I still had one more day to spend in Uyo even though the Super Eagles had played their game yesterday. This was because I had to watch the Nigeria Professional League game between Akwa United and Abia Warriors.
I had just been re-appointed by the League Management Company, LMC as a match delegate and this would be my first game.
I would have naturally wanted to stay indoors and rest until it was time to go to the stadium, but I had booked interviews with the Super Eagles media officer, Toyin Ibitoye about a week ago to have private chats with one or two of the players.
I had told Ibitoye that I would love to speak with Joe Aribo and Victor Osimhen privately. I still believe and it will take a beating for me to change my mind on what I think about these two boys. I believe they are the future of the Super Eagles, plus Wilfred Ndidi.
When I spoke with the Media Officer, he assured me that I will get both players. He however advised that I had to be patient since it was a short window, it would be best to have the interview on Thursday morning after the game. His belief was that the players would be more relaxed since the team would not travel until Friday and between arrival for the game on Monday and match day on Wednesday, they may not want to speak.
It made good sense and Toyin was my friend. If he was not able to arrange interviews for me with the players, then… Okay, I am about to digress and I really do not want to do that.
So here I was ready to go back to Le Meridien hotel. I had chatted up Ibitoye at about midnight on Wednesday and I saw his response as soon as I woke up in the morning saying I should come over at 12.30 pm so I readied myself to go.
Breakfast at the hotel was quick and we were off.
I had chatted with another journalist at the same hotel on my visit to the Super Eagles camp and was told that seeing Joe Aribo would be impossible because she had tried to speak with him but he turned here down. According o her, he had strict orders from his agent not to speak to the media. I did not understand were this was coming from but I was going to respect his decision.
I would still go to the hotel to meet Toyin and is he still refuses to speak it will be well and good.
Okoye seems like a media friendly person
At the hotel, I met Jacob Ajom and he had also been given a 12.30 pm appointment too as he had booked interviews with Toyin Ibitoye too.
I waited to see Toyin who did not respond to his messages, though I did not bother to call.
Jacob Ajom told me he had even tried to call Ibitoye and there was no response. I did not like sitting at the lobby of a hotel. It was faffing around and I would rather not be there. There were lots of miscreants around looking for Super Eagles players to probably seek favours from and the players were avoiding the lobby like a flea infested dog pound.
Sitting around the lobby made me seem like one of them and I did not like it.
I told Ajom that I would leave at a quarter to two if I did not see Toyin and then head to the stadium for the Akwa United game. He was also going to the stadium so we agreed to leave together.
Suddenly, Maduka Okoye stepped out. He owed me an interview from two months ago but it seemed he had a session with Victor Modo and I did not want to barge in. That was not my style.
I let them do their thing for about twenty minutes then I went to join them. I asked a few questions on my mind when I saw Modo was done and this session was over for me.
I noticed that Okoye loved the media. Either that or he was a very friendly person. Outgoing, sanguine, call it what you will. Was he schooled on this or was this just him. He attended to every one that came to him and was always smiling. He did the interviews like a natural and I see him as being a big hit in Nigeria in future.
On our way back to the lobby, I saw two young girls standing, watching him and fiddling with their phones. I thought I knew what they wanted but they seemed too shy to go for it.
I went, “Maduka!” he turned around to me. “You see those two ladies? They want selfies with you.”
He went, “Oh Cool!” and walked towards them.
The way the ladies generated this ‘mile long’ grin on their lips, turned and waved at me, then in unison shouted, “Thank You!” made me pat myself on the back and say I had done another good deed for a day. You could see the relief on their faces that I had helped them do what they were not bold enough to.
I was back to the lobby to tell Ajom that I had to leave when he pointed out Ibitoye was around the corner.
I went to ask Toyin why the interviews may not hold because of issues with the agents of the players and he explained he had to make bookings early with names of the interviewees. So, the person that was turned down probably just turned up with an interview request. He reassured me that I should have no fears because I made my booking early enough and both Aribo and Osimhen were expecting me. I loved the organization. You always want things done in an orderly manner.
That was good news.
Kingsley Oyero had an interview booked with Semi Ajayi. I just stood by and watched them. It wasn’t my interview so I just did my thing while I waited.
Victor Osimhen shouted from a distance if we were ready and we weren’t, obviously and he gestured to Ibitoye to call his number when we were.
Aribo was busy somehow, but the Samuel Chukwueze turned up.
As soon as we were through with the Villareal boy, Toyin told me Joe Aribo was ready so I went inside the bedroom and after asking the serious questions I need to know if he had tried any Nigerian delicacy and he mentioned jollof rice.
I had to do this. I made him say Nigerian jollof rice was the best, even though he had not eaten any other country’s jollof rice. And he said it, “Nigerian jollof rice is the best”
I had a chance to have one on ones with Victor Osimhen (I like this boy), Joe Aribo (who loves Nigerian jollof rice) and Samuel Chukwueze. I believed I was done for the day.
Just before I left, I walked up to Toyin Ibitoye, shook his hand and said, “In twenty five years of knowing you, this is the first time you have delivered,” then both he and Ayo Ibidapo laughed because of course they knew I was kidding and was truly appreciative of what Toyin did on the day. National team Media Officer should do this often. And this is thanks to the likes of Jane Nweze and Andrew Randa who always do a good job too.
Akwa United it had to be for me
It was time to dash to the stadium for Match Delegate duties and we were running late. Victor Modo assured us that he would drop us off at the stadium. He was actually going to watch the game, so we waited for him to finish editing his videos and off we went.
At the Stadium, I tried to enjoy the game but it was almost impossible. Both teams did not play anything that in anyway resembled football. I just saw twenty-two players embarrassing themselves. It was painful and difficult to watch.
Abia Warriors were the team that could have even won the game if they wanted to, but didn’t have the heart to go all out and grab the game by the scruff of its neck.
It was time to grab some shuteye but it was not going to happen. Ekikere Udofia came calling and my SEO manager for NigerianFootballer.com, Samuel Maurice visited too.
I always love to sit with the younger journalists so it was a good time chatting with them and advising them on how to get better in their careers. As a young man growing up, I learned a lot sitting with the likes of Mazi Njoku and Emeka Enyadike. I still learn a lot sitting with the likes of Mitchel Obi and Nduka Irabor so I always love to give back when these younger ones come around me.
We had dinner at my apartment and then they left.
On Friday, I do what I haven’t done in 4 years. It is about time too.