What we know about the drama between Antonio Brown and the Steelers

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Antonio Brown missed an important Week 17 game against the Bengals — and it may not have been because of an injury. Instead, the All-Pro wide receiver may have been held out of the game due to disciplinary issues that tie back to an increasingly volatile Steelers locker room.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff writers Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette reported Monday Brown’s trip to the inactive list for what proved to be his team’s season finale wasn’t due to a balky knee like head coach Mike Tomlin told the press on Sunday. Instead, his absence was a disciplinary reaction that came after a week filled with missed team activities and an argument with an unnamed teammate.

While the Steelers were able to win without their star wideout, a sputtering offense made things much more difficult that expected against a spiraling Bengals team. While that gave Pittsburgh the victory it needed to stay alive in the playoff race, the Ravens nailbiting win over the Browns clinched the AFC North for Baltimore and all but eliminated the Steelers from playoff contention.

What did the reports say about Antonio Brown?

While Dulac and Bouchette don’t name who the confrontation was with, NFL Network scribe Aditi Kinkhabwala reported that multiple sources had told her Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had “a little bit of a disagreement” during Wednesday’s practice. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler characterized the incident as Brown “going off” on a teammate, According to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, Antonio Brown threw a ball towards Ben Roethlisberger before walking out of practice.

He did not attend practices the rest of the week, including Saturday’s walk-through practice, and skipped the Saturday night meeting at the team hotel. Brown never took the field for the start of the game against the Bengals and left Heinz Field at halftime, according to multiple sources.

From the Post-Gazette’s report:

Steelers receiver Antonio Brown did not play in the season-ending game against the Cincinnati Bengals because he elected to sit out practice last week after an unspecified heated dispute with a teammate, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has learned.

Several sources said the Steelers’ decision to not play Brown against the Bengals had nothing to do with any type of knee injury.

The disagreement occurred Wednesday morning during a routine walk-through practice that precedes their regular afternoon practice on the South Side. Brown became disgusted and threw a football in anger at one of his teammates, several sources said.

He did not attend Saturday’s walk-through practice and skipped the Saturday night meeting at the team hotel — the latest in missed meetings by the All-Pro receiver. Brown was never on the field for the start of the game against the Bengals and left Heinz Field at halftime, according to multiple sources.

Dulac and Bouchette’s report also suggested Brown showed up to the locker room on Sunday morning expecting to play, only to be shut down by Tomlin. This further annoyed teammates, who called Brown’s behavior “embarrassing” and “the worst I’ve seen.”

Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner refused to discuss Brown’s absence after he missed Thursday’s team activities, an out-of-character response toward a player working through an injury, but a telling one for a healthy scratch from the mid-week practice. When Steelers officials were asked about potential discipline after Brown skipped Saturday’s walkthrough, they deflected those queries to Tomlin’s upcoming press conference.

This isn’t the first time discord leaked through the seams of the Steelers’ locker room in 2018

Pittsburgh has courted drama throughout the season, though much of it came as a function of Le’Veon Bell’s year-long holdout in hopes of a lucrative long term contract. Bell’s absence put a strain on the rest of one of the league’s most talented offenses. While second-year back James Conner was able to pick up much of the slack, the club still struggled early and then spun out late as a 9-6-1 season ended without a playoff berth.

But while Bell may have been the focus of Pittsburgh’s locker room drama, Brown also made his issues with the franchise known throughout the season. A slow start led the All-Pro wideout to vent his frustrations both on the field and off. He wasn’t shy about expressing his concerns about Fichtner’s playcalling to his face in a Week 2 loss to the Chiefs:

The following day, he’d take to Twitter to respond to a Steelers’ PR staffer’s praise of Ben Roethlisberger and his role in the team’s success. His since-deleted Tweet was succinct: “Trade me let’s find out”


Both Brown and his agent Drew Rosenhaus would deny Brown wanted to be traded out of Pittsburgh, but the wideout’s discontent was clear. He’d skip team meetings the following Monday, though those came with Tomlin’s blessing. He returned to practice the following Wednesday after dealing with private discipline from Tomlin and the rest of the Pittsburgh coaching staff.

