December 17, 2008

Arsene Wenger Waves Goodbye To The Big Four The Gunners boss believes the time has almost arrived when the barrier between England's big guns and the

Arsenal slipped out of the Champions League places at the weekend when they failed to claim victory over Middlesbrough - but, thankfully for them, they weren't the only heavyweights who struggled.

The Premier League leaders, Liverpool, scraped a 2-2 draw against Hull City; Manchester United, the defending champs, couldn't even score against Tottenham Hotspur; and Chelsea's home woes continued as they drew 1-1 with West Ham United.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa vaulted into fourth spot by downing Bolton Wanderers, and people are starting to whisper that perhaps Martin O'Neill's men can guard their place until season's end.

Arsene Wenger, who is under real pressure for perhaps the first time in his illustrious North London career, has no doubt that the Villans - and others besides - are on the verge of tearing down the traditional powerhouses.

The French manager told The Sun: “For me the so-called ‘Big Four’ in England is about to change. It won’t last much longer.

“This year in the Premier League there have been changes which are, in reality, good for football values. Manchester United beat Sunderland only in the last minute and drew at Spurs, we were beaten by Stoke and Hull.

“That will continue until March when clubs have earned their safety for next season but won’t be fighting for European qualification. Then these clubs will let things go a little bit.

“But the technical level in our league has increased because players are being bought from all over the world and bringing new talent. The other day, for example, Wigan had Kevin Kilbane, Jason Koumas and Amr Zaki on the bench! This is impressive in my view.”

Some might accuse Wenger of attempting to deflect attention from Arsenal's worrying inconsistency. But when one sees newly promoted Hull holding sixth spot after 16 games, it's hard to rebutt the ex-Monaco gaffer on this issue.

Cecil Braun,

Blackburn Set To Install New Boss By Saturday After the Guv'nor lost his seat yesterday, Rovers are hoping to have a new boss at the helm by the weeke

Blackburn Rovers are presently without a manager after Paul Ince was, unsurprisingly, shown the door on Tuesday.

The former England captain took charge at Ewood Park only this summer, replacing his one-time Manchester United team-mate Mark Hughes.

But with the Lancashire club sitting 19th in the Premier League after 16 games, it seemed inevitable that the ex-Milton Keynes Dons boss would receive his marching orders sooner or later.

Now Rovers are looking for a new gaffer, and chairman John Williams has revealed that Ince's successor could well be sorted in time for this weekend's clash against relegation scrap with Stoke City.

Willians said in the Daily Mail: "Time lines are tight. We will endeavour to have a new manager in place for Saturday's game but there are no guarantees and we must ensure we get the right man."

Graeme Souness, who bossed Blackburn from 2000-2004, is the favourite to take the reins, while Alan Curbishley and Sam Allardyce are also in contention.

Leslie May,

Scolari To Chelsea: Get Me An 'Organiser'! He supposedly has no money to spend this winter, but the Blues boss is still asking for all sorts of new pl

Chelsea might sit second in the Premier League standings, just one point behind leaders Liverpool, but their home form seems to have manager Luiz Felipe Scolari reaching for the alarm bell.

The Blues, once so dominant on the own turf, have now dropped 14 points at Stamford Bridge this term, following their 1-1 draw with West Ham United at the weekend.

There are many thoeries floating about as to why the London giants are struggling at home, especially as they have been unstoppable on the road.

Some believe the presence Nicolas Anelka instead of Didier Drogba up front has changed Chelsea's style, forcing them use the space behind rather than play direct. Thus, when teams park the bus at the Bridge, the hosts tend to struggle - as Scolari understands all too well.

"When we are at home our opponents close up at the back, with lots of men behind the ball," he told the Daily Mail. "It is different when we play away. The home sides play a more open game."

But while most reckon the problem lies in the forward set-up, Big Phil's eyes are fixed firmly on the middle of the park.

"We lack an organiser who can get hold of the ball, get forward and energise our front line," he said. "I just have players who work on the ball."

Some might find the Brazilian's statements a little hard to swallow given he has the likes of Deco, Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole in his squad.

But he said: "Deco, Ballack and Lampard can all shoot but I don't have a player who can dribble.

"There is no point in me weeping or moaning or seeking blame. I have to find a solution - and that is what I will do."

Scolari may have to wait until next summer to solve this particular problem, though, as Chelsea's transfer kitty has been sewn shut this January.

Cecil Braun,

America's Most Wanted Case Closed: Murderer of John Walsh's Son Identified

Finally some closure for John Walsh's family.

Florida police announced Tuesday that they have solved the murder of the America's Most Wanted host's 6-year-old son Adam, who was abducted and killed in 1981.

