BY Emma Okocha
‘You will therefore outrun your party cultism, your tribal membership and from day one, propose your programs to fulfilling your mission. Indeed , the road map should be accentuated with deadlines…. and after the first year, pause and compare notes with your counterparts in the oil producing states.
In two years,Â look at the graph again and compare your efforts with all the SSGs in the country. I need not remind you on the need to begin, by reading Napoleon Bonaparte, De Gaulle, the Caesars, Bismark and the Kennedys. From Africa, please read my idol, Houari Boumedien, the man who reduced the contract scam in Algeria and introduced the Algerian model of Direct Labour and in the circumstance, students who had graduated on state scholarship were able to secure employment….” -Gbenga Oke, Sunday Vanguard, June 22, 2003, Congratulatory Message to the Delta SSG.
Forgive my audacity for reproducing at this time,Â my congratulations to you as the new SSG, Delta, after a most memorable 2002 gubernatorial quest, which featured you and your party on the other side. I have since that tremulous campaign, noted your civil conduct, and after you wentÂ further to serve as the Delta Governor, reflected on your sincere commitment to break from the excruciating,Â bigotry of your predecessors.
Whatever happens,Â it is one of the great hallmarks of this profession for the writer to ruffle the feathers and attempt to precipitate a revolution through his inspired work. When in the final analysis, the work rises to challenge conventional wisdom, and is released as part of an inexorable force of positive development for a changing society;Â that piece of art, whether it is a book, or just a few lines of a report, quickly catapults into a classic.
Convinced of relevance and tripping with baby innocent truths, the writer under the spell is created to collapse borders. At the spear head of a just cause, he allows his gifted mind to attract both the sympathies of the oppressors and the suicidal loyalties of the down trodden.
Foolhardy, and perpetually risking his own personal interests, friendships, personal safety, etc, his courage to stand by the truth , and prophesy for his community are the intellectual arsenal disposed to him as he restlessly forages his environment, patiently creating new possibilities, seeking for new alliances, shifting and striving for new paradigms.
Depending on whose hands his work falls upon, the consummate artist has been able to redefine the relationship between societies, civilizations, and by their timely emergence throughout history, the world gifted writers have been able to present new roles for the government, as the latter struggled and continue to struggle, to give the best to the people under its charge.
Consequently, the English and the world worship Shakespeare, the Russians celebrate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Tolstoy and Pushkin. On the other hand, the Americans can never forget the little lady, Harriet Beecher Stowe , the author of the American anti slavery masterpiece, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Relatively,Â Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is the acclaimed classic, which, more than any other African literature or art, told the story of our interconnectivity; our peoples bonded civilization, long before colonialism.
Therefore, as I write you this open letter, Your Excellency, I want to assure you and your teeming subjects that I’m not under any spell but fully focused on your government’s declared intentions and actions to bring succor, and unity to our people in Delta State. You will also be assured that, I have in my many unsolicited opinions lavished praises on your programs and without any promptings from anybody elected you one of the best three Governors of the year 2008.
I’m very happy that some of your PDP colleagues have called to support our scientific process and indeed invited our team to visit their own states, which they maintain have made great strides to win them some mention for the impending 2009 award.Â It is clear that our own 2008 champion governors, Governor Fashola, Lagos, Enugu’s Sullivan Chime and you, have become the acts to follow since that exercise.
Your Excellency with that background, I will ask you to treat with immediacy and finality the cancer which has for long, eaten deep into the fabric of the Delta State society. Before you, the same cancer was allowed to fester by your little minded predecessors who in their ignorance tended to think that Delta North is not core delta and did not produce oil or gas.
During their staid tenure they denied Asaba its capital status and would prefer hosting executive briefs in their home villages. This vindictive, unprecedented illegal policy has been the order of the day since the state was created. Nowhere in the Nigerian Federation do we see this practice . Not even in the past military governments.
