President Muhammadu Buhari has described 2017 as a very tough year for Nigeria, but expressed optimism that 2018 will be a more prosperous year.
The president made the remark yesterday when he received a delegation of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) residents, who paid him Christmas homage, in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He, however, noted with delight that God had answered the prayers of Nigerians as the rainy season was good and farmers recorded bumper harvest across the country.
“It has been a tough year for Nigeria, and I hope next year will be a much more prosperous one.
“God listened to the majority of us; the rainy season was very good. I never knew that the people from Kano, who are more resourceful, used to go to my area and hire farms, this year, nobody hired farm, and nobody regretted it.
“And, again, the Governor of Sokoto State said all the people who registered early to perform last pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia were farmers. But he didn’t tell me if they took additional wives.
“I am very pleased that people have gone back to the land with very good harvests,’’ he said.
Buhari used the opportunity to commend religious leaders for partnering government in ensuring peaceful co-existence among the diverse ethno-religious groups in the country.
He said reports reaching him from security organisations across the country indicated that the religious leaders had been assisting the security agents in the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the society.
“I thank you very much for coming, especially the religious leaders.
“I am very pleased you are doing your best, from the intelligence I am getting, to make sure that people live as good neighbours and good Nigerians,’’ the president said.
Buhari, who also spoke on his recent miraculous medical recovery, said his absolute adherence to doctors’ instruction and orders was responsible for his improved health conditions.
He said: “It has been a tumultuous year. I thought I was 74, but I was told I was 75. I have never been so sick, not even during the 30 months civil war (when) I was stumbling under farm of yams or cassava; but this sickness, I don’t know, but I came out better.
“All those who saw me before and when I came back said I look much better. I had explained publicly that as a General, I used to give orders, now, I take orders; the doctors told me to feed my stomach and sleep for longer hours, that is why I am looking much better.’’
The delegation and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Musa Bello, had earlier thanked God for not only restoring the President’s health, but also making him stronger and better looking.
He said: “This is the third homage and we have never seen you better as you look today.’’
The Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), FCT Chapter, Mr Jonah Samson, lauded the Buhari administration for its performances in the fight against corruption and insurgency in the country.
Samson, who also commended the administration’s efforts towards ensuring security of life and property of citizens, urged the government to provide additional employment opportunities to address youth restiveness in the country.
Boxing: Joshua Facing Toughest Test In Usyk?
Boxing champion, Anthony Joshua could face his toughest test yet when he fights Oleksandr Usyk in London on Saturday, says ex-world champion George Groves.
Joshua, 31, puts his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on the line against Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion.
The 34-year-old Ukrainian has won all 18 professional fights, beating Tony Bellew and Derek Chisora on that run.
“Technically, Usyk is brilliant,” said Groves . “He showed that in unifying the cruiserweight division in great fights and I believe he could be Joshua’s toughest test to date. This is the first fight when I wouldn’t be surprised if Joshua got beaten.
“Joshua has fought [Wladimir] Klitschko and been in with Joseph Parker and also been beaten [by Andy Ruiz] and the only question mark for Usyk Is he big enough to compete with AJ?
“If Usyk keeps a high pace and makes Joshua miss with a lot of shots, that will work to Usyk’s advantage as he has probably got a better engine.
“Joshua is a phenomenal athlete with tremendous punching power and strength but has a tendency to tire out if the pace is uncomfortable for him.”
A crowd of more than 60,000 is expected and it will be the largest attendance Joshua has fought in front of since his win over Alexander Povetkin with 80,000 at Wembley Stadium in September, 2018.
Since then, Joshua has lost to Ruiz in New York before winning the rematch in Saudi Arabia and gained a ninth-round victory over Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena last December, with only 1,000 fans attending because of Coronavirus restrictions.
Both Joshua and Usyk won gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, at super-heavyweight and heavyweight respectively, with the Briton going on to win 24 of his 25 professional fights, including 22 inside the distance.
Meanwhile, Dillian Whyte, who lost to Joshua in 2015 and is pushing for a rematch with him or a shot at WBC champion, Tyson Fury, believes the key to beating Usyk on Saturday is to adopt an attacking strategy.
“I think it’s a great fight and Joshua will stop him in the first six or seven rounds,” Whyte told Tidesports source.
“Usyk will start fast and Joshua should be cagey as Usyk is a bit lighter. Joshua can sometimes lack confidence but hopefully he goes back to the old him, starts pressing, being the bigger, stronger guy and gets the job done early.
