unto whatever he could grab to stay afloat, he questioned  the credibility of the electoral process saying, “I am not sure if I’ll accept the election results.” It was a statement that reeked of cowardice, and defeat even before the election proper in November.

Casting doubt on the credibility of the electoral process of the most advanced democracy in the world does not only attack America’s democratic sensibility, civility and freedom but also the election of past leaders into the White House.

It is a statement unbefitting of a man that aspires to succeed President Barack Obama come November.

But, the truth be told, the business man brought a little bit of comical reliefs to this year’s presidential election. His ascension as flag bearer of the Republican without prior knowledge in governance and politics further rubber-stamps the credibility, tolerance and even participation on offer in America’s democracy.

However, the job of an American president is like a ‘super hero’ trying to make the world a better place. It requires a lot of moral responsibilities and obligation. A fact Trump must realize and accept as he tries to save his ‘sinking ship’. That is if it is not too late already.

 

 

 

Buhari’s corruption fight; beaming the searchlight on the Judiciary

 

Nobody saw it coming. Even Gandalf, the white wizard in the famed Hollywood movie, “Legend of the Rings” could have got his predictions right but not the timing.

It was a tsunami that saw the perceived high walls and impenetrable defences of an arm of government that had tread the country’s judicial landscape without fear and with impunity finally crumble. Nigeria’s third and last arm of government, considered as the last vestige of hope and a ‘candle light’ in the dark for the masses had lost sight of this judicial obligation and constitutional duty due to questionable actions and roles that it had played in the country’s lengthy fight against corruption.

Besides the lopsidedness in prosecuting corrupt political office holders and eminent personalities, the judicial system is also so obscure and skewed against ordinary Nigerians. A fact not lost on the citizens and had even inspired a popular music artist to identify the rot in his hit track “Ajegunle”.

So, the raid was only a matter of time. It was a ‘ticking time-bomb’ waiting to explode. And President Muhammadu Buhari who had initially expressed his frustrations in the judicial system in his fight against corruption gladly detonated the ‘bomb’.

The ex-general raid on judges opens up another frontier in his fight against corruption.

It is no news that corrupt government officials and political office holders alleged to have stolen or diverted billions in public fund have somewhat found refuge in the judiciary. Strange legal terms, never-been-heard before hidden clauses and various interpretations were used to circumvent the process and before you know it, is “Uhuru” for these looters and their loots.

The trial of former Delta state governor James Ibori exemplifies the mediocrity of our judges and the rot in the judicial system. While the former Governor was discharged and acquitted in a Nigerian court of all corruption charges levied against him by the EFCC, a British court didn’t find him so and subsequently slammed him into jail-A verdict that raises question mark on the competence and integrity of the country’s judiciary.

Critics of the government would label its move as impunity, invasion and usurping constitutional arrangement that has clearly defined the roles, functions and limits of the three arms of government. Yes! It may look harmful to our democracy however the constitution supports this executive fiat. Section 11, 18 and 48 of the constitution lays credence to this.

Besides constitutionally justifying President Buhari’s actions, it is important to note that if Nigeria wants to put an end to corruption, no institution and arm of government should be spared-and that includes the Judiciary.

Fellow West African neighbor, Ghana beamed its searchlights on the judiciary after allegations of corruption and other vices came up.

Hence, what the general did is not totally out of order as the NBA and NJC paint it.

The duo’s alarm and condemnation is reprehensible and anti-public. Both Judicial arms have looked the other way for several years while its members made mockery of the judicial process through dubious and questionable judgements.

It is not a hidden fact that the masses have lost trust, confidence and hope in an institution that is meant to protect them and guarantee their rights. Ordinary citizens have seen their rights trampled upon by the upper-class while these bodies fold their arms. But had no issues watching over 80 senior advocates embark on a show of charade flanking senate president Bukola Saraki to the court over corruption allegations.

The earlier the NJC and NBA realise the folly of their stance, the earlier the better. In a country where public opinion on the political and economic situation is at an all-time low, following the failure of the government to deliver on its electoral promises, the masses can be forgiven if they perceive the duo as a “cog in the wheel” of progress in the country’s efforts to fight corruption in high places and recoup stolen state funds.

No doubt in the present administration abysmal performance on the economic front-one among the many promises the APC led government of President Buhari made- onward winning the presidential election a year ago.

But at least, the former general has kept good his promises in fighting corruption to a stand-still. A promise he has backed up with actions prior to this latest onslaught on the Judiciary.

With an exasperated and unenthusiastic populace continuously scrutinizing his government’s inability to reboot an economy that has gone comatose, President Buhari knows landing a decisive blow in his corruption fight would redeem his public rating and somehow rekindle the hopes of millions of Nigerians who feel that the status quo remains unchanged- A status quo that alienates the government from the masses thereby denying them good governance.

