By Emeka Obasi
Ejike Ekwueme abandoned active soccer to pursue a career in Law. He played the game to the highest level in the Nigerian league before relocating to the United Kingdom. I put him to task recently on what the Eagles manager must do to excel.
Jose Peseiro sounds like the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC). Ekwueme holds a PhD in Law from the University of London so I sent the gaffer to Ekwueme Chambers for code of conduct lectures.
“If you want to succeed as Super Eagles manager, you need to iron out many issues. Look deeply into the local league, you will find some talented footballers, blend them with the established footballers,” Ekwueme began.
“There’s need for synergy ( may be difficult due to corruption) with the officials, to make sure no player is owed a dime. You must invite players on merit, ” Ekwueme continued.
The tutorials became more interesting when the lawyer said : ” You must exercise a positive man – management style to bring out the best from the players.
“Then lay emphasis on psychology of the players to make them realise that they put their best for the country. This needs to be achieved with the support of the NFF by appointing the relevant Sports Psychologist.”
I was thrilled. Peseiro must listen to Ekwueme. He knows so much about the game. As a student, he captained the Dennis Memorial Grammar School ( DMGS) Onitsha Junior team between 1975 and 1976. One of his team mates was Chuka ‘Mehala’ Iwobi, father of Alex Iwobi.
The DMGS seniors were East Central State Schools champions in 1975 and again in 1976. That was the team of Nnamdi ‘Policeman’ Anyafo, Nwachukwu ‘ Igaliga’ Onyekwelu, Vincent ‘Macbeth’ Chika, Mike ‘Ochiwar’ Ochiagha, Clement Umeadi ‘Arugo Style’ Nwuba and Vincent Moneke.
Ekwueme remembers one incident when he was disqualified from the State Junior finals against Nike Grammar School, Enugu. Iwobi was luckier.
“Francis ‘Iron Gate’ Obi Okoye was the Enugu Zonal coach. I was in the same DMGS team with Iwobi. Obi Okoye disqualified me and indicated I was ‘slightly taller’. DMGS fans were very bitter. We lost on penalties,” Ekwueme told me from his United Kingdom base.
The DMGS seniors team made up for that loss. They defeated College of Immaculate Conception ( CIC ) Enugu 3-1. The Coal City school had stars like Ifeanyi ‘Ahidjo’ Onyedika and Donald ‘Stone’ Igwebuike.
Ekwueme and Obi Okoye were United later at Morning Star, Onitsha. Emeka Onyedika was there before Iron Gate. That was between 1979 and 1981. Other team mates were Sylvanus ‘Hafia’ Okpala, Sam Chujie Igwenagu, Ndu Isima and Felix Chukwuma.
When Ekwume gained admission into the University of Calabar in 1981, he confided in Obi Okoye. ” I told him that Rangers wanted me and I passed JAMB. Quietly, he advised me to forget Rangers and go to Unical, first.
That same year, Enugu Black Rocks pounded Lagos 3-0 to win the Ramat Cup, organised by the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria ( YSFON ). Members of the cup winning team included Ekwueme, Charles ‘ Hurricane’ Okonkwo, Kingsley ‘Mature’ Onye, Benedict ‘Surugede’ Ugwu, Ikechukwu Ofoje, Christian Obi, Ben Okaro and Joe Oha.
Lagos comprised Paul Okoku, Tajudeen Disu, Chris Anigala, Raymond King, Alphonsus Akahon and the the Olukanni Brothers, Segun and Femi.
Ekwueme and Enugu Black Rocks represented Nigeria in an international tournament in Cardiff, Wales. They returned as champions. He joined the YSFON team to the Dallas Cup, United States and came back with a bronze medal.
Education came first. He chose University of Calabar ahead of Enugu Rangers. Ekwueme played for Calabar Rovers under Brazilian coach, Paolo Campos. They fell out because he was missing games and concentrating on studies.
He was one of the foundation players of Acada United. Others were Celestine ‘ Prof’ Nzekwe,Sylvanus ‘Abacha’ Udobong, Chinedu Ohagwu, Umoh Bassey, Tony Essien, and Louis Udom. Ekwueme also played for Jetimo of Uyo.
In the beginning, the full back was into Athletics. “Infact, in Onitsha, as a junior, Herbert Akpom who later represented Nigeria, was my sporting mate. I was part of the DMGS Athletics team that represented Onitsha Zone at the 1975 East Central State Sports Festival.
“I won two silver medals, one in the Junior Relay and another in Long Jump. I did other sports and was versatile before concentrating on football.”
He remembered other DMGS athletes like Charles Modebe, Charles Aniadu, Malachi Akaya and Onyejekwe. We both agreed that Emmanuel Ifeajuna remains the best produced by Dengram.
Ekwueme is from Oko, in Anambra State. The family loves degrees. His father graduated from the University of Washington in 1958 as a pharmacist. His uncle, Dr. Alex Ekwueme had chains of degrees in Architecture and Law and became Vice President of Nigeria in 1979.
Ejike Ekwueme holds a Bachelors degree in History from the University of Calabar, two Masters in Law from the Metropolitan University London and University of London. He capped it all with a PhD.
With this qualification, I think I should ask Ekwueme to draft a sack letter for Peseiro, should Eagles lose a match, home or away in the next eight months.