“If Joshua sets the pace, he can get an early knockout and if he is strong, confident and walks him down, then I don’t see Usyk’s punches troubling Joshua.”
Groves, who held the WBA Super-Middleweight belt in 2017 and 2018, added: “If I was Joshua, I would take control of the ring and try to dominate and bully off the front foot.
“Usyk will want to be off the back foot for the first couple of rounds, then try to pepper Joshua.
“If I was in the Joshua camp, I would say: You want to keep this guy in his box. You don’t want Usyk having any confidence, so hit him hard and early.
“In the first three rounds, you want to land something big on him.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn also suggested Joshua could get an early victory.
Hearn said: “I’m always nervous for an Anthony Joshua fight, especially when you’re fighting someone that really believes he is going to win”.
2022 AFCON: ‘Cameroon On Track’
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Patrice Motsepe, has said that Cameroon is “on track” to successfully host the Africa Cup of Nations early next year after visiting Olembe Stadium in Yaounde last weekend.
The venue will host the opening match and final of the AFCON in January and February of 2022.
A CAF delegation, including President Motsepe and General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, were joined by Cameroon’s Sports Minister, Professor Narcisse Mouelle Kombi in inspecting progress made at the Olembe Stadium and various other facilities in the capital city.
“I’m very satisfied with the briefing I got and what I saw. I saw the Olembe Stadium and it is world class; we should all be proud as people of Cameroon and as Africans,” said Motsepe, as quoted by CAF’s website.
“We must applaud Cameroon [for] building such infrastructure. In partnership with the Government, the Minister of Sports, LOC, FECAFOOT President and CAF administration under Veron [Mosengo-Omba], I’m certain that in January next year, the rest of the world will be impressed. I’m very satisfied with what I have seen. We are on track.”
Motsepe continued: “The quality of football that will be played here will once again show the world that Africa has the quality to one day win the FIFA World Cup, that is the ultimate goal. The AFCON is special and I think it is important for us to set the tone in Cameroon.”
Mosengo-Omba also heaped praises on Olembe Stadium: “The infrastructure and architecture of the stadium is world class and can be compared to many other famous stadiums globally. In Cameroon, we have six beautiful match venues. Our job now is to ensure that we are ready with everything else.”
FIFA To Hold Summit On International Calendar
FIFA will hold an online summit with its member associations on September 30 to discuss the international men’s and women’s calendar.
A World Cup every two years rather than four is part of FIFA’s plans.
The current match calendar for the women’s game runs to the end of 2023, while the men’s expires in 2024.
“There is a broad consensus within the game that the international match calendar should be reformed and improved,” said FIFA.
“This is one of several opportunities to establish a constructive and open debate, at a global and regional level, over the coming months and FIFA is looking forward to it.”
World football’s governing body said Arsene Wenger,FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, and former United States women’s team manager, Jill Ellis were heading technical advisory groups looking at the men’s and women’s calendars.
European governing body, UEFA, South American confederation, Conmebol and Europe’s major leagues have declared their opposition to plans for a biennial World Cup.
England women’s head coach, Sarina Wiegman is also against the idea.
“I wouldn’t do it. I don’t think it’s very good for the players and their welfare,” she said.
“It’s Europe, it’s very well organised with good competitions. We have the Euros, then the Olympics, then the World Cup which are major tournaments for us from Europe.
“When you have all these tournaments every year, when are the players going to have some rest? When are they going to recover from a very intense football every year in a row? Players are not robots. I don’t think it’s a very good idea.”
Additionally, the Alliance of European Football Coaches’ Associations (Aefca) has written to UEFA to support its stance on the issue.
“The FIFA proposal leads to a considerable increase in the workload for all parties involved, but the already tight timetable does not offer any space for this,” wrote Aefca president Walter Gagg and secretary general Jurgen Pforr.
“This proposal to hold the World Cup every two years has a purely commercial background and is the continuation of a whole series of unsuitable Fifa proposals from recent years.”
According to a survey commissioned by FIFA, a majority of fans would support a men’s World Cup more frequently than every four years, although the most popular answer across all age groups was to maintain the status quo.
Wenger wants to reduce the number of mid-season international breaks, potentially from four to a single extended one lasting throughout October, which former Brazil defender Roberto Carlos feels would be a good idea.
“This idea reduces the number of trips as you would have the qualifying stages done in one month,” he said in a FIFA video.
“So, you would have the time to train, play well, rest and get back to your club. There are too many consecutive matches. When you add the travel and the fatigue, it’s very complex. I think that football will improve a lot once this problem gets sorted.”
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