February 9, 2014

SportsGuard: Adieu Pa Ojidoh

By Patrick Omorodion

Two former sports administrators really affected my style of writing sports, that is saying it as it is, no matter whose ox is gored. From the way one spoke against the ills in our sports regularly on radio to the way the other always scribbled his opinion, in an artistic writing, on Vanguard sports pages. Incidentally both men are of blessed memories now.

First was Chief Tunde Olishile whom I got to hear every Sunday morning on Star FM 101.5 in Lagos. Chief Olishile, a former sports administrator with the National Sports Commission, NSC and one time Secretary General of the NFA, was blunt in his condemnation of the mal-administration in sports and football as he never spared his venom for the culprits any Sunday he spoke on Tayo Balogun’s sports programme, Sports @ 7 on Star FM.

Because I would always listen to him and put it on Vanguard sports pages for Nigerians who either missed it on Star FM or never have to listen to it, Chief Olishile sought to know who was so attracted to his position on sports matters and urged Mr Balogun to get us to meet.

We became very close and he continuously advised me whenever we met at the National Stadium or Union Bank’s tennis courts where he played tennis for leisure at retirement. He did that consistently till God called him. Sad though that I couldn’t attend his funeral owing to duty calls.

The second veteran administrator who I got attracted to was Pa John Ojidoh, he too a former football administrator. He was one time Chairman of the Bendel Football Association and match commissioner of the Nigeria Football Association of old.

Pa Ojidoh’s hatred for the ills in our football made him write regularly and tirelessly for Sports Vanguard even at an old age. You never get to correct his scripts written usually in long hand in say four to, at times, 10 pages of  A4 paper. His writing, usually well carved like that of sign writers, will cause even those who hate to read, pick up his script to read it.

Our Group Sports Editor, Onochie Anibeze saw the interest I had for Ojidoh’s write-ups and virtually made me ‘editor’ of Pa Ojidoh’s articles. Whether Onochie told him this, I wouldn’t know but I suspected he did as the veteran administrator started addressing his articles to me for publication.

Some of the stories I did were follow ups from Ojodoh’s expose and when he found out that I was doing stories from some of the expose he wrote about the ills in our football administration, he added me to his call list and we chatted more often on football issues.

One area which he often complained about was the elections into the Board of the NFA or the NFF, which came to be later. He was always pissed off with plots to stop some people, perceived to be too independent minded and would not compromise, from emerging as either Board members or even head of the Board.

One thing I commended the octogenarian for was his bluntness and saying it as it is, never minding whether they will give him matches to commission as a certified Match Commissioner. Those in-charge had no choice as his views were respected and trusted. They were few like him.

One last encounter I had with him was during the Sunday Mba Warri Wolves saga. I had written that Warri Wolves were not totally free from blame over the issue as were Rangers FC. Pa Ojidoh agreed with me when he called but was quick to add that the player did not help his matter by not only collecting salary from the Warri outfit but the largesse showered on Super Eagles players of Delta origin and those who were Warri Wolves players after the Eagles won the Nations Cup in South Africa.

Even when he was restricted to the wheelchair, Pa Ojidoh still watched football matches and scribbled his opinion on the game and other national issues. While on sick bed sometimes, he still found strength to talk about football and how it could improve, like Amaju Pinnick, DeltaState Sports Commission boss recently disclosed.

Pa Ojidoh was proud that his little known town of Illah in Delta State produced great sports men and other professionals alike. He talked gleefully of Matthew Onyeama, one time Leventis United and Eagles captain as well as Stephen Keshi, also one time Eagles captain and current Eagles coach as proud sons of Illah.

As he passed on last week, many, including the NFF, have been sending condolence messages to his family, eulogising him for his contribution to the development of football. If I may ask, how many times did the NFA or NFF heed to his advice? Because they know his worth and for the singular fact that he was not among the ‘hungry’ administrators who clustered around the NFF looking for one favour or the other, they would have rubbished him for daring to fault their actions occasionally. Thank God his image was too clean for them to smear. Adieu Pa Ojidoh. Rest in peace.

Who is this Okaiben?
Once again I am forced to ask who is this Chris Okaiben our Comrade Governor, Adams Oshiomhole has appointed as Edo State Commissioner of Sports. From Anita Evbuomwan to Omorede Osifo and now Chris Okaiben, Governor Oshiomhole has never got it right appointing a commissioner to head the sports ministry.

For the first two appointees, they were definitely not appointed because of their pedigree in sports. And now Okaiben who is coming in from the petroleum sector where he served as Chairman of the monitoring committee, could not be said to be a round peg in a round hole.

It is however too early to judge him. Before the year runs half way, he will either prove or expose himself. One thing is sure, Edo has taken back seat in sports in the country. From first and second positions which the state inter-changed in the past to third at the 2011 National Sports Festival in Port Harcourt, the state may disappear from the radar of medals at Calabar 2014 if Okaiben turns out to be a square peg in a round hole. If my fears turn right, it will definitely be a minus for the Comrade Governor, because he would have destroyed the legacy Dr Samuel Ogbemudia left in that sector for Edo and Delta States which formed the old Bendel State.