I have often used that interview to explain to Nairalanders who often complain that wealthy Nigerians like Dangote do not own/run football clubs that it is not easy to own a Nigerian football club. People like Chief Abiola, John Mastourodes (Leventis United), Chief Iwuanyanwu (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), Chief Oscar Udoji (Udoji United), Chief Adewale Teluwo (VIP, Obanta), etc. have tried it and gotten bad experiences.
I still can’t find a video of the interview I watched, but Chief Abiola relayed the same story when he was interviewed by former Nigerian captain, Chief Segun Odegbami (MON). Here is a video of the interview.
Chief Abiola mentioned some people and places in the interview and some might not know what he was referring to, so I’ve explained what they are.
Minister P.C. Achebe = Chief Philip Onuora Chikaodili (P.O.C.) Achebe, a two-time secretary general of the NFA and I think he also served as minister of sports.
Havelange = Joao Havelange who was the president of FIFA at the time.
Dakar = The Confederation of African Football (CAF) awarded Chief Abiola its gold merit award in recognition of his contributions to African football. The award was presented at the CAF General Assembly in Dakar in 1992 (during the 1992 African Nations Cup).
Challenge Cup = The Nigerian FA cup was previously known as the Challenge Cup.
Group Captain Obakpolor = Group Captain John Obakpolor was the NFA chairman in 1987/1988.
It is important that one should be very serious with what one wants to do. Nobody can clap with one hand. To clap you need two hands. I can provide the money. I provide even the time. You remember, I followed the team to play their match against Nchanga Rangers.
We got to Lusaka. We were told by the NFA that the match would be played in Lusaka. We travelled there on the eve of the match to be told that we would be playing in Nchanga. I had to beg for a flight, to charter an F27 to fly us to Ndola at 10:30 at night, hired a bus from Ndola to take us through Kitwe to Nchanga, only to find that the driver was drunk! So I drove the bus myself for three and a half hours. We were stopped by armed robbers three times on the road. I had to bribe our way through into Kitwe.
We got to Kitwe at 2:30 in the morning on the day of the match, to find that the officials had left for Kitwe. So I dropped the bus, made sure they rested quickly, drove the sane bus back to Kitwe to look for the officials to bring them back at 7 in the morning to officiate. I was prepared to do that.
You see, it’s not just the money. You need to know what problems these boys faced. The boys on their way back had problems connecting in Addis. They were delayed in Addis for four days. I had to wire money for them to eat and so on. Only to find out that they were being scratched by Group Captain Obakpolor, who said that the boys did not show up for their quarter final match against. . . against. . . er. . . the Maiduguri side
(Segun Odegbami says, “El-Kanemi)
El-Kanrmi at their quarter final match in Bauchi. I had to fight to get them to be allowed to play that match. They eventually qualified.
With all that, when you look at it, it just occurred to me, what happens if these armed robbers (they opened fire on us near Kitwe) if I had been killed? What will I tell my children? You see, one must. . . There has to be moderation in everything that one does. But if I hadn’t been in that bus that day, the bus wouldn’t have gone through. They probably would have been waylaid, people would have been severely injured, if not killed. What for?
Some of these things that we are trying to do, we must try and dose it with some element of realism.
Maybe we need to zone some of these things, as I was suggesting to CAF.
You see, the cost of transportation too. How much it costs me in foreign exchange.
We played Esperance in Tunisia. We had evidence that some of my boys took bribe to concede that match. Only to find. . .we got to the airport, Alitalia flight was cancelled because of strike. I had to pay in foreign exchange. In those days, the whole team and the supporters to London to connect back to Lagos in hard currency.
Minister P.C. Achebe was there. He was the one who said that I should disband the whole team! Only to find that I could hardly find a good team to play in the final of the Challenge Cup. It was a miracle that we won that Challenge Cup. I dismissed 12 of my players.
You see, these things were too much for me and I’m not getting younger. By the time of Abiola Babes I was in my early 40s. I’m 54½ now.
See, these are the things that one must bear in mind. It’s not just enough to put money. . . and my name connected with something, I want to see that it is very well done. If they are Abiola Babes, then Abiola has to be there.
You see, I had to leave Nchanga that afternoon. . . they played the match at 2 o’clock because they didn’t want our boys to rest. 2 o’clock in the sun! Our boys managed to draw. I drove straight to Lusaka to take the Zambian Airline 11 hour flight into London for an important meeting. So I couldn’t see to the boys being evacuated. They were stranded in Addis.
You see, there’s so much hassles in all these things and one is only one man!
My father told me, when a cousin was made a foreman. He didn’t know that it was F-O-R-E. He thought it was F-O-U-R. He said, “How can a man call himself four-man. Every man is one man”. “Asiere eniyan lo’n pe eniyan four-man. Enikan ni enikan je”. I am only one man.
Abiola Babes has virtually returned in Concord Football Club, a Professional League Division 2 club. They will carry on. Abiola name will not be there.
I think the name is already well known, thank God. You were in Dakar. What other thing could anybody have wanted in his life. Only Nigeria refused to honour me and I’m sure they will do that one day, but the whole of Africa has done so. What else do I want?