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Giannis Atetokounnmkpo’s victory, part of a greater basketball moment for Africa

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Giannis Antetokounmpo first encountered the Larry O’Brien trophy the first time he visited Africa in 2015. Antetokounmpo was in Johannesburg playing in the first NBA exhibition game on the continent when he spotted the golden ball and net, in all of its shining glory, resting on a lectern.

Still a gangly, 20-year-old novelty with the cheek-pinching charm to fawn over a good berry smoothie, Antetokounmpo politely asked an NBA staffer whether he was allowed to touch it. Told that he could, Antetokounmpo picked it up, embraced it and had the same staffer snap a photo and text it to him.

Within six years, not only would Antetokounmpo claim possession of the trophy, but he also would acquire the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship in 50 years.

“Just believe, man,” Antetokounmpo said after Tuesday’s win. “I hope I give people around the world, from Africa, from Europe, hope that it can be done. It can be done.”

The victory made Antetokounmpo the fourth foreign-born Finals MVP and the third Finals MVP with at least one parent from Africa, after Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994 and 1995 and Andre Iguodala, whose father is Nigerian, in 2015.

And it resonated in Milwaukee, where more than 80,000 fans engaged in revelry inside and around Fiserv Forum. It also reverberated back home in his native Greece; in Nigeria, where his parents are from; and throughout a continent that always will claim one of its distant sons.

Olajuwon is considered the greatest foreign player in NBA history. Dikembe Mutombo, a fellow Hall of Fame big man, calls him the “king of Africa” because he was the pioneering figure who won two championships and an MVP award and was so good the Houston Rockets don’t catch any grief for selecting him No. 1 — two slots ahead of Michael Jordan — in 1984.

“Part of the evolution of African interest and passion for the game goes back to Hakeem’s entry into the game,” said Victor Williams, chief executive of NBA Africa. “Giannis is doing the same thing for today’s generation of African kids — and they do recognize him as African.”

Antetokounmpo is known as “The Greek Freak” because he was born in Athens, but he grew up in a Nigerian home. His mother, Veronica, is Igbo. His late father, Charles, is from the same Yoruba tribe as Olajuwon. His last name — Adetokunbo — was Hellenized when he finally became a citizen of Greece and received his passport, one month before the Bucks drafted him 15th in 2013.

“I represent my country, both countries — Nigeria and Greece,” said Antetokounmpo, who received a Nigerian passport in 2015 but still longs to visit the most populated nation in Africa.Story continues below advertisement

Talent and will elevated Antetokounmpo to a place where three countries view him with pride. But he was without a country for his entire childhood. Antetokounmpo’s family fought through poverty, endured overt racism, hustled by any means to survive and lived in fear, as undocumented residents in Greece, of being sent back before they could find a better life. The rags-to-riches tale has been told many times but now extends beyond the mind-blowing generational wealth Antetokounmpo has accrued. He has reached the pinnacle of the sport.

“There are so many elements of it that speak to the broader African story. It’s about a family that was hungry for opportunity, for themselves and their kids, and at great risk left the country to find that opportunity,” said Williams, a native of Sierra Leone. “Many Africans travel in the diaspora. We didn’t have to go through the lengths that Giannis’s family did, but that same drive to tap into everything that the world can give you, the opportunities that are available, to be willing to travel and displace yourself in order to get those opportunities, I think is emblematic of a lot of Africans.”

Amadou Gallo Fall spent more than a decade helping the league gain a foothold in Africa. He helped open the league’s office in Johannesburg and oversaw its grass-roots efforts in the continent before taking over as president of the Basketball Africa League two years ago.Story continues below advertisement

“Seeing a young man like Giannis, his background and doing it at the biggest stage, it’s certainly something that’s special, that means a lot to a lot of people,” Fall said. “It’s inspirational. And that’s what we like to see for the young people across Africa, to have these types of role models that we can follow and be inspired by.”

When the Bucks drafted Antetokounmpo, they believed he had some upside, not realizing that eight years later his potential remained limitless and he still would be positionless. Antetokounmpo is already the only player in NBA history with two regular season MVP awards, a championship, a Finals MVP and a defensive player of the year award before turning 27.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts while holding the NBA Championship trophy, left, and Most Valuable Player trophy after defeating the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Milwaukee on July 20, 2021. (AP)

His game still has obvious weaknesses, but Antetokounmpo has compensated for his flaws with a relentless work ethic, untamed passion and stubborn competitiveness. He can’t be contained because he’s determined to bust through any and all obstacles.

“I know I’m a role model. But this should make every person, every kid, anybody around the world believe in their dreams,” Antetokounmpo said. “No matter whatever you feel when you’re down, when you don’t think it’s going to happen for you or you might not make it in your career — might be basketball, might be anything — just believe in what you’re doing and keep working. Don’t let nobody tell you what you can be and what you cannot do.”