Accountability and transparency in public funds and administration set the tone for political and economic development for any aspiring and ambitious third world country-like Nigeria. These are features of Western government and rising Asian dragon China. The Chinese have famously held sway in this aspect; its zero tolerance for corruption is blunt and uncompromising. The incarceration of former Communist party member and governor of Chengdu province, Bo Xilai surmises Beijing’s uncompromising tolerance and distaste for corruption.

Therefore, for Nigeria to rise from the doldrums of underdevelopment, sanitizing our political structure and institution of government would be the first in the right direction in fighting the menace that has held the country to ransom.

At 56 years, the professed ‘sleeping giant’ of Africa should grow up and stop wearing diapers. Now, is the time for change; time to unearth the country’s potentials; time to awaken our leaders and those to put Nigeria above their selfish interests and place the country to where it rightly belongs among the comity of nations.

But to achieve this, the country must confront her Achilles heel and nightmare-corruption. It is a fight that must outlive President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The general only kicked-off a revolution whoever succeeds him must pick up the baton from wherever he drops it. It is a marathon race that requires commitment, dedication and determination to fight a course.

 

 

 

 

 

TURKISH COUP PLOT; ERDOGAN’S MAKING

 

15th of July 2016 would always go down into the historic memorabilia of NATO’s second largest Army-Turkey.

It was like a Hollywood flick, unexpected that caught not only the world off guard but also Turks themselves and their eccentric leader, Tayyip Erdogan (Who was the prime target).

It would well be remembered by Turks and the international community for erasing or denting the once perceived notion about the country as “bastion of stability” that is strategically placed in a region plagued with political upheavals and volatility.

Having ascended power as a prime minister more than a decade ago, Tayyip Recep Erdogan, now Turkey’s president has overseen the dramatic rise of “Ataturk’s country” from a torpid and recessive economic powerhouse to a burgeoning and healthy one now rated as 15th largest economy in the World.

The AK Party’s leader’s CV ever since he stepped into the country’s political arena has been impressive and intimidating but, the recent failed coup attempt on his government, might just call into question the 62 year old leader’s political resume.

On a week vacation from Ankara, Turkey’s president was cooling off in South sea resort of Marmaris when the coup plotters struck on Friday of that fateful day.

In the middle of that failed conquest, the coup plotters were reported to have announced that they “are taking over in order to return the country’s secularism status”. A policy that was part of the integral and institutional groundwork of Turkey’s founding General, Ataturk.

Hence, return to secularism meant that Erdogan has gradually drifted from Turkey’s secularist posture to an Islamic one. This anger may just be one of several undisclosed discontentment the coup plotters have against the president.

No doubt about Erdogan’s sterling rule ever since he took over as president in 2014 however, is his penchant for absolute power that has got oppositions and critics worried. While he served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, the constitution devolved power thereby reducing powers in the presidency. A political arrangement he gradually changed to suit his ambition and consolidate his hold on power.

Under Erdogan’s sinister plot, Turkey now has a powerful and influential president at the helm of affairs-A threatening situation that has undermined the country’s democracy in recent times.

Despite this shortcoming, the coup plotters were still unable to win over the populace. In this ‘slug fest’, it was the 62 year old president that swayed the population with his ‘rapturous’ and rallying call to the citizens to storm the streets and evict the coup plotters.

The president won this contest because Turks were already fed up of the military and weren’t ready to tolerate any form of incursion into the country’s political landscape under any garb despite their leader’s autocratic tendencies.

The coup plotters failed because of the peoples’ will, something Erdogan must be thankful for and probably seize the event to address the causes rather than accuse others for his own self-destructive actions.

Still seething and angry at the political culprits, Erdogan has unceremoniously embarked on a ‘kamikaze’ swooping on anybody that might have been directly or indirectly linked to the coup. In his fury, the 62 year old has borne his fangs down on the judiciary-a vital arm in a democratic institution-by arresting 140 senior judges and another 2,475 in lower courts.

In this ‘dirty fight’, he hasn’t spared civil servants and popular Turkish footballer Hakan Sukur whose arrest he has ordered. He has purged 9000 workers from the interior ministry, 9,322 under investigation, and has suspended 15,200 from the ministry of education. While in the army over 100 generals have been detained.

Not contented with this onslaught, the president has turned his direction towards one-time ally and Islamic cleric Fettulah Gulen who is on self-exile in the US, accusing him of being behind the failed coup to remove him. Consequently, he demanded for his extradition from Washington-a request the Obama government has turned down demanding Erdogan proves the cleric’s involvement in the failed coup.

Though the coup that left 263 dead and 1,400 wounded is treasonable and deserves to be punished, the manner and tactics employed by the president is as worrying and condemnable as the treasonable actions of the perpetrators.

Trampling on the constitution with impunity all in the name of bringing the coup plotters and those considered to be accomplices is a dangerous and unrewarding precedent for a country that is an active player in NATO and also plotting an EU ambition.

