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The funny side of Lokoja

By Pual Basay

Please don’t get me wrong. The headline does not suggest that there were any serious deliberations in Lokoja. None that I knew of.

I am not supposed to know. I was not in Lokoja as a delegate. I was not an invited guest, so if there was any serious issue, I was not part of it.

Let me tell you what took me to Lokoja. Two weeks ago, I got a call from Dr. Singabele, board member of the Nigeria Football Federation, a prominent son of the South South Zone of the football fraternity.

The South South Zone had just risen from a meeting in calabar setting up two committees to among others intervene in the seeming face off between Sharks of Port Harcourt and Warri Wolves, (borne out of the NFF decision to award the CAF Confederation Cup slot to Wolves) deliberate on the feud between Chief Obaseki and Mr. Amaju, look at the possibilities of organizing a yearly South South pre-season tournament…..among others.

The meeting decided to incorporate me in the two committees so set up,  and Dr. Singabele, chairman of one of the committees called to inform me.

So honoured, I left for Abuja where we had a very fruitful meeting and proceeded to Lokoja to submit our report and arrange a meeting with the leadership of the NFF.

My brother, you need to see the expressions on the face of the NFF board members when they saw a strange face in the hall. Let me explain. These clandestine meetings, always held on the eve of AGM’s are very key. They are held between the NFF and the zones and always at night. It is at these meetings that EVERYTHING IS SORTED OUT.

Always in attendance are chairmen of associations and their secretaries, chairmen of clubs and their secretaries etc.
Unlike what obtains in other climes where zones come with intellectual inputs regarding statute change, modification of rules and regulations, and motions bordering on the development of the game, we use this forum to remind the leaders that we have not been settled enough, foreign trips should be approved, no hot water in our hotel rooms and similar trivia.

What was Paul Bassey doing here? My presence called for self introductions and I rose to say, “Paul Bassey, member of a special committee set up to improve football in the South South”…..I waited for an objection, none came as the next member rose up…..

I sat through hell. I sat through a feudal system of leadership where one man decided to intimidate, threaten fire and brimstone. Promising to ban, to eliminate, to clamp down and to banish. I saw lesser mortals bowing their heads unable to raise a finger.

Of course the system worked as the next thing I saw was people literally going on their knees, begging and pleading for leniency.

It was Chief Obaseki who dared to make some sense when he said: “Please take it easy, you descended on me, descended on Dr. Singabele and now you want to descend on Barrister Green and Sharks. Let it not be said that you have anything against the South South.”

Ill advisedly, the Rivers State FA had played into their hands by protesting in a very uncouth language and this they capitalized on.

It should be noted that while all this was going on, the real issue of who should fly the country’s flag in the CAF Confederation Cup was relegated to the background so much that when the Secretary General was called to explain the regulations all we did was to nod in acclamation. In fact I had been drawn aside and told not to utter a word.

By the morning, after the ceremonial opening ceremony, I sought the permission of my chairman, Dr. Singabele, to go back to Lagos. “Am I not staying for the AGM” I said “no,” that I have seen enough. What was going to happen that morning was mere rubber stamp endorsements.

Acclamations, votes of confidences and the payment of allowances……..For me, mission accomplished. Amaju and Chief Obaseki had embraced and made up, the South South has decided not to be taken for granted anymore, agreeing to wake up from slumber and face the challenges ahead with one voice.

In the words of the executive chairman of the Delta State Sports Council, Mr. Pinnick Amaju, “enough is enough. We can no more allow people to use us against ourselves.

This is the zone where all the football is played, this is the zone where genuine football people belong, this is the zone that has and continues to provide great footballers and coaches at national level,  yet we allow others to brow beat us and take us for a ride……” Talk about the Niger Delta experience reenacting itself all over again!

I left Lokoja not without some fond memories which I intend to share with you today.
President Lulu’s speech

Whoever wrote that speech should be tied to a stake and shot, so opined Dr. Tijani Yusuf, former secretary general of the NFA. Failure was the key word as the NFF president recounted his stewardship in the out-going year….

We failed here…. we failed there…….and so on. In a serious environment, he would not have been allowed to continue. Someone there and then would have raised a point of order and asked them to step down.

Sir, your money

Before now, I did not know that brown envelopes were dished out to certain people. In the full glare of all present, even as the ceremony was going on, someone came round with brown envelopes, climbed the high table and asked Group Captain Obakpolor and Colonel Aminu to sign and collect…..unlike Colonel Aminu, Captain Obakpolor had no Babariga on, so collecting and pocketing the money was a problem. My friends also collected, past secretary generals Sani, Yusuf, Amun and Kadiri, yet they reneged on their promise to contribute fifty percent each to yours truly!

Who are you representing?

A staff of the NFF came round to collect names for recognition. Honourable Sani Toro obliged and added “ former sec gen NFA” the young man collected the paper, turned round and asked him “ sir, are you representing anybody ?” I could not laugh.

Zonal uniform

Circus unlimited. Do you know that some zones came to Lokoja wearing special uniforms? I don’t understand this. I don’t.

Needed, AN MC In future, the NFF should spare some of that money for a master of ceremony with my colleague Demola Olajire offering background support. It was odd seeing the NFF president coming out to compere, call out people to offer opening prayers.

In the same vein, protocol demands that the MC invites the President to invite the executive governor to deliver his opening speech……etc.

No seat for Odebunmi

Yes he came late, just as some of his colleagues and by the time he came, there was no seat left on the podium. Were the seats not labeled? I do not know. The drama of it was that as we were struggling to get a seat for him up there, his colleagues were resisting the move asking that he should sit down where he was.

FIFA…CAF….WAFU…

The man wore three caps and there was no way he could be limited. Dr. Amos Adamu was handed the mike and he took off. There was no stopping him…..blaming here, praising there…advising….reprimanding….applause.
Lokoja girls

Chairman, Kogi State FA. He came out for the vote of thanks, said he was from Kogi although people believe he was a Korean, height wise. After the vote of thanks he pleaded “ Touch our girls, befriend them but don’t take them away”.
Abeg give me propramme

Before the event I reminded the Secretary General, Dr. Bolaji Ojo- Oba that the last time I attended their AGM in Ibadan I ended up without the event’s programme as he took mine to give to a member of the Oyo Deputy Governor’s delegation.

I hoped I would have one this time around. How prophetic. Together with Dr. Yusuf and M.A. Kadiri we begged for the programme in vain. At a stage the NFF Deputy Sec General Technical, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme, cornered a lady he introduced as NFF head of admin and told her to get us copies of the programme . She disappeared and never came our way again….

“Oga no toilet paper”

I got into Lokoja late and drove straight to the venue of the meeting. Some minutes after 11:00 p.m. I retired to the hotel reserved for me for “dinner”.

The order came without water. After the meal, I had to go down to get a coke and perhaps buy soda water to brush my teeth with.

Then,  the bombshell. There was no toilet tissue in my room, so I called for one. The girl in the reception replied “ oga toilet paper don finish” I thought I did not hear well. “Go and find” I screamed. How could toilet paper finish? (This was after midnight.)

Meanwhile, how was I going to clean my yan……after a visit to the loo? Dear reader you can laugh, but it was really not funny.

I have decided to keep out the name of the “flower” hotel situated on Ajaokuta Road out of print because while I was trying to get the coke to wash down my food, and knock on any door for some wraps of tissue paper, a young man appeared, recognized me, said he was the consultant and twenty minutes later, from nowhere produced water and TWO rolls of toilet tissue. I thanked him, profusely.
Who says I did not have an exciting time in Lokoja?
See you next week.


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