brexit

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.

Mallam-Nasir-El-rufai

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.

AZZURI

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.

messi-cry

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.”

 

 

joe-hart-england-iceland_3491494

England’s Euro 2016 misadventure; another shot at glory gone with the wind

Too much talk, less action has been Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions’ approach prior to and during the Euros till it met its shocking and ignoble defeat at the hands of debutant Iceland- A defeat that ended its adventure at the ongoing championship in France.

In clear terms, the frenzy wound around it by the ever powerful and vociferous English media had been their undoing. Guess, the English would never learn. Many a time has the English media failed to realise the harm they inflict in overhyping or rating the Three Lions at international competitions-Their teams have simply not been good enough and when they are, they lacked that “X” factor to deliver on the biggest stage.

So, it came as no surprise to see the English once again failing to deliver in their last 16 clash against minnows Iceland. For many English fans out there, a shot at glory could never have been that easy; it was a ‘meal ticket’ to the last eight that blew up right in their faces. Just a look at some of the matches played in the round of 16 had seen quality teams like Croatia, Spain bow out to formidable sides in the mold of Portugal and Italy while the average ones like Switzerland, Northern Ireland and Ireland (teams that would have probably given Hodgson’s troop a run for their money) bowed out to organized and competitive sides like Poland, Wales and France.

Hence, when England got a last 16 opponent in Iceland, fans and pundits alike felt Rooney and Co. should be able to do the “business”-a prediction that went awry.

They failed to realise that the boys from England’s run into last 16 was less than impressive.

A 1-1 draw against Russia, a match they dominated, followed by an undeserved 2-1 victory over a better Welsh side and a goalless draw in its last group fixture against Slovenia summed up the performances of Hodgson’s men. Thus, an upset in the hands of a country that has the same 330,000 population of Leicester, the city that houses title winning EPL club Leicester city FC was already in the offing.

England’s players lost their nerves when it mattered most and simply fell prey to the tournament’s “Leicester City”.

Having gone 1-0 up-thanks to a Rooney penalty, the Three Lions’ defense simply went to bed.

Swansea’s Icelandic international, Gylfi Siggurdson struck back three minutes after England took the lead to silence the vociferous English fans at the stadium. And the ‘giant killers’ never looked back.

A 36th minute goal from Sigurthsson that was helped by poor goalkeeping error from Joe Hart was enough to see Hodgson’s men huff and puff till the ‘lights went out’ on them.

History was made as the boys from the ‘arctic’ booked their passage into last eight at the expense of their more illustrious European heavyweight.

That result is a reminder to the English players, FA and the media of how the country has always failed to deliver on the bigger stage on important nights like what transpired in Lyon against Lars Lagerback’s Iceland.

It is a bitter truth to accept and a bitter pill to swallow. This generation of English players though, brimming with bright future simply do not have what it takes to light up France and also compete at the highest level with other European football powerhouses on the international stage.

But all hope is not lost.

The English fans can still revel in the abundant youthful talents on display at this year’s Euros. These players are one for the future and would surely console the fans one day.

The likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Denis Rose, Eric Dier to mention a few gives the nation with the biggest football league in the world respite and something to cheer about.

Spain’s struggle to shred the ‘under achievers’ garment in those days readily comes to mind.

Blessed with abundant talents, La Roja always failed to deliver on continental and global stages. It took years of hard work to not only evolve their football but also churn out incredible players from their football academies to feed the national teams from age-grades to the senior-level. A diligent and dedicated roadmap that has yielded dividends; a back to back Euro titles and a world cup says it all.

For England, success is not out of reach.

Its continuous and pragmatic approach to developing the country’s football, coupled with the impressive work done at EPL clubs’ academies that has paved the way for the likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Harry Kane, Dele Alli to earn Three Lions’ call up can only get better and steady the ship.

But for now, all eyes are on the Euros. And bet the English fans would still be pondering how their players blew up an opportunity of a lifetime to -feast on a country not star studded and ranked outside the top 30-secure a last eight berth.