Ankara has a pivotal role to play on the global scene; her strategic location acting as a buffer between two continents makes her a fulcrum of attention within Europe, Middle East and the world at large.

Therefore, Tayyip Erdogan has to slow down on his unrelenting crackdown that has somewhat vindicated his critics who see another “Putin” in the Turkish leader. Justifiably because, his actions after the failed coup coupled with his ambition to project a neo-ottoman foreign policy and his apparent blackmail on Washington to choose between the “Turkish state and Fetullah Gulen” who he claimed masterminded the putsch mirrored a “putinesque”.

Turkey’s strongman has appropriated more powers to himself after the coup by influencing the legislature to allow him bypass bureaucratic and legal hurdles in making arrests and unleashing Turkish security operatives on those he perceived as accomplices in the botched coup. A situation he has exploited to further asphyxiate his opponents and critics.

Blaming a foreign power and prominent opposition strongmen for the failed coup is uncalled for. It resembles a propagandist tool employed by Erdogan to hide his own shortcomings as a leader.

It should be noted that any form of backdoor and illegitimate political move most especially military coups against a legitimate political authority of a state is undemocratic and treasonable. Hence, the failed coup in Turkey is illegal and must be condemned.

However, a leader should know he can’t have 100% support; criticism and oppositions will always arise especially when there are loopholes in his policies. Bet, the Turkish president had some.

But, with the dust settling down and Erdogan still in power, the time to mend the crack is now. Rather than embark on smear campaigns, blames and arrests, the Turkish president should take an introspective look into his style of leadership that has seen him evolve from a moderate to autocratic and from ditching Ataturk’s legacy of a secular Turkey to Islamizing it just because he wants to project a new ottoman power.

“A good leader is a listening leader that accepts criticism when he’s wrong”. Tayyip Erdogan can still be that leader provided he stops blaming others and admits his shortcomings too.

SOUTH CHINA SEA; CHINA SWIMMING IN TROUBLED WATERS

 

It was expected. Even the Chinese already knew how the script would play out hence it explains their vociferous opposition to the Phillipines’ former president Beningno Aquino’s decision to take the festering South China sea disputes between them to the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

The South China Sea is a ‘sea of trouble’ that has six other countries besides Manila contesting Beijing’s 85% ownership claims of the large expanse of waters in Asia’s South East.

Believed to be hosting billions in barrel of crude deposits and natural gas, and a healthy population of marine wide life, the South China Sea is the ultimate jewel and most sought after natural bride in the world.

So it came as no surprise to see Manila take Beijing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague over its overbearing and aggressive attitude towards the disputed sea and also seeking rights to explore and exploit the waters near the islands and reefs it occupies in the South China Sea.

After months and years of deliberations and examinations of facts as presented by the Phillipines to the court, on 12th of July, a panel of five experts delivered the verdict-China’s worst fear.

The court in the Hague overwhelmingly quashed Chinese claims to that part of the sea disputed by Manila stating that ‘Beijing’s much publicized 9 dashed lines based on an historical Chinese maritime book does not sufficiently prove her ownership and is also not applicable on international sea routes and maritime borders under the United Nation’s law of the sea.’ A verdict the Chinese communist government disregarded as it questioned the legality of the court to interfere in what it considers an internal issue.

Rather than back down, Beijing has accelerated her actions on the sea thereby spiking up tensions and fears of militarization between her and other claimants. Her presence in the sea has seen her not only building artificial islands but also deploying military hardware to these islands.

And these actions have seen other claimants responding forcefully to what they consider as bullying from their bigger neighbor. The burnings of Chinese fish trawlers that sailed into Indonesia’s part of the disputed sea by the Indonesian Navy last month is just one of the numerous tensed moments seen in the region.

With the US already present in the region, thanks to open invitation from the former Filipino president Benigno Aquino requesting Washington’s military presence on his soil, the stakes, however, seem to be higher and riskier with an eccentric and unpredictable Rodrigo Duterte replacing the former.

Duterte, a former Mayor of Manila was on the cusp of creating a ‘thunderstorm in the troubled waters’ before he rescinded his decision to go on scuba diving in the sea- An action that would have raised eyebrows in Beijing and further strain Sino-Filipino relationship.

Not contented with unsettling the waters in the South China Sea, the mainland turned her attention once again to hotly disputed East China Sea with Japan where chains of mountainous islands known as ‘sinkaku’ in Tokyo and ‘Diaoyu’ in Beijing has emerged as ‘bone of contention’ for both heavyweights.

Both sides in the past have aggressively pursued their claims to the waters in the East China Sea by their swift actions. Tokyo countered Beijing’s establishment of ‘An Air identification zone’ in the Sea by purchasing the two mountainous islands from the Japanese private owners of the island.

