…NFF election was a crime scene; what it taught me
By Alexander Johnson Adejoh
So this system must be broken. Players union must have six members, coaches six members, refs six members, FAs six, women football, six things in the system. And I’ve been able to learn. I met many great people, media men, sportsmen, fans, from everywhere. In the campaign, people, ex-players were calling and rooting for me, Rufai, Oliseh, others were calling.
I was like Peter Obi in the campaigns, people calling, telling me, we are behind you. Can you do this? And I’m a dogged man. Then I went for it and people turned against me. I mean ex-footballers. One development that pained me most was when people in Anambra state, Benue where I played in the domestic league before moving abroad.
These are places where you could say this person is a footballer, he would understand our plight. Ironically, these were the people that smiled with me, hailed me, then stabbed me.
Allegations of vote buying, how much you felt
Yes, it was a crime scene. Had EFCC been there, we wouldn’t have had a President of the NFF, because almost everybody would be in prison. It wasn’t a hidden agenda. It was open. I’ve not spoken about this since the election. Because I lost, people would have said you’re being bitter, being angry for losing.
I wanted to make noise, but they called me to say this is how it works. But we can’t keep quiet for too long. We want our football to do well. I was in Qatar, watching the world cup. I sat down and shook my head. I asked myself, why shouldn’t Nigeria be here? It was so painful. I’ve never felt so pained.
I’ve been in World Cups, but for the first time, I felt pained, because I’ve matured to the place of decision-making. I knew with the right decisions, we would have been in this World Cup.
We disappeared. Have you realised that nobody has mentioned Nigerian football in almost three years? We’ve disappeared, at the global stage. Even in Africa who is calling us? You hear Cameroon, hear Senegal, Morroco. Who is mentioning Nigeria?
Cautioning on widespread feeling Nigeria may still not qualify for the next World Cup
I want us to give Ibrahim Gusau a chance. We don’t want to judge the young man without him having expressed himself with time. We must give the current NFF President all the support he needs.
It is not about an individual. It’s about our game. If we get somebody, whether he is a farmer, doctor, whether a lawyer, that can change the face of our game and he succeeds, we will all be happy.
It’s about football, not about any ex-player or coaches. It’s about someone that has a vision. So for people who want to raise issues, my take is give Gusau a chance. He’s just about three months in office. And I’m determined to support him. I said so when I lost the election. I sat beside him and said I will support you, but I will speak on. I told him when you’re not doing well I will speak up.
Had you won, how would you have turned things around?
It’s not my responsibility anymore as it were, to join issues. I tried to bring solution, they said I was an outsider, give it to Gusau. I cannot say anything now, because he might have his own plan, and I have my own idea. He has been elected. Let him share and express his ideas. I would respect that if he comes to me to ask how I can help, I would help.
How would you have been able to manage your church along with NFF if you had won?
Right away, I would have taken a sabbatical. No second thought on that. I had it laid out, already discussed with my family. Four years, I would have taken a sabbatical, handed over the church to somebody. But as it is now, I have left South Africa and returned to my home base, Port Harcourt. Life continues.
I just hope people would now come to see the other side of me as I come to plant another church in Port Harcourt. The side of me most people don’t know back home. The pastoring side, the church side I have been doing for 20 years. Football has become a hubby, preaching God’s word is now my real job, my calling. We are hoping Port Harcourt will give me the space.
There are very great men of God here in Port Harcourt, some I’ve been able to consult. Remember, I own a house here in Port Harcourt. I’ve spoken to some of these men of God, the big boys, small ones alike, to seek advice. Seeking advice doesn’t mean I don’t know what to do.
So I want to invite anyone reading Vanguard right now in Port Harcourt. Our church, Christ Ambassadors Church is in Jevinik Center, New GRA Port Harcourt. Easily accessible place. We invite all on the 29 January as we kick off date for the church here. I’ve done this before and God will still help me to fulfill His vision for His people. We’re excited about this development.
What he misses about South Africa
Everything, many. I lived there for 25 years. I have become part of the people. I can’t explain what God did for me in South Africa. It cannot be explained. South Africa opened up to me. The country helped me, blessed me. I’m blessed, financially, spiritually, physically.
South Africa gave me money, my family. I would never speak evil against that country, because when I left home (Nigeria) for South Africa, I was absolutely nothing. What I’m today I credit to South Africa. People are free to say whatever they want to say. There are challenges everywhere in the world, but South Africa was my promise land.
In all of it all, I needed to come back home. This (Rivers state, Nigeria) is where I come from. I also believe the nation Nigeria will bless me. I’m a homeboy. This is where I come from. We are back, settling down. The day before, I linked with a gathering of old friends. The excitement was mutual.
I have some very good people around me. Hearing I’m no longer going back, some are already asking how, what they can do, the support I need to settle down. We have two daughters with us that don’t understand even the pidgin English, don’t know garri or any swallow.
They are asking, Daddy can we order some pizza? I told them, there could be pizza, but here you people will learn to swallow, learn banga, learn it native. They must make adjustments.
Excitement about the Rivers he is returning to 25 years after?
I’m excited about Rivers state. This is my home. I played football for Sharks of Port Harcourt, played for Rivers United. I won gold playing at the Sports Festival. With the experience I’ve gotten at home and in diaspora, particularly in sports and media, I hope whoever becomes the next governor in Rivers state would knock on my door.
Don’t forget I worked with one of the biggest sports TV networks in Africa. I’m expecting those at the helms to say as son of the soil, we are glad to have you back. Come and do one or two things for us. The experience I have gained outside, cannot be wasted, 25 solid years in sports and in media.
So my prayer is that whoever becomes the governor would, in open arms, say our son is back. That’s how it’s done in civilised climes. Glad I’m still very young. By God’s grace I have good health, have life. God has given me wisdom. I’m much prepared now to serve my state first. national is occupied. We would come later.
Not over on NFF presidential ambition
How can you forget Atiku is making the 4th attempt? Buhari tried how many times before he got the nation’s presidency? Why would a young mind as mine be defeated by a first attempt? We will surely come back, no doubt about that. We want to serve, but I want to look inward now.
We have a great Commissioner for Sports here (Rivers), my brother, Christopher Green. I’m going to send a message to him soon, to say Nwamfor, what we call him, that I’m back. Whenever you find it possible for us to contribute to the advancement of the game, we would give our advice.
At this stage money is no longer the priority. It is not a motivation anymore. We have made that one, in humility. Anyhow, we can afford to buy fuel. It is the passion to make our wealth of experience count in service for the common good that is paramount.
I’ve had some tremendous home support in the journey to join in decision-making to strengthen Nigeria football. I must personally mention Rivers PDP guber flag bearer, my own countryman, Sim Fubara who shared sacrificially with me the burden of contesting in the last NFF presidency. Fubara overwhelmed me with tremendous support through it all and I can say he is a man with a good heart and love for the common good.