They must have concluded it was “another shot at glory now gone with the wind.”

 

militants

South South’s militancy, Biafra agitators in the South East; Buhari’s headache

President Muhammad Buhari

President Muhammad Buhari

Coping with the South’s menace; the South East and in particular the South South-Nigeria’s golden goose that accounts for 90 percent of the country’s revenue from oil-seems to be a recurring and herculean task for successive governments ever since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.

Well documented history of the South-South region’s struggle and fight against oppression and perceived marginalization under the military (Most especially under late military dictator, Sani Abacha) continues to haunt the nation and indict the visibly skewed set up of the country that has impoverished a region that has pumped out Nigeria’s wealth since 1956. Not far from this drama is the South East; the hotbed of Biafra agitation- A voice still vociferous despite the end of the civil war 46 years ago.

Biafra agitation led by MASSOB and IPOB continue to ask questions of the ‘national edifice’ called Nigeria. Why the South Eastis  still left out in the equation.

And unfortunately President Muhammadu Buhari’s approach and response through brute force has sort of vindicated the agitators-Recent killings of IPOB and MASSOB members holding a peaceful rally by the military validates this point.

Relative peace pervaded the region during late president Yar Adua’s reign-the man famed for initiating the amnesty program-and under his successor Goodluck Jonathan, who continued with the program before losing to the incumbent at the last presidential elections.

However, under a Buhari led APC government that just marked its one year in power, the rumblings and upsurge in militancy in the South-South and daring Biafra agitators in the South-East seem to have dented the president’s score card.

Having recorded success in the North East against Boko Haram insurgency, the emergence of a new militant group known as Niger-Delta Avengers and an ever growing and rapturous Biafra voice in the regions  is the last thing the General needs as he tries to deliver his electoral promises to an already frustrated and pessimistic populace. Having ridden on the bandwagon of ‘change’, the president promised much but has done little-No thanks to the rot he inherited and an unfortunate drop in global oil price.

Although, he has taken up the fight against corruption gallantly, Nigerians seem to be more concerned about the General using his ‘midas touch’ on the country’s lethargic economy.

With an economy already in a dire state, followed by an increase in pump price that has seen an unprecedented rise in food cost, continued onslaught and bombings of the nation’s oil infrastructure by militants in the restive South-South would further aggravate an already tense situation.

And more importantly, a ‘violence begets violence approach’ by the president in tackling the restiveness in the region would not only strain the political climate but, further hurt the economy. Already, Nigeria’s oil production has dropped considerably with far-reaching consequences on the nation’s power sector. It is no longer news that 19 out of the country’s 24 power stations have shut down thereby resulting in a sharp drop in electricity production that now stands at a meagre 1400 mega- watts. Hence, diplomacy is what PMB needs to arrest the situation.

With the optimism and euphoria that greeted his ascendance to power already fizzled out, and a herculean task of reviving an economy on the decline, the president cannot afford to toe the path of confrontation with the aggrieved elements in both regions. Hence, soothing nerves in the restive regions to allow much needed revenues from the oil taps to start running and reinforcing international confidence he had already earned for Nigeria on his many foreign visits is a mission he must not lose sight of.

He has three years remaining in his first four year term. Every minute and second count now.

For a government that was once seen as the ‘flame of hope and optimism’ by the masses having wrestled power from a PDP that had the luxury of time-16 years in power-to deliver good governance and alleviate the suffering of Nigerians but failed woefully to do so, the APC cannot afford to let Nigerians down.

The earlier PMB realizes this, the better for his administration.

Nigeria’s existence from the inception of independence has been fraught with many factors; most especially in her political and leadership sphere- An Achilles heels that has stunted her growth and hindered her from fulfilling her status as ‘the giant of Africa’.

Years of decadence and rot nurtured during the military era and lack of political will by successive civilian governments to undo the ‘evils of the past’ ever since the country returned to democracy had left a huge crater in infrastructural developments, aided corruption and widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

A situation that was further worsened under the previous government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as the country witnessed massive looting, pillaging and diversion of funds during his reign.

