Like the tortoise, Lulu and Uchegbulam are embarking on a senseless journey that may end in diligent prosecution
Like Kurumi, the journey of hubris that Lulu and Uchegbulam are about to embark on may not only end in disgrace like the tortoise journey but diligent prosecution
Either by divine intervention or most probably due to lack of diligent prosecution, Sani Lulu and other members of the NFF board who were impeached and tried for various offenses escaped the long arm of the law. Instead of thanking their stars, Lulu and Amanze Uchegbulam have decided to sue the Federal Government, her agencies, and former government officials demanding over N1 billion as damages. Olukayode Thomas reports that the duo might end up dancing naked in public.
The plot of Ola Rotimi’s classic play ‘Kurunmi’ was about Kurumi of Ijaye, the Are-Ona-Kakanfo, whose hubris led to disgrace and death.
The tradition in the Old Oyo Empire was that when a king died, he must be buried with his son. Prior to the death of Atiba Atobatele, the Alaafin of Oyo, in 1859, the tradition was abolished.
So, when Atobatele died, and his son Adelu succeeded him, Kurumi insisted on the status quo and refused to recognize the leadership of Adelu.
Therefore, Alaafin ordered Ibadan to declare war on Kurunmi.
Before the war started, Kurumi was warned that his hubris will end in grace: ‘When the tortoise is going on a senseless journey and you say to the tortoise, Brother tortoise, brother tortoise, when will you be wise and come back home, eehn, the tortoise will say; no, until I've been disgraced, disgraced, not until I’ve been disgraced.’
But Kurumi got more than disgraced, his hubris led to his death and destruction of Ijaye.
Like the tortoise, the journey Lulu and Uchegbulam want to begin in court on Monday, June 19, 2023, may lead to their retrial.
Lulu & Co took impunity from home to South Africa.
Before the pre-South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup scandals, the Lulu-led board has been involved in the Marcopolo bus scandal, the missing $236,000 cash, and others.
Efforts to right the wrongs by supervising body the NSC has always been resisted with the shout of interference in football affairs and the threat of a FIFA ban.
The road to the board exposure of renting a sub-standard hotel for the Super Eagles began the day Fifa decided to train 120 journalists from different parts of the world in the organization and management of the Fifa World Cup with South Africa 2010 as a case study.
This reporter and a lady broadcaster were selected from Nigeria. The other Nigerian on the trip was the South African correspondent of the NAN.
At Sun City, a member of SAFA called me and asked if I am from Nigeria. I told him yes. He told me that when we get to Durban, he will show me something.
He disclosed that when the NFF officials came for inspection, they showed them the best places to camp in Kwa-Zulu-Natal, but that Nigerians choose a roadside motel.
Lulu and co did the unthinkable
On getting to Durban, the SAFA official instructed an official to take us to the motel.
As we drove into Ballito, we all commended the NFF's decision to get a base for the Eagles in such a popular and exclusive place.
But our commendation soon changed into condemnation when our driver pointed at the motel from the highway, "That is Hampshire Hotel."
No, this cannot be the hotel for our Eagles. One, the hotel was still under construction, the security was porous, it was not fenced, and there was no plan to construct one, and it was located by the roadside.
After a guided tour, the General Manager of the hotel, Rodney Bull, still finds it difficult to show us rooms with two separate beds.
All the rooms we inspected had single beds. We insisted on seeing rooms with double beds since players normally stay two in a room.
We were in the hotel for about two hours, and we never saw a room with separate beds.
The swimming pool in the hotel was the size that you find in most residential buildings. "That is the pool we have. The players and the other guests in the hotel will use it."
We looked at each other in amazement. Shared pool with guests?
We got the biggest shock when we got to the gymnasium. Apart from its small size, it lacked the equipment and facilities one finds in a modern gym for average athletes, how much more of those campaigning in the World Cup.
No training pitch.
If the hotel was not good enough, the training pitch Lulu and co wanted Our Boys to use was at Ashton International College, Ballito, a few minutes from the hotel.
