Sporting personalities across the world are beginning to consider active politics as they desire for changes in their environment.
From George Weah in Liberia to Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines, the list of sporting figures becoming active politicians is on the rise.
Here in Nigeria, a former member of the Super Eagles, Edema Fuludu, has also made a foray into politics with the ambition of getting to the very highest office in the land, if God permits.
The former Nigeria national team midfielder tells PREMIUM TIMES why he has joined politics and the changes he hopes to bring on board
PT: After playing football, most retired footballers go into administration or coaching. However, you have gone another route into politics, what informed this decision?
Fuludu: I think that nobody is born a politician, we all have a stake in the governance of our people and our place. And we should remember that before this last general election, I contested for House of Assembly primaries in my constituency, Warri South Local government and then this time around, my people thought that I have what it takes to run for the Chairmanship of the council.
The truth is that after football, we have a life ahead of us and not every footballer will become a coach or a football administrator. Anyhow, you know I’m an administrator, I’m the chairman of Delta FC. And I also think that when you have political power, you can empower the economy and changes can happen in the system, that’s why I’m in politics.
PT: Every player’s dream is to compete at the very top; play for the national team, represent them at Nation’s Cup, World Cup, and the likes. Now, we’ve seen that former footballers are aiming for the topmost even in politics, looking at George Weah for example, he is the President of this country. Of course, you are starting out from this level, how big is the dream or you just want to keep it low?
Fuludu: Well, the dream is always to get to the topmost level you can go, considering the drawbacks you may face. But all in all, I’ve always believed that power belongs to God and anywhere God wants to enable you to impact on people, he’ll make the platform available. I’ve always believed that even in my football administration level, that when we do it well, society will get a lot of impacts that are possible. I think that there is a lot of transformation that needs to go on in this our country, and we must start at the grassroots level. You know why? When the good people refuse to come out and run for political office, the bad ones will continue to rule us and we continue to cry over bad government. Yes, the dream is big, it can take me anywhere, even to the highest office in the land if God wishes, so there is no going back.
PT: Your experience as a player, does it in any way help you as a politician, the things you learnt while playing football, do they in any way help you while going into politics?
Fuludu: Yes, I’m a team player in soccer, that’s a lot of the experience I’m bringing in because if you don’t go with the team playing, you can’t achieve a lot. Together we can achieve more and that is why I believe that if I’ve been a team player where I met different kinds of individuals and able to bond together, then, regardless of the ethnic divide in my society, in my Warri South, where I come from, we should be able to bond together and become united people where things will work for all of us.
I told them when I came into politics that you don’t judge a book by its cover, because a lot of people were just looking at me like oh, this man, he is known as a footballer and the perception of footballers is that these people are people who didn’t go to school properly. But the truth is that I was privileged to have got my first degree, went to the university again for my MBA and got to coaching courses and so the kind of education I acquired at that little level enable me to know that I’ve worked in the private sector, so I know what administration is and I’m impacting on it.
It is true that, yes, the football angle will give me the perspective to do things. In fact, it will help me to galvanize the people to work with me.
PT: As a player, you had icons you were looking up to, now you are into politics, who would you call your role model or you are looking up to and trying to emulate?
Fuludu: No, in Nigeria, you cannot pinpoint a politician that this is the kind of politician I want to be like because the system is not good and even though there are honest politicians around, their work is not easily identified or known. Almost everybody is tainted with one form of corruption or the other and it is because of the system we are in. This is why most of us say let us come out and try to effect some changes where the people who rule us are not the people picked to do the bidding of the godfather. I read a lot about politicians from America and Europe and most of these people who believe that dedication to duty for the benefit of the people can make a man have a legacy in life. Out here, it’s about just the money and power and the masses are not getting adequate service. We must begin to try to get a paradigm shift.
PT: Finally, you have your manifesto, what are the major things you want to achieve, going into politics.
Fuludu: Well, everybody talks about good governance. Governance that is democratic, where everybody will have an impact. I don’t like the one where you put money in people’s hands to beat their horses into bits and the rest. You empower people. A good leader is not the one that has power but the one that empowers. Once you have political power, use it to empower people; it’s about empowerment in education, scholarships things like this that can impact directly on the people. But I primarily want to target women because once you educate a woman and the woman is happy at home, then the family is happy and the society at large becomes happy. Because I’m a sportsman, sports development will be given a priority. We can correct a lot of the inadequacies in our youth by making them go out of social vices. Imagine that you run a league in a local government of 16 teams and every of the teams has an average of 30 players. You don’t need to even pay them, but make sure there is good prize money; you know how many youth will get out of the road, out of the streets, because you have created a platform? And from my experience, that platform can generate players who we can give scholarships abroad, who we can make sure that scouts see them and they become a professional, earn a living and impact on the same society. We will use everything available for us, good governance, transparency, democratically carrying along with people, and making sure that women and youth are our major targets.
PT: Thank you for your time and all the best
Fuludu: Thanks and God bless.