But enough of this ‘blame game’. Critics and opposition to the former general are swift to fire a salvo at his APC led government for the quick and ready excuse of blaming his predecessor’s mal-administration for his inability to deliver his electoral promises to Nigerians.

Now that he is in Aso rock, at least he has the opportunity to effect the ‘change’ and lay the foundation for good governance and economic prosperity, they say. Something he’s struggling to achieve as the restlessness in the South continues to haunt and hurt his administration.

Unfortunately, the citizens of Africa’s most populated country are known for running low on ‘patience’. Disgruntlement and grumblings have replaced the initial fervor and optimism they once had for the former military general.

With time running out on his government, President Muhammadu Buhari must try and replicate his impressive success against terrorism in the North East in Nigeria’s Oil rich South South and in the South East. But this time, sheathing his sword and embracing diplomacy.

Military confrontation won’t and has never resolved the militancy and Biafra agitation in both regions hence, it becomes necessary for the President to go for diplomacy.

Choosing this option does not imply ‘cowardice’ on his path, rather, it shows progressiveness and tact in finding a lasting solution to the restiveness in the region.

Being able to restore calm to a sensitive region that produces the country’s oil wealth and reaching out to Biafra agitators in the South East would further improve his political credentials and also afford the country to not only return to her two million barrels oil production but also, provide much needed gas to her hailing power sector in order to improve electricity generation-Sectors that have borne the brunt of the militants’ bombings and attacks.

And guess taking this bold step would not only cement his name in the political annals of the country but, would also afford the septuagenarian leader a sound sleep.

putin obama feud

RUSSO-AMERICAN RELATIONSHIP;REOPENING OF OLD WOUNDS

With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989, the World’s nightmare and apprehension was finally buried-the fear of a ‘devastating’ nuclear war was sealed and kept in the attic.

But 27 years after, this fear seemed to have been reawakened by a new twist in Russo-American relationship that has led to reinforcement of alliances (NATO) in the West and the beginning of a new arms race between the two super powers.

Haunted by past glory and an unwavering status as the major challenger to the US led West global hegemony, Russia’s quest to regain lost ground, global relevance and influence received a major boost under Vladimir Putin.

The former KGB man saw and witnessed first-hand, a Soviet Union at its full strength that had Eastern Europe, Baltics and central Asia as its corridor of influences-A vantage position that it strutted on the diplomatic red-carpet.

Hence, it came as no surprise to see an ‘aggressive’ and ‘daring’ foreign policy orchestrating from Moscow under the dictate of a man not only obsessed with the past but, one with a Tsarist tendencies.

Under Putin, Russia’s aggression has never been this gutsy and threatening since the fall of the Soviet Union. Unhappy with the EU’s extension into Eastern Europe, and a NATO-a military alliance between the West and US-that has now swelled its ranks by extending membership to Moscow’s neighbours, Putin showed his displeasure by sending his army to Georgia to facilitate the secession of South Ossetia and Abkhasia from Tbilis, and most recently Ukraine by backing Pro-Russian Rebels in the East of the country and annexing Crimea from Kiev. It was a move that signaled Moscow’s intent at keeping the West at bay and at the same time cowed in her neighbours (at least for now).

While Putin continues to call NATO’s bluff in Ukraine and the Alliance seemingly reluctant to activate its defense clause which states that “an attack on one, is an attack on all”, however, recent aggression and incursions into Swedish international waters by Russian submarines, the testing of America’s resolve by flying its fighter jets close to Alaska and buzzing of a US naval ship in the Baltic sea recently has gotten Washington worried and reluctantly drawn into what Defense secretary Ash Carter has branded as “the Past”.

“The Past” seems to be dictating the present. Putin’s actions have reawakened the ghost of the past-a monster that is now threatening to redefine Moscow-Washington relationship.

The frosty relationship has seen new arms race build up between the two heavyweights.

Russia has not only built the new Armata-T4 Tanks and an enhanced heavy weapons and long range missile system on its naval warships, it has also, flaunted these new military hardware on the battlefields in Ukraine and Syria.

