SPORTS FLAKES: ANOTHER TAIWO OGUNJOBI DEPARTS

SPORTS FLAKES: ANOTHER TAIWO OGUNJOBI DEPARTS

Theirs is a family of twins and national athletes. Siblings, Taiwo and Taiwo Ogunjobi, represented Nigeria in Athletics and Soccer respectively. Some do not understand how you have children born of same father bearing same name. It is not strange among the Yoruba especially when there is abundance of twins.

Taiwo Ogunjobi, the athlete, was national 400 metres Hurdles champion. He later joined the Army and died in the 1992 C-130 Hercules air crash. Taiwo Ogunjobi, the footballer, passed on February 11, 2019, at the University College Hospital[UCH] Ibadan after a brief illness.

Both began as sportsmen and never left until death came. Major Taiwo Ogunjobi became champion in 1977 finishing in 52.5 seconds. The 1970s, of course, belonged to Gladstone Agbamu, who was champion in1974 and again in 1975. Agbamu was the first to defend the 400 metres title successfully.

Ogunjobi could not win back to back and even Nathan Obijiofor [Obijay] who stunned everyone to win in 1979 failed to retain the title. Obijiofor was goalkeeper of Government College, Owerri. Then came Henry Amike in 1981. He did not win again until 1985, and 1986.

But the men also attracted girls to the 400 metres hurdles. The women were only allowed to do the 100 metres hurdles where Modupe Oshikoya was both national and continental queen. The Belgam sisters, Belca and Julio, rubbed shoulders with Felicia Ochonogor.

Thus in 1979, Joan Elumelu, became the first Nigerian400 metres Hurdles champion. In 1981, she confirmed her beauty when she came out second best in the Miss Nigeria Pageant. Elumelu had won the Kaduna zonal contest to qualify for the finals in Lagos.

At that time, Ogunjobi had joined the military and was posted to the Nigeria Army Physical Training Corp [NAPTC]. At the time of his death in 1992, he was Head of International Military Sports Commission [CISM] in the country and wore the Eagle on his shoulders.

He thus belonged to the ranks of Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Nigeria’s first Commonwealth Games gold medalist and Major Jaiye Abidoye, 800 metres champion as great sportsmen produced by the Nigeria Army.

Two other officers of the NAPTC also died in that crash. Major Charles Njama was Sole Administrator, Anambra State Sports Council. There was also Major G. O. Oyefi who played a major role in the Ilorin ’85 National Sports Festival. Another victim, Major S. Abubakar, played basketball.

Taiwo Ogunjobi, joined Shooting Stars, Ibadan in 1974. He was with Segun Odegbami at WNBS/WNTV. While Odegbami lured him to WNBS/WNTV, Ogunjobi dragged the trio of Odegbami, Kunle Awesu and Muda Lawal from Housing Corporation. All four were also invited to the Green Eagles camp.

Ogunjobi left for Clemson University in the United States where he met other talented Nigerian players like Obed Ariri, from Vasco Da Gama Enugu, the Insurance quartet of Ben Popoola, Damian Ogunsuyi, Segun Adewale, Emmanuel Egede and the Rangers duo of Godwin Ogbueze and Damian Odoh. Another Flying Antelope, Donald Igwebuike, joined them much later.

When he returned, Ogunjobi was made captain of Shooting Stars and led the team to a CAF Champions League finals disaster in 1984. The Oluyole Warriors were silenced home and away by Zamalek. In the Lagos return leg, Ogbein Fawole beat keeper Raymond King to give the Egyptians a comfortable 3-0 aggregate result.

The team under coach Adegboye Onigbinde was disbanded by Oyo State governor, Oladayo Popoola. It affected Felix Owolabi, who did not even play in the second leg following expulsion in Cairo. That also turned out to be Odegbami’s last game for Shooting Stars.

Ogunjobi returned to glory in 1992. As team Manager, Shooting Stars lifted the first CAF Cup, donated by Chief Moshood Abiola. That achievement opened more doors. He also served in that capacity at Gabros Football Club, Nnewi. Success continued to flow until he assumed office as Secretary General of the Nigeria Football Association in 2002.

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Before Shooting Stars flew to Kampala to face Nakivubo Villa of Uganda in the second leg of the CAF Cup finals, one popular ‘soccer prophet’, Ephraim Akuwogu, told me he feared a plane crash involving the team. I could not write that in the papers because the military crash of September 26, 1992 was still fresh in everyone’s memory. How could another Taiwo Ogunjobi die in another air disaster?

When the team returned with the cup, I broke the news to Ogunjobi. The prophecy shattered him. ” If you had told me before the trip, I would have stayed back,” he told me.

As the Secretary General of the NFF, Enyimba won the CAF Champions’ League, the first time a Nigerian team would win. I was with Ogunjobi as Enyimba lifted the trophy in Ismailia. He was a very happy man. The almost 40 years jinx had been broken at last. That was a huge consolation for the 1984 loss to an Egyptian club.

Nigeria had lost in four previous finals. Rangers, in 1975 to Hafia, Guinea, Shooting twice, 1984, 1996, to the same Zamalek and Iwuanyanwu, 1988, to Entente Setif, Algeria. In all defeats, only the Ibadan team could score a goal at away, in the 2-1 loss to the North Africans in1996.

Enyimba retained the trophy in 2004. Ogunjobi left office in 2005 and till date, no Nigerian club has won a continental football laurel. Heartland came close in 2009 but lost in yet another finals, to TP Mazembe of Congo Democratic Republic.

Ogunjobi returned to the Glass House as a member of the Executive Committee and tried in vain to become President of the Football Federation. He died as Chairman of the Osun State Football Association and is survived by his wife, Bukola and five children.

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