Authorities said at a news conference that a drifter named Ottis Elwood Toole, who confessed to the crime in 1983 but then recanted before he died in prison in 1996, was responsible. Toole was serving five life sentences for his role in murders committed with serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.

Adam disappeared from a shopping mall in Hollywood, Fla., on July 27, 1981. His severed head was discovered two weeks later in Vero Beach, 120 miles away; his body was never found.

When Toole initially confessed, investigators had no way to positively identify Adam's DNA from the bloodstained carpet found in Toole's Cadillac. When DNA testing was ordered in 1994, they couldn't locate the car. Hollywood police concluded that Toole was the killer, however, after a thorough review of the case records, a police spokesman said today.

Walsh, who helped Congress pass the Missing Children's Act in 1982 and began hosting what is currently Fox's longest-running show in 1988, was at the conference with his wife, Reve, and their three children.

"For 27 years we've been asking, 'Who could take a 6-year-old boy and murder him and decapitate him? Who?' " Walsh said today. "We needed to know. We needed to know. And today we know."

"The not knowing has been torture," he said. "But that journey's over."

Mamma Mia!: Titanic's U.K. Record Run Aground

Meryl Streep has sunk the Titanic in international waters.

The unflagging cheerfulness of ABBA conquered the red-hot chemistry between Leo and Kate this week as Mamma Mia! nudged aside the 11-time Oscar winner as the top-grossing film of all time at the U.K. box office.

The light 'n fluffy musical, en route to earning $571.7 million worldwide, has taken in $107.7 million across the pond after 22 weeks in theaters. Titanic held the record for 10 years after bagging 69 million pounds (about $107.5 million in today's currency) in 1998.

"Mamma Mia! is pure escapism, proving a fun and inexpensive way to forget about the state of the economy for a couple of hours," Universal Pictures International president David Kosse said Tuesday, calling the film a "true phenomenon."

DVD sales also went through the roof, with the jaunty romantic comedy sellling 1.7 million copies its first day out.

But not to worry: Titanic's record of $1.8 billion in global ticket sales will go on... and on.

At Ojude Oba fiesta, Glo paints Ijebu green

From right, The Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, Gov. Gbenga Daniel and his wife, Yeye Olufunke Daniel at the Ojude Oba festival

Again, December 9 this year would remain a day to remember for the Ijebu all over the world. It was the day millions of Ijebu sons and daughters as well as fun seekers from all over the world trooped to Ijebu Ode for this year’s Ojude Oba festival.

For the fourth year running, Globacom, Africa’s fastest-growing telecommunications giants, added glamour and colour to the event which it has been sponsoring since 2004.

The whole of Ijebu Ode, the capital of the Ijebu nation, was aglow in celebration of an event that has become a unifying factor for all Ijebu sons and daughters at home and in the Diaspora.

This year, like other times, the town was excitingly attired in the company’s trademark lemon green colour as branded parasols, kiosks, and event-specific banners dotted all the nooks and crannies of the ancient town. Even a first time visitor to the town needed little explanation to understand that this was one festival which had become synonymous with Globacom. The company’s sponsorship of the event has, in the minds of many, raised it to an enviable tourists’ delight which attracts people from all walks of life and from other parts of the country.

Since 2004, Globacom has been picking Ojude Oba bills as the festival’s main sponsor.
It has also become an avenue for the company to empower indigent indigenes of Ijebuland by establishing well-equipped commercial telephone call centres for them as well as bringing the products and services of the company closer to the grassroots.

For over a century, Ojude Oba has been celebrated annually on the third day of Eid el Kabir. Now, it is celebrated by Muslims and Christians of Ijebu origin. The festival’s inception dates back to the early 1900s when the first set of Muslim converts thought it fit to visit the then Awujale to express gratitude to him for giving them a free rein in the practice of their new found faith. They also took the opportunity to pray for the monarch’s long life as well as the prosperity of the town.

This year, the tradition remains unchanged. The monarch played host to indigenes of the town who prayed for continued peace in Ijebuland as well the kingdom’s development. After the prayers came the parade of the regberegbes, a unique and age-old institution established to unite the society into age groups, male and female for the purpose of bringing development and progress to the community. There are about 36 groups with an average of, at least, 50 members per group.

Each group wore the latest in parading and dancing in unison to the tunes of traditional music at the background, to pay homage to the king. The entire palace was enveloped in glitz and glamour of phenomenal beauty. There was also a parade of the descendants of the war heroes who gained notable victories for the Ijebu nation during the intra-ethnic Yoruba wars in the pre-colonial days. Each year, the festival avails these classes of people the opportunity to simulate their battle strength and displays.