What’s next for the Steelers and Brown?

When Brown was on the field, he was still an elite receiver. 2018 marked his sixth straight 1,200-yard season, and that kind of performance makes him difficult to trade away — especially for a team so reliant on a bludgeoning aerial attack. It also gives him a little more leeway when it comes to getting away with locker room shenanigans, like in 2017 when he gave the Patriots some bulletin board material by recording Tomlin talking about New England in the locker room after a Divisional Round victory over the Chiefs.

Despite these issues, Brown had a typically great season. He caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns — the 15 touchdowns were a career high. The seven-time Pro Bowler also passed the 10,000 yard milestone for his career. Brown’s 168 targets on the season ranked third behind Julio Jones (170) and Davante Adams (169).

Brown’s concerns about not getting the ball may have been valid. While JuJu Smith-Schuster’s ascendance left him as the Steelers’ most productive receiver, Brown was still the No. 1 target who drew double teams and allowed his fellow receivers to thrive. That passing threat also created space for Conner to thrive in a breakout sophomore campaign; he ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in 13 games while serving as the Pepsi to Bell’s Coke.

And Brown’s absence appeared to play a role in Pittsburgh’s sluggish start in Week 17. The Steelers faced the league’s worst defense in a deficient Bengals team, but managed to score just 16 points in the process. Without Brown on the field, Smith-Schuster was limited to just five catches and 37 yards — though he did score the game’s only offensive touchdown.

Was that a function of Cincinnati finding the extra space to double down on Pittsburgh’s playmakers without Brown on the field? Was it due to Brown’s behavior affecting the rest of the team’s desire to play, as one unnamed player suggested to the Post-Gazette? Or did the Bengals just play a little harder with the chance to derail a rival’s playoff hopes on the line?

No one’s quite sure. So far all we have are reports, and no one from the Steelers’ side of things — whether that’s players, coaches, or staffers — has come out to make an official statement on the matter. But what is clear is that Brown and the Steelers will likely have to work through some issues if they’re going to reconcile for a happy and prosperous 2019.



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NANS faults Sarafa Ishola’s appointment as APM’s campaign DG

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Sarafa Ishola

By Funmilayo Adeyemi

The leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has faulted the appointment of Alhaji Sarafa Ishola, the Baba Adinni of Yoruba as campaign Director General (DG) of Allied People’s Movement (APM), Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s party.

NANS made its position known in a statement signed by Mr Adeyemi Amoo, its National Public Relations Officer (PRO) and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday.

According to the students’ umbrella body, Ishola’s position as the Baba Adinni of Yorubaland, Edo and Delta inclusive, is revered and can be likened to that of an Emir.

Amoo said the association was giving this advice to the Baba Adinni as part of its role of checkmating and monitoring the political atmosphere of the country.

It said it was necessary to call on Alhaji Ishola, to as a matter of necessity, in the interest of the integrity of the highly weighty Islamic position he occupies, to resign his appointment as a political party campaign DG.

“NANS make bold to call on Alhaji Ishola after wide consultations and comparisons on what roles are expected from the calibre of persons that hold such offices, that such position is equal, or could be greater than that of an Emir in the north.

“Having searched through the past and present political history and activities of this country, we have not been able to find any record of an Emir actively involved in partisan politics, or assuming the position of DG of a political party.

“NANS, hereby, wishes to remind Alhaji Ishola, the Baba Adinni of Yorubaland, that ideally, he is expected to be an unbiased umpire and elder statesmen that should caution his subjects as we move towards the 2019 General Elections.

“NANS therefore passionately appeals to the spiritual leader to resign and apologise to Muslims and the entire Yoruba land (Edo and Delta inclusive) for accepting such appointment. (NAN)



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Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, his deputy abruptly resign

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CNN

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke and his deputy, Paloma Garcia Ovejero, have resigned, an official Vatican statement announced Monday.

The statement confirmed that Pope Francis accepted their resignations but did not provide more details about their abrupt exit.

Burke, an American, tweeted Monday that he and Ovejero, a Spaniard, had resigned effective January 1.

