By BASHIR ADEFAKA
President of the Super Eagles Supporters Club (SESC) of Nigeria, Chief Vincent Okumagba, is back from medical trip in Canada, having flown straight to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire capital ahead of today’s final match of the 34th edition of African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 featuring the Nigerian Super Eagles and the host country.
In a telephone interview directly with The DEFENDER anchored back home in Nigeria, Warri, Delta State-born Okumagba looked at the attempt by some fifth columnists to run him down in his effort to give Nigerian football the best and said such will be an effort in futility as, according to him, he has his successful businesses to keep him going without hitches.
A silent achiever, among his many achievements was his being recognised and honoured by world football governing body, the Federation of Internation Football Association (FIFA), which invited him as a special guest of honour to join other world personalities in watching the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 in Qatar.
This online newspaper is aware of how Chief Vincent Okumagba is responsible for funding of transportation, accommodation and feeding of supporters and journalists, who have given their best in gingering the Super Eagles players since the start till final of the AFCON 2023 matches in Cote D’Ivoire. Excerpts:
What is this about people using your name to collect money in tge name of supporting Super Eagles in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and what does that tell you?
My Public Relations Officer (PRO) that I brought up is among those behind it. I brought them to the line, trained and empowered them and everything and they feel like they have known so much now, and so the next thing they have to do now is to betray me or something and they are doing that.
The moment I travelled to Canada for medical reasons, maybe they believed that my enemy will not come back, you know, planning coup and all of that.
But the good thing is that all the club matter, I have been in it for sometimes. I was the one that formed it. I did it and I started it. The government, the authorities knew, but these people still keep on parading themselves.
Why not taking step to check them legally?
We took action against them by going to court, but they have not gotten back to us till this time. Maybe when we get back to Nigeria, we will be able to do something about them.
But for what reason do you think people who are not working woukdvwabt to bring down the good wirk thatbotgers do, yours as a case study?
They have the belief that there is money in it. You know that when you are doing something with passion, people don’t know. There are players that are playing football for money while there are some that play football for the love of it and for their country, wearing jersey of their country, and when doing it, they are just satisfied.
But there are some, who will not play except they give them money right? It’s like that. Supporters Club team thing is like that. There are some that spend their own personal money making sure they make others happy and there are those, if they don’t get money, they wouldn’t do it.
Maybe now they have seen that there is no money, you actually need to spend your money, if you don’t have money you leave.
Before I dabbled into supporters club team, I had three petrol stations, good ones, had a vessel and so many things going well for me. So, it is not supporters club money that I am using.
I bring money from my business to finance it because I love people, like I told them the other day, I say: “Come, if I don’t like people, I can just take first class flight to Cote D’Ivoire, lodge in five-star hotel, only me! Because the money I spend on all of you is more than enough for me to do it all. When I came, I stayed with all of you guys because I love seeing people, I love encouraging sporting well. No problem, the country really appreciates all the good work that you have been doing.”
So where did you see the problem of sports development lies in Nigeria and what do you think can be done as government and as stakeholders in identifying and solving the problem?
Like I said to you the other time, the problem facing sports in Nigeria is actually not the people in sports but the Nigerian problem. The environmental factors are there, and then what I mean by environmental factors is starting from the grooming and selection of players.
For instance, let’s take football as a case study, that is where the problem is. It is getting better now with MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and the rest, where we have people cheating.
Somebody had called me before, that was even my own close blood sister and said: “Your child wants to play football.” And I asked, “How old is he?” She said, “He is about 26 now.” Then I said, “Okay, you want him to play Under 17.”
Somebody like me will not encourage that but others are doing it, before the human right comes in. That is what is called nepotism and all of that. These are the things that are killing sports in Nigeria.
But if we can identify the talent, whether you know the individual or you don’t know him or her, discover that talent because, what you need is the talent, whether you know the family or not.
Come to Nigeria, the reverse is the case. It is either you are connected or you know the father, the mother or the uncle. If you don’t know all of that, you will not go anywhere.
We have a lot of talents in Nigeria, so until government declares interest and political will to put their own feet down and make sure that merit is the order of the game, Nigerian talents may find it very difficult to emerge.
As we are here now playing AFCON, there are some players out there that are not here yet who are extremely skilled, better than some of the players present here.
So, those are the things we are facing in Nigeria. It is a lot and our system is not helping; poverty and so many things coming against us. So, people don’t take national decisions, they do whatever they like anywhere their legs reach. That is my take on that.
And if we want to talk about merit, it’s wide, but if we must look at it holistically, there are things and structures that must be followed, from the selection, growing and all of that.