However, following the unfavorable judgment in the Hague over her claims to the South China Sea, Xi jinping has suddenly ramped up Chinese presence in the East China sea by flying fighter jets into the area’s disputed airspace and at the same time making Naval intrusions into the keenly contested waters-A development that has not only irked Tokyo but also forcing it to revisit and upgrade her security blueprints.

Shinzo Abe, Japanese prime minister now finds China’s actions in the sea as aggressive and provocative and has warned Beijing of the dangers of not only straining an already frosty Sino-Japanese relationship but also complicating an already delicate and sensitive issue in the East China Sea.

While it is legitimate to defend one’s territorial sovereignty against external forces, it is also important for such country to explore every form of legal framework and diplomacies that are acceptable within the ambience of international law and status quo.

China should be reminded that as much as she craves for her territorial sovereignty in the disputed seas, most especially the South China Sea, she cannot unilaterally supplant her wish on her neighbors. These countries also have a legitimate and overlapping claim to the oil rich waters.

Showing disregard to other claimants to the sea and ramping up tensions within the region will further toughen her smaller neighbors and validate Washington’s claim of an attempt by Beijing to unilaterally re-design the status quo in a sea that records $five trillion worth of economic trade annually.

Rather than ‘mend the walls’, the Chinese have further ‘widened the hole’ through their actions. Her recalcitrant stance over the issue has seen another Western power, France under EU mandate to announce future military flights and surveillance to the region-A development that has somewhat vindicated past America’s naval presence and standoff with the Chinese in the disputed sea.

China’s new found global player status is not a license to misbehave. Instead, it should be seen as an opportunity to further contribute to the development of humanity and world peace. Just like a super hero with immense powers, the Chinese have moral obligation and responsibility to use their influences well and positively, and not to traumatize her weaker neighbors and rile another heavyweight power like Japan over the contentious East China Sea.

China already sits in a region still haunted by the billowing smoke of an unsettled Korean Peninsula hence need not escalate the volatile situation in the region by creating another strain of “security virus” through her counter-productive actions.

Opening channels of communication between her and other claimants and also collaborating on a collective development of the sea so as to harness and maximize its potentials for the general benefits of all involved would be a right step in the right direction for the mainland communist government.

Militarization would only lead to arms race and formation of alliances by other countries involved in the Sea brouhaha to thwart China’s bullying approach.

“No country is an island ”, the earlier Beijing realizes this, the better for it. A stable region will also safeguard her security but, making enemies instead of building relationship would be like “building a high wall” around herself- An action that could in the long run jeopardize her own safety too.

 

 

Brexit: Not yet Uhuru for Britain

 

Theresa MayMost people must have thought after weathering the Greek storm famously tagged “Grexit” last year that the EU had successfully meandered a delicate phase in its 41 year existence-a trying moment that questioned its relevance in the face of crunch economic tides ravaging member states.

But they were wrong. The “once bitten twice shy” adage did not work for the Union in this situation this time. Another Hurricane in “Brexit” came, swept and put asunder the matrimony between Brussels and London. It was one they never recovered from and one that has somewhat called into question the “One Europe” model.

Brexit has not only led another member state in the Czech Republic mooting the idea of a “Czechxit”-a referendum to decide whether to be or not to remain in EU-but also emboldened leader of a far-right party in non-member state Slovakia in Marian Kotleba and Eastern power Russia in feeling vindicated by their anti-west and EU stances.

A Brexit was quite possible because Britain unlike Greece was not at a breaking point economically. Besides, being the fifth largest economy in the world somehow made Britain’s exit from the Union feasible.

However, it wasn’t only Britain’s economic viability and stability that helped Brexit apologists at the polls. No; the EU indirectly had a hand in it. And by the time Brussels realized what she had done, it was already late.

Failure to reach a compromise with former British Prime minister David Cameron on salient issues; issues that bordered on British values, territorial sovereignty and immigration had already created a “crack in the wall” between both sides. And a breaking point was inevitable after Brussels failed to address the uncontrollable influx of refugees and illegal immigrants showing up on Europe’s doorsteps as a result of the war in Syria and upheavals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather, its decision to impose a refugee cap-a sharing formula aimed at resettling refugees among member states-riled Brits and the pro-Brexit conservative party in the parliament.

So, by the time the referendum took place, it was easier for Brits to make this historic decision-to dump the EU.

The world deserves to know the truth behind Britain’s exit from the EU.

Brits were persuaded to vote leaving the bloc solely because of what politicians felt was Britain’s inability to have a say “on who comes in and out of the Isle”. It was simply about territorial sovereignty and immigration.

With Eastern Europeans trooping in after Brussels extended its membership to some countries in the East, bet the influx of these new EU member states’ citizens  with the burden of accommodating and settling refugees fleeing the war in Syria was too much a burden the country could cope with. Hence, a clean sweep at the polls by pro-brexit agitators could not be avoided by David Cameron led Liberals.

And, yes, a sweet victory for Brits who can finally have their identity and borders back. But, a tricky road lies ahead for Western Europe’s third largest economy.

