Godwin Dudu-Orumen: An Edo born lawyer’s passion for football and grassroots sports development

By Nnamdi Okosieme

To millions of Nigerians he is known as the Football Afficionado. That appellation underscores his love for football, the beautiful game.

From the moment he burst onto national consciousness in the early 1990s as a presenter of the hugely popular television programme, ‘The Best of Football’, Godwin Dudu-Orumen’s love for football and passion for its development has grown in leaps and bounds.

Dudu-Orumen’s deep knowledge of football and his masterful presentation of the programme through the informed analysis of his seasoned guests and his adroit presentation of visuals, made ‘The Best of Football’, then one of the leading programmes on national television, attract viewership the way a lodestone attracts metal. It was thus no surprise that the programme, which aired weekly on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the national television station, garnered award after award.

The sound knowledge of football displayed by Dudu-Orumen on that programme caught not only the attention of football fans but also that of managers of football in the country. Since the 1990s his life has been intertwined with that of Nigerian football particularly at the national level where between 1993 and 2009, he served intermittently as a member of the Nigerian Football Association’s (now Nigerian Football Federation, NFF) technical committee. A stickler for due process, he occasionally had run-ins with Nigerian football managers for their sometimes less than noble means of running the game. He would in principle opt out of the committee but would be prevailed upon again and again to return to serve his country.

A passion stoked in Sabongida-Ora
Before his stints with the Technical Committee of the NFA, Dudu-Orumen had served briefly as Personal Assistant to the Chairman of the National Sports Commission (NSC). His brief stay at the commission helped fire his interest in sports development and a determination to turn the fortunes of sports around in Nigeria. As part of the fulfilment of that aspiration, he has been part of a number of ministerial committees for sports development and promotion.

Children in training at the summer camp of the Cowbell Football academy run by Dudu-Orumen

His love of football and other sports did not spring up overnight. It had taken root decades ago at Holy Trinity Grammar School, Sabongida-Ora a few minutes’ walk from his village Oke-Ora, Old-Site, in Owan-West Local Government Area of Edo State. There, he was actively involved in competitive sports, competing in both the school’s inter-house sports games and those between his school and others in the area. Even at this stage it was clear to all that though he was a keen sports enthusiast, his real passion was for football. The reason was not too hard to fathom. At the time, there was a glut of football talent in the then Bendel State of which Edo State was part until it was carved out as a full state on August 27, 1991.

Bendel Insurance FC seen here in a match against WNDC of Ibadan in the 1970s, was one club that fired Dudu-Orumen’s interest in football

His interest in football sprang principally from tales of the exploits of Bendel Insurance Football Club, Benin City, one of Nigeria’s leading clubsides of the time. And then when he went to Benin City on holidays and later when he gained admission to study English and Literature at the University of Benin and after that, Law and got to see stars like Victor Oduah, Sebastian Brodericks, Sylvester Egborge, Cyril Okosieme, Tony Oviawe, Henry Ogboe, Peter Egharevba, Felix Agbonifo, Francis Moniedafe, David Adiele and the later generation of football stars like Stephen Keshi, Henry Nwosu, Bright Omokaro, Humphrey Edobor, Sunday Eboigbe and Lucky Imafidon and others, his love for the beautiful game was sealed.

In between trips to the Ogbe Stadium (now Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium), Dudu-Orumen, took time out to feed his other passion-tennis. He would spend hours watching the galaxy of foreign and local stars who converged at the tennis section of the stadium for the then hugely popular Ogbe Hardcourt (lawn) Tennis Championship. There, he got to see in flesh and blood Nigerian tennis stars like the late Thompson Onibokun, Davidson Imonitie, Nduka (Duke) Odizor, Sadiq Abdullahi, Tony Mmoh and a host of others, which included leading female greats like Veronica Oyibokia, Rolake Olagbegi and Nosa Imafidon.

Recalling those days and the impact they had on him, Dudu-Orumen said:

“Those where defining moments in my life. They are moments I cannot forget not only for the thrill and pleasure I got from seeing the stars and mingling with them but also for the opening of my eyes to the boundless possibilities in sports. From then on, I knew that no matter what I did, I would somehow be involved in sports”.

Developing the grassroots
And he kept that pledge. Despite getting two degrees from the University of Benin, one in English Language and Literature and the other in Law, he has remained deeply rooted in and irresistibly drawn to football-and other sports. This passion led him to set up a firm exploring the business side of football and other sports. It has also led to his intervening directly in the development of football at the grassroots.

That drive has led him to the Cowbell Football Academy where he is presently rector of the football school, which in the last three years, has trained over 500 youngsters aged between 4-18 years in the rudiments of football through the use of modern tools and the tutelage of football coaches, which has included former Nigerian internationals like Segun Odegbami, Henry Nwosu, Franklin Howard, Mutiu Adepoju and Jonathan Akpoborie, to name a few. In other to sufficiently fire the interest of the lads and lasses, Dudu-Orumen and his team at the academy have for three years being organising the Cowbell Football Academy summer football camp in Lagos. The latest edition ended on Saturday, August 12, 2017 in Lagos.

With three centres of the academy already established in Lagos (Lagos Island, Badagry and Lekki) and one in Benin City, Dudu-Orumen says his aim is to have the centre in every state in the country.

“Our long term goal is to have the academy in every part of the country. The response from parents and children in Lagos and Benin has been encouraging. We will keep striving for excellence because we are convinced that the best way to stem the decline in club and national team football is through the inculcation of football values, work ethic and discipline in youngsters. These are things that are lacking in our grown up footballers, a fact that reflects poorly on the game in Nigeria,” he said.

Dudu-Orumen is also eager to returns to his roots, and help put Edo State, his place of origin, back in its position as the leading state in sports in Nigeria. He remembers the glorious days when the bulk of the sportsmen-Charlton Ehizuelen, Felix Imadiyi, Peter Okodogbe, Comfort Ihagbon, Brown Ebewele and Maria Usifo who represented Nigeria and won laurels for her at international sporting engagements, came from Edo State.

The exploits of Charlton Ehizuelen, one of Nigeria’s greatest athletes of all time, fired Dudu-Orumen’s interest in sports

“It is my desire to help in some way to bring back this lost glory. Today, Bendel Insurance, a club dreaded within and outside Nigeria’s shores, has disappeared from the radar. So also is a place like Afuze, which in those days, was a beehive where sportsmen not only from the old Bendel State but others from different parts of the country, were prepared for international sporting competitions. We need to get back on track and I will be glad to help in any way I can to bring about this new dawn,” he said.