Once upon a time they were newsmakers, but where are these individuals who once made headlines back then? This is the question ELEOJO IDACHABA asks in this piece.
Wilson Oruma, an Nigerian professional footballer, was born in Warri, Delta state. His footballing career started at Bendel Insurance in 1994; thereafter, he went to Lens and played seven matches during their 1997–98 Ligue 1 title campaign. After representing Nigeria at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, he moved to play for a Turkish club, but returned to France one year later. In 2000, he moved over to Swiss and played for two seasons before coming back to France again and continued until 2009. Here, he played for Sochaux, Marseille and Guingamp, winning the 2003–04 Coupe de la Ligue with Sochaux and the 2008–09 Coupe de France with Guingamp. He was handed a trial by Cardiff City, a club based in Wales but who play in the English football league system – in the summer of 2008. Here, he scored in a 2–2 pre-season friendly at Chasetown, unfortunately, he was not awarded a contract due to what they called his lack of fitness.
Oruma was, however, as captain, part of Nigeria’s under-17 team that won the 1993 FIFA U-17 World Championship where he scored the highest number of goals and became the tournament’s top scorer. All through his career, he played 19 international matches while representing Nigeria. In 1998, he participated in the FIFA World Cup where he scored in the only appearance he made in the tournament against Paraguay. He also was part of the squad that won the Olympic gold medal in 1996 and also a member of the squad at the 2002 and 2006 Africa Cup of Nations, finishing both competitions at third place. Despite these impressive outings in his football career, he suffered a major psychological disorder in 2018 as a result of how he was reportedly duped by an unknown pastor over a shady oil-related deal. As a result of this, his financial fortunes nosedived resulting in an alleged mental disorder. It was learnt that he lost a whopping sum of N2 billion in that failed deal.
In order to rehabilitate him, former fellow Super Eagles stars like Augustine Eguavoen, Taribo West and Nwankwo Kanu came together to take part in a charity football match in Lagos to raise funds for him. The development was made known by Waidi Akanni, the chairman of Lagos State Football Association.
Waidi said, “Aside from playing the charity match to help Oruma, we are also intending to use the medium to share our experiences with the current players on how well to manage their finances and prepare well for life after football.”
In a related development, Austin Popo, the general secretary of National Association of Nigerians Professional Footballers hinted then that steps were being taken to quicken Oruma’s rehabilitation.
“We have had a series of close door meetings to see how we can address the issue. I talked with Sam Sodje, who confirmed to me that he had made a call to the chairman of Delta State Sports Commission. I also had a discussion with Clement Temile and Joshua Khator. Apart from being members of the players union, they are also ex-internationals from Delta state, the same state of Wilson, it is sad. We hope to coordinate all relevant stakeholders to give their support in bringing him back to normalcy.”
Since then, it’s clear where the great Wilson Oruma is now.
Mohammed Magoro is a retired General in the Nigerian Army who was twice a minister under Generals Obasanjo and Buhari’s military regimes, having joined the military in 1963. A member of the Zuru ethnic minority, he is a graduate of Bida Provincial School where he was a classmate to the late Mamman Vatsa and Ibrahim Babangida. After his retirement from the military in 1995, he went into private service and thereafter became the chairman of Ocean and Oil Services Ltd, a petroleum marketing company created through the privatisation of Unipetrol Nigeria Plc in which Ocean and Oil Services bought a major share.
In November 2001, Magoro was an influential member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In the run up to the April 2007 elections for Kebbi state governorship position, he was at first declared the candidate of the party under PDP, but was later replaced by Alhaji Saidu Dakingari. In the April 2011 elections he was elected senator to represent Kebbi-south constituency. That was his last major public office so far. Under him as internal affairs minister, Nigeria witnessed a mass exodus of foreign nationals like those from Ghana (in the popular phrase Ghana Must Go), Sierra Leone and Benin Republics. A popular magazine put the scene in 1985 thus: “The refugees began to mass at the crossing posts along Nigeria’s western border with Benin. Their mattresses, chairs, plastic containers and enamel cooking pots spilled out of trailers, trucks and minibuses. Many of those who made it across the border had first to surrender any supplies of sugar, milk and detergents officially described as ‘essential commodities’ to Nigerian immigration and customs officials. No one was permitted to leave with more than $22 worth of the Naira. The scenes at posts along Nigeria’s borders with Niger and Chad were much the same as streams of anxious refugees were forced to return to their countries against their will.”
Since he left the Senate in 2015, not much has been heard of him again.
Okechukwu Uche, another professional footballer, started his career in 1988 while playing for the now defunct Flash Flamingoes and Iwuanyanwu Nationale. In his quest for greener pasture owing to the opened space in football career, in July 1990, he travelled overseas to join a Danish club, Brøndby IF, alongside teammate, Friday Elahor. While there, he helped the team to win the 1990 and 1991 Danish championships and was one of the mainstays of the squad that reached the semifinals of the 1990–91 UEFA Cup. Consequently, he was named the 1992’s Brøndby IF Player of the Year. After appearing in the 1992 African Cup of Nations, where Nigeria reached the semi-finals, he was linked to a Turkish club by the name Fenerbahçe SK for half a year until he was bought in a DKK8 million transfer deal in November 1993. There, he formed a defensive duo with former Brøndby teammate Jes Høgh, helping the club to its first Süper Lig championship in 1996.
Okechukwu made his debut for the Nigeria national team at the 1990 African Cup of Nations tournament in a 1–5 loss against Algeria in their opening game. As part of his foreign football engagement, he played four seasons with Fenerbahçe, repeating league accolades in 2000–01. After nearly 250 official games, he moved to fellow league team İstanbulspor AS, returning in 2007 to Nigeria first with Ocean Boys F.C. then with Bayelsa United FC in July 2008, and retiring shortly after at the age of 41. Reflecting on his life in an interview years back, he said, “I have been living my life quietly. You know, I do manage players in Turkey, I come to Nigeria too. So, I try to do necessary things; now I am trying to set up an Academy in Aba with some former Super Eagles players like Emeka Ifejiaka. So, I am just a normal regular person, trying to live normal.”
On a viral report that he had turned a hunter, he said, “I have seen it, but there are some things you don’t even comment on. Maybe, they saw it for the first time and it became news for them, but for me, it is a hobby that I have enjoyed from when I was little; whenever I am free I do it, even in Europe. So, when I saw it, I just laughed because there was nothing to say about it.”
It’s not clear where he is presently and/or what he is doing.