And the US has responded swiftly by investing heavily in new weaponry and fighting machines to be ahead of Moscow’s new toys while also urging NATO’s members to increase their defense budget and invest in the development of new military hardware.

Besides this, Washington has rallied the Alliance by conducting drills for ten thousand strong military contingents (The largest gathering of NATO since the fall of the Soviet Union); an exercise meant to ascertain the readiness and response of the alliance’s army and its weaponry in case of a Russian invasion or attack on a member state. A development Moscow must have labeled War drills and a reason to further fortify its army.

Further exacerbating the crack between both sides is the patriot missile intercontinental defense shield system placed in Poland and Romania; countries Russia calls its ‘backyard’ and considers the missiles presence there an act of aggression towards her by Washington.

‘The defense shield is meant to shoot down enemy missiles from Iran from hitting mainland Europe’ according to the White house-an explanation Putin has called a ruse and rather, an attempt to deter Moscow’s capabilities and has inadvertently vowed to respond strongly to the missiles placement close to its borders.

“We will ensure to maintain the strategic balance of power. These defensive shields can be used for offensive purpose therefore, we would respond in best possible ways that guarantee Russia’s security,” stated an angry Putin when he visited Athens last month.

A prospect of a war between the U.S. and Russia is unforeseeable for now; trying issues like Syria, ISIS, terrorism and global warming have made both powers see reason in collaborating and making the world safer.

Though, there still remains yet unresolved knotty issues harbouring on Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its role in Ukraine’s East that has led to Western sanctions, nonetheless, the need to enhance global peace and more importantly, making sure the ‘Non Allied Movement’s relevance-a bloc that sat back on the fence, and stood aloof during the ‘cold war’era- remains buried with the ‘ghost of the Soviet Union’ becomes a priority for both sides.

Needless to say, moving on from the past should be the blueprint for Moscow and Washington. If there is going to be any rivalry it should be a healthy one; one that will benefit mankind.

There are too many problems to contend with in the world right now than a ‘titanic war’ between the two super powers.

And sheathing of swords might just be the first step in ‘mending the wall’.

 

 

 

 

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Belgium terror attacks; a wakeup call for Nigeria

 

Extending the theatre of war or probably the battle field in Syria and Iraq by ISIS has been a script judiciously and diligently followed ever since it came under heavy air-bombardment from the US led coalition forces and Russia- A heavy blow that has not only halted its strides but, has also seen the extremist group’s wavering influence and power gradually decline.

However, a reaction was needed by the terror group and they did in a horrific manner.

Daesh as the group is known in the Arab world struck Europe-though not its first strike-this time Belgium.

The beautiful and serene country was awakened by the thunderous sounds of explosions at her airport and metro station both situated in the capital, Brussels that left in its wake heavy human casualties and physical damages.

It was a Paris repeat not only on Belgian soil but, most importantly its capital, Brussels which has the privileged status of being Europe’s official capital as it hosts the European Union headquarters. The mere fact that a supra-political institution like the EU is residing in the country of the waloons and Flemish was unfortunately not enough to shield it from this terror attack rather it emboldened a group that had never hidden its desire to strike in the heart of Europe.

The war against terrorism has seen a once secured and peaceful Europe grappling with fear and insecurity no thanks to the war in Syria and the upheaval in Iraq that has seen an unprecedented immigration and refugee crises threatening to swallow the continent. A troubling and disturbing situation ISIS has exploited in perpetuating violence on European soil.

While the French are still recuperating from the Paris terror attacks of last year that led to 130 deaths, by stepping up security, intensifying investigations and making arrests, the Belgians already on high terror alert following the arrest of a prime suspect in the France attack on its soil, did not see it coming.

Three innocuous, unassuming young men blended with travellers in their millions at the airport while another terrorist moved incognito into the metro station before unleashing horror on innocent civilians. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and has vowed to step up many in other European capitals.

