By Patrick Omorodion
Just when every Edo son and daughter and their friends were celebrating the grand return of Bendel Insurance Football Club, better known now as Insurance Football Club of Benin, a news item that could upset the entire fabric of Edo state filtered in from Aba.
I saw it as a disturbing news item and immediately alerted a group of Edo sons who are bent on supporting the government, especially the Edo State Sports Commission headed by one of their own, Barrister Godwin Dudu-Orumen, in its drive to return Edo state to the fore front of sports in the country.
I gathered that in the euphoria of celebrating the feat of Insurance FC which finished the NNL Super 8 group matches with maximum nine points without conceding a goal, the Deputy Governor, Comrade Phillip Shaibu announced that the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium in Benin would be renamed Bendel Insurance Stadium.
This, he said, was to make Insurance FC truly a professional club which has its own stadium, “ in line with the excellent condition of Enyimba Stadium, Aba, where the NNL Super Eight took place, which highlighted Enyimba as a truly professional football club.”
First, Comrade Shaibu should have known that the Enyimba Stadium is a wholly football stadium for Enyimba Football Club while Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, which was formerly known as Ogbe Stadium is not a football stadium but a multi-sports facility.
That not withstanding, the immediate past governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole renamed it after Dr Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, to honour a man who did so much for Midwest state which was later renamed Bendel State in all sectors and most especially sports. This was even when the man was still alive.
It is on record that Vipers Football Club of Benin which metamorphosed into Bendel Insurance was founded by the same Samuel Ogbemudia. It will be ironic for the same stadium Ogbemudia rebuilt with which Bendel and later Edo state became a household name in sports in the country will lose his name used by the same Edo state government to immortalise him.
I believe the decision to rename the stadium is still a rumour. And before it is implemented, I urge Governor Godwin Obaseki to reverse the decision as it will not augur well for his administration as the backlash from the decision may be too much for him to bear.
In support of retaining the name Samuel Ogbemudia stadium is an illustrious son of Edo and veteran coach, Godwin Izilein who chronicled how then Major Sam Ogbemudia acceded to his(Izilein) request that the Midwest state deserves a befitting stadium after a match there between P&T Rockets and Ministry of Works in the late 60s. And Ogbemudia rebuild the arena and the stadium was named Ogbe stadium, before it was renamed by the government to honour Samuel Ogbemudia.
That said and done, the return of Insurance FC to the elite league, the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL is still reverberating across the land and around the world. One man who is very happy is Barrister Godwin Dudu-Orumen, Chairman of the newly created Edo State Sports Commission.
He expressed his happiness on his Facebook wall thus: “ NNL Super 8 Playoffs In Aba: VINI VIDI VICI ….the famous words of the Roman General Julius Caesar, after his army prevailed over all oppositions in what was the world then, Europe.
Wednesday (January 9, 2019) at the Enyimba FC Stadium in Aba, Bendel Insurance FC made a great and joyous return to elite class football, the NPFL, by taking the nine maximum points in the Group matches. Delta Force FC fell for 3-0, Remo Stars, 1-0 and the old enemy 3SC 1-0. So we are back. Many thanks to Mr Governor, His Excellency Mr Godwin Obaseki for believing in the course and supporting it with adequate funding and incentivizing the team, the Deputy Governor Comrade Phillip Shaibu directly piloted the mission to bring lnsurance back to big time football, his contributions are invaluable, the Technical crew and players who gave their all and the fans who cheered them at games. God bless you all. On behalf of teeming Bendel Insurance FC fans l say a big thank you once again and We Are Back!
In his own remarks, a friend of Edo state and veteran sports journalist, Desmond Ekwueme wrote, “The return of this great club will bring fun back to Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia stadium. Football loving Edolites will have the opportunity of watching top flight league games again, especially when Bendel Insurance FC play host to traditional rivals like Enugu Rangers.
One can only hope that other governors will invest in sports to pave way for the return of clubs like Mighty Jets of Jos. It is hoped that the family of Late Chief Israel Adebajo will also do something positive to bring back Stationary Stores FC especially now that Onikan Stadium has been revamped by the Akinwunmi Ambode administration in Lagos.”
The man who piloted the Insurance ‘Must Return’ mission, the Deputy Governor, Comrade Shaibu is inebriated with joy on the feat. He has assured that “We don’t want to be buying players for Bendel Insurance. Instead, we want to create a supply chain of football talents for the team.
We want to localise and internalise Bendel Insurance by using our own home grown players”.
I want to congratulate everybody that made the return a reality. However, I must warn that for the club to be successful, it must be run professionally. It must be devoid of all antics of the civil service because that was why it went under about 11 years ago. Welcome Back Insurance.