Edo State deputy governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu has wowed many Nigerians with his football dexterity. As a registered player of Bendel Insurance of Benin, the former lawmaker has shown that there’s no inhibition to showcasing his God’s giving talent.
He practically drove the campaign to have the Benin Arsenal’s return to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), 11 years after the team relegated to the lower division.
On the occasion of Bendel Insurance’s first home match in the top flight after eleven years in hibernation, Comrade Shaibu hosted some selected sports journalists at the Edo State Government House to thank them for the media support the team enjoyed prior to it promotion. It was an opportunity to clarify his status as a player of the famous football club in Nigeria.
Bendel Insurance’s return to the elite league
We actually played our first match against Remo Stars in Shagamu but our first taste of Premier League match was against Kwara United here in Benin. So for me, Kwara United was our first test and I believe we can do well as the league moves on. We have a very young team. We rushed to training shortly after the Super 4 tournament. We didn’t have time to go recruit players but the good thing is that we are improving day by day. We ought to have win Kwara United’s match with high margin if not for the referee who disallowed our goal, which I see as a clear goal because that ball wasn’t an off side. The referee made a serious mistake and I can’t blame him. I see him as human who can make mistakes. Last year, the question was how can we get there but I want people to know that we have started our preparation years ago.
Appreciation to the media
The governor was doing his best to make sure the club returned, not knowing the fans, officials and the players were doing more than that. This meeting is just to appreciate you all for the support shown so far. We also appreciate what the media has done to the development of the club. These players read your write ups in papers and they also hear you speak. Doing this is enough to encourage and motivate them. For this we say thank you to all media men. So please don’t relent in what you have been doing for us and we also promise to be professional.
Educating the fans
We told the club chairman to organise meetings with various members of fans’ club, including those we identified may want to cause trouble in the stadium. We lectured the fans and we let them know the implication of some of the actions they are willing to display. The match with Kwara United was a test of that lecture and I am happy they all cooperated. For instance, when the referee disallowed our goal, the fans composed themselves. But I want to use this medium to beg the League Management Company (LMC) to help look into some certain things that can make the league grow. I love the spirit of never say die which I see in the boys and by doing that, they have given me a target that I must do more to make their dream come through. Our target is to be among the Super 6 teams. We have medicine of winning anything super and continental ticket is our target. The governor has been giving us support on that and I am happy he sees the team as the team of the future. The team is so young, aside from the captain, Charles Omokaro; most of the boys are 19 years old. The boys are good in winning away matches and I am sure we will all soar higher.
His Excellency, the footballer!
I was formally a footballer. Beyond the school football I’ve played while I was in the University, I played NUGA game. I was the captain of my faculty at the University of Jos. But before then, I played in U.S.A while I was at age 17. When I came back, I joined a grassroots club in Abuja and I played in the Abuja league. From Foreign Affairs, I joined Internal Affairs club in Abuja. After that, I had an injury which kept me out of football for six years and that was why I quit football. I stopped active football when I got to the University. Before then, I played for All Stars of Benin where I got to know former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola; then he always host All Stars. So I have been in football all this while. I got interest in training with Bendel Insurance but I never had the thought of signing for them. During one of their trainings, I scored a very beautiful goal and the coach said he wish to add me to the rest of the team since I’m an experienced player. He choose Charles Omokaro and I to serve as inspirations to the other players. So that’s how I joined the team. We played some friendly matches and I scored several goals. I play economic football with the team, and what I mean by Economic football is that, they bring me in whenever they needed a victory. I am not playing to dribble; I played to pass to the nearest man so that the team will score more goals. One of the matches we played in Lagos, I gave an assist that led to the goal. Many people think I’m a ceremonial player, but I tell them, no, I am not. I have never missed training with the club unless there is serious state matter. I train with them every morning from 8.00am by 10.00 am we are done and I go back to the office. I can still run 10 kilometres while training and I still run 2km every day. So that is the secret.
Renovated Samuel Ogbemudia stadium
We plan to use it for the National Sports Festival come 2020. Aside from the outdoor, we are also doing the indoor like the Tennis Court and others so that other athletes can showcase their talents. By the time we are done, you will all see what we are talking about. The governor has a vision; we know him to be the father of sports.
And he said come next National Sports Festival, we would soar high. When we started, people started criticising us, but when we inform them we will be hosting the next National Sports Festival, they now reason with us. We are also reasoning beyond 2020. We are also trying to promote education by building mini stadium inside primary schools across the state. And also in conjunction with the Edo State FA, we want promote the Edo State league so that Bendel Insurance will not lack players in all level. That is our focus. So 2020 is for real.
How soon will the Stadium be ready?
The contractor gave us March 2019. When it’s eventually handed over to us, it’s going to be home for Bendel Insurance, where anything about the club will be in a book form and CD, where people can get the history of the club.