The pitch was in terrible shape. Joe Erasmus, who introduced himself as Senior College Head, said the entire community would be delighted to have the Eagles in Ballito.
Erasmus said the school has made history after being chosen by the Eagles. Asked how the Eagles will train on a pitch that was in bad condition then. He replied that he didn't want trouble, so he would rather not comment on that.
On return to Durban, this reporter contacted the Nigeria High Commission in Johannesburg and a diplomat said he was disgusted when he saw the motel. He claimed that NFF members did not contact the High Commission before they settled for the hotel. He said the hotel was insecure, and it does not befit Nigeria.
“Go and look at where other countries are staying and look at where Nigeria is staying; it does not befit us. There is no security, and the gym and the pool are sub-standard. Well, we don't have any problem with NFF, we will get in touch with Rotimi Amaechi.
"The Presidential Task Force will get a befitting hotel for the Eagles. Lulu and NFF members can stay in Hampshire Hotel,'' said the diplomat.
Outrage greeted Lulu and co's indiscretion and Nigeria fined US$125,000.
When NEXT234.com published this reporter’s story, Nigerians condemned NFF's thoughtlessness. The president then, Goodluck Jonathan sent a high-power delegation to South Africa on a fact-finding mission.
Members of the delegation are the Sports Minister then Ibrahim Isah Bio, Director-General of the NSC, Patrick Ekeji, Nigeria's High Commissioner to South Africa, Buba Marwa, a Brigadier-General, and NFF officials.
On arrival in Lagos after the inspection, Bio said that those who booked the hotel may have considered the cheapness of the facility and not the security of the players, adding that the media outcry forced Jonathan to direct him to investigate the veracity or otherwise of the report.
“No country will play with the lives of its players especially after what happened to Togo in Angola. The security of our players is very important to us and we cannot toy with it”.
He said the government was ready to pay anything to ensure the comfort and safety of the team.
When the Federal Government canceled the NFF contract with Hampshire the management demanded $250,000 for breach of agreement Nigeria eventually paid$125,000.
Lulu and Co Luiz Airlines debacle
For Lulu and co, impunity was the norm, so they didn’t learn from the motel saga as they plunge Nigeria into another scandal within weeks.
With $1 million preparation grant from Fifa and almost N1 billion from the Federal Government Bio told Lulu to charter an Arik plane to fly the Eagles to South Africa.
But Lulu and co had other plans; they contacted a London-based football agent to make travel arrangements for the Eagles to South Africa.
The agent hired a little-known airline called Luiz Airlines. Due to one problem or another, the plane could not take off.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian community in South Africa and staff of the High Commission were at the airport waiting to give the Super Eagles a befitting welcome.
When they waited for several hours without announcement of the Eagle’s flight they called the Minister, who called Ekeji.
By the time the duo met, the players had reached them and threatened not to go to the World Cup again unless they get a proper plane.
Bio and Ekeji had to call Amaechi who called the Chairman of Arik. The company flew an empty plane from Port Harcourt to Heathrow; the plane carried the players to Durban and flew empty back to Nigeria.
For these monumental disgraces, insubordination, and other crime against Nigeria and its people, Lulu, Uchegbulam, Taiwo Ogunjobi, and Bolaji Ojo-oba were impeached and arrested by EFCC.
Due to divine intervention or most probably due to lack of diligent prosecution, they evaded justice. But because Lulu and Uchegbulam (Ojo-Oba is not part of the suit while Ogunjobi is now late) want to dance naked they are demanding over N 1 billion from the Federal Government, Bio, and Ekeji.
Like Kurumi, the journey of hubris that Lulu and Uchegbulam are about to embark on may not only end in disgrace like the tortoise journey but diligent prosecution which may land them where they didn’t envisage. A word is enough for the wise.
PULL QUOTE:Bio said that those who booked the hotel may have considered the facility's cheapness and not the players' security, adding that the media outcry forced Jonathan to direct him to investigate the veracity or otherwise of the report.