For Globacom, Ojude Oba allows customers to purchase starter packs comprising Nokia handset and Classic SIM at heavily discounte prices. Products and services were also made available to encourage purchase by intending subscribers.

Officials of the network equally attended to network-related queries, while devices such as handsets and laptops were provided for value-added services to enable access to its wide variety of value-added services. In order to satisfy one of its visions of empowering Nigerians, business centre packages were given to indigent citizens of Ijebuland in the bid to ensure they became self-reliant.

At the fun-filled fiesta, Globacom staged a rendezvous where Fuji crooner, Wasiu Alabi Pasuma, dazzled the crowd with his brand of fuji music. He was supported by a renowned radio presenter cum-comedian, Baba Gboin. DJ Top was on the turntable. There were many gift items and several subscribers who thronged the rendezvous went home with gifts of branded items. The prizes were won by subscribers who competed in dance and mime of popular tunes among other competitions.

The rendezvous, according to Globacom’s Head of Business Solutions, Mr. Folu Aderibigbe, was to further identify with the people, using Ojude Oba as a platform. “The entertainment provided at the rendezvous gave vent to the company’s drive towards ensuring that everyone on the network enjoys tremendously on and off the network,” he stated.

Oba Awujale lauded Globacom’s sponsorship of the festival, saying “the company’s sponsorship of the event has raised it to an enviable tourists’ delight which attracts people from all walks of life and from other parts of the country.”

Globacom’s chairman, Otunba Mike Adenuga, in a speech at the festival, said his company had shown interest in the festival because its socio-cultural value complements
Globacom’s vision to celebrate the unique accomplishments of Nigeria as a nation. “We are confident that our collaboration will add colour to the festival,” said the highly intelligent industrialist.

Nigeria’s economy still strong –Soludo

For the second time in two months, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has re-assured that the nation’s economy remains stable, just as it shall introduce a banking strengthening strategy next month, monitoring the operational performance of all commercial banks in the country.

The apex bank Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, who gave the assurance in Abuja on Tuesday, said the nation’s economy shall continue to remain stable, because government had responded early and positively to all possible economic defects as bad indicators capable of having adverse effects on the country’s economy, arising from the World current economic recession.

Responding to the Senate invitation on the current state of the economy, Soludo declared that CBN’s investigators would monitor the monetary activities of the banks, to enable it measure their exposure to the capital market and undertake all necessary economic growth programmes to keep the banks strong.

He stressed that as a way of dancing out of a self-imposed economic gloom, there was the need to allow the current pricing portfolio appreciate at its own level against foreign currency, saying that any short or long term economic policy, running contrary to the gradual economic recovery, may be dangerous in the short and long run.

According to the CBN governor, the current economic policy, ensuing in the low exchange rate of the naira against international currency, was deliberate and carefully implemented to ensure an internal and external reserve balance for the economy.

He explained that the economics of the currency exchange rate was such that in a world where a nation was faced by the challenge of a balance of payment, especially at the external front as adjudged by the country’s experience in the latter part of the year, declining oil prices, which accounted for 95 per cent of the foreign exchange, the economy should be allowed to appreciate gradually.

“ Every country that experiences that, you have two options: you either allow the prices to adjust by way of exchange rate or quantities would adjust. The quantity that will adjust would either mean that you cut down on domestic consumption, domestic investment and government spending in order to retain pressure on the external sector or you allow the price to do the readjusting,” he said.

Soludo disclosed that it was normal that the exchange rate should respond to several factors, including the current naira flexible exchange rate regime, as it were in most economies of the world, adding that the situation had always been determined by the demand and supply mechanism in the market.

He stressed that for an increasing supply of foreign exchange, the exchange rate would appreciate but when there was a declining supply and the demand in the economy, the exchange rate would depreciate.
The CBN governor warned that on no account should the nation embark on expending the foreign reserve despite the falling oil price, arguing that any attempt to do this or introduce any short medium fiscal policy similar to the then Structural Adjustment Programme, may end up in unemployment and low local production.

He disclosed that Algeria with the largest foreign exchange reserve in Africa with about 130 billion dollars, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, India, Russia Philippines and South Africa were diversifying their economies just like Nigeria in their attempt to avoid financial crisis.

“Nigeria happens to be one of such countries. Nigeria is not having a financial crisis but the global financial crisis impact on the Nigeria’s economy is through the declining oil price and therefore the declining squeeze affects the reserve.”, he observed.

