The Miracle of Damman in Nigerian politics | The Guardian Nigeria Newspaper

The Miracle of Damman in Nigerian politics | The Guardian Nigeria Newspaper

Segun Odegbami

My head is buzzing…with politics. I am trying to put together something for this week and all I can think of is politics. Politics, the process of electing those, who take the major decisions in our lives and shape our world, rules the world.

So, it is imperative we all get involved in the politics of our environment in one form or the other, so as to impact our environment and make a difference to our world.

There was a time when I wanted to be Chairman of the Nigeria Football Association. I thought it was a simple process and that merit and a great vision would be the essential requirements. So, I indicated an interest and prepared myself well to contest the elections.

The day before the elections, I was invited by one of the more elderly members of the 13-man board appointed, as was the practice then by government, for a private conversation where he told me that most of the board members had been directed by an administrator in the sports ministry to adopt a particular member of the board as the Chairman.

I wondered why I was not also invited to the meeting and informed and insisted that the laid down process for electing the chairman from amongst the members should still take place for record purposes.

We went through the process, and it was apparent from the result of the votes that he was right and I was naïve. My vote was the only one I received. Even my best friend who was also a member of the board did not vote for me.

A few years down the line, I was part of another election process, a convoluted one this time, with electoral guidelines that were deliberately crafted to confuse the electorate and then produce a Chairman pre-determined again by the ministry of sports.

I was shockingly disqualified from further participation after winning the South West zonal elections in Ibadan. The reason given was that I was ineligible to conquest because I was not the government nominee and had not been directly involved in football administration for two years prior to the elections.

It was preposterous.  I was founder The Ambassadors FC, that had been actively participating in the FA Cup in Oyo State since 1983. That made me the most qualified of all participants based on the single criteria that I was disqualified after winning my zonal elections.

Of course, it was a deliberate effort to disallow me from getting to the main elections in Abuja where I could have upturned the applecart. So, I had to be stopped in my zone in Ibadan.

The drama of what took place during the election in Ibadan is another story that would remain with me forever, a master class of disloyalty and the fragility of Morals in a fight with Money.

I almost collapsed when many of my retired-player-colleagues from Shooting Stars FC, who had gone around the South West zone with me canvassing support for my candidacy, suddenly, lined up behind my co-contestant, a woman unknown to football at any level at the time, who (I learned later) had offered them the irresistible financial gratification of N50,000 each to mortgage their conscience and sell their friendship.

With the ‘Option A4’ open-ballot process adopted by the sports ministry for the elections, they took the money without realizing the elections would be conducted by open voting.

Till this day, some of those my colleagues are still being haunted by the shame of their open display of treachery and dishonesty that day. I was still undaunted.

I had two more attempts at football association elections. I pulled out in Kano from contesting against Ibrahim Galadima when I saw how the system had been completely hijacked by the sports ministry to get rid of the hard-fighting man and to install a preferred candidate of the puppeteer controlling the strings of sports in the country at the time.

I was offered to step down from the race for the Chairmanship and to contest instead for the Chairmanship of the League Board. I declined the offer and left the scene of the elections.

I counted my losses went straight to Wasimi Orile, in Ogun State, to lay the foundation of an academy, a school that has now become a true and expanding laboratory of learning and research in the combination of sports and education for young children.

Surprisingly, I attempted one more time when I thought the field would be free and fair. I had the bitterest lesson of all to learn from the experience.

This time I was to be halted in my own state in one of the most shocking and shameful experiences in my life.

Having secured the assurances of my state government to back me for the elections, the same state raised another candidate to use the platform initially allocated to me, to vie for the same chairmanship of the NFA.

That would be my last attempt in the politics of Nigerian football.

After that, I raised the ante of my dreams. I wanted to make a point that it was time a black person became president of the governing body for world football, FIFA, something that had not happened before in the long history of the organization.

The football world needed a paradigm shift from the old established and corrupt ways to something new and different… a new kind of leadership and leaders.

That my ambition did not leave the tarmac, halted prematurely by the competing ambition of a few other Nigerians in power that also saw the same opportunities and legitimately chose other options to fulfill their own ambitions.

So, my lofty dreams have been cut short several times, and I have been left in the lurch to clutch at the resultant straws and to lick my wounds.

Through it all, I have always counted my successes as stepping stones to something bigger, better and more significant in the future. That future is here.

It has been almost three years since my FIFA project. I have been serving education, health and sports until less than a year ago when the bells of politics started to toll again in my head. The words of Nelson Mandela started to ring loudly in my ears with a persistent headache that would only abate whenever I reacted to the call that: ‘Sport has the power to change the world’.

Definitely, the evidence is everywhere that there is an ongoing global cultural and economic ‘war’ of civilizations between the West and China/South East Asia.

It is apparent that after 600 years of being enslaved and used as pawns, the Black person is again designed to be left out of the ‘future’ wars ahead.

I have been studying the works and words of some of the great heroes of the Black race through the Centuries of our enslavement.

I believe that we stand on the precipice of a seismic, global economic and cultural event, and along with it beckons an opportunity the Black person must seize to make a move to get out of the vortex of poverty, hunger, underdevelopment, disease, disrespect, discrimination and oppression as a result of the way the world order is constructed presently.

The Black Race must not try to play ‘catch up’ with the rest of the competing civilisations through the usually prescribed indices for development in the world, but must identify and utilize cultural and other tools that it has cheaply and in abundance, even now, to create its own new ways to global emancipation, and to earn respect that will make it an equal partner and participant in the evolving new world order.

That’s why I am drawn into the politics of Ogun State, because it will all start there. Believe me, the road to Oke Mosan is a mission that will involve and impact the entire Black race and Africa and make Ogun State (and Nigeria, by extension) the epicenter of a new Black consciousness and civilisation in the world.

The elements, I am convinced, have taken control.

Watch out for the re-enactment of the ‘Miracle of Damman’ in 1989 in the political front in 2019. Mark my words.

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