“At this time of transition in Vatican communications, we think it’s best the Holy Father is completely free to assemble a new team,” Burke said.

The former Fox News journalist, who joined the Vatican in 2012, described his experience as “fascinating, to say the least.”

Francis appointed Alessandro Gisotti, a member of the Vatican’s communications office, as interim director of the Holy See Press Office.

Their departure comes several weeks after Francis appointed Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli as editorial director of all Vatican media and Andrea Monda as editor of the Vatican newspaper, marking a significant shake up of the Vatican’s media operations.

In a statement, Vatican communications head Paolo Ruffini thanked Burke and Ovejero. “Faced with what is their autonomous and free choice, I can only respect the decision they have made,” Ruffini said, adding that “their significant commitment has contributed to the [Catholic Church’s] path of reform.”

The church has had a hellish year amid continued revelations of abuse and coverups, prominent resignations, and a former Vatican ambassador urging the Pope himself to step down. And the clergy sex abuse scandal shows no signs of abating into 2019, with a federal investigation and probes across the United States in the works.

READ ALSO: Buhari in New Year message, assures 2019 elections will be free, fair

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Stanford won the Sun Bowl in the most Stanford way possible

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Stanford beat Pitt in the Sun Bowl on Monday. Even by Stanford standards, this was an exceptionally Stanford-like victory for these reasons:

  • It occurred at the Sun Bowl. It’s not that Stanford’s synonymous with playing in this middling bowl game. The Cardinal hadn’t been here since 2009. But in four of the previous seven Sun Bowls, nobody had scored more than 30 points. The game’s also on CBS, which makes it hard to find on a bowl slate dominated by ESPN, and that’s perfect for a team that plays in the Pac-12 and thus almost never gets seen by millions on the East Coast. It was also the site of a 3-0 game involving this same Pitt program a decade ago. 3-0!
  • The final score was 14-13.
  • The game-winning touchdown was this picturesque beauty:

This thing went in the books as a 0-yard fumble recovery TD by Cameron Scarlett, the Stanford running back who played this game in place of the injured Bryce Love. That’s not wrong, but it does not quite do justice to what it really was: a Pitt tackle for loss (basically a sack, though it goes down as a rush for no gain) that magically morphed into a TD pass.

And that just goes to show why a running back should always carry out his fake on play-action, continuing toward the goal line even if he doesn’t have the ball: when you’re Stanford facing Pitt in the Sun Bowl, it’ll probably, randomly just bounce to you.

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We can’t pay you N30, 000, Buhari aware of our position – Governors tells Labour

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The Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, has again told the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, that it cannot pay the proposed N30,000 as minimum wage to workers.

The Governors insisted that they had other competing needs to contain.

In a statement made available to reporters on Monday, the Forum stated clearly that they would have paid the N30,000 but regretted their inability to do so because ‘times are hard.’

The statement was signed by the spokesman for the NGF, Abdulrazque Bello-Barkindo.

According to the Governors, having made a marginal increment of N22.500 from the current N18,000, they had nothing more to add to the minimum wage and it was left for the NLC to consider and accept that as what was available and possible for now.

The statement continued, “Let it be known that governors have met the President twice on this matter and presented their books to buttress their point.

“First, a batch of state governors, led by the NGF Chairman, Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State, in company of governors Ambode of Lagos, Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Bagudu of Kebbi attended a closed door meeting with the President where the financial standing of six states, one each from all the geo-political regions in the country, were shown to the President.

“Shortly after that, the President requested all the states to forward their books, their revenues, both internally generated and their earnings from the Federation Account along with their other sources of revenue, for examination. The president appears satisfied with the governors’ position, thus the decision to set up a new committee.

“It is important to add that, there has never been a time in this country, when states have embarked on a more aggressive revenue drive than they are doing today. And this is without exception or prejudice to any state.

“To put the records straight, governors are not under any obligation, by law, to show their books to the NLC. But they have, in their pursuit of the understanding of the union, done so, not once, but several times over, with a view to letting NLC know that what they are asking for is neither realistic nor sustainable. Yet, NLC remains adamant that its will must be done, or the heavens will fall.