The terror group’s ability to sneak in under the watch of Brussel’s highly-rated and organized security apparatus sort of send a very strong message to the West that upgrading intelligence and probably going the extra-mile should not be taken for granted, something the Belgians were culpable of and paid dearly for it.

The architect behind the attack according to reports was deported by Ankara months before the attack. Brussel was informed about this development by their Turkish counterpart but, failed to sniff beyond the surface-a costly mistake bound to hound them after the March 22 attacks.

With the dust settling in the small European kingdom as it struggles to grapple with its first dose of terrorism in its esteemed history, Nigeria already battling with her’s in the mold of Boko Haram can learn from the Belgians’ mistake so as not to be caught off-guard.

No doubt about the magnitude and gravity of the security challenges that Boko Haram poses to the country but, the present administration deserves a round of applause in the direction it has taken to decimate the group’s influence.

After a lethargic and numb approach from the previous government that propped up the sect’s gutsiness-no thanks to lack of weaponry and fire power in the military’s arsenal, the APC led government came in with renewed vigour and determination to put an end to the sect’s chaotic onslaught by flooding the military with cash and weapons thus, restoring confidence in officers and at the same time rebranded the image of the country’s military in the region- A move that definitely earned the respect and confidence of the Chadian and Cameroonian armies-who formed a tripartite alliance with Nigeria to fight the terror group.

While the army is doing a good ‘house-cleaning’ job in the North East, other security institution must also step up their game so as to prevent a hit reminiscence of Belgium on our soil.

“God forbid” Nigerians would say but, it can happen if we don’t put our house in order.

The West gate mall horror in Kenya two years ago and the tragic Beach attack in Cote d’ivoire recently, are avid reminders of the perilous time we are in.

“God won’t forbid” if the agency in charge of immigration continues to look the other way while aliens stroll in at will through the poorly manned nation’s borders. A good example of how porous our borders are was laid bare by a Pakistani who entered the country through the Cameroon frontier. Although, he has been apprehended but, the thoroughfare in which he entered the country is an indictment on the country’s border authorities.

We shouldn’t expect a miraculous shield to stave off evil if officers at our airports in charge of cross-checking travellers either coming in or leaving the country prefer to ask for crispy naira notes rather than do their job, something prevalent at our international airports.

While one acknowledges the rot in the system and the challenges of policing and securing the country is a daunting task for  the under-funded and ill-equipped security units, instead, the  corruption and pillaging; two features that reeked from the previous government which had veiled every form of moral and political consciousness of those that were constitutionally responsible for protecting and securing the territorial integrity of the country should be blamed for the shambolic state of the nation’s security.

Monies voted for the Military in the fight against terrorism were diverted into private accounts while Boko Haram run riot across the North East.

The sect did not only make mockery of our army by routing them in battles, it also hoisted its flag on Nigerian territories under its control declaring an emirate.

One would have been left to ponder how a dominant and formidable military like Nigeria’s known for its famed exploits in Liberia and Sierra Leone under the umbrella of ECOMOG in the 90s struggled to eliminate the Boko Haram threat and restore peace to the North East.

Those who were meant to protect national interest have shortchanged it for their own personal interests.

The revelation that a high ranking air-force general shortchanged and compromised the nation’s security by, buying faulty helicopters for the air-force in prosecuting the war against terrorism lays credence to this fact.

However, with the wind of ‘change’ blowing across the landscape, ‘never-been-heard’ pillaging and looting most especially in the defense and security sector of the country are being unearthed. A commendable development on the path of the APC government as it strives to revive a comatose security and defense apparatus.

Diversion of defense funds in the face of a threat to the country’s national security and territorial integrity is an act of treachery hence no stones should be left un-turned in seeking retribution and justice for those culpable of this national disgrace.

Nigeria’s national security and safety is paramount therefore, it becomes imperative to fight corruption and restore sanity to the whole system.

Terrorism is the 21st century global menace plaguing national and international security. Hence, as this threat becomes more surreal and daring, Nigeria must brace up and go the extra-mile in making the country safer and secured.

Every detail matters in the fight against terrorism; our traditional ‘fire-brigade’ approach won’t save us from this global menace.

