Celebrating Lulu @62

April 16 10:24 2020

By Amaechi Agbo

On this day, 62 years ago, in a village in Zaria, a city in Kaduna state, Nigeria, a lone voice was heard crying. The baby voice rang higher than expected which made the nurses and midwives who saw the safe delivery of the child hold it in awe, joy and praises to the Almighty.

The date was precisely on 16th April, 1958. And that little child then had grown to become a pillar of hope, a messiah to many, and inspiration to all and a giver of hope.

Anyone who have had contact with Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi will have every reason to glorify God. Perhaps this accounts for why he has thousands if not millions of followers – those he has helped or is helping, those who helped or are helping him and those who get close to him because of his exhilarating charismatic aura.

Africa’s father of literature, Professor Chinua Achebe (Late) once said that if you want to know how life has treated a typical Igbo (African Man) take a critical look at the names he gave his children.

In the same African ontology, a name does not only depict personality, but defines destiny. Therefore, a name means not just an identity.

Even in the Bible, God changed several peoples’ names to reflect their new identity – Abram (When he was childless) to Abraham (Father of all nations) after he gave birth to Isaac; Saul (Persecutor of Christ) to Paul (Apostle of Christ), among other names.

To put this write up together, I decided to look up for the meaning of the name SANI. Sani is an Arabic name that stands for “brilliant, splendid.”

The Urban Dictionary said this of the name Sani: “A flawless being that is very athletic. He can put a beat down to any foe and slay bitches. He can also spit fire upon any hater. One that is never phased or hurt.”

Like a brilliant and splendid child, Sani Lulu Abdullahi grew up to become a hope, a changer, a light to the world and a global leader.

Like one sent to fulfil a destiny and just like the Bible said that no one lights a lantern and puts it under the table, Sanil Lulu emerged from the horizon like a beaming star, ready and willing to glow. To show light to the world.

Alhaji Sani Lulu’s 62 years impactful life have seen him occupy various exalted positions either by hard work or by sheer will of divine foresight.

At different times and periods, he has exhibited his endless determination to better the society, to give life a new meaning. To ensure justice, fairness and equity. To enthrone an egalitarian society.

Put it in another way, Sani Lulu hates poverty and that is why he has worked assiduously to uplift the lives of people both close and far from him.

To state just one, under the supervision of Sani Lulu Abdullahi, over 40 students are currently studying various courses at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi courtesy of Sani Lulu’s scholarships. These students also enjoyed such free scholarships from Fosla Academy, the first premium independent academy in Nigeria that combines football and education to produce future footballers and professionals for Nigeria.

Before establishing Fosla Academy after he left the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF’s office as President in 2010, Alhaji Sani Lulu have held various positions at the civil service where he retired as a director.

Prior to becoming NFF President in 2006, he was 2nd and 1st Vice Chairman, Nigeria Football Association NFA now (NFF) from 1999 to 2002.

In August 2006 he was elected the President, Nigeria Football Federation, NFF a position he held till 2010 when he was illegally and maliciously removed from office by cabals who had an agenda other than promoting the interest of Nigeria football and the football family.

Under his leadership, Lulu enthroned purposeful administration and enshrined a new dimension in human and material management in the Glass House.

FOSLA Football Club, FFC
Under Lulu’sstewardship, every department in the federation was professionalised with the engagement of seasoned professionals with names in their calling.

For the first time in the history of NFF, a well-grounded consultant was employed to assist in all matters of national teams’ preparation, camping as well as participation in major qualifying competitions and championships and securing Grade A friendly matches.

The embrace of competitions staged by regional, continental and global football bodies made it mandatory for his administration to establish more national teams. Knowing full well that football is the only factor that binds together all Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic, religious or economic background, this was in fulfilment of the manifesto in which Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi pledged:

To make Nigeria a world leading football nation, where the game will serve as an unrivalled rallying point for our national pride, unity, patriotism, discipline, patience, hard work and creativity, and in the long run, use the power of football to create a better future for our great nation.

This resulted, inevitably, in the multiplicity of national teams as the creation of the following teams manifested Beach soccer, 5-A-Side, home-based Super Eagles, U-17 women’s team and a women’s Olympic team different from the senior women’s team. These, in addition to the senior men’s team (Super Eagles), senior women’s team (Super Falcons), U-23 men’s team (Dream Team), U-20 men’s team (Flying Eagles) and U-20 women’s team (Falconets).

Inevitably, all these teams qualified for all their continental and global competitions, creating more fora for the Nigerian flag to fly in full breath, while banishing the hitherto stereotype of Nigerians not being good for anything except drug trafficking, advance fee fraud, human trafficking, et cetera.

Encouragement Of Indigenous Coaches

No administration before it gave as much support and encouragement to local Coaches as the Sani Lulu Abdullahi stewardship did. At the risk of being labelled opponent of the Government, the NFF President vowed to swim and sink with Shaibu Amodu before the 2010 African Cup of Nations. Salaries of the indigenous Coaches were also reviewed upward.

