Austin Mgbolu: Death, be not proud!

By Daily Sports on February 12, 2018

Views: 14,731

I was to write this week on the recently concluded CHAN football summit in Morocco and give my usual honest view and position on the home Eagles team that placed second when the 2018 curtain was drawn after that miserable final game between hosts, Morocco and Nigeria. But the demise of one of my own cropped up and it would be better I dwell on that and leave CHAN story for history to take care of.

This morning with heavy pains in my heart, I am being forced to write on the death of very amiable personality and friend, Austin Mgbolu a.k.a Booster whose death as a rude shock came thundering last Wednesday in Abuja.  The news of his death hit the social media like a surprise. However before the news started spreading, a friend of ours had called to inform me of the very bad news forcing me to hold my phone as if my life depended on it during and after our conversation. I was motionless for a long while not knowing what else to say after that state of confusion engulfed me than “death, do not be proud”.

Prior to his death, we prayed earnestly for the success of his heart surgery, which was answered before the worst came calling last week. Austin Mgbolu was a jolly good fellow and intellectually sound. He was a robust personality too with a flashy dress sense.   

I met him closely on the beat when he was the financial secretary of Lagos chapter of SWAN far back when Mr. Emeka Odikpo was the chairman of the chapter. Mr. Olu Amadasan, who later became the national president of the body was the secretary with Pastor Sunny Ephraim now resident in USA as assistant secretary. That was the golden period of Lagos SWAN, SWAN nationwide, when sports journalism practice in the country was peopled with true professionals, leaders and followers alike with honour and dignity.

Mgbolu was vocal, spiced with his deep intelligence and benevolence. He, Ephraim and I became very close friends which was further cemented when we visited him at his country home, Ibusa, Delta State. It was where Austin’s innate value additionally dawned on me and since then, we never left ourselves till he breathed his very last.

You can see the source of my pain and where I am coming from. This is one eulogy I never wanted to write, but here I lie in the midst of where truth and falsehood conflict, watching helplessly.

He was a thorough breed professional. He raised the standard of public relations department of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to high heavens and the shoe he left behind is yet to be filled by anyone that occupied that office till date. He was accessible to colleagues and never built barriers around himself like what obtains presently just as he was not selective of media houses he deals with. He was there for the job and his colleagues.

Those of us that reported the beat when Mgbolu was in charge of the public relations department of NFF can attest to how he carried everyone along. There was no discrimination whatsoever as regards selection of media houses for events or such ill-advised exclusion of persons as obtains today. He was never a tribalist as we have been witnessing since he left that esteemed office. The image of the NFF was excellently projected. His exit from that office instantly marked an end to a diamond era. His appointment into the office was purely on merit unlike the man know man syndrome in today’s Nigeria where merit has been long slaughtered on alter of nepotism.

Those of us that covered the world cups when Austin was in charge can readily remember how great assistance he was to us in the process of ensuring that we properly file of our reports to our respective media houses. Recall that Internet was not available then, the rest is now history.

He was vibrant and highly articulated on his job and activities of the football house were roundly covered and press statements issued and circulated to all the media houses. It was the reason why NFF never wasted the energy it would use for the good of the game in the land to be refuting stories which has regrettably become the tradition of the present day NFF board and her information purveyors. Mgbolu was a highly conscientious, honest, energetic and dedicated professional and left giant stride on the sands of time. It is a lesson for those that may like to thread the wise part he charted. It is instructive to add that he was never an arm chair critic or played second fiddle.

Mgbolu, who served as public relations officer of then NFA between 1993 and 2006 held an enviable honour as the NFF image maker that served longest in office.

He rarely refuted reports because of his diligence in the dissemination of information from the apex football house. Austin was there for you to obtain information and he did the job with all smiles, zeal and conviviality. He cracked intelligent jokes that calmed the nerves while ensuring that correct information was obtained and disseminated. His public relations instincts were simply infectious.    

He does not condone indiscipline and gossips. He was a thoroughbred professional, a great mind and analyst of firm charm and status who ensures pretenders masquerading as experts in our sports are exposed without any prejudice. He is not a malicious person and honestly too he says it as it is. He does not take or give bribe which has become the middle name and norm to many Nigerians today.

It would be recalled that Mgbolu served no fewer than five NFF Presidents, late Emeka Omeruah (1993 – 1997), Abdulmumini Aminu (1997 – 1999), Kojo Williams (1999), Dominic Oneya (1999 – 2002) and Ibrahim Galadima (2002 – 2006). Mgbolu, a seasoned journalist worked with the defunct SportsLink.

It was never in his character to gang up against anybody or group; rather he preferred to tell it to your face as much as he distanced himself from people that indulged in such style. Austin’s mindset was always centered on how Nigeria football and sports would be well administered and the lives of athletes, players and coaches bettered instead of this present practice in Nigeria where athletes were turned into punching bags, used and dumped into abject poverty by administrators who fed fat on the sweat of these suffering athletes that toil day and night in their spirited bid to keep the nation’s flag flying.

His death came when he was needed most. He does not associate himself with idlers, but was a decent fighter for the down trodden in the society in every true sense of the word. He was a humanist par excellence who does not stand the sight of people suffering. He has empowered many youths not minding which divide of the country they came from. He was nick named ‘Booster’ because of his rare philanthropy.   

I’m so handicapped and further discussion on any platform on the demise of this gem makes my heart bleed. However dear readers, I wish to crave your indulgence to forgive me if I don’t participate fully on our usual further discussions on Twitter, WhatsAPP, Facebook and LinkedIn. I’m wearing the shoes and I know where it is pitching me.

We pray that his soul and the souls of all the ‘faithful’ that departed through the Mercy of God to rest in peace . . . Amen! Keep shooting hard till next week!!!

Source Daily Sports

Posted February 12, 2018

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