The demise of former Secretary General of the Nigeria Football Federation, Taiwo Ogunjobi, who died at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, on Monday has been attracting tributes.
The Ilesa-born football administrator passed on at the UCH after an undisclosed ailment, aged 65.
Ogunjobi served as Secretary General of the then Nigeria Football Association between 2002 and 2005, and was a member of the NFF Executive Committee between 2006 and 2010.
He was twice an NFF presidential candidate but lost on both occasions to the incumbent Amaju Pinnick.
He was captain of Ibadan side, Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC), when they reached the final of the then Africa Cup of Champions Clubs in 1984.
A family source said Ogunjobi’s health situation deteriorated Sunday before he finally gave up the ghost in the early hours of Monday.
“I am shocked to hear of Chief Ogunjobi’s death. I saw him last year prior to the NFF elections. He came to personally inform me of his intention to contest the NFF presidential elections. He was a seasoned administrator, who contributed immensely to the development of football in Nigeria, especially in his home state, Osun. I commiserate with his immediate family members, the Osun State Football Association, and other football stakeholders who knew or worked with him,” sports minister, Solomon Dalung, said in a statement signed by his media assistant Nneka Anibeze.
NFF president Amaju Pinnick also paid tribute to the former Green Eagles defender.
“I cannot find the words as much as I try. A very big tree has fallen in Nigerian football and we are all devastated. If the NFF had a flag of its own, it would fly at half-mast for several weeks,” Pinnick stated.
“Chief Ogunjobi was one of the strongest pillars of association football in Nigeria and the entire Nigerian football fraternity will miss him badly. The members of the NFF Executive Committee, management and staff of the NFF, members of the Congress, football stakeholders and other workers in football are in shock.”
As for ex Green Eagles’ captain, Segun Odegbami, MON, he sent in a very lengthy tribute.
Read his submission: “I had to cancel all my appointments today following the very sad and shocking news of the passage of my friend of over 46 years – Taiwo Ogunjobi.
“I have been unable to function properly as I recall the early days and years of a fascinating relationship that only became temporarily chilled later in adult life when the political struggle in Nigerian football stretched our friendship without ever been able to destroy it.
“Nothing could have damaged the foundation of a friendship that we built at the point of evolving into adulthood together, getting an education, playing football, having our families, and ageing gracefully in recent years.
“I sought out Taiwo in 1972/73 when he was in Higher School at Ibadan Grammar School. He and several other great players, Christopher Stober, Vincent Eburajolo, Victor Giwa, Chris Okolo and so on, students/footballers under the tutelage of former Governor, Lam Adesina, who was then the school’s game master, were stars of academicals football in that year.
“I went and met them, and convinced 5 of thèm from the school to join me in WNTV/WNBS football club where I was serving out my one-year compulsory Industrial Attachment after OND, and was the young officer (and football player) in charge of the station’s club, to play in that year’s Western State Challenge Cup competition.
“We had a fantastic team of very young players that put up a very exciting performance, but lost in the only match we played at the Olubadan Stadium, against NEPA or Police FC (I believe).
“As a result of that experience, we became friends and started a relationship as well as football careers.
“We were age mates, separated only by months. Yet when the others, including Taiye, played for the Academicals (State and National) I was a senior player for both State and Country.
“He joined Shooting Stars ahead of Kunle Awesu, Muda Lawal and I, even though in the same year in 1974! We formed a formidable partnership in the team.
“My relationship with Taiye, as I always called him, was one designed for a good story book. Only he and I, probably, know some of the details of that special relationship.
“Taiye gave Kunle Awesu, Muda Lawal, Sunday Akande and I (all of us playing for Housing Corporation FC) the confidence we needed to move and to join him in Shooting Stars.
“I became the key facilitator of his move, on a full athletes scholarship to study in the Clemson University in the US. I was very integral to the wife he eventually married, my ‘sister’ Bukola, an angel from heaven in his life; I facilitated his invitation to the national team; and I smoothened his ascendancy to the captaincy of Shooting Stars FC even after he left to study for 4/5 years and returned to rejoin the team and to assume immediate leadership as captain when Samuel Ojebode was retired due to ‘old age’.