Improving our intelligence gathering capabilities, stepping up security at the nation’s borders, surveillance at the airports, and other public places that could pull crowds while sustaining the ongoing military operations against the terror group in the North East will better suit us.

Only then can we seek solace in the popular ‘God Forbid’ rendition against a repeat of the Belgium terror attacks on Nigerian soil.

s chyna sea

SOUTH CHINA SEA; ASIA’S TICKING TIME-BOMB

 

After featuring in World War 2 as American-led allied forces extended the battle field into Asia as it took on the Japanese 70 years ago-a war theme that climaxed with the use of an atomic bomb on imperialist Japan which immediately drew the curtains on one of the greatest horrors to have ever befallen humanity. Another Pandora’s box  if not properly sealed could yet usurp not only the peace on the continent but, also the world at large-no thanks to the recent rumblings going on in the South China sea.

South China Sea, a massive stretch of international waters that ferries one-fifth of the World’s trade amounting to $5trillion dollars annually,  endowed with untapped oil and gas reserves and rich marine life has unequivocally become Asia’s most sought after ‘natural bride’ that has not only courted controversies amongst its suitors but, has led to skirmishes among them too. A dangerous development that has not only ramped up tension within the South East but has also stoked up international fears and concerns.

China,Taiwan, Vietnam, Phillipines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia all lay claim to these waters but, Beijing has been the most vociferous and aggressive in pursuing these claims.

The Chinese insist that 80% of the entire sea belongs to them. A claim that does not only over-ride those of her neighbours but, has also riled them.

Hanoi and Manila have staunchly rejected Beijing’s claims and both have not only openly condemned their bigger neighbour’s ‘land reclamation’ policy on the Sea but, have also embarked on moves to thwart China’s. The former, having come to blows with Beijing twice in (1974 when she lost 18 soldiers and in 1988 in which she lost over seventy sailors) have been quick to seek economic and military co-operations with Japan-another country whose ownership of Sinkaku and Diaoyu islands, China is challenging-and India by granting Indian Oil companies drilling licenses to explore in the disputed sea. While the Phillipines took up the Chinese by filing a suit at the International Court of Justice-a move Beijing questioned stating that the court lacks the jurisdiction to hear such a case-and also welcomed the Americans by providing five military bases to dock her Army-A move that has further ruffled Beijing.

Both countries’ fears are quite understandable.

The Vietnamese still harbour resentments with China following her two previous skirmishes in the 70s and 80s, an open scar that still remains fresh in the country’s national sub-conscious, hence outright condemnation and ‘eye-balling’ posture to her bigger neighbor’s stance over the disputed sea by Hanoi fuels nationalism and approval from its citizens. But for the Phillipine president, Benigno Aquino, his fear is based on ‘trust issues’.

The Filipino president has not been impressed with Xi’s China over the handling of the South China Sea. Having failed to see a peaceful and proactive role from Beijing, he has become disillusioned with the ‘Main land’s “talking-with-both sides-of-the-mouth” policy. The Chinese insistence that Manila should open a bi-lateral talks with it instead of going to the ICJ and professing its desire for a joint co-operation in development and exploration of the sea’s resources while at the same time pursuing an aggressive construction of artificial islands on the sea and most recently, deployment of missile batteries to some of these reclaimed lands, vindicates Aquino.

He took a swipe at Beijing three months ago over this attitude. “The Chinese want us to resolve the South China Sea. How? What is ours, they will share and what is theirs, is for them,” he joked.

China’s action has not only unsettled her smaller neighbours but, has also drawn international attention to the region as the United States hopped on the bandwagon of oppositions to Beijing’s claims condemning her ‘militarization’ of the sea and insisting it is an international water open to freedom of navigation backed by the UN’s law of the sea. A point Washington drove home last year by sailing a naval ship 12miles from a Chinese artificial island in the disputed sea.

While China condemned the US over her actions, the EU voiced her support for Washington. Brussels insisted that the Sea remains under an international accord backed by the UN and should be treated as such, and not a Chinese backyard stating that ‘freedom of navigation’ is within the ambit of the status quo.

