Head of Operations, Interim Management Committee (IMC), Davidson Owumi is synonymous with the Nigerian League. He has climbed the rope steadily from the moment he hung his boots after he emerged top-scorer in the 1993 season. From managing Rangers International Enugu, where he spent a greater part of his playing career, to Warri Wolves, his hometown club, he began to carve a niche for himself as a leader longing for merit and excellence. He has stayed true to this path to becoming the IMC boss. In this interview with Taiwo Alimi, Owumi retraced his path to the top talking about the people and things shaped him.
How has it been since your appointment as Head of Operations, IMC?
The IMC is not a personal thing. And because a mirror cannot reflect itself, whatever is happening today, whatever stride we are taking is known to everybody. It is left for those who are watching us and the journalists to know what we are doing.
Our mission when we came in, we had some terms of reference among them, is that we should get the league going; we should get a new calendar for the system, get sponsors and get the league on television. To some extent I think all four that I mentioned have been achieved already. So, if that is anything to go by, it means that things are going on okay.
The idea of getting the league back on TV has not been fully achieved. I do know that the LMC has been talking with DsTV, how soon will the deal be wrapped up?
That is purely administrative issue. When there is contact going on, in a bid to have reconciliation in a deal that has gone sour, there is no time limit to when emotion can be quieted. There is no time limit that when the other party can say we did not do it right here. The thing is that there are talks ongoing to make sure that relationships are established.
You have a quote on your twitter handle that goes like this ‘take what God has given you and horn it, practice, study, and improve yourself. The world is yet to see your best.’ How has this quote exemplify your progress in life?
For one thing, I have tried my little best to consistent and follow the fundamentals that my dad taught me as a small boy growing in Warri. The name of the family was number one priority. You dare not do anything that will bring shame or disgrace to that name; Owumi. It was a quote that every member of the family imbibed from the first day you learn how to talk. We don’t have everything, but what we have in abundance is contentment. And that is spirit that has taken me through the various phases of life. For everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve lived behind something for people to talk about. And that is why I’ve been called upon to come back and do what I’ve done before because of the track record. One thing I’ve realized is that you cannot buy friends with money, I for one don’t have the billions to make people friends, so you just stick to those things that God has given us and do your best. Therein lies your joy; therein lies your salvation in this world and beyond.
Every opportunity you have you talk about your dad, and I remember that your father’s photograph is in your living room, it shows that he had so much influence on you. Did he also influence your choice to becoming a footballer?
Yes in a way. Football was God given and because of his disciplinary nature, for me to football I had to be good even in school. Then, football is seen as something only for school dropout. The only thing I could hold on to for me to play football is to excel academically. Once, he realized that I was playing football and still doing well in school, he gave me the license to play football. He started encouraging me to get a degree and I told him, you will get the degree, but let me play football. So, I was doing my own side, and I was doing mine. He was taking care of the finances and I was doing my part by bringing in good results from school.
Is your son following in this legacy knowing that there are many ex-internationals now having their children playing at the highest level?
For one, the secondary school he went to they were doing more of basketball and I did not want to force him. I took him to Pepsi Academy for some time, he played but he’s more inclined to basketball, so I just allowed him to flow along. Right now, he’s schooling outside the country and I can’t control what he’s doing there.
What is your opinion about the about the abridge league going on?
The abridge league was a child of circumstance. A lot of events that we had last year from the NFF elections to the dissolution of the league board it took a lot of time off the normal programme of the league, and the necessity for us to align our league with the rest in the continent and the world. You finish the league in September or October, and Champions league is already on. It does not leave room for players transfer and for players to even have time to go for trials and look for new clubs. It has a way of disrupting club activities and so, we thought we could align our calendar with the rest of world, and beginning from next season, our league would kick off in August. It becomes a regular thing and also helps in the commercialization aspect of the league. It also brings consistency on to the system. People will be aware that so time Nigerian league will end and it will begin at so time. So, you can make your projection for three, four years. That is why the abridge league cane into existence. And so far so good it’s been very rewarding, although it’s a trick event. I say trick because it is capable of shocking anybody anytime because of the number of games and the concentration of this game too.
Do you think the national teams’ handlers, especially the Super Eagles, are taking enough interest in the domestic league?
I think that the present coach Peseiro is taking attention in the domestic league. In all honesty, you might not be a member of the national team, but as at today, the league is more visible to you than before. Names like Imade are ringing the bell all over the place. Week in week out, we are hearing of Imade and other players that are doing well and we are seeing them on television and live stream. So, I would hardly think that any coach that is in charge of the national teams will look the way of these players that are consistent in the domestic league. I think that the players are beginning to be more consistent and visible and be recognized and if this should continue, very soon, the Super Eagles coach would look their way. So, we are making stars out of our players and it is logical that the national teams’ coaches will not ignore them for long.
You also talked about the league driving itself, how long should we expect this?
Well, the league has its own investors right now and the process is in place. They are investing their money, they are paying indemnities, and they are paying for the live coverage. What we have seen is that some little bit of consistency is beginning to come in and when sponsors start buying into domestic league, more money will come. With more money, there will be improvement. Players’ welfare will go up, adverts will go up and strictures will go up. The entire ecosystem of Nigerian football will benefit from this self-drive initiative.
How do you unwind?
I have a very lovely family and once I finish the day’s activity I go back home and relax with my family. That is the way I unwind and enjoy myself. I don’t go out much. I watch football, play music; in fact gospel music is my favourite music, check out the news. These are the little things I do to unwind.
What philosophy drives you?
Leaving legacies behind. Positive footprints in the sand of time. That is all. If you have that as your philosophy, you will know that the natural law of nature; to do on others what you don’t want them do on to you. You keep your arms straight in life so that good things can happen to you. So, those are the things that drive me. They may look minor but they are important. Then, to also be the best in anything that you are doing.
In my secondary school in Warri, we have a motto that has stayed with me till now. ‘Either you are the best or you are nothing’ and that has been my work path. That motto is still carrying me.
Your name is synonymous with the Nigerian league. In and out, it may not have been rosy, but keep coming back. What has kept you going?
Yes! It’s been a topsy-turvy affair for me. There are some moments that I feel like getting out of the place and do something else. In fact, at a point I branched into my personal business. Again, what you already have inside you stays there. I see myself as a pilot. I am among the moderately educated of my peers when I was playing in the domestic league and when you find yourself at the driving seat of the Nigerian league struggling to create an enabling environment that will help our colleagues, who were not fortunate, either by chance or circumstances, to attain that level, you have to keep driving.
It is then we can help make things good. It is when you make it good that you can bring our colleagues to evolve in the system that you have help create. That is my driving principle. To say look, let’s do this thing right, so that the system can revolve is such a way that it would trickle down to benefit a lot of our colleagues that did not have the opportune we have in life.
Were you surprised that Nigeria did not make the 2022 World Cup?
Somehow, I was surprised because I thought we were doing the cut and paste system and it was getting us somewhere. We survived it for some time but it did not get us there when it mattered most. We look at it as one of those things in life. If wishes were horses beggars would ride. That is gone, we start dreaming and thinking as usual.