By Terfa Alaghga
Self respect permeates every aspect of ones life but if you do not have it for yourself, you are not going to get it from anywhere. Dominic Iorfa has earned it and that is why he has brought his professional dexterity to the fore.
When he first came on board as Chairman of Lobi Stars FC of Makurdi in the early 2000s, he had a focus. He came with the determination to live up to the expectations of the sports loving people of Benue state, supporters and fans of the club. He was keenly aware that all eyes were on him and he had to live clearly above board.
Being a proud and ambitious man, Iorfa wanted to make a mark and move Lobi Stars up the football ladder. In view of this, he wasted no time in doing what he had come to do.
A few years later, he was described variously as a man with a remarkable courage, extraordinary fortitude and immense value.
Of a truth, the deteriorating state of every organisation depends on the management and because of his passion for football, love for his state, commitment and not wanting to be identified with failure, Iorfa acted diligently and at a point, many people thought the state government had leased Lobi Stars FC to him because the giant strides which he took in building and developing the structures for the club and also transforming the team were unprecedented. He created a synergy with the government, such that even if funds were not yet released to him, he did all that he needed to do to ensure the security and comfort of players and staff of the club, before he would seek refund.
Iorfa renovated the Emmanuel Akume Atongo Township Stadium in Katsina – Ala to a Premier League standard, where Lobi Stars played their NPFL matches, while work on laying of the Astro Turf was ongoing at the Aper Aku stadium Makurdi. By that singular act of taking football development to their door steps, sports enthusiasts in that axis wasted no time in describing him as a man who is endowed with a vision that is relentlessly pragmatic.
His construction of the Camp House for Lobi Stars players to ease accommodation problems, renovation of both the grand and popular sides of the McCarthy stadium Makurdi with fitted plastic chairs, re grassing of the football pitch and up grading the office complex for staff of the club was another milestone in his developmental strategies. One of the reasons that informed his decision to build a well furnished camp with all the social amenities provided was not farfetched from his quest to deliver, by ensuring discipline and comfort of the players, and to guarantee security and safety of the players. This development addressed the challenges of wistful spending on players accommodation in hotels.
During that time of Iorfa’s leadership of Lobi Stars FC, the glamorous appearance of the team on their travel outfit and display of their traditional jerseys in matches sent jitters down the spines of their opponents. Iorfa received many plaudits for this achievement.
Described by some fans as erratic, arrogant and always interfering in the functions of those he assigns functions whenever he is in action, it would not be fair to stereotype the ex – international football legend based on a particular attitude of his which they do not like because despite all of that he continued to deliver in his God chosen profession.
He also played Lobi in the Continent not once and set a record to reckon with which keen observers are still waiting to see who would break it.
When the former Queens Park Rangers FC of England speedster left Lobi Stars FC for Mike Idoko in 2015, after he was relieved of his appointment by fomer Governor Samuel Ortom, what started like a joke gradually turned into a Frankenstein and those who supported and ignorantly pushed for his removal at that time buried their heads in shame. Considering the importance the government attaches to Lobi Stats as well as its commitment to the team, there were more questions than answers because the structures and facilities that were put on ground by Iorfa, were left to decay, the roof of both the players camp and that of the office complex caved in, security architecture at McCarthy stadium was no longer guaranteed. The players left the camp. Termites became the landlords with reptiles as tenants. Due to neglect and carelessness from Iorfa’s successors the McCarthy Stadium became an eyesore.
Seven years after Iorfa as Vice Chairman/CEO, many waters passed under the bridge. None of the things that he prioritised; development of structures, comfortability of players and good standing on the League log which wrote the name of Lobi in Gold, were sustained by his successors, Mike Idoko and Aondofar Tama.
It is better to leave when the ovation is loudest. If Dominic Iorfa had not left the club at the time which he did leave, no one would have known
his worth and also felt his impact.
During the leadership of Aondofar Tama as VC/CEO of Lobi Stars FC, the club suffered set backs occasioned by ineptitude in the management of the club, poor decision making and implementation as well as poor advice from sycophants who do not mean well for the team. This resulted to the near collapse of the team and if the clamour for Iorfa to return on a rescue mission was not hearkened to, the state of Lobi would have been laughable.