Though Antetokounmpo was initially trained in Europe, he is now also part of a greater basketball moment for Africa. The continent of more than 1 billion people has become a fertile ground for talent. The NBA has invested in Africa since 2003, with the creation of development and community outreach program Basketball Without Borders. Late commissioner David Stern established NBA Africa in 2010. And the Basketball Africa League completed its inaugural season in a bubble in May.

Last season, a record-tying 14 African-born players were on opening night rosters, including MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and one-time all-star Pascal Siakam, both from Cameroon. More than 100 players born in Africa or with at least one parent from Africa have played in the NBA, including 55 current players.

In the 2020 draft, nine players from or with at least one parent from Nigeria were selected. Seven players in the Finals had ties to Africa: Mamadi Diakite (Guinea); Abdel Nader (Egypt); Axel Toupane (Senegal); and Deandre Ayton, Jordan Nwora and Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Nigeria).

“In a continent that is vastly made up of a young, vibrant, dynamic population, that’s the future,” Fall said. “So to see these young people on the global stage doing big things, I think across borders, whether he’s from Nigeria or Congo or Côte d’Ivoire, everybody is watching the NBA. What they are doing continues to build and add to the narrative and the momentum that’s been shaping up, in terms of basketball development on the continent.”

Two of Antetokounmpo’s four brothers have joined him in the NBA, with both already claiming championship rings. Older brother Thanasis is his teammate on the Bucks, and Kostas won with the Los Angeles Lakers last year. Their younger brother, Alex, plays professionally in Europe.

“I think a lot of credit would go to his parents, right?” Fall said. “Under these circumstances that you talk about, they raised three special young people. Getting to the NBA, that’s no small feat. That just speaks to the entire story. Immigration is part of the African story or narrative, whether it’s voluntary or forced, but now is the opportunity to build on those stories, to ensure that this next generation has better choices.”

Antetokounmpo has never hid his background. As a rookie, he brought his family to the NBA Africa reception during 2014 All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. He embraces the homeland that once shunned him, hugs from afar the place responsible for much of his identity and is grateful for an adopted country that has exceeded his wildest dreams.

“Eight and a half years ago, when I came to the league, I didn’t know where my next meal will come from. My mom was selling stuff in the street. Now I’m here sitting at the top of the top,” Antetokounmpo said. “If I never have a chance to sit on this table ever again, I’m fine with it. I’m fine with it. I hope this can give everybody around the world hope. I want them to believe in their dreams.”

Sourc:(Washington Post)

Giannis Atetokounmkpo smiles while holding NBA Championship trophy and Most Valued Player trophy.

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FEC approves N836 million augmentation for 38 coronavirus oxygen plants

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The meeting was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday
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The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved N836 million as augmentation for the establishment of oxygen production plants for COVID-19 pandemic intervention across the country.

Newsmen report that the council had in June approved N5.615 billion to four major contractors for the emergency supply, installation and maintenance of the 38 oxygen plants in various parts of the country.

Newsmen report that the approval in June followed the Presidential Steering Committee’s (PSC) announcement to increase oxygen reserve capacity in the event of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the council meeting, on behalf of the Minister of Health, said the approval of the upward review followed a memo presented by the minister of health to the council.

The meeting was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday in Abuja.

The minister said: “The Minister of Health also presented a memo seeking for an upward review for the emergency supply, installation and maintenance of the 38 oxygen plants all over the country.

“You will remember in June, the Federal Executive Council, actually approved the sum of N5.615 billion to four major contractors for the emergency supply, installation and maintenance of 38 oxygen plants in various parts of the country.

“Regrettably, the four companies also came back recently with the same complaints ranging from fluctuation in the foreign exchange and the scarcity of the material all over the world as a result of COVID-19.

“So, he presented a memo for augmentation in the sum of N836 million and this was also approved today.

Mohammed disclosed that the council also approved revised estimate costs and extension of the contract of the consultants supervising the Bagwai Water Dam Irrigation project from an initial sum of N98 million to N302.8 million.

“The Bagwai Water Dam Irrigation project in Bagwai Local Government Area of Kano State actually was commenced, the initial contract was actually awarded in the year 2005.

“And due to several logistics problems, the project is still on and just recently the FEC actually approved an augmentation of the entire contract and that means also that the mandate of the consultant supervising the construction would also have to be reviewed.

“So, now the total cost for the consultancy is N302. 9 million.’’

Source: (NAN)


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Osun sensitises herdsmen on anti-open grazing law

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Osun Gov. Gboyega Oyetola
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Osun State government on Wednesday in Osogbo began the sensitisation of herdsmen on the recently-passed anti-open grazing law.

