From a marketing perspective the recent decision by Nigeria great Joseph Yobo to play in the NPFL is massively significant because it would help improve the appeal of the league and likely prompt millions in new sponsorship. From a historical and cultural perspective it could mark the turning point when Nigeria’s biggest football exports started retiring home to entertain fans across the country. From the footballing perspective, Yobo may be past his prime, but playing in the league should set off ripples should lead to improvements in discipline and professionalism among players in the league as well as engender more respect for our players and clubs. Were I a brand manager handling one of the big Nigerian brands, this is that time when I would say to my management: “better to get in on the ground floor and enjoy the ride upwards”. There is plenty to look forward to these days and many reasons why the time has come for us to help the League Management Company cross the line. We all stand to benefit from the business boost in the end.
A new dawn?
Speaking with the LMC boss, Shehu Dikko, in the course of last week, I was quite impressed to find out that Yobo had approached the organization about playing in the league of his own accord. In fact not only is the experienced central defender keen on playing at home, he is interested in helping to persuade other Nigerians stars to do likewise. Wouldn’t it be great if other top players followed his lead like the South American stars often do? Imagine players like John Utaka, Obafemi Martins, Osaze Odemwingie, Chinedu Obasi, Taye Taiwo wearing our clubs’ colours? Other younger players could also join NPFL clubs on loan when they are out of favour at their clubs and need to sustain fitness and form. This would pull fans into our stadiums and boost businesses across several sectors of our economy. It would however cost a lot of money, especially as the LMC has to shoulder some of the wages. Here is why our big businesses must think more about supporting the league rather than throwing money at the European league. The more successful the NPFL is, the more jobs it would create, and the more wealth in society which comes back to sponsoring businesses in form of patronage
Two Nigerians who inspire me
It is always refreshing to see Nigerians who are ready to fight through daunting odds to bring success to this country; men who have risen above the rampant cynicism and the widespread resignation that have virtually crippled good initiative in this country. Alhaji Shehu Dikko, the chairman of the LMC, and Honourable Nduka Irabor, who is the CEO, have been incredible in the pursuit of success for the NPFL. These two have battled, and are still battling, past obstacles to keep growing the league. I have found these two men, who I know personally, an inspiration. One a creative mild-mannered leader charming his way through the system, the other a hard-nosed dealer with the just the right dose of stubbornness and resilience needed to battle Africa’s many demons. It is a symbiotic relationship and one that has stuck to its difficult task despite the frustrations of Nigerian fans, media and sponsors being slow to support. I think we must all now be their 12th man and help the NPFL achieve its lofty potential.