Steering the isle nation from the murky waters of uncertainties to a new life without the EU is a slippery ground that the new government headed by conservative party Prime Minister Theresa May is stepping on. More than three decades of relationship with Europe cannot be severed without some side-effects. It is like “removing the umblical chord of a foetus in the womb.” A herculean task Theresa May and her team are aware of.

How and where to go from this phase is what Brussels and London are currently thrashing out as both sides hope to activate article fifty of the Union treaty to formally dissolve their marriage.

Knotty issues on free movement of people and goods, accessing credits and maintaining the financial status quo between British banks and their European counterparts would have to be re-negotiated between both parties. And a long, thorny battle is expected.

May knows this and has picked her team to pilot the country’s new status to safety.

All eyes would be on new foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Finance Minister Phillip Hammond’s ability to sell a new Britain to the rest of Western Europe still seething and sulking at her exit from the EU.

But up north in Scotland, the mood seems to be quite different.

While the Brits revel in the joy of a “Brexit”, their northern neighbours are not. The Scots still want to remain in EU and fears that Britain pulling out could signal their own exit too since both countries including Northern Ireland and Wales make up the United Kingdom. Something Pro-Scotland independence female party leader Strachan is unwilling to accept and has even suggested another independence referendum for the Scots.

Scotland’s insistence to remain in the Union is also creating distractions among member states of the continent’s super-political institution. Though, officials in Brussels sought to approach the issue as an “in-house thing” that must be left for the UK to treat, however, Madrid has taken a stance.

Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s Prime Minister bluntly stated that “if Britain leaves, Scotland leaves too” -a tactical and political message not only reflecting Madrid’s view of seeing Scotland as part of the UK but also reminding independence agitators in Spain’s Catalan province that the region is still seen as part of the Iberian country.

A “Scotexit” from the Kingdom could see Britain lose access to the off-shore oil reserves in Scottish waters. Something Theresa May would not like to see happen.

Hence, finding a solution to the Scottish rumblings would be part of a larger project her government will embark on in a Post-EU Britain.

But for Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and EU chair, moving on from “Brexit” is her ultimate goal. Brooding over a failed marriage between the Union and Britain is not her penchant as it clearly showed in her reaction saying “no going back on negotiations”.

Bet the rest of Europe is ready to trudge on without Britain-a new experience for the union.

For Theresa May, the new “Moses leading Britain to the promise land”, it is now or never.

After she took over from David Cameron, she unequivocally stated that “Britain will rise above this new challenge and emerge stronger.”

Yes! She will. Having promised the whole nation “Brexit goodies” keeping to these promises can only endear the conservative party to Brits.

Positive results; politically and economically must start trickling in; if not fast but gradually.

Having left Brussels, guess the new government at number 10 Downing  street wouldn’t have an EU to blame if they fail to meet the dreams and aspirations of millions that voted for a Brexit.

But along the path to paradise lies “booby-traps and mine fields” .How Theresa May and Co. do this remains a million dollar question only her can answer.

EL RUFAI’S RELIGIOUS BILL; TIMELY AND COMMENDABLE

 

Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is not a man known to shy away from the spotlight. His past exploits and accompanying controversies as a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory and Director-General of the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) serve as avid reminder to those who have followed the diminutive and combative character of Kaduna’s number one citizen’s sojourn into public administration and governance.

Now in 2016, El-Rufai’s personality streak for courting controversy is at work again-this time in a sensitive, volatile and passionate clime like religion that has often and brazenly tested the political and territorial wholesomeness of this country.

However, as the uproar and resentments against El-Rufai’s impending religious license bill continue to gather momentum, it becomes imperative to sniff beyond the Kaduna state governor’s intent in order to have clarity on this sensitive issue.

In this age of terrorism, a menace that no country in the world is immune to, it becomes imperative for any responsive and responsible government to take heed and address issues that could usurp its peace and security. A step Nasir El-Rufai has taken amidst the ongoing military offensive against Boko Haram in the North East.

Having seen the untold destruction and havoc the sect has imprinted on the country, it is only sensible for the Governor to take pre-emptive step in nipping it in the bud and addressing the flippancy that gave rise to Boko Haram from a harmless religious group that was appalled by the glaring inequalities between the rich and the poor in the north to a formidable terror group that does not only threaten the territorial integrity of Nigeria but, also of her neighbours.

While defending the religious bill meant to check the activities of churches and mosques, the Kaduna state governor stated this was important as intelligence gathering briefed him of new Islamic sect known as ‘Gaussiyya’ whose philosophy, aims and objective remains unclear. Hence, it becomes imperative to regulate the activities of religious bodies in the state in order to avert the breeding of terror groups hiding under the garb of religion.

Instead of slamming the governor, he should be applauded.