Believing that government is one irrespective of the actors, the FIFA Technical Centre project which was initiated by his predecessor, was pursued doggedly and completed under Lulu’s administration

Following the completion of the Technical Centre, thanks to great prodding and the determination of the regime, FIFA moved to the second phase of the Goal Project and successfully completed the construction of a FIFA Football Turf (artificial pitch) close to the Technical Centre

Alhaji Sani Lulu’s administration, conscious of its desire for a full blown youth development programme that would provide a pool of budding stars for all the national teams, in 2007 launched an U-13 football programme, at which the best 25 players were selected annually, for monitoring by the Technical Department. These players were invited to camp at least three times a year and are on NFF secondary school scholarship. Today, these players are the fulcrum of our U-17 team.

In his inaugural speech, Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi said:

Since we have seen and enjoyed immense benefits of viable youth football, greater emphasis should be laid on developing the game through a school scheme that will encourage our youths to embrace the beautiful game from primary school level.

As part of the programme to ensure grassroots football development, the Sani Lulu Abdullahi administration, through a resolution of the Board which was approved by the General Assembly, started annual grant of N500, 000 to each of the Football Associations of the 36 States and the FCT, in 2009. This was taken out of the annual grant of $250,000 that NFF receives from FIFA for similar purpose.

The administration hosted the WAFU Cup of Nations which was staged in Abeokuta, Ogun State in April, 2010.

Under his leadership, Nigeria successfully hosted the African Women Championship barely one month after the ascendancy of the administration. This was in Warri, in October 2006.

It was during Lulu’s leadership that Nigeria hosted her last FIFA Tournament till date after it successfully hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup finals in October/November 2009 tagged “Nigeria 2009” with the final played at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja.

Players Welfare A Priority

The NFF under Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi took the welfare of national team players as paramount. Those who sustained injury on international duty were treated in the best hospitals in the world, players bonuses and allowances were reviewed upward, and Insurance schemes were packaged for them.

The impact of this gesture was instant as justified by the results that followed.

The Super Eagles Team B won the WAFU Cup of Nations staged in Abeokuta in April, 2009.

The Super Falcons won the African Women Championship in Warri, Delta State in 2006. The national U-17 boys, Golden Eaglets won the African Championship in Togo in March 2007. The national beach soccer team won the African Beach Soccer Championship in South Africa in July, 2007. The beach soccer team again won the African Beach Soccer Championship in South Africa in April 2009.

The administration stood on top of the world on September 9, 2007 when the Golden Eaglets defeated Spain on penalties to lift the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Seoul, Korea Republic.

Apart from these triumphs, the men’s Olympic football team reached the final of the Olympic Games tournament in Beijing, China in 2008, losing narrowly to Argentina.

In 2009, the Golden Eaglets also reached the Final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup finals hosted by Nigeria.

This fully fulfilled the pledge in the manifesto below:

One of our principal targets is to ensure that our national men and women teams qualify for all major CAF and FIFA competitions with the target of winning at least a continental and a global trophy seasonally

The achievements of Alahaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi’s four years in office as NFF President were remarkable in all ramifications. He made sure that Nigeria’s flag was hoisted at the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted in Africa soil in South Africa for the first time.

Financial Probity And Transparency

When the Sani Lulu Abdullahi administration came into office, the then NFA was owing so many individuals and interests leaving a debt of N300 million (Three Hundred Million Naira Only) on the table for his to sort out.

The administration not only succeeded in paying off the huge debt burden, but left over 2 billion naira in the coffers of the federation upon leaving office in 2010.

Determined to give back to the society and beam light to the poor, Sani Lulu established Fosla Academy in Karshi, Abuja where 70 per cent of the students are on free scholarship. With over 100 students in the academy, and three sets of students graduated, Alhaji Lulu sustained the scholarship to university level as over 40 students who are beneficiaries of the scholarship at the academy are currently enjoying same offer at the Nasarawa State University, Laffia.

The Fosla Academy team have maintained superiority in football in the FCT and North Central zone. They have emerged three-time consecutive champions of the FCT Principals Cup and have represented the zone at the national level of Shell Competition.

On the 24th September 2018, Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi unveiled a club, Fosla Football Club, FFC to the world. The new club registered for and participated in the FCT Football Association 2018/19 League season and came second.

Today, the FFC is a national league side and will be playing in the Nationwide League One, NLO when the new season commences.

In 2019, determined to serve his people in a larger capacity, Alahji Sani Lulu ventured into politics and contested for the Kogi State governorship ticket under the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC. He lost the party’s ticket to the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello.

Today, the global community rises in unison to celebrate an achiever, a beacon of hope, a philanthropist who have achieved beyond football.

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