Newsmen report that the sensitisation, which had heads of herders groups in the state in attendance, was organised by the State’s Civic Centre.

Newsmen also report that the House of Assembly passed the Bill entitled: “Bill to Regulate Animal Grazing and Establishment of Cattle Ranches and other Related Matters’’ on Aug. 12.

Gov. Gboyega Oyetola, thereafter, signed the bill into law on Sept. 15.

Speaking at the sensitisation, Special Adviser to Gov. Oyetola on Civic Engagement, Mr Olatunbosun Oyintiloye, said the programme was put in place to sensitise herdsmen on the content of the law.

Oyintiloye said the programme was to let the herdsmen understand that the law was not meant to witch-hunt or segregate them in the state.

“There is need for us to sensitise and enlighten them on the content of the law so that they will not run afoul of it and also to tell them that the law is not to witch-hunt them in form of segregation.

“The programme is also to educate them to operate within the ambit of the law and not to claim ignorance of it,’’ he said.

Oyintiloye, who appreciated the herdsmen on the peaceful coexistence with their host communities, appealed to them to try as much as possible to operate within the law.

He said Gov. Oyetola would continue to provide enabling environment for them to operate and transact their businesses.

In her marks, Mrs Abiodun Ige, Special Adviser to the governor on Security, said farmers and herdsmen should continue to live peacefully in the state.

Ige said that the law would take its course on anyone that ran afoul of it.

“What concerns security in this matter is that anybody that runs afoul of the law, the law will take its course.

“If farmers and herdsmen have been working together peacefully without a problem, we will still advise they work together without any problem.

“But we do not want any breakdown of law and order. If there is anything like that, the law will take its course.

“We have advised that if there is any issue, they should report promptly to security agencies,’’ she said.

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Mr Dayo Adewole, said that the law was not to fight herdsmen but to sustain the peaceful coexistence between them and farmers.

In his remarks, Mr Mudashiru Toogun, Chairman, Committee on Peaceful Coexistence between herders and farmers, also urged herdsmen to continue to coexist with the host communities peacefully.

Toogun said that with the law in place, anyone caught practising open grazing would face the law.

In his remarks, the Seriki Fulani in the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Babatunde, said herders believed that the law would be of benefit to them.

Babatunde said that herders would educate one another on the law, adding that they would also continue to live peacefully with their host communities.

He appreciated the governor for providing a peaceful environment for herdsmen to operate in the state.

Source: (NAN)


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AGF: Nigerian government may file fresh charges against Sunday Igboho

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AGF Abubakar Malami
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The Federal Government may file a fresh action against Yoruba secessionist agitator, Sunday Adeyemo (also know as Sunday Igboho), following the judgment of Oyo State High Court which awarded N20 billion in damages in his favour.

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York that the federal government had the right to appeal the Judgement or file a fresh charge.

The judge, Ladiran Akintola, had awarded the money as “an exemplary and aggravated damages” against the AGF and the State Security Service (SSS), over the invasion of Adeyemo’s home in Ibadan on July 1.

However, Mr Malami said the position of the federal government on the judgment was about “law and jurisdiction”.

“As far as this matter is concerned, which court is it that has the jurisdiction to determine it? And as you rightly know, obedient to court orders and court judgments,” he said.

“But then you have to understand within the context of such obedience that there are associated rights and interests that are vested in the Federal Government.

“Inclusive of rights of appealing against a judgment, inclusive of the right to file an application for setting aside the purported judgment and order.

“And indeed, inclusive of the possibility of filling a fresh action if indeed the jurisdiction of the court that was alleged to have indeed handed that judgment is an issue.

“So, we are doing the needful in terms of looking at the law as it exists and then working within the context of the law in ensuring that justice is done as far as the contending issues between the parties are concerned,’’ the minister explained.

Mr Igboho’s counsel, Yomi Alliyu, SAN, had filed a N500 billion fundamental human rights enforcement suit against the AGF, SSS and the Director of the SSS in Oyo State over the invasion of his home in Ibadan on July 1.

Mr Alliyu claimed that his client’s house and cars were damaged, while two occupants of the house were killed by SSS operatives during the incident.

However, counsel to AGF, Abdullah Abubakar, had argued that there was no evidence before the court that the blood seen in the video clip tendered by Mr Alliyu belonged to a human being.

Mr Abubakar also said there was nothing in the video clip that showed that the house that was invaded belonged to Igboho or linked the AGF with the invasion.

Mr Adeyemo is still being held in the Republic of Benin where he was arrested some weeks ago while trying to flee to Germany.

Source: (NAN)


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