It is quite unfortunate that issues of national interests over the years have often been subjected to religious and ethnic sentiments- A blindfold preventing us from seeing the bigger picture, something playing itself out now in Kaduna.

Regulation of religious activities is not something new, the West have a strict regulatory policy in place that sieves a religious body’s sermon, orientation and objectives. Even in Islamic countries, a good example, Pakistan, madrasas in Punjab are effectively monitored by the Province government all in the bid to stamp out radical teachings and extremist ideologies that have long fed the jihadi activities of Pakistan Taliban and other terror groups in the country.

So, El-Rufai has not erred for taking this strong posture to screening the activities of religious bodies within the state. What he has done is to, zoom the lens on the activities of churches and mosques as they are fertile ground for fanatics and hate preachers to sprout.

And besides, he does not intend to embark on this road alone, he intends to constitute a central body that will have representatives of both religions deliberating and deciding on issuance of licenses to establishment of new churches and mosques.

But, critics have faulted this bill stating it is not only counter-productive for a country where religious issues are often volatile and sensitive but, also unconstitutional as it infringes on the freedom of religion, thought, conscience and open propagation of one’s belief.

Yes it does run contrary to not only the constitution but also the tenets of democracy, a political structure and institution we strongly believe in.

While it seems rational to defend the fundamental human rights and freedom guaranteed by democracy, it is also exigent to adjust and reassess these rights as enshrined in the constitution in the wake of evolving socio-political happenings threatening the existence of the state and questioning its territorial sovereignty.

Have you ever seen a citizen demanding for freedom of movement when curfew is imposed in a crisis situation? Never, the need to restore law and order to such crisis-ridden enclave by the authorities overrides any individual’s constitutional right to freedom of movement.

Even in Western democracies where they are light years ahead of us when it comes to liberalism and enforcing citizens’ rights, the state does not hold back in denying its citizens these rights if national interest is at stake. The French government’s passing of bill to wiretap citizens’ phones and internet activities in the wake of the deadly Paris terror attacks lay credence to this.

Still contending with Boko Haram in the North East, the Kaduna state governor is well aware of what lies ahead if it fails to cut an infectious virus that could be exploited by new groups or sects all bandying the religion placard while grooming terror behind the scene.

The state governor however, must endeavor to make this bill proactive and un-biased.

Fears that it could be hijacked and used against Christians must be addressed if the governor truly wants to fight radicalization and harmful teachings in places of worship as he claimed in his earlier defense of the controversial bill.

Creating a religious body that is transparent and adequately having representatives of both faiths in its fold could be a first step in series of others in allaying the worries of either faith.

As much as our constitution guarantees freedom of religion, it is also pertinent to remind the governor that Nigeria as a State is secular, and must remain so even in his little domain where he calls the shot.

El-Rufai must not let politicians, sycophants and unwanted elements distort the objective of this bill and his own intentions with respect to checking religious excesses.

Despite the fact that, terrorism and its crippling effects on the country necessitated the initiation of this bill by the governor, he must show wisdom and resolve not to veer off this perilous road that he has already embarked on otherwise, he just might have tampered with a grenade that could leave in its wake a dent on his own image and a horrible scar on the polity.

ITALIAN VINTAGE; STILL AMONG EUROPE’S FINEST

 

 

“I believe we have taken the right decision on the squad; tactically and technically. We have a group of players that are hardworking, passion-driven and enthusiastic.

“It is my job, I make the decisions and I stand by these decisions,” an angry Conte snapped as he responded to critics-on the dearth of quality in the Azzurri for the Euros-who had persistently questioned his team selection for the tournament ongoing in France.

That was last month, a week or two, prior to the commencement of the continental championship. With the curtains gradually coming down on the tournament as Portugal takes on France in the finals for the ultimate prize, Conte’s Italy’s exploit at the Euros would always be one to relish and remember.

The Azzurri adventure came to a halt in the last eight against the Germans. However, it was an encounter that silenced critics and other ‘doubting thomases’ of their misconception and perception of the Italians.

Having watched the four-time world champions put up a classic “Italian show” at the competition; an out-of-the-blue performance from a team that was already written off, attention and many gazes are now being directed towards the Azzuri and Italian football.

Unsurprisingly, their heroic exploits had not only turned them into celebrities but, has also proven that the “Italian vintage” can still sparkle after all.

No doubt about the problems plaguing Italian football. From crippling stadia to lack of investment to its inability to attract star players like it used to in the days of yore, the peninsula football had simply gone into comatose. In short, the Serie A-Italy’s topflight league- simply fell out of reckoning and struggled to keep pace with the EPL, La liga and Bundesliga. It was a worrying situation that somehow crept into the national team as Italy struggled to remain a dominant football powerhouse that she once was on the planet.

On the international scene the travails of rebuilding after less than impressive world cup outings in 2010 and 2014 still haunted the FIG (Italy’s football governing body). Guess these problems overwhelmingly beclouded the critics’ judgements about the Italians despite securing qualification for the Euros without any defeat from its group.