“The president at his last meeting with governors (December 15, 2018) had admonished them (governors) to expect harsher economic tides from New Year’s, thus validating governors’ fears that even those states that had hitherto looked comfortable financially, may in the course of the new year, falter.

“Moreover, since that last meeting, of the middle of December, between the Governors and Mr. President, the economists of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat have been working closely with the relevant departments in all the states of the federation, and looking into other ways of collating financial standing of states that will help the President in ameliorating the situation.

“Already, revenue to states has dropped drastically while demands by competing needs keep rising astronomically. Last year alone, revenue to states dropped from N800bn when the Tripartite Committee was appointed (November 2017) to between N500bn and N600bn by the time Ms. Amma Pepple submitted its report in October 2018.

“Moreover, state governors are making concerted efforts to improve education, health and infrastructure and for this, would not therefore dedicate their states’ entire resources to workers’ salaries alone, knowing that workers constitute less than 5% of the nation’s population. In that regard, governors emphatically announced, collectively, that no state would devote more than 50% of its revenue to salaries.

“To therefore insist that states must oblige the NLC its demands, regardless of the economic gloom that stares the nation in the face is most unpatriotic and a deliberate attempt to hold the nation, especially the president, to ransom, this being an election year.

“At this point it is important to remind the NLC that most governors exhibited a high sense of responsibility and concern for the plight of workers by ensuring that most of them were paid their December salaries ahead of time.

“Some even received several months’ salary arrears that was owed them, and they are happy with their governors.

“This is not the time for the NLC to destroy the existing conviviality that is already building-up between workers and their governors, especially in those states of the federation where governors are stepping up to the plate with the right decisions,” the governors said.



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Mayweather floors Nasukawa thrice to win exhibition match – The Sun Nigeria Mayweather- floors- Nasukawa- thrice- to-win-exhibition-match

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Mayweather floors Nasukawa thrice to win exhibition match

(BBC) Floyd Mayweather needed just 140 seconds to beat Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in an exhibition boxing bout worth a reported $9m.

Former five-weight world champion Mayweather, 41, was smiling during the short-lived contest in Tokyo as he floored the 20-year-old three times.

The fight, scheduled for three three-minute rounds, ended with Nasukawa in tears as his team threw in the towel.

Despite his latest comeback, Mayweather said afterwards he was “still retired”.

“It was all about entertainment – we had a lot of fun,” said the American, who beat UFC’s Conor McGregor in a boxing match in August 2017. “They wanted this to happen in Japan, so I said ‘why not?’”

The fight was delayed by several hours, with rumours circulating on social media that Mayweather might not show up, and that organisers were struggling to locate him.

Then, during an “unscheduled intermission”, he promoted his Las Vegas strip club, urging people to go there to watch the event.

Both fighters were undefeated coming into the widely criticised contest, in which Mayweather had a 4kg (9lb) weight advantage.

And after beating Nasukawa, Mayweather insisted: “I’m still undefeated; Tenshin is still undefeated. Tenshin is a true champion and a hell of a fighter.”

Addressing the Japanese fighter, he added: “Hold your head up high.

“I want the fans around the world to support Tenshin, he’s a great guy and a great champion.”

The rules were very strictly defined with kickboxer Nasukawa reportedly facing a $5m fine if he aimed a kick at his older opponent.

There were no judges, with only a knockout or technical knockout considered a victory.

Before the fight, former light-welterweight world champion Amir Khan said the bout was a “joke” and was “hurting boxing”.

Mayweather also came out of retirement last year to beat McGregor in the Irishman’s first ever boxing match.

That fight was also criticised as a mismatch prior to one of the richest contests in boxing history, but afterwards BBC Radio 5 live boxing commentator Mike Costello said McGregor had “proved the doubters wrong”.

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New Year’s Eve Tragedy: Eight burnt to death in Ondo road accident

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Eight persons have been reported dead after a road crash which occurred at Ore, in Odigbo local government area of Ondo State.

