By Paul Bassey
Laugh, if you want to. The last time I wrote, I tried to explain why I went to South Africa. One would have expected that should I have cause to do another travelogue it should be a trip to either Hawaii, the beaches and carnival fun of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil or Toyotaâ€™s Japan where I heard cars are being given out free to prove that the brakes are now working and you can do 250km per hour, commit suicide and still live to testify to the advantage the embattled motor company.
None of the above.Â â€œKano? Abeg Sports Bassey.â€Â Before I forget, I went to Kano at the time tomatoes, onions and pepper had disappeared from Lagos markets and there was so much pressure for me to ship in the essential commodity. Imagine that three thousand naira worth of tomatoes attracted a six thousand naira extra luggage charge. Those Dana Air staff, they nearly killed me.
To cap a terrible return journey, some of the tomatoes decided to show their athletic prowess by jumping out of the carton and rolling all over the Kano airport tarmac. I was wise to disown them, preferring to stand afar and watch embarrassingly as the airline staff ran after them, forcing them back into the carton, destination Lagos.
Now that you believe I was in Kano, let me say that I foresaw an interesting weekend when I ran into IOC member and President of NOC, Engineer Gumel, at the Lagos terminal and decided to update myselfÂ on the NOC logjam. Have you ever invited Gumel to talk on the NOC? The man is so passionate about the subject that you need two hours at least for an answer to your first question.
Gumel had just come from India after the Winter Olympics only to be informed that the NOC mediation committee have completed their work and were waiting for him to call for a meeting of the executive with a view to preparing for the elections by March 31.
Enginer Gumel wondered the possibility.
First, the report had to be presented, the executive summoned, after which the logistics of the elections could be approached. He wondered why the rush? We then considered the abracadabra that trailed the withdrawal of the Gara Gombe suit from court. (Did the Presidency ask questions relating to why a member of the federal executive council was in court on an alleged forgery charge? I doubt). When the boarding announcement did not come to save me from Engineer Gumelâ€™s Olympic enthusiasm, IÂ was able to escape to attend to other issues knowing quite well that we were bound to continue either in the plane or in Kano.
In Kano I had the privilege of hosting one of the fathers of sports in this country. Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, who coincidentally is also a member of the NOC mediation committee. He filled me in on all the blanks and together we regretted the rot that has enveloped sports in this country.
Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, who was Vice President of the NOC as far back as 1985, who also resigned the position less than two years later, went dowm memory lane and came back painting a very dour picture of sports in this country.
When I put Galadima and Gumelâ€™s story together, I came out with a lot of deductions, one being that given the cloudy political weather, the minister will want the election hold as soon as possible just in case the Federal Executive Council is tampered with…………
In Kano I ran into the loquacious, uncompromising and energetic enfant terrible of the Nigeria Football Federation Mr. Dominic Iorfa, vice chairman of the NFF technical committee who also sat on the interview panel of the Eagles foreign coach.
In five minutes, I learnt so much about the coaches interview than I had done in volumes of media reports. That the playing field was not level, that Lagerback was allowed to use audio visual aids and other display instruments, a privilege not extended to those interviewed earlier.Â Did you know that over nine people interviewed the coaches? That they all had one agenda or the other? I tried to dig into the Glenn Hoddle’s bribe saga. In this season of litigation, let this be the topic for another day as I lack enough facts to go public.
I may say however that I am compelled to respect the decision of a panel that had such intimidating and respectable names like John Mastoroudes, Patrick Ekeji, Col. Mumini Aminu (Rtd), and Chief Adegboye Onigbinde. Add to thatÂ Taiwo Ogunjobi, Dominic Iorfa, Dr. Ikpeme, James Peters……
Respect, until proven otherwise
In Kano I met the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Premier League, Alhassan Yakmut. Again we shared a lot on the league, the stalemated elections and the future of football in this country. The way we are going Chief Obaseki will soon be canonised by the Pope. (Thanks Yakmut for the delicious bowl of peppered chicken)
Less than thirty minutes after, I was standing beside the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Sani Lulu, and his General Secretary, Bolaji Ojo-Oba. (By now I believe you have started appreciating the uniqueness of this Kano trip).
The NFF leadership had gone to Jigawa via Kano to lay to rest, the remains of departed colleague Alili Galadima who died on his way to Niamey for Nigeriaâ€™s match against Niger. I was told that when the body of the departed NFF board member arrived Kano airport, a colleague took a look at his lifeless body and said â€œ Is this all?â€ Yes â€œthis is allâ€ Whatever plans he must have made, the dreams of going to the World Cup and partaking in the forth coming elections. â€œThis is allâ€ As his name sake Ibrahim Galadima noted, a good name is gold. It is all we should strive for.
All those selfishly falling over themselves for the soul of Nigeria sports should remember that one day, that will be it. Ibrahim Galadima, Moses Iloh, Pa Ojidoh Osaogbovo Ogbemudia, among others are still relevant today because their sports record was to say the least, unblemished. My trip to Kano continued on Sunday when I arrived the Sani Abacha stadium to watch Pillars against Sharks. Five minutes to kick off, I understood why the NFF must have conceded the hosting of the Niger match to Kano.
Aside the near perfect organisation of the match by the state FA, the experience of the stadium manager and the effectiveness of the security personnel, the stadium was filled to the brim. Yet, are we not missing something? We should listen attentively to those who say that the Kano weather will suit the Niger team very well, except someone invents the idea of fielding the Pillars team against them.
ThoseÂ who say the league is dead in this country should go to Kano. The ambience, colour and atmosphere was electric. If that was the attendance against lowly placed Sharks, I wonder what will happen when Enyimba, Rangers, Kwara United and Heartland among other league leaders come to town. On the field of play, I wonder why Sharks should be where they are on the league table. For most part of the match, they dominated their host and even scored first. The match was as exciting as it was entertaining.
I single out Sharks Bright Ejike for mention. Also worthy of a look in is league fourteen goals scorer, Amadu Musa, who scored a brace on the day. I was told that Musa arrived the home Eagles camp too late for the Niger trip and may just be the joker Amokachi will use to destroy the Nigeriens.
I sign off by thanking Felix Akpu, MD Lix Heritage Ventures, my in-law Anthonia Ekong of ECWA Eye Hospital, Abdul and Aisha of Dana Air, who also contributed in making this trip a memorable one, despite the tomatoes.
See you next week.