They were simply not spared at home and abroad by the media and fans.

By the time the 24 teams that would be slugging it out at the 23rd edition of Europe’s most glamorous national competition emerged, Italy was overlooked as a major contender and title favorites. Traditional heavyweights like Germany, Spain, and France got the nod alongside Dark horse and talent riddled Belgium-a major flop at the tournament. Even an overhyped and pretentious English team was given a waiver ahead of the Azzuris. Hence, an unavoidable apocalypse had already been premeditated for  Conte and his troops before the ball was kicked in France.

Justifying this doomsday prediction was Antonio Conte’s 23 man selection. Devoid of mercurial midfield duo of Marchisio and Verratti-no thanks to injury-coupled with his decision to leave out ageless Andre Pirlo and in-form winger Sebastian Giovinco owing to the duo playing in the less competitive MLS raised questions. And if that was not enough to rile both the Italian media and fans, guess, his final omission of a player that could add flair and creativity to the team in mold of Brazilian born Napoli star Jorginho, finally sent everyone into an overdrive and pondering “What the hell is Conte doing”?

Nothing is wrong with the former Biaconneri coach. He’s in charge and he has proven it.

The doomsday prediction of his side did not see the light of the day. The 48 year old shamed all critics that had questioned the quality of his squad and had unequivocally labeled them as the “worst Azzurri squad in history”.

However, his first match against the Belgians in their group opener in France showed the world what this so-called “weak Azzurri” devoid of individual stars could do. Against a team that was the highest ranked by FIFA rankings at the tournament, Conte and his men did not hold back. A thumping two-nil victory over Hazard and Co. got everyone staring at the Italians.

And if the ‘doubting thomases’ remained unconvinced bet Italy’s round of 16 clash with Spain definitely convinced them that truly the “Roman warriors” are back.

The Azzurri fury ravaged the Spanish armada. It was supremacy battle between two footballing philosophies; Cattenaccio and Tiki-taka. And it was the former that came out unscathed.

Spain simply could not cope with the energy and robustness of Italy. The Italians outfought and outplayed them. And when Del Bosque’s side tried sniffing out a goal, their attacking threats met two brick walls; a resolute Italian defense and an iconic goalie in Juve’s Gigi Buffon.

It was pure master class from Conte and a sweet revenge for the Italians for the humiliating defeat in the last edition of the tournament at Euro 2012 to the Spanish.

And by the time Die Manschaaf came knocking in the last eight, the once vilified “Italian wine” had already become the most sought after.

Pessimism had been replaced by optimism, disrespect supplanted with respect and the “easy prey” or “toothless bull dog” perception now replaced with dread and caution. The Azzurri were now a Lion that could bite and roar. Conte did it. He earned Italy’s respect back. A fact that the Germans were now aware of prior to and after their last eight show down with the Azzurris.

A close, cagey, back and forth battle best describes the epic clash between the two giants.

Joachim Loew’s troops had “a stroll in the park” against Slovakia in their last 16 but, against the Italians, it wasn’t. Unable to be separated at the end of 120 minutes of football, it was the spot-kick that came to the Germans rescue.

A tipsy-turvy shootout swinging like a pendulum had the Germans’ hearts in their mouth. However, it was the Die Manschaaf that eventually prevailed. It was a great relief for Low’s men as they finally ended the “Italian” hoodoo-securing a first competitive victory against Italy in eight attempts.

The defeat ended Conte’s Italy run but, in style and respect.

Antonio Conte-taking over Chelsea rein next season-had already begun a revolution, one that the FIG would do well to sustain. To his critics at home and abroad, forgetting his history at Juve and the aura he possesses was their undoing. Conte breathed life back into the “Old Lady”. With him a sleeping giant in Italy and Europe was finally re-awakened.

Leading them back into Europe and winning domestic titles with the Turin side was a proof that a new coaching gem was born and ready to gate crash the exclusive league of world’s best coaches. And Italy’s performance at the Euros further rubber-stamped his credentials and vindicated Chelsea in appointing him as Jose Mourinho replacement.

Those that doubted Italy failed to see the “man behind the iron mask”. Fine, Italy had no Pirlo, Totti, or even a Maldini to lead them to glory but they had a coach, one driven by passion, hunger, desire and perfection. His thirst for success was infectious. Something his former player at Juve and Italy, Andre Pirlo attested to.

“Conte is a monster. He is success driven and knows how to transfer that winning mentality to his players.”

Yes! He’s a monster but one with a soft side. After the shootout defeat to Germany the new Chelsea manager praised his boys saying “We lost via PK. There is nothing to be ashamed of; we leave the tournament with pride and respect.”

Exactly, the Italians can look back at the tournament with pride. They played with guts, energy and resilience. Short of individual stars, they maximized their potentials as a team. Against formidable teams like Belgium, Spain and Germany the Italians stood their ground. Even ex-international, Christian Vieri acknowledged this saying: Italy are now playing with pride thanks to Conte.