“There is a depth to our relationship that is reserved for family only. Indeed, we became a family as we joined our parents and siblings in the relationship.
Easily, Taiye was closest to me through the years of my football career until I retired, and even after.
“Our early years in retirement were about unforgettable escapades and adventures meant for the movies. We would recall them occasionally later after he went into club football administration, and I went into the sports business.
“Nigerian football politics and our quest for positions in it, during another phase of our lives, particularly after his stint as Secretary General of the NFA, created a gulf that we never completely could bridge again since then. Yet, we remained friends, but without the same old, and very strong social bonds.
“In the past two years the elements brought us together more often and we both tried hard to rebuild the bridge.
“Unfortunately, a lot of water had passed under the bridge and things never were the same again, even though we never departed from being friendly to each other.
“Anyone on the outside would think we were still inseparable, and that the original links between us were broken. Between us though, we knew there was a small bridge we spoke about once but never resolved.
“A couple of weeks ago we met at Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s office in Oshogbo and were the envy of all onlookers as we rekindled our old laughter and jokes.
“For the first time in a long while inhibitions were completely shattered and we recalled our happiest moments again.
“He was indeed one of the first people to encourage me and to wish me well on learning of my gubernatorial ambitions in Ogun State.
“We exchanged several SMS messages, and he actually made me speak with Buky his wife on phone from Oshogbo.
“To crown a return to our original family relationship, whilst Wole, my younger brother, was in town a few weeks ago, he spent a whole weekend at Rotimi’ s (Taiwo’s younger brother, Wole’s friend also from secondary school and still green and fresh till now), in Lagos.
“A few days after that, Rotimi and his wife visited me in my home in Lagos ànd made a hefty donation to my political campaign fund, to my pleasant surprise and gratitude. Taiye’s death is a very big and painful blow.
“I can imagine how it will devastate a while army of his friends in the sports fraternity, many of whom he courted and often also empowered through the years.
“His passage is a reminder of our mortality as well as the vanity of the pursuit of materialism and of scoring cheap political points at the expense of genuine friendship and unconditional love.
“We are all ageing and getting slowly and steadily to the gates of our earthly terminus, waiting for our turn to return to our Creator when the bell tolls.
“Taiwo was a great administrator and master of the political game. He served football, Oyo and Ogun States, and the country very well. He will live forever in our hearts. His place in the annals of Nigerian football is also well assured. May the Lord console his wife, his surviving siblings, his children and grandchildren”.
Ex-Eagles coach Adegboye Onigbinde expressed shock over Ogunjobi’s demise.
He said, “I heard the news about Ogunjobi’s death, and it’s so unfortunate. I don’t think I can get over the shock in the next three days. I feel so sad right now because we’ve come a long way together. I was the one who brought him to Shooting Stars. May his soul rest in peace.”
Christian Chukwu, former Green Eagles captain and Eagles’ coach, said the country would miss Ogunjobi’s intellectual contributions to the development of Nigerian football.
The League Management Company described the death of the fallen football administrator as a huge loss to the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Shehu Dikko, the LMC chairman, said, “Chief Ogunjobi is one of the heroes of league football in Nigeria having captained IICC, a traditional club in our league system that stands today as an institution. He also rose to the pinnacle of football administration in the country as Secretary General of the NFF.”
Though Ogunjobi died of an undisclosed ailment, his Personal Assistant, Tunde Shamsudeen, said he had complained of body pains last week, and went to the University College Hospital, Ibadan for a check-up.
He said, “We were together in Ilesa (Osun State) on Thursday for Ijesha Golden Warriors’ 50th anniversary. But on Saturday he called and asked me to represent him at the Osun Sports Writers Association of Nigeria awards night, saying he wasn’t feeling too fine. He then went to UCH for a check-up and I learnt he was admitted on bed rest.
“But I was shocked this (Monday) morning when his driver called to tell me that he had died. He was aged 65 and is survived by a wife and five children, three boys and two girls.”
Packaged by Alice Egbedele with additional reports from punchng.com