Odegbami, Fuludu, others dribble from pitch to political podium

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Segun Odegbami

The build up to the 2019 general elections is witnessing the highest number of Nigerian ex-players and sports administrators testing their popularities on the political field.A few months ago, the world was stunned with the pitch-to-palace story of George Weah, who after enjoying an illustrious football career, went on to become the president of Liberia.

Though, no ex-footballer or sports manager has declared intention for the Nigeria’s presidency, there seems to be increasing rate in the number of those canvassing for political offices. They are campaigning on different political platforms. The primaries for those campaigning under the All Progressive Congress (APC) holds today across the country, while those in the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will take place on October 3.

From former Green Eagles striker, chief Segun Odegbami, to ex-Super Eagles midfield maestro, Edema Fuludu, chairman of Abia Warriors FC, chief Emeka Inyama, Technical Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Sunday Adeleye, proprietor of J.Atete FC, Julius Atete, former chairman of Bayelsa United FC, Victor Ramson Baribote and the Public Relations Officer of Shooting Stars Sports Club of Ibadan, Jubril Arowolo, the number is on the increase.

Odegbami, fondly called ‘Mathematical Odegbami’, is battling to become the next governor of Ogun State in 2019. After initially signing up for the Labour Party in July shortly after the World Cup final, Odegbami, who is Nigeria’s most prolific right wing in history, changed his allegiance to the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) last Wednesday, a reincarnation of the political party founded 40 years ago by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

“Today, I announce my movement to the party founded by my adopted father, the late sage, thinker, lawyer and ‘best President Nigeria never had’, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo.“Today, I take my leave of the Labour Party and move to the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN. Taking the decision was easy. It just made sense,” Odegbami stated.

A majority of his followers, including former Super Falcons coach, US-based Sam Okpodu, have vowed to do everything humanly possible to see Odegbami’s dream come true. Odegbami won the African Nations Cup with the then Green Eagles in 1980.For Edema Fuludu, the decision to join the race for the Warri South Constituency II, Delta State House of Assembly seat, came after his ‘wide consultation’ with his people.

“I have been nursing this idea since 2003, and my people see me as the most sellable candidate considering my level of education,” Fuludu, a member of the Super Eagles winning team at Tunisia ’94 Nations Cup told The Guardian.

Fuludu, who is the incumbent Vice Chairman of Delta State Football Association, is contesting under the platform of Delta State ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is battling against ten other contestants in the race ahead the state primaries on October 3. Fuludu is enjoying the support of many sports followers in Delta State.

Fuludu came into national limelight with the defunct New Nigeria Bank FC of Benin in the 1986-87 league season.Before then, he had gained admission to study Business Administration in UNIBEN in 1983. Fuludu signed for Union Bank FC of Benin while in school and won the Bendel state league with them. He was the highest goal scorer even as a midfielder.

It was while playing for NNB that he got invited to the Flying Eagles preparatory to Chile ’87 FIFA Youth Championship, but his degree exams disrupted that honour of representing the country in Chile.In 1991, senior national team invitation came after winning the Cup Winners Cup (Mandela Cup) with BCC Lions of Gboko. His first cap was on January 7, 1991 against Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou, in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier to Senegal ‘92.

Emeka Inyama, a veteran journalist, was until now, the executive chairman of Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, Abia Warriors. He had few weeks ago declared interest in politics and equally declared intention to seek for election into the Federal House of Representatives in the 2019 polls. Like Fuludu in Delta State, Inyama is seeking election on the platform of the PDP for the Ikwuano/Umuahia Federal Constituency in Abia State.

The proprietor of giants-killing J. Atete FC, Julius Atete is also in the race for Delta House of Assemble in Warri South-west. His contribution to the well being of the youths through his football club is giving his campaign a major boast in Delta State.In Bayelsa State, the entrance of Victor Baribote into the race for the Sate House of Assembly seat under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC) is said to be giving his political opponents a big headache. Baribote has vowed to use his years of experience in football to actualize his dream.

The AFN Technical Director, Sunday Adeleye is said to be enjoying the support of his people in his bid to become a House of Assembly member in Kogi State in 2019, while the 3SC spokesman, Arowolo, is sure of beating all contenders in his zone into the Oyo State House of Assembly. There were insinuations in some quarters during the week that Ambassador Chris Giwa, who has been battling to become the president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), is also eying a seat in the senate come 2019.