By Paul Bassey
“And in the end it is not the years in your life that counts. It’s the life in your years.”
Today I have decided to drop everything to celebrate a sports legend of our time. A living Encyclopaedia of our football, a man who God has given me the privilege to understudy as secretary of Association of Sports Veterans Nigeria, of which he is the President.
Last Saturday he quietly celebrated his birth day and perhaps I should take most of the blame. His birthday, his 80th birth day should NOT have been quietly celebrated. If I was in town, I should have marshaled the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to his residence to pay homage, either before or after the Falcons match against Banyana Banyana.
Before now, I should have reminded the world and indeed the NFF about the need to celebrate a man who Fabio Lanipekun in his Column in the Tribune Newspapers referred to as “ …one of the original football administrators this country ever produced…”
Anyway, better late than never.
Okakuro Jonathan Bioytre Ogufere was born in Okirighwure Amukpe Sapele in Sapele LGA of Delta State on 23rd June 1932 to a family that early realized the value of education.
He attended Roman Catholic School and Zik’s Academy, Sapele for his primary education and proceeded to Enitona High School, Port Harcourt for his secondary education where he had the Junior Cambridge School Certificate in 1960.
He was employed in the Department of Post & Telecommunications in Lagos on 2nd July 1951 as a postal clerk and telegraphist.
In 1956, he was one of the few Telegraphist that were attached to the entourage of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Second on her visit to Nigeria after which he received a written commendation for satisfactory performance.
He attended a 2-year government sponsored course on Telecommunications with the British Post Office from 1958 to 1959.
Chief J.B. Ogufere had a successful civil service career with seven promotions in the senior segment.
He was the territorial controller of Mid Western region during most period of the civil war.
He was however posted to Enugu as the territorial controller of the war ravaged East Central State where he distinguished himself in the execution of the Federal Government policy of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation for which a street, Ogufere Street, was named after him in the GRA, Enugu by the administrator of the then East Central State, Dr. Anthony Ukpabi Asika.
After an historic and landmark six-year tenure in Enugu from January 1970 to July 1976, Chief Ogufere was transferred to P&T Headquarters in Lagos in July 1976.
In 1978, Chief Ogufere was promoted Assistant Director of Telecommunications, P&T Headquarters. A position he held until he voluntarily retired from service on 14th May 1986 during the transformation of P&T into two separate corporate bodies of NITEL and NIPOST.
Since Telecommunications is his discipline and his business, in 1987, Chief Ogufere converted to the private sector by joining a well known telecommunications company, Fujikura/Ducat, in Lagos where he served as Managing Director until he resigned in 1994.
Chief Ogufere significantly blended an efficient Civil Service career with successful Sports Administration.
For several years he organized sports, especially football in P&T as well as the nation at large. He founded the P&T Rockets Football Club of Benin City in 1966, the P&T Vasco Da Gama Football Club, Enugu on 16 May, 1970 and P&T Satellite of Lagos in 1979.
He served as Member of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) for 15 years which coincides with the golden era or apogeal period when Nigeria football attained its greatest heights (Under the leadership of such great chairmen as Chief Ikpeazu, Alhaji Dankaro, Group Captain Ikazoboh, Group Captain John Obakpolor , Alhaji Yusuf Ali,,,,among others.)
He further extended his researches outside the borders of the country following his election as the President of the 16-nation West African Football Union (WAFU) for a period of six years (1988-1944) which witnessed unprecedented football successes in the sub region.
In recognition of his services, achievements and the projection of a favourable Okpe/Urhobo image, the former Orodje of Okpe Kingdom, His Royal Highness Orhoro, the 1st (JP) in December 1985 was kind and gracious enough to confer on Chief Jonathan B. Ogufere the chieftaincy title of Okakuro of Okpe.
His personal title of Ugbugba of Okpe connotes the “courage and determination” of the Okpe/Urhobo people.
He is happily married to his three wives Christiana, Lucy and Cindy and well blessed with children and a bounty of grandchildren.
He worked assiduously to educate his children and bring them to the knowledge of God as good Christians.
His friends call him JB. I dare not! Chief, may you live long in the service of humanity. AMEN