Soludo re-iterated his confidence in the nation’s buoyant economy, saying that it went through a decline in 1981 when there was a high external debt relative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the then government huge expenditure which was not the case presently.

“Now we don’t have it but then we had a fragile financial banking system that most of the banks owned by the government lacked depth, just too fragile. Today we have a stronger banking sector that grants credit that was larger than the federal government’s expenditure as at last September,” he said.

Terror scare: 6 foreigners, 3 Nigerians arrested in Abuja

The Nigeria Police Force on Tuesday announced, at the end of the monthly conference of the Inspector General of Police with top officers, the arrest of six foreign nationals in a particular mosque in Kuje, Abuja, believed to be on a terrorist mission in the country.

The Commissioner, Federal Capital Territory Police Command, Mr. John Haruna, disclosed that the suspected terrorists were picked up alongside three Nigerian partners, who were to lead them to four major mosques in the FCT for massive recruitment and training, Haruna added that intelligence reports gathered after the arrest of the gang revealed that Nigeria was among three other countries listed by the ‘Al-Qaeda ’ [a world terrorist body] for attack.

The FCT commissioner added that of the six arrested foreign terrorist suspects, four were with Zambian passports, while two carried Indian passports and the three Nigerian trainees, all looking rich, and well-fed and speaking Arabic fluently with good education, were moving from one mosque to another, using unpopular mosques to carry out their recruitment.

Mr Haruna also revealed that many of the suspected terrorists were already undergoing training in different parts of the country, stressing that the gang was already amassing arms and ammunition in some states of the federation with a view to striking at any given opportunity.

He further told the gathering that already he had beefed up security in the FCT, particularly at the foreign embassies and all high commission offices in Abuja. The FCT police boss also called on other state police commissioners and security agencies in the country to wake up to the challenge to avoid reoccurrence of what happened in the Western world and beyond, disclosing that investigations revealed that Zambia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, among others, were known as terrorists haven.
According to police commissioner, “ In recent times the fear of terrorism has increased even more than fear of crime.

“The unfortunate incident that happened in Jos connoting religious differences even amongst us, hightened that concern especially for those of us in the FCT. We had security reports that there were going to be retaliatory attacks in Nassarawa, FCT, Niger, compelling those of us in the zone to embark on not only massive patrol, but to continue intelligence gathering.

“Last week, there were certain movement of people out of Abuja as sort of exodus, as a result of this and in the course of our patrol, we had an intelligence report we had sleepless night. And one night, we heard reports of this particular number of people in a particular mosque in Kuje Abuja, I sent my officers there, including the area commander, who now arrested six foreigners, all of them well fed, very rich, who have been hibernating from one mosque to the other and never sleep in any hotel. According to them, they have been in this country since November 25, 2008. Four of them have Zambian passports while two had Indian passports and all communicated fluently in Arabic and have themselves to be of a particular brotherhood, which is not popular in this country.

“Upon interrogation, we were able to identify three of their Nigerian cohorts who are equally intakes. We discovered that they never stayed in any particular mosque for more than three days and they are not patronizing the normal mosque activities that we know and they equally used unpopular mosques that are virtually known by their members.

“At about the same time, there was this report that was circulated to the office of Secretary to the Federal Government through the office of the Inspector General of Police, which I happen to read, that from Tanzanian conveying to other countries in Africa that a notorious terrorist gang which took part in the bombing of Zanasala were over 250 people were killed that had also been seen between the border of Zambia and Tanzania.”

“The arrests of these people who look like Arabs and claim to be Zambians make our suspicion that they are Al-Qaeda connected. They were interrogated continuously and as highly educated who had no other thing to do as to go from one country to the other, to achieve their goals. They also said they have been to several other countries, including Pakistan and Afghanistan which we all know as centres for training of terrorists (that is Al-Qaeda).

“The IG has personally interviewed them and briefed the President who ordered their transfer to more secured places. All of them got to Nigeria on invitation and that unless their passports were expertly faked; our embassies in India and Zambia gave them valid visas to come. Before their arrival, those that invited them have cleared our securities at the airport, including Police, State Security Service, SSS, and other security agencies at the airport.”

“There might be more of them, they may go unnoticed unless we go out to locate them and we surely believe that what they want to do is to sow that spirit of discord and probably arrange financing in due course, not necessarily immediately because, seeing these people will portray what am trying to say”, Mr. Haruna revealed.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Administration, Mr. Ogbonaya O. Onovo who presided over the session on behalf of the IGP at the conference said the report was part of new intelligence security gathering strategy of the Force, calling on Nigerians to be security conscious at all times as well as report any suspicious movement to the police or any other security agencies in the country.