In this edition, a former lawmaker/practising journalist and two former football administrators who had served Nigeria meritoriously come under focus; ELEOJO IDACHABA writes.
Sani Zorro once represented Gumel, Gagarawa, Maigatari and Sule Tankarkar constituency of Jigawa state in the House of Representatives between 2015 and 2019, in addition to being a national president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). A former assistant editor with the defunct National Concord Newspapers before he joined politics, Zorro still sees journalism as his best bride from where he was nurtured into limelight. He began his career with The Triumph Newspapers owned by Kano state government before he joined Concord.
While in the green chamber, he was mostly the chairman, House Committee on Refugees. This was when the hydra-headed problem of internally displaced persons was becoming a national embarrassment in the country. That was when he sponsored The National Commission for Internally Displaced Persons, Refugees and Migrants Bill in 2016.
It is believed that his contribution with regards to the issue of IDPs led the government to recognise the plight of internally displaced persons and the ultimate creation of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs by President Muhammad Buhari. Before then, he was also the House ad-hoc chairman on media and publicity. In what many referred to as no-holds-barred reaction to the alleged incompetence and high-handedness of Governor Abubakar Badaru, his home state of Jigawa, he once accused the governor of not towing the path of people-oriented government, but instead favoured foreigners like the Chinese against the indigenes.
According to him, “Badaru gave out over 20,000 hectares of lands to a Chinese company without compensation commensurate to the value of the lands and when people complained or rejected the stipend called compensation, he jailed them.”
He once noted that the worsening security situation in Zamfara started as a result of negligence by the then administration in that state; therefore called for urgent action from the Jigawa state government before the bandits took over the state.
“This was how Zamfara governor neglected his primary responsibility for the Governors’ Forum in Abuja. He spent more time in Abuja than he did in Zamfara while bandits took over the state. Now, it has gone out of control and we don’t want Jigawa to get to that level. Governor Badaru spends more time outside Jigawa and ignores bandits’ attacks in some villages. We want him to resign now before it is too late,” Zorro said.
After his failed bid to return to the House in 2019, many thought he had regrets, but he said, “There was no regret. Actually, I didn’t want to go back because I discovered that the environment is irreconcilable with my ideals. I didn’t know that it was that harsh. If I must be frank with you, what is described as the ‘constituency pressure’ is something I cannot continue with. A situation whereby every day, if you are able to handle 1,000 calls, you would receive 1,000 calls before dusk and 99 per cent of those calls are to ask you to fund the wedding function of a supporter, buy a motorbike for someone, pay for the naming ceremony of someone or to repair his collapsed house, buying roofing sheets or desiring a son to be sponsored to a school in Sudan or Uganda – things that are purely personal. Now, I don’t like telling lies and I have experimented with all sorts of responses, including sharing money from my pocket and so on to help out.
“I believe in being charitable; even before I became a member, I had a foundation which focuses on education and so on, but when the demands are that overwhelming, it becomes very difficult because when you keep promising people that you would do and you don’t do it, they would hold on to that. Now, most of the people also believe that you are to subsidise their living which to me is not a progressive policy.”
Since this comrade left the green chamber, not much has been heard about him again.
Aminu Maigari was the 38th former chairman of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) between 2010 and 2014 before he and the entire board membership were said to have been removed from office. This Bauchi state-born football administrator had served as the chairman of the Bauchi state FA and also headed the Bauchi sub-seat for the 2009 FIfA U-17 World Cup which was hosted by Nigeria with the Golden Eaglets finishing runners-up after losing to Switzerland in the final in Abuja.
Under his leadership as the boss of the football body in the country, Nigeria was suspended by the global football body, FIFA, for what the global football body called unnecessary government meddling in the affairs of NFF. This is because a court was said to have sacked the entire board membership and replaced it with an interim arrangement that has no idea about sports, contrary to FIFA rules. Since his controversial removal from office and other purported reports of his resignation from office, not much has been heard about this man who had given himself into the service of his fatherland through sports.
Mike Okeke Umeh was the vice-president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) with Aminu Maigari as president. He was also the team manager of Rangers International Football Club Enugu as well as that of the Green Eagles (as the national team was called then). He later decided to run for NFF president, but lost to Chris Giwa. Speaking on why he decided to throw his hat in the ring, he said, “I’ve been part of the NFF executive board in the last four years which was headed by Alhaji Aminu Maigari as president.
“We are all living witnesses to the achievements of the board irrespective of whatever anybody may say against it. I was not only part and parcel of it but contributed my quota to whatever successes the board recorded.
“So, this time around, it’s my humble desire to take up the mantle of leadership in order to continue from where we stopped under Maigari.”
Umeh, at a point in his life had problems with the Sokoto state government, a development that led to his alleged illegal arrest and detention in Sokoto. He, however, defeated his traducers right from the lower court to the apex court as the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onoghen, in a judgment absolved him of all the allegations.
Commenting on his ordeal in the hands of security operatives, Umeh said, “The trauma cannot be described. It is the biggest trauma in my life. I had never been to the police station in my life before. A detachment of the EFCC, about 10 of them in the early hours of the day, invaded my house in Victoria Island. “When I peeped through my window, I saw them taking positions around my swimming pool side and surrounded my premises. It looked as if I was dreaming. “My mind slipped off.
When they came, there was no resistance from my gate men. All of a sudden, I saw about four of them, four plain-cloth policemen coming toward my bedroom. But I managed to lock my door before they got there and they kept banging on my door. I was wondering if they were thieves, robbers. I was evidently frightened. But when I peeped through the window and saw some uniformed policemen and their police van parked, I became calm and felt strong because I can’t be afraid as I had done nothing wrong.”
For quite a while now, this renowned sports administrator has been quiet.