Otherwise, in which of the Niger Delta States, or where in the Nigerian Federation do you have a football club doing very well in the National League with little or no aid from the government and the Chairman of that state’s Sports Council who also doubles as the Chairman of the State Football Association rather than wishing such football club well, is unbelievably, ranting mad.
Instead of finding ways to aid the fledgling FC which is based in the capital, his anger became so uncontrollable and two weeks ago, he went too far. Still mad as hell, this gentleman went for his powerful green pen, and signed into extinction, Delta Force FC,Â a club which for years has been the symbol of unity for the diverse peoples of the state. The Delta Force FC that was built by the gregarious Porbeni and when I came in as the new helmsman, was handed over to me, on a stretcher.
It was not to be. For this is the proud state that is home to the all time Nigeria’s best striker,Thompson Usiyan, Nigeria’s and Africa’s all time central defender, Victor Oduah, [Bendel Insurance, Green Eagles, Africa Eleven, 1975], Big Fingers, Peter Fregene probably one of the best Nigerian Goalkeepers, Iron Leg Ogbolu, [Nigerian Police] Power House Azinge [Amukpe All Stars],Peter Anieke, Paul Hamilton, Jerry Azinge, Austin Ofukwu all formerly of Stores, and were Green Eagles captains.
Other notable Delta born Nigerian celebrated football captains include Steven Keshi, Sunday Oliseh, Jay Jay Okocha, wonder dribbler Ikedi, midfield maestro Oruma striker Ikpeba, Josiah Dombraye, Ben Acid Okocha, Ndubuisi Ndah, Obiekwu, Dr. Oganwu and Stanford Ekpere all of which at their prime, could have played for any club in the world.
With all these history in mind, we made the decision to float the Delta Force FC across the state and suspend its welfare status. We were to build a football side from all corners of Delta state and when we are ready the new Delta Force FC, coached by the best, kitted with the best, recruiting the most talented and supported totally by the state Sports Council would not waste resources playing the costly and the wasteful Nigerian League. When we would be ready, we would register for the Challenge Cup and would win it and then challenge the Eagles and kill it!!
In order, to recruit the best from the state that have continuously produced the best for the national team we decided for the first time to organize the First Delta State Sports Festival.
For eight years since the state was created, the state could not run the state sports festival because the ministry’s budget was very overbearing.Â Without any real budget, and employing to the books the Algerian Boumedien model, we put the Local Governments,Youth Corps engineers,Youth Corps architects, the Police, NEPA, the government sympathetic contractors, the whole strength of the Sports Council ….'[Okocha go kill somebody….I Begoo!] those were my Warri athletes, boxers and martial arts sportsmen who helped as they sang those lines in Wafi pigeon,Â and with some other outside experts, led by the unforgettable late Engr.Idemudia Olugbi…Director of Engineering , Asaba College of Education, labored day and night and in the end, cleaned the Asaba stadium and miraculously presented the marked field on deadline, to the then surprised Governor Col.
Dungs. A scintillating Delta State ’77 Festival, sponsored mainly by the Local Governments who were very proud to participate and present their best to our state, was the result. Consequently, it was clear that the state was poised to kill all comers at the National Festival of which, we made sure did not go to Kaduna but remained in Owerri, to keep the venue near and fresh for our athletes to win it all.
It was our secret plan to return from the Owerri 1977 National Festival with the gold and formally, seek the Sports Council’s autonomy from the retrogressive Ministry of Sports and Social development. An independent corrupt free Sports Council would then be free to pursue its goals as stated in our very published Delta State Sports Policy. Infact, that was to be the first time any Sports Council in the Nigerian federation wrote a guilding sports policy. We would have devised means to supplement the government’s then very lean allocations, and was poised to sponsor Delta Sports, Delta Force FC. etc. Ultimately we were toÂ present Delta Force FC as our flag squad, our own competition to the Green Eagles!
