I have been off for some time for various reasons and I believe this is a good time to return with my thoughts.
Unfortunately my return will be marked on a very sober note. And I couldn’t but use this medium to register my heartfelt tribute to someone who made an indelible mark in the starting stages of my career in football and who remained a massive influence on me till this day.
I want to pay tribute and register my sorrow at the demise of Taiwo Ogunjobi - known to me simply as ‘Brother Taiye’.
Ogunjobi was a lot of things to many people. He died on Monday 11 February and given the amount of eulogies and comments that greeted his death, it goes to show how much he meant to many people and how his death was received all over.
Ogunjobi was one of the, if not the very most successful legend in the history of one of the biggest football clubs in Nigerian history - first known as IICC Shooting Stars and later Shooting Stars Sports Club in Ibadan. This was the club that cut my teeth in football.
I followed the club. I played some youth football for the club. I support the team till this day.
Ogunjobi was a pivotal part of the playing crew of IICC that went on to win Nigeria’s first continental glory in 1976. But in the year that they made this triumph in the African Cup of Cup winners, he left Nigeria to study in America. Hence while he was instrumental to building the foundations of the 1976 squad, he was not part of the squad that won the accolade.
However upon his return to Nigeria he quickly reintegrated himself into the club and wasn’t long before he became captain of the team for years.
Under his leadership, I remember shedding my first tears over a football game. This was in 1984 when he captained IICC to the final of the African Cup of Club Champions (now renamed the CAF Champions League). I remember dragging my parents all the way to Lagos because I wanted to see history made by a Nigerian team - my own IICC winning in Africa. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. And I never made him forget what he put my parents and I through with that loss to Zamalek of Egypt on home turf!
He was a defensive stalwart and he quickly recovered from it and moved on to better things.
Bro Taiye became Sole Administrator of Shooting Stars in the mid 1990s, supposedly on a temporary basis while the politicians sorted out their differences over who should be on the board of the team. But he was so successful that they kept him as Sole Administrator for longer than planned.
And that was when he cut my teeth in football. I was a graduate Estate Surveyor who came up with an idea to run a weekly television program on my beloved club. My show was called Shooting Stars This Week and was aired on local television in Nigeria and it was through his encouragement and support in the face of political pressure that I managed to anchor this show for a year before I had to leave for England.
Again in 1995, Bro Taiye supervised and managed the team to winning the double - League and FA Cup - something I was a part of.
In 1996 I had to make my move to the UK. And i remember till this day how he encouraged me and supported me to move.
As I was leaving Nigeria, he told me of the kid brother he had who was based in London and told me to look for him when I got here - Rotimi Ogunjobi. That started the association with Rotimi which I don’t think I can call a friendship anymore. We are brothers - joined together by our mutual love and respect for the man who brought us together - Bro Taiye.
Obviously in progressing myself in the sports and media industry in England I had to rely on my little experience of Shooting Stars to be able to get into places that led me to BBC and the rest of my history.
That same year - 1996 - Shooting Stars got to the final of the CAF Champions League and was playing.....same Zamalek of Egypt. They registered a slim 2-1 advantage in the home leg in Ibadan and came to Cairo to defend it.
Despite just having arrived in England and still finding my feet, I made the effort to travel to Cairo to support my big brother and see if we can avenge 1984 on Zamalek and beat them this time.
Pivotal was my decision, as I was preparing for the trip, to go to a shop and I bought two identical polo shirts - cheap ones but only what I could afford at the time. They cost £3.99. But they were blue. And I took the shirts with me. And gave one to Bro Taiye saying I wanted him to wear it on the day of the final in Cairo.
Faced with ceremonial gear, the need to be formal and composed, he defied all and wore my cheap polo on the day because I asked him to! I would never forget that day. Raw, genuine love and commitment from someone is rare to find in this day and age.
Needless to say, we lost that game on penalties. But my pride at what my Egbon had achieved was not lost.
Ogunjobi went on to be many things. He became General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation in 2002 and supervised Nigeria in their sojourn to Japan for the 2002 World Cup.
I make bold to say that my very first experience in a FIFA World Cup VIP box was provided by Bro Taiye, who gave me the VIP ticket for the third group game of Nigeria - against England - and the privilege of sitting next to legendary movie star of James Bond fame - the now departed Sir Roger Moore.
He was also in charge of the federation when Nigeria went to Tunisia and finished 3rd in the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.
I recall being on the production crew of BBC that year - hiring a car simply because as BBC was based in Tunis, so I could make the hour and a half journey almost daily to the Nigerian camp in Monastir, just to spend time with him.
On match days, he will make sure that my tiny hired car was in the official convoy of the Super Eagles to the stadium and he will make sure he travelled to the stadium in my tiny car, despite the fact that he had his officially designated CAF car.
When he re-emerged as NFF board member and chairman of the Technical Committee in 2006, it was no more than he deserved. And we maintained our strong brotherhood all the way through.
He treated me like his own kid brother. And even when there was a lull in communication, whenever we reconnect, it was always like we never parted.
Everywhere I turn to, people always had good words about him. And this gives me a sense of pride.
As a person till this day, I make some jocular statements, expressions and thoughts which I picked up directly from him.
All in all, I think football has missed a gem, someone who touched lives, someone who made an impression wherever he went despite his rather disinterested and aloof facial expressions.
And I, alongside his beautiful wife Bukola, his lovely children and my very own brother and friend Rotimi, have lost someone whose vacuum in our hearts will be impossible to fill.
A soft prayer from all who reads this, for the repose of the soul of the departed.
By Ayotunde Adelakun