On Thursday, 13th December 2012, at the Atlantic Hall of the Hotel Presidential Hotel, Port Harcourt, the 68th Annual General Assembly of Nigeria Football Federation took place in a convivial atmosphere.
I am happy to have this medium to say a big 'thank you' to all those who were there, from the Executive Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, CON (who was ably represented by the Deputy Governor, Engineer Tele Ikuru) to the Honourable Minister/Chairman, National Sports Commission, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi (ably represented by Dr. Bolaji Ojo-Oba) and to members of the Rivers State cabinet to dignitaries and delegates and the media.
Governor Amaechi had duly apologized for his inability to attend the event during an early morning courtesy call by the NFF Executive Committee, and just had to 'release' his Deputy, the equally sports-loving Engineer Ikuru to attend the event.
Deputy Governor Ikuru showed how much he was in touch with the football world in his speech, in which he called on the Nigeria football family to ensure that those things that would ensure a turnaround in the fortunes of the players are put in place. He wondered why players in the Leagues overseas could earn so much money and our own players here earn peanuts.
There are so many factors responsible for the above, and which the NFF is tackling headlong in order to see to a rebirth of the domestic League.
The Honourable Minister/Chairman, NSC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi was very ably represented by Dr. Bolaji Ojo-Oba. The former NFF General Secretary enlivened the auditorium, characteristically, with his witty offerings and attitude even as he insisted that everyone should know that it was Bolaji Abdullahi speaking through Bolaji Ojo-Oba. Dignitaries and delegates, including the Deputy Governor, were enchanted with his easy-going manner and his elaborate agbada.
It was heartening to hear the Honourable Minister congratulating the NFF for the outings of the various National Teams in the outgoing year, much better than what obtained in year 2011. He also charged the NFF to ensure that all the teams that have qualified for major competitions (Super Eagles, Flying Eagles and Golden Eaglets) are well-prepared for those different challenges in South Africa, Algeria and Morocco respectively.
The Honourable Commissioner for Sports, Rivers State, Hon. Fred Igwe was also a happy man. He wore his delight on his face and showed his humility when, assailed by accolades from everywhere for the brilliant performance of Team Rivers at the 18th National Sports Festival (Eko 2012), he quickly deflected them and said the praises should go to the Deputy Governor, who was Chairman of Rivers' participation in the Festival, instead!
The members of the NFF Executive Committee were also resplendent in their general conduct and manners. All to the glory of association football.
Mazi Amanze Uchegbulam, former 1st Vice President of NFF, who is also the Vice Chairman of the CAF Appeal Board, was a powerful presence. He first delivered the goodwill message of FIFA and CAF, before his wise counsel on various matters at the end of proceedings. You're always appreciated, Brainbox.
However, by far the most moving moment of the day was the presentation of Award of Meritorious Service to former Secretary General of then Nigeria Football Federation, Pa Herbert Olanrewaju Omokhaye.
The first person to step forward to receive his award was Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, a former President of Nigeria Referees Association and also a former Board Member, who was conferred with Honourable Membership of the NFF. As a result of duties of State, he had to send a representative, in the person of another former Board Member, Mr. Ben Agary.
Deputy Governor Ikuru had presented 'home-boy' Dr. Jaja's award and had taken his seat before the citation was read on Pa Omokhaye. The Deputy Governor simply left his seat and opted to be part of the presentation. An 80-year old, Pa Omokhaye was Secretary General between 1964-1965. The man walked gingerly from his seat, carrying himself well and showing no signs of being an octogenarian.
In his response, Pa Omokhaye urged all modern-day administrators to do their work diligently and with sincerity of purpose, forgoing the gains of today for good name and better rewards tomorrow. He got a standing ovation.
There were long service awards to six (6) members of staff of NFF, continuing the tradition that was started at the 2011 Annual General Assembly in Kaduna by honouring those who had spent 20 years or more in the institution's employ.
The serious business of the day itself went very well, with robust contributions from members and the communiqué hat was issued reflected the strength of the bond within Nigeria football and the common goal that we all have to lift Nigeria football to higher heights.
Let me say here that the vote of confidence that was passed on the leadership of the NFF will only serve to ginger us to better performance in the coming year, and to work very hard to see that our various National Teams bring honour to the country when participating in major championships.