“I believe in the power of desire backed by faith, because I have seen this power lift men from lowly beginnings to places of power and wealth; I have seen it rob the grave of its victims; I have seen it serve as the medium by which men staged a come-back after having been defeated in a hundred different ways.”
– Napolen Hill in his book, Think and Grow Rich.
In the ‘Naija’ business and political arenas, one man who symbolizes “the power of desire backed by faith” is Orji Uzor Kalu. So, Napoleon Hill has “seen this power lift men from lowly beginnings to places of power and wealth”?
Listen, Hill; you haven’t seen anything yet until you waltz to Nigeria and behold the miracles which indescribable power and faith have wrought in the lives of some living legends such as Orji Kalu, Sunny Obazu–Ojeagbase, and Jimoh Ibrahim. Such was their lowly beginning that few, if anybody, gave the Kalus, Ibrahims and Ojeagbases any chance when they started struggling for success. Propelled by power and faith, however, they soldiered on gallantly until they reached places of power and wealth.
In Kalu’s case, a litmus case of sort came to the fore some twelve years ago when “the power of desire backed by faith” was extended to the football arena. An ardent football fan, Kalu had for long wondered why a big nation like Nigeria – the giant of Africa for that matter – was finding it too Herculean to win the African Champions’ Cup. Here was a nation whose national teams and clubs had won all the prizes at stake on the continent at one time or the other – except the ultimate club diadem, of course. The like of Stationery Stores of Lagos, IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan, Abiola Babes of Abeokuta and Leventis United of Ibadan had come tantalizingly close to winning the elusive competition on several occasions, only to eventually kiss the dust.
Amidst this despair, out came a certain Orji Uzor Kalu with a bold statement. A firm believer in the principle that “whatever the heart and head truly desire the hand can attain”, the then Governor of Abia State boldly declared that the time had come for Nigeria to clinch the prized but elusive Champions’ Cup. That what had appeared impossible can be made possible. And that his pet club, Enyimba of Aba, can actualize this dream. The reaction was predictable: amusement, guffaw, disbelief, and derision. The conventional “wisdom” was that Kalu couldn’t be serious. “How on earth could anyone dare declare that a team like Enyimba can conjure a feat that legendary Nigerian outfits like IICC, Abiola Babes, and Stationery Stores had failed to?” they wondered.
What these impossibility-thinkers failed to reckon with was that Kalu is a living example of the quintessential grass-to-grace story. Having defied intimidating odds on the route to success in business and politics, he saw no reason why he could not replicate such successes in the football firmament. The rest, to borrow an old cliché, is history. Not only did Enyimba defy all odds to reach the final of the African Champions League that memorable year, it went ahead to win the prestigious cup in a miracle – like manner. And as if that wasn’t astounding enough, the same Enyimba went on to win the Cup again the following year! The impossible had not only been made possible in Aba, it had been made possible twice before our very eyes!
Against this backdrop, millions of soccer – loving Nigerians were palpably excited when Kalu recently announced his intention to run for the soon-to-be-vacant position of the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) President. The palpable excitement isn’t anchored only on the lion-hearted gentleman’s numerous other remarkable contributions to Nigerian sports (a series of well documented contributions which led to his being honoured with the “Pillar of Sports” award). Rather, Nigerians are excited that Kalu’s track record of performance and industry on the one hand, and his wonder-working leadership cum management expertise on the other, the breath of fresh air which FIFA desperately needs would materialise like magic if Kalu wins the forthcoming presidential race.
As is to be expected, not every Dick, Tom, and Harry is very sanguine over Kalu’s FIFA aspiration. While some critics are of the view that he isn’t experienced enough for the job, others believe that he lacks the “qualification” to preside over the global football body. Such critics are eminently entitled to their opinions. What defies comprehension, however, is the vituperation of certain masters of Phd (pull him down) who seem hell-bent on using Kalu’s aspiration as an excuse to settle political scores with him. Take for instance, that piece published on the back page of a national daily on August 31. Entitled “FIFA: OUK for President; Ha, Ha, Ha!” The said piece splashed scorn on the ex-governor’s bid. So much so that the author(s) stooped to the extent of hitting their target below the belt. Hear this, for instance; “He shoveled state funds into running a football club (Enyimba of Aba) with the sole aim of garnering cheap popularity and massaging an excessively large ego”
How ridiculous can some critics be! Pray, is there any state – owned football club in Nigeria that is being run without shoveling state funds into it? Consider Kano Pillars FC of Kano who as three-time league kings have represented Nigeria in the African Champions League in the past three years, for instance. Did the Kano helmsman not “shovel state funds into running” the team? Was Kano Pillars unable to win the continental crown (like Enyimba did under Kalu’s visionary leadership) because he (Kano governor) had no “sole aim of garnering cheap popularity and massaging an excessively large ego”? What of all the State governments and companies which sponsored various clubs between 1960 and the years Enyimba won that historic cup? Did they all “shovel” funds just for the joy of it? Why did they all fail where Enyimba sparkled like a million stars under Kalu’s watch?
The point is obvious: Kalu may not be the only man on earth who is in good stead to lead FIFA to the promised land, but he certainly doesn’t deserve the below-the-belt blows of his hare-brained traducers. After all, even if his bid for the FIFA job fails, that cannot detract from his universally acclaimed credential as a starry-eyed youngster from a lowly beginning whose courage, vision, perseverance and faith have propelled him to spectacular achievements in various fields of human endeavour. OUK for FIFA President? Why not? If not Kalu, who else?
• Abbah, a seasoned journalist and media consultant, writes via firstname.lastname@example.org
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