Like the Phillipine’s president said of Beijing’s double standard approach earlier, he is right.

The Chinese have been quick to remind fellow Asian giant and rival India about not seeing the Indian Ocean as her backyard reinforcing it as an “open sea and international areas of sea”. Beijing even went further to say that such misconception by Delhi could be ‘dangerous’.

Truth be told, the main land is right about reminding the Indians the status quo of the Indian Ocean. However, that cannot be said about her. She has simply failed to do the same as regards the South China Sea-and probably should be reminded just in her own advice to the Indians, “could be dangerous”.

China must be reminded that the Sea is an “open sea and international areas of sea” an important trade route that should not be seen as her ‘beach front’- A point that the EU has done well to drive home to Beijing.

‘Great powers come with great responsibilities’. The Chinese should show this trait in their new found economic and political clout.

Having emerged from obscurity to prominence; boasting of immense economic potential only behind the US and a growing military strength, Beijing ought to play a ‘big brother’ role in the Sea impasse rather than play the bully and further straining the volatile peace in the region.

With the simmering smoke still bellowing in the Korean Peninsula between the two Koreas, the region and the world (international community) cannot afford to have another costly military adventure right now due to Beijing’s counter -productive approach.

Deployment of missile batteries, aircraft radar facilities and aggressive reclamation of lands from the sea will further strain an already fracticious relationships between Beijing and her smaller neighbours and at the same time stoke up tensions and building of alliances in the region-The Filipino’s provision of five military bases for the Americans attests to this.

The Chinese government needs to de-escalate the tensions building up as a result of her actions. Like the Australians rightly said, urging restraints and enjoining all claimants to the sea to halt any form of activity on it would be the honorable path Beijing must take to mend the walls.

“A stitch in time saves nine.” The onus now lies on Xi Jinping to finding an amiable way of restoring calmness to the sea. China being a great power can do this by halting the continuous  creation of artificial islands, withdrawing every form of military hardware from the reclaimed lands and most importantly build a ‘bridge of trust and openness’ amongst other claimants-A move that could go a long way in restoring confidence in Manila and Hanoi most especially.

The Main land’s recalcitrant approach can’t help matters. While urging joint co-operation amongst her weaker neighbours and at the same time frowning at any form of economic activities and exploration in the disputed waters from them, an action she’s primarily culpable of, Beijing loses the ‘moral ground’ to not only professing peace but also the sincerity to kowtowing the path of diplomacy to resolving the impasse.

Maintaining the peace in the region is important for not only Beijing but also her neighbours if they want to harness the immense potentials of the Sea.

But failure of all sides to sheathe their swords will ultimately create a time bomb that will explode.

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THE SYRIAN WAR; BATTLE OF THE PROXIES

SYRIA WAR

The war in Syria is getting more crowded-a dangerous trend if not checked may finally see our fears unfold before us in a horrific fashion.

What started as a political uprising-a rare people power movement that was first ignited in far-away Tunisia before snowballing into a large fire that engulfed the Arab world and earning the monicker “Arab Spring”- by Syrians to uproot one of the last vestiges of tyranny and misrule in the Arab world which Bashar Assad represents has somehow evolved into a “WWE Royal Rumble fight” with no clear winner as new fighters and blocs emerge in what seems to be an overcrowded battle field in Syria.

Events and activities of several uninvited players into Syria’s war have seen the people-inspired revolution against tyrant Assad struggle for relevance in the ongoing commotion. Simply put, the real cause of the Syrian war has been hijacked by interests within and outside Syria.

Backed by the US and the West, the rebels were on the offensive and enjoyed significant successes in their putsch to remove Assad.

With a less crowded battlefield, it was easy to evaluate the state of events and somehow harbor optimism for finding a political solution to the impasse. Something that is more of a ‘pipe dream’ now as events and unfolding developments on the ground have eroded it.

