Emmanuel Adebayor; From Rags to Riches and Fame

Culled from BBC SPORTS

Togo and Arsenal star Emmanuel Adebayor has just been on a “tour of hope” across West Africa to his homeland, where he was presented with the BBC African Footballer of the Year award for 2007. The BBC’s Farayi Mungazi travelled with him

Emmanuel Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor’s self-styled “tour of hope” that took him to Ghana and Togo left me with a different view of today’s professional footballer.

The Arsenal and Togo striker is not particularly showy.

For a man with little education, he projects himself with consummate ease and is unfailingly polite.

He reminded the cynic in me that not all professional footballers are arrogant millionaires with egos that match the size of their pay packets.

Due to his status as an African football icon, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, Adebayor is mobbed wherever he goes.

“I enjoy the attention because it shows that people love me for what I do,” the 2007 BBC African Footballer of the Year said, when asked about the non-stop adulation.

But, he says: “I’m a normal person; in the morning I clean my teeth like everyone else.”

Everywhere we went, Adebayor kept his childhood friends close, reminding him of the time he had nothing.

Household name

Adebayor may not yet be at his peak as a footballer, but the Togo captain is fast becoming one of the finest Africa has to offer.

The 24-year-old is now a household name; his meteoric rise aided by a string of scintillating displays for English Premier League side Arsenal.

I told myself that I only had one chance to survive and that was to be a footballer

In Ghana, where Adebayor went to school, some people wait years to see Otumfuo Osei Tutu II – a revered man and king of the most powerful and richest part of the country.

But Adebayor got an appointment within months, and was able to sweet-talk the palace into a second one after a no-show the previous day.

The audience with the football-loving king brought him to the heart of the Ashanti kingdom, about which his late father once told him stories.

Like most African stars in Europe, Adebayor was born and raised up in a desperately poor family, and his is a classic rags-to-riches tale to rival any other.

He grew up in a dilapidated house in a poor suburb of the Togolese capital, Lome.

His mother sold dried fish at the border with Ghana, earning barely enough to feed the family and buy the young Emmanuel his first pair of football boots.

The family was so poor that once he was left in hospital for seven days because his parents could not afford to pay for the treatment.

‘Hard work’

“I think a lot of people know me just on the pitch,” Adebayor says.

“They don’t know where I come from and they don’t know how I began.”

“I put in a lot of hard work to be where I am today, but I’ll never forget what it was like when I was young.

“Life was very difficult, and I told myself that I only had one chance to survive and that was to be a footballer.”

Adebayor did not have to wait long for an appointment with the king

Adebayor did not enjoy school, skipping classes to play football – though now, on his “tour of hope”, he encourages children to stick to their studies.

He sees it as his chance to give something back to Africa’s youth.

When he left Togo for France to embark on a professional career in 1999, not many would have foreseen that a football superstar had been unleashed.

“When I was going to Europe, I remember what my mother told me at the airport; she said: ‘Manu, you see where we’re living, you must go to France and do something good because we need your help.'”

He has now built her a huge, double-storey mansion in Lome, which is surrounded by shacks and run-down buildings.

But his mother has refused to move in, preferring to live with the friends who once knew her as the “Haton patchwork woman” – someone so poor that she could not afford a matching dress and headgear.

Nine years after launching his professional career, Adebayor speaks passionately about the need for him to inspire youngsters with a similar background to his.

“When I was growing up I had someone to help me, to give me something, and today I’m in a position to help others, so helping people is always a pleasure for me.”

If NEPA goes on strike..!

By Adeola Aderounmu.

The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has threatened to go on strike if Umaru made good his promise to declare a state of Emergency (SOE) in the power sector. Now, this is Nigeria at work.

Unless my interpretation is wrong, this should mean that NEPA workers are threatening to go on strike? It is possible that ninety-nine percent of Nigerians do not have electricity in their homes while these men and women are at work at NEPA or PHCN. What then shall we miss if they go on strike? Can it be worse than now that cockroaches and rats breed safely in our second–hand Ojuelegba deep freezers?