When it became very clear to us that the Sports Council must be separated from the bureaucracy and the corruption of the ministry for it to fulfill its set goals we knew we were walking on a tight rope. Sir, I will not bore you further on what happened to me and our policy. At the appropriate time the history of the turn around ofÂ the Delta Sports experiment will be told.Â We were rather betrayed that the The Policy which demanded for the Autonomy of the Council [of which we were ready to lose our jobs] was overturned.
That Policy which enunciated that Delta Sports must like the ”Russian Spectacada Sports” be spread for every Deltan participation was thrown to the dogs.Â A policy that was set to challenge the Nigerian political culture which for years celebrated government appointments and offices; tempting practitioners to throw in large budgets into every government programs so as in the end to expropriate most of those expenditure, was simply frightening to the top echelons of the threatened bureaucracy. Hence, so much money is thrown in to win competitions, to win festivals.
The disastrous after effect is that when those products of money competition move into international jousts they fizzle out on account of ill preparations, lack of conditioning.
As a consequence, Delta Force FC which was really not based on a permanent city or village was left to the caprices of the new helmsmen. When as usual more football clubs were created in the south, the so called core delta , the club was moved to the north.
We were expecting the newest helmsman to return to the policy which could have won the state more participation with the least expenditure! Unfortunately,Â we are confused to hear that the club that has flown our unity flag is about to be sacrificed and also sad to accept that the Asaba based women Delta FC is being moved to Oleh!
We are equally flummoxed as to why the Chairman is mad with this football club that have players from all corners of the state, and mostly coaches and officers also from all parts of the State. What ‘s going on there, Mr. Chairman?
Your Excellency, please you have to demand from your Chairman which position he prefers, Chairman of the Sports Commission or Chairman of the Football Association?
For Delta State is not a Banana Republic where one super human takes over the whole space.Â It is interesting to state that for the limited and very productive few months we were in charge, we made sure we spread the amenities and recruited into office people who came to serve and who are not related to us.
That is why it is very sad to read, from far, these recent pestiferous intolerant sports policies passed by these my erstwhile respected colleagues and friends who enjoyed the best from us when we had the powers to deny them their fill. For goodness sake, if they would not open up and spread the amenities why do they continue to dismantle and move to the south, the little infrastructure and the few institutions and clubs found in the Delta North.
Meanwhile, please find time, your Excellency and order for your perusal the listings of the entire State Sports Association, their Chairmen and their members. Sir, you will be shocked to behold the day light brigandage and cheating as you notice the lopsided appointments and the politically manipulated operational orders of those Associations.
Your Excellency, while I would not take your time in bringing to your table what is already an open chatter in the streets, I will pray you to call your Sports Administrators to order. As you know football has taken over from religion and it is now the opium of the masses. Nobody can deny the Delta North its right to play football!! Asaba Staduim has been very long in the cooler.
The gates must be opened to allow play at once. Sir, find time to educate these my good friends who seem to be be keeping more than three jobs at a time, that, we are in a changing world. Presently, the Niger Delta people are fearlessly demanding some fair play from the center.
It will be nice for all of us to take some time and and put our house in order, restore confidence in our Niger Delta regional movement and correct our age long contradictions.Â Sir, just as you crossed the Rubicon and moved the airport to the capital, imagine the tremendous joy you will give and the Solomon judgment that will be your portion, if today you listen to the prayers of your long suffering people of the northern part of Delta, and without any further ado, restore the Delta Force FC and return the Delta Force Women FC to their registered Asaba capital base.
Your Excellency, in congratulating you, once more, for your tenacity and principled fight to keep the Warri- Effurun University of Petroleum from being relocated to the crocodile city of Kaduna, please accept my highest regards and may our destiny not be overwhelmed by our wishes.
Hon. Emma Okocha , MIPTC Tournament Director, USA AFRICA Sports Ambassador,
ex National Vice-Chairman SWAN, and last Delta State Director of Sports.