Lobi played nineteen matches in the 2021/2022 NPFL, scored nineteen points and was nineteenth on the log. Lobi was relegation bound and even the grasses shook their roots crying for help.
Despite all these deep harrowing and seemingly endless travails where sports loving people of the state, supporters and fans were tired, worn and despairing and needed some sorts of revival of the team but as it was becoming a hopeless situation, liberation came through the ex – international, Dominic Iorfa.
On the day the then Governor, Samuel Ortom was announcing Iorfa’s reappointment to the club he said, “many of the concerned football stakeholders who approached me on the issue of Lobi’s deteriorating state, testified that you are the only one that can carry out this mission of taking Lobi out of these turbulent times”. ” I have the confidence that you can do it”. Governor Ortom did not mince words. He found it easier and ultimately quite effective to give Iorfa free hands on Lobi.
When Iorfa assumed office as helmsman of the club, he made a promise that, “if I don’t take Lobi out of the relegation waters, I will resign. He delivered the team from going on relegation. It was mission accomplished. In the 2022/2023 abridged NPFL the Iorfa led Lobi, came second and qualified for the Super Six in Lagos. Lobi also played in the Super Eight being the only team in the North Central and one of the only two teams from the North to be ranked high in the Nigerian football scene. With this remarkable feat Iorfa said, “there is no football news bulletin in Nigeria, where Lobi is not mentioned”. This is an undeniable fact.
The McCarthy Stadium Makurdi which was moribund for over seven years after Iorfa left Lobi, can now see the light of day. It is now a pride of the club.
Today, the unanswered question which many who take the success of Lobi as their priority ask is, ” Where did Iorfa go wrong”?
Some of the aggrieved people say, he sacked many coaches without a pay off, he sacks staff indiscriminately but in his briefing with sports writers, the then Chairman of Lobi Stars FC and then Deputy Governor, Engr Benson Abounu said, “if it were not for Iorfa’s impatience which drives him into sometimes uttering words that he was not supposed to, he is a good administrator.
He is equally not to blame on the issue of termination of coaches appointment and scrapping of the academies because he was only carrying out the instructions given him by the government. The unanswered question was also that if the government had really instructed him to carry out such a sensitive task then why would they not also release funds to pay them off and were also mute and not asking him questions nor sack him when he was in the furnace?
Today also, with these resurfacing allegations against Iorfa by some football stakeholders and attributing it to his incompetence, one is tempted to ask, “when the club was at the verge of collapse and supporters were gnashing their teeth, were the Beautiful Ones Not Yet Born”? Why was Iorfa particularly suggested to the then governor Ortom and not any of them when they were all there with their wealth of experience?
Football is result oriented and not political oriented. Football is the only language that does not know class or creed, does not want to know your religious or political affiliations nor nepotism and even educational background provided you are delivering on your assignments. Even if you are not, more time is given to you to redirect your steps and put your house in order because no one is above mistake knowing that if you too are caught in a web and not given another chance to live, you will definitely consider it as an unfair treatment metted on you.
However, if you do not place your opinion, it would displace you. Many are of the opinion that sack will not always be the solution of every problem but dialogue and understanding because for how long shall we continue to sack at the slightest mistake one makes even if there is a better avenue to addressing it? If Iorfa was interfering in the duties of others and it is not yielding the fruitful result, why can’t he be cautioned and given a General Order GO, to respect the already defined roles and maintain his supervisory position and do the needful when and where necessary?
Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia has demonstrated that he is a youth and sports loving governor and has also proven that anywhere he goes, he introduces mildness even if others embrace roughness and irascibility. His intervention is apt cogent and highly perspective. His his final decision on who takes charge of Lobi will be to the best interest of the state because he has developed a practise that is proudly traditional. He identifies with people who are committed to their job and are result oriented. He wants result and not failure just as every other Godfearing and performing leader as he is, in order to move the state forward.