In fairness to the Electricity Workers the problems in the power sector is out of their control or human resource capabilities. The problems have more association with the general negligence and mis-governance perpetrated by the leadership at the centre over the past four decades. The various looting governments have betrayed the masses while amassing wealth to themselves. In Nigeria, there is nothing like maintenance culture or improvement of the states of infrastructure.

Looters and thieves like Abacha, Buhari, Babangida, Abdulsalami and Obasanjo are big parts of the reasons why NEPA became an extremely miserable statutory body. The NUEE is taking the issue of the SOE very seriously and the union representatives have challenged Umaru in a way that one cannot ignore.

They are of the opinion that Umaru knows nothing about the problems in the power sector. In another way, one can postulate that if Umaru knows the problems he is pretending he doesn’t by looking the other way.

From the 2008 oil windfall, Umaru’s government is planning to spend a fresh $5bn in fixing the electricity problem. What about getting back the billions from Obasanjo and his gangs who pocketed several billions in the last decade while pretending to be working on the problem?

What will be the implication of a declaration of SOE in the power sector? How will that translate to improved power supply for the helpless masses that do not have the same privilege or opportunity as the high and mighty residing in the Maitama District of Abuja?

In NUEE words: if the government can take the supply level to 50, 000MW there will be a substantial improvement in the supply of electricity to Nigerians. This is a very powerful statement and a very serious indictment of the federal government. Has it been a deliberate wickedness that power supply in Nigeria today is below 2, 000 MW? Who or what is responsible for the dismal supply that we have today?

There are certain individuals and establishments today in Nigeria that would never wish for any improvement in the power situation. They are smiling to the bank daily as they make good money from selling generators to the helpless masses. Of course, this story is not new but one can only imagine that the recklessness in the oil sector has spilled to the generator business. In Nigeria personal interests have continued to override national interests. What a shame?

The NUEE went ahead to inform Nigerians that the SOE in the power sector will not change anything in Nigeria. They also have words for the prayer warriors of Nigeria. You can pray and fast for as long as you want to but if this government does not build power stations, nothing will change and declaring a state of emergency is not the way to go about it either. Sadly, it takes 3 years before a power station can be completed and functional.

If NEPA workers in present day Nigeria go on strike they will probably not be missed. Instead the people will be happy that there will be no electricity bills for the power supply that they didn’t get in the first place. So for their own good NUEE should drop the threat and await the implications of the SOE that Umaru has up his sleeves.

Who knows? Part of the $5bn may be used to settle their salaries arrears and to effect payment of future salaries. This might be the year they have also been praying and fasting for! A year and a new era when they don’t have to use false billings to supplement their pay package!

We shall all see if this SOE implies the prosecution of the saboteurs in the power sector. Will it mean an end to some individuals and companies making profits at the expense of the downtrodden masses? We will get to find out how Umaru will improve the power supply by building new power stations or upgrading the existing ones to maximum output/ efficiency.

With a declaration of SOE in the power sector imminent, Nigerians who have been paying for the power that is not available will be anxious to know if the hopes that they have kept alive over the years will finally payoff or not. On this matter, NEPA or NUEE should have a little patience with Umaru just as the rest of us have done with NEPA over the years.

I am not a fan of Umaru at all (because I will not forget that he was imposed illegally on Nigerians by Obasanjo) but in the absence of any choice at this moment and in the presence of our overstretched resiliency I am very keen on what SOE means in the power sector.

If the effects will be magical in less than 3 years that is required to build a functional power station, then I would argue that SOE should be declared on Nigerian roads, housing system, educational system, health system, anti-corruption system, socio-welfare system, political system and the scandalous electoral processes among other grossly neglected aspects of our difficult lives.

If the whole shout of SOE is another sham then I’ll never forget how a battling Umaru became part of our shameful history in the first place.