The deceased, who were said to be transiting through the state, were burnt to death in the lone accident.

The accident occurred on the popular Oluwa Bridge at Ore.

It was said to have been caused when the tyre of the Toyota Hiace bus in which the deceased were traveling in caught fire.

Confirming the accident, the Head of Operations, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Ondo State Sector command, Segun Ogungbemide said the vehicle’s tyre got damaged before it went up in flames while on top speed.

Ogungbemide revealed that eight passengers in the bus were burnt to death in the accident and that their bodies have been deposited in the morgue.



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How Alabama shocked Oklahoma with skill and buried the Sooners with power

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Most teams that play Oklahoma struggle at the outset, given how many weapons the Sooners have all open the field, the cleverness of their play designs, and the incomparable quickness of Kyler Murray. But in the Orange Bowl, OU was down 28-0 after 17 minutes. It turns out that’s plenty of cushion for a Nick Saban Bama team.

Alabama came into this contest with a carefully devised plan. Saban’s simplest solution to the spread offense is just to outscore it.

The Alabama defense was great early, but it ultimately couldn’t shut down the Heisman winner, who threw for 308 yards and ran for another 109, all of it efficiently, with three touchdowns. Even with star receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown hobbled and later yanked for ineffectiveness, the Sooners had plenty of places to spread the ball around, including Brown’s backup Charleston Rambo, who had three catches for 74 yards and a score.

Like most every other defense to face Oklahoma this year, even the vaunted Alabama DL eventually tired of battling Oklahoma’s massive, talented, and highly experienced offensive line only to come up empty trying to catch Murray in the backfield. Raekwon Davis was noticeably losing his composure late in the game, incurring a penalty after officials were slow to grant him a sack of Murray (which they ultimately did, questionably).

Oklahoma’s offense scored on all four of its second-half drives, with three TDs. That was OK, because Tua Tagovailoa was 24-of-27 with a passer rating of 237.

In recent years, Alabama’s shifted more and more toward spread offense. That transition was on full display against OU.

The big story of this season in Tuscaloosa was Alabama’s evolution towards a full-bore, RPO spread offense with Tagovailoa at the helm. The Tide had embraced RPOs during Lane Kiffin’s tenure as coordinator, and about midway through last year’s national title game, they started taking deep shot after deep shot with Tagovailoa.

The Tide have more and better talent to run the spread than most schools, but they’ve ultimately stayed ahead of the pack by beating teams like Oklahoma at their own game.

Take this Orange Bowl example:


This is the weak iso/glance RPO that spread teams across the country love. Alabama sniffed out a blitz before the snap. Tagovailoa punished single coverage with the quick skinny post, thrown directly behind two linebackers who got sucked in by run blocking. OU’s deep safety almost broke it up anyway, seeming to be well versed in Tagovailoa’s tendency to look at another pass option before coming back to his intended target. No dice this time.

Whenever Alabama needed yardage down the stretch, it went back to its RPO game against an OU defense fighting like mad to get Murray back on the field. But the Sooners only got two stops all night, not counting Alabama’s late kneel downs.

To put away the Sooners, Alabama did what Floyd Mayweather did to Conor McGregor in their 2017 boxing match.

After Mayweather built a secure scoring lead early in that bout, he simply wore down McGregor and evaded his punches until the MMA fighter’s energy was gone.

After Bama built a 28-0 lead in the second minute of the second quarter, the Tide worked in more double-tight end sets and overpowered the Sooners. From that fourth touchdown onward, Bama’s running backs carried 23 times for 156 yards, as Bama controlled the ball for about 22 and a half of the remaining minutes. Oklahoma only had the ball for about 21 and a half minutes after that — not much time to cut into a four-TD deficit.

The key with the double-TE personnel is that it negated a strategy that helped Oklahoma beat Texas in their rematch in the Big 12 title game. Against the Longhorns, the Sooners re-embraced a base 4-3 defense that brought former five-star linebacker Caleb Kelly back onto the field in favor of the various overmatched freshman DBs the Sooners had been asking to play nickel. OU they moved reliable CB Tre Norwood to strong safety to play behind Kelly, and used the LB to outnumber the run game. Meanwhile, free safety Robert Barnes played over the top on Texas’ most dangerous WR threat, Lil’Jordan Humphrey.