Pride it is and they are worthy participants.

Now all eyes would be on Russia 2018 world cup qualifiers and the Italians would not only fancy their chances at qualifying but, also upping the ante at the competition.

However in the Euros’ diary what the continent and the whole world would definitely take note is that Catenaccio is still alive and “Italian vintage” remains among the finest in football’s vineyard.

FAREWELL MESSI: THE UNFULFILLED DREAM OF A LEGEND

 

Enough! It was one too many heart aches that the Argentine and Barca star could take.  Even the most valiant of soldiers could have easily thrown in the towel like he did. Another COPA final defeat in two years to a familiar foe and nemesis, Chile was too much to stomach for the Rosario born star.

One, two, three finals losses in a competitive tournament prior to this recent defeat to La Roja-which made it his fourth consecutive loss in a final-at this year’s COPA centenario simply got Lionel Messi disillusioned at his inability to replicate his club success with the Albiceleste. Not when he was struggling to fight off criticism and prove critics wrong that he could also achieve what his fellow Argentine idol and legend, Diego Maradona achieved with the national team.

These voices from home fans, Argentine media and even the former Barca and Napoli man, Maradona, whom he has been compared to were deafening. It is like a Lion fighting a pack of Hyenas-a battle already lost. Hence, the 28 year old felt he should do a “seppaku”-a Japanese honorable way of regaining honour in the face of defeat by committing suicide through evisceration-by calling it quit with the national team.

So, a miserable Messi announced his retirement prematurely, immediately after the COPA defeat to Chile. It was a decision that rattled the football world.

At just 28 why should he be calling it quit with the national team because of this setback? Many would have pondered. But, the pain of defeat twice to the same opponent within two years was a bitter pill, too bitter for the Argentine to swallow.

Though, his first loss to Chile in 2015 was not his fault. A Higuian penalty miss in the shootout against the Chileans and a team selection blunder from former coach Sabella that saw an important player like Carlos Tevez kept on the bench undid the Argentines.

But, this time, it was Messi that made the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Before the COPA final loss to Chile, the Barca star gave scintillating displays in the knockout stages as the Albiceleste marched into the final. His superb 35 yard free-kick against the U.S. in the Semis was a reminder of the ‘magic’ in his feet. So, when Sanchez and Co. came calling in the final, he was expected to exert revenge and end the Albiceleste trophy drought. But he couldn’t.

After grueling 120 minutes of football failed to separate both sides, it was the spot kick that finally did. Messi was given the baton to take the first penalty kick for Argentina; however, he missed. It was a costly miss that had a crippling effect on the outcome of the match. Although, the Chileans had Vidal spurn a spot kick too, they were however able to regain their nerves quickly to successfully score the remaining kicks while the Argentines’ woes continued as Garay missed his to eventually hand Chile a second and a back to back COPA title. It was a tragic ending for a team that had started the tournament on a bright note; always stuttering at the doorstep of greatness.

That said, the COPA debacle does not diminish Messi’s status as a great player neither does it rubbish his achievements on and off the pitch. Absolutely not! His humble beginning as a young boy suffering from hormonal deficiency that had impeded his growth till he got a shot at better life through football-thanks to Barca who offered to take him under their wings and facilitate his access to hormone therapy in Spain-is a story that inspires all.

Trophies laden success with Barca and numerous individual titles speak for the Argentine. No doubt about his qualities. He is a bundle of talent that has won admirations of sports’ fans around the world. The trendy image of a four year old Afghan boy called Mansour playing football while wearing a Barca jersey made from nylon with Messi’s name and jersey number inscribed on it is a testament of the cult figure the Argentine star enjoys.

Simply put: Messi is football, football is Messi.

Rather than deducing or beaming the searchlight into his decision to retire from the international scene, appreciating, respecting and accepting the decision of this Argentine wonder that took the sport to another level should be the order.

Like a valiant captain that he is, he felt he has failed in that capacity to deliver hence, the honourable thing to do was to step aside and let a new era begin in the Albiceleste. It is a decision that is now sweeping the national team like a tidal wave as reports of Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano, Ezequiel Lavezzi and four others are now contemplating leaving the scene. They too, are all distraught and gutted by the disappointments and heart breaks of watching their moments of glory and writing history slip through their fingers on four consecutive occasions.

“It is better to leave the stage when the ovation is loudest”. And that is exactly what he did.

We are a product of the choices we make. It is a natural law that does not exempt Messi. His footprints on the sand of times will live long, even beyond him.

Guess the world and his fellow countrymen would be doing him a favour by saying “Gracias” and “Aldios” temporarily to one of the greatest players on the planet. Because “we are driven by passion and what brings joy to our world” the football community, most especially Argentines can never tell when the “rooster can come back home.”