My President, a long time without seeing you. I join our President, Muhammadu Buhari, in congratulating him on his election as a member of the FIFA Council.
This is a great feat in football administration. Joining a unique group, made up of just 37 people at the highest level of decision-making for the world’s most popular sport, soccer, is a huge achievement.
This undoubtedly makes you one of the most influential and authoritative voices in sport, not only in Nigeria and Africa, but also globally.
Since I met you, after being introduced to us by a respected senior colleague and mentor Onochie Anibeze some two decades ago, I can boldly reveal that your rise to the top has not surprised me, although I must also admit that I am pleasantly surprised by its speed.
My presidency, I remember the days of small beginnings when you started out as a member of the Delta State Football Association (DSFA), then became vice president and then president. He was also named chairman of the Delta State Sports Commission (DSSC).
As president of DSFA, he had a powerful impact with the excellent organization of the Delta State FA Cup, long-lasting partnerships with the private sector for the state league, and other grassroots development programs.
The Delta State FA had a reputation for hosting the best FA Cup state competition in Nigeria. The final was always broadcast live on Supersport. I witnessed some of these games live … in fact on many occasions other state FA presidents would rather be in the Delta State FA Cup final than theirs.
And then I must correct myself in this case, the DSFA became the first state FA to have its own soccer house, built without government funding. The house is called Patrick Okpomo House.
The late Patrick Okpomo, a quintessential football brain, former Secretary General of the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) was one of the first influences in your life. Like your uncle, the late Okpomo inspired and made you aspire to be an international sports manager and now you are constantly living the dream.
In many quarters, Issa Hayatou, former president of the African Football Confederation (CAF), is believed to have served as Patrick Okpomo before rising to the top of the African football ladder. The last Okpomo was highly respected in FIFA and CAF. You must be proud of what you have become now.
Amaju, you are a good example of that wise saying that you become the company you follow.
He worked as a personal assistant to FIFA President Sepp Blatter in preparation for the 1999 World Youth Championship, now called the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which Nigeria hosted.
What about the years dedicated to personal development? The many international sports and football exhibitions, seminars and conferences in different parts of the world that you attended, helping you to build relationships with the sport’s leading personalities and stakeholders.
It’s easy for some people to see you at the top today and assume it was all down to luck, chance, fate, or those you know, but having interacted closely with you for many years, I think you prepared and nurtured your luck.
There is no question of his passion, drive, enthusiasm and determination. Sometimes you are even ready to go it alone.
One of the most memorable moments in our interactions was in 2013 when Delta State hosted the Annual General Assembly (Congress) of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF). He had confided to me several months earlier that he would like to be the chairman of the NFF Election Committee for the elective congress scheduled for a year later (2014). All he wanted to do was organize free and fair elections, without interference.
He immediately informed me of this plan, I knew he would not fly because it would violate the FIFA Standard Election Code on the qualifications necessary to be part of the Election Committee of his affiliates, but I played his game until the day he effectively announced himself as the president. of the committee.
On Sports Tonight, a highly analytical and unrestricted show that I hosted on Channels Television, I criticized his membership on the Election Committee, pointing out the relevant parts of the FIFA Standard Election Code that disqualified him. You felt betrayed by my actions because they led to you being rejected and replaced by someone else.
The 2014 NFF elections were the most turbulent in history. There was so much confusion and many crises. Even in a few weeks no one knew what was coming. The problems were increasing, the permutations changed daily. No one was sure who was competing as dark clouds hung over Nigerian soccer.
I preside, he didn’t even have the slightest idea that things would eventually work out in his favor.
I dare say that if he had remained as Chairman of the Election Committee as announced in Delta State during the 2013 NFF congress, the crises that engulfed our soccer after the 2014 World Cup may have consumed him and eliminated him from the elections. of the NFF of 2014.
Sometimes insisting that things be done the right way leads to greatness.
The story of his election to the Executive Commission of the CAF in 2017, the opposition of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports, the stabbing in the back of some of his colleagues and the multiple risks assumed are stories for another day, the same of what happened at CAF in mid-2019 when he had a fight with former CAF president Ahmad Ahmad.
With the benefit of hindsight, it now seems that the fall of 2019 was the best thing that happened to you. I appreciate your tenacity and toughness in weathering these storms.
But Amaju, let me make some notes of caution.
Getting to the top is very difficult, but it is not as difficult as staying there. In less than seven years, he has worked his way to the zenith, transforming from state figure to national to continental and then international. A lot of hard work, determination, and perseverance made it happen, but one wrong move and it could all go away. Please be very careful… watch and pray.
I have read some comments from people who speak of the presidency of FIFA or CAF as the next step for you. Please don’t listen to them. It is an unhealthy idea, very premature, a terrible setup, a lethal ploy and trap. Please stay focused, fully committed, and loyal to your current assignment.
As you may have observed, what opens the doors to greater opportunities is how well the present tasks and assignments are carried out. Be more service oriented than ever.
Let your giant steps keep you more humble. Be magnanimous in victory. Never rub your successes in the faces of those who lost in the process.
Now let me highlight some serious problems.
People argue about the benefits of his victory for Nigeria. Opinions are divided. Some say this is nothing more than a personal victory for you, others believe that Nigeria will somehow be better for it. You have to decide which is the truth … Personal or National. I think it should be both. You must ensure that balance.
It shouldn’t just be about getting more Nigerians to occupy key positions or committees in CAF and FIFA alone, but it should also be about establishing lasting structures for the development of football in Africa in general and in Nigeria in particular.
Development projects and facilities are expected to be drawn to Africa, and Nigeria is not left behind in the scheme of things, albeit fairly and legitimately.
Finally Amaju, let me conclude by revealing this weakness of yours. You cannot keep a secret. While this has both positive and negative effects, it is important that you learn to more deliberately monitor everything you say going forward. Now you are an international influence, every word has weight and value. Do not drop them in any way. Don’t be taken by surprise. Resist any temptation to be boastful or haughty.
If you take note of these pitfalls and avoid them, I have no doubt that you will not only succeed in this new endeavor, but you will climb higher.
Stay safe and blessed.