In that Big 12 game, Texas stayed in 11 personnel (one tight end, one back), which gave the Horns six blockers. But the Sooners were playing with seven defenders (four DL and all three LBs) in the box.

When Alabama played with two tight ends and a back, Oklahoma had to use a safety as an eighth box defender. The Sooners only had one reliable tackler left in their secondary. That would be Barnes, but Josh Jacobs knocked him out of the game while scoring Bama’s fourth TD:


Bama was three-wide on that play. But Barnes’ injury made it much harder to defend double-TE sets later on.

The Sooners didn’t have many answers to stop the Tide from controlling the clock with time-killing drives, and certainly not any answers that didn’t yield easy RPO slants for Tagovailoa to keep Alabama ahead on the scoreboard.

There’s little to do against an offense like Bama’s, but OU’s defensive struggles have probably cost the Sooners back-to-back championships.

Oklahoma’s had the country’s top offense by S&P+ the last two years, with two Heisman QBs leading it. But the Sooners were 101st on defense in 2017 and 89th this year. With even a top-50 defense, they’d have had a great chance to not lose two Playoff semifinals.

As long as Lincoln Riley is around, it’s reasonable to presume the Sooners will keep scoring. With Murray leaving, OU’s been loading up in recruiting. A five-star receiver and QB are on the way in 2019, along with several other blue-chips on both sides of the ball.

The problem is that they have a long ways to go in playing championship defense. The rest of college football is catching up to OU’s spread strategies on offense. OU could still stay far enough ahead on offense or make enough gains on defense to play in plenty more Playoffs. But it’s also plausible OU will look back on this stretch and wonder about a team that was only a decent — not even great — defense away from ending Saban’s dominion.

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Boko Haram: Buhari’s opponents accused of fuelling attacks

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The Arewa Youths Integrity Forum (AYIF) on Tuesday stated that some politicians in Borno State were fuelling Boko Haram attacks to rubbish the Federal Government efforts.

Alhaji Sani Kolo, AYIF Secretary General, in a statement noted that certain forces were allegedly masterminding the renewed attacks on citizens and military bases.

Kolo said, “We have had a flurry of text messages forwarded from our people who are residents of communities like Bama, Dikwa and Monguno. These SMS are from characters who feign close relations with the recipients or Nigerians “concerned” about their safety.

“The nauseating messages come with barefaced warnings of the natives of these communities to relocate to IDPs camps for unstated reasons; thereby promoting fear and panic in the residents.

“But these are overtly locals who are untroubled, by the feeble strikes of shadowy operations of remnants of insurgents far from their vicinities; but excited that they are dwelling in peaceful, secured villagers once abandoned for months or years.

“It would be recalled that AYIF has had cause in the past to frown at the covert activities of political power mongers in Nigeria and their local agents and collaborators who prefer to see the progression of Boko Haram insurgency and the triumph of the terrorists against the Nigerian state.

“It is an open secret; these gangs of awkward, odious, greedy and expired breed of politicians are masquerading as messiahs of today. But they delight more in bloodshed and insecurity.

“They infinitely hate to see the end of terrorism in Nigeria, which they have persistently exploited for both political and economic gains. They are less concerned about the pains and sorrows they have wrought on our people and the country.

“Credible evidence at our disposal astoundingly confirms that the current resurgence of Boko Haram attacks in the Northeast, especially in obscure parts of Borno are sponsored to dwarf and rubbish the positive records of President Muhammadu Buhari on Boko Haram terrorism counter-war and the other multifaceted insecurity challenges in the country.

“AYIF is not bothered about how President Buhari’s opponents wish to tackle him in the electioneering campaigns preceding the next general elections in Nigeria. The political theatre is open for Nigerians to decide who leads them from May 2019.

“But what is certain and will never be tolerated is the renewal of the bloodshed, pains and sufferings of our people in the Northeast, using the template of Boko Haram insurgency.”



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