If the Syrian war had been a ‘blessing in disguise’ by unilaterally creating unison and solidarity among world powers to fight terror-no thanks to ISIS establishment of a caliphate in both Iraq and Syria, and its exports of terror to the West; activities that hit France and Russia last year, recent rhetoric from Saudi Arabia could be another ‘poison ivy’ that can escalate the war in Syria and turn it into a regional and global conflict.

The Kingdom had never hidden its disdain for Bashar Al-Assad owing to Damascus leanings towards Shiite Iran and Iraq’s Shiite- led government. Hence, it conveys the position of the powerful ‘Gulf Council’-an association of mostly Sunni Arab countries in the gulf-which is hell bent on seeing Assad who is from the Alawite sect but Shiite inclined relinquish power.

Riyadh’s outburst is a product of its age-long rivalry with Iran; battle for regional supremacy as both countries consider themselves the spiritual leaders of Shiite (Iran) and Sunni (Saudi Arabia) Islam respectively.

Still battling a Shiite rebel group Houthi backed by its sworn enemy, Iran, in its backyard, Yemen, after they sacked the country’s Sunni government, last year, the Oil-rich kingdom would go to any length to confront Tehran in this intense and seething supremacy battle. And Syria’s battlefield offers the ideal venue to take on the Islamic Republic.

Although the Saudis have already backtracked on their purported plans to send fighter jets and troops to Turkey however, the Kingdom’s foreign minister’s rant that “Assad will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force” and going further to say “if the political process fails, it will be because of the obstinacy of the Syrian regime and that of its allies” thereby opting for the use of force as a last resort clearly shows the dangerous direction the Syrian crisis is heading to: Formation of alliances and blocs.

Saudi’s plans to use Turkish bases for ground invasion of Syria clearly shows the leaning of Ankara in the whole drama.

A staunch opposition to Assad’s rule ever since the crisis broke out, the Turks have found their influence limited in Syria as the Russians entered the scene offering a new lease of military support to Damascus-a development which, not only did it not go down well with Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s President, but  also led to a skirmish between both countries’ military.

Besides Moscow propping up Bashar Al-Assad with air cover in the fight against opposition forces, the Turks have also faulted Russia for overtly supporting Assad in the bombings of minority ethnic Turkmens and their villages.

Turkey has questioned the intention of Moscow in its air campaign claiming it is not targeting the common enemy, ISIS but taking out US backed rebel groups fighting Assad and other factions thereby tilting the balance in Bashar’s favour.

Moreover, a Turkish foothold in Syria is important for its government who fears the activities and advancements of Syria’s Kurdish fighters “YPG” could stoke the fire of uprising amongst its own ethnic kurds residing in the country’s south.

Hence, any form of military operation under any garb as the purported Saudi Arabia air and ground deployment erstwhile mooted by the Kingdom’s foreign minister would always be a welcome development for Ankara.

But, the stakes would be high if there were to be a Saudi and Turkey military invasion of Syria. Damascus enjoys the backing of not only Lebanon’s Shia militia group, Hezbollah but, also benefits from the Russians and Iranians as well ; therefore, averting skirmishes between the armies of these countries that could draw NATO and US-allies to the Turks and Saudis-would be near impossible.

Meaning: a full scale regional conflict along Sunni-Shia lines and a US led NATO versus Russia is on the card.

To avert this high-stake risk, the path of diplomacy and negotiation that is currently ongoing in Switzerland could be a step in the right direction.

Bringing all actors to the round-table and fashioning out a political process to end a war that has displaced millions of Syrians, leading to an unprecedented immigration crisis that has overrun Europe and resulted in the deaths of more than 250,000 Syrians should be on the front burner.

The Syrian war right now is already an engulfing fire-ball that has somewhat questioned the commitment of the international community and the United Nations to making the world a better place.

Rather than continue to toil with the lives of millions of suffering Syrians that have witnessed their world turned upside-down, and using the country’s battlefield as their Coliseum to test their might, the ‘powers that be’ should strive to end this nightmare that has reduced the country to rubbles instead of further plunging it into depths of immeasurable horror and proportions.