I lived and grew up just around the Teslim Balogun Stadium (then, UAC Grounds), so I had the immense privilege of watching so many football matches in the stadium. Of course I didn’t have the money to pay even for the popular side, so most of the time I went to hawk iced water, and at other times, I simply joined the other kids to scale the wall. In any case, the gates were usually thrown open midway into the second half, so with some patience I still got to watch the games.
I have no clue how the great players of the 1960s performed, but from the mid 1970s I had the opportunity of seeing Stationery Stores FC perform in flesh. I watched the team consistently until the demotion to the second division, and then the withdrawal from the National League, and then the revival a couple of years ago. I am a Stores boy !
Very few people (if any) will argue the fact that Haruna Ilerika is the most important Stationery Stores player ever – our Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, et cetera. However, if a survey is carried out for the second most impactful Stores player, the answer may not be so clear cut. The older generation of supporters may elect Peter ‘Baby’ Anieke or Tony Igwe (‘World 2’) or Peter Fregene; a lot of the younger generation will easily go for Dodo Mayana (Peter ‘Rock’ Rufai) for his huge role in Nigeria’s first World Cup qualified team. For me personally, the no.2 most important player in Stationery Sores history has to be Audu Ibrahim, who unfortunately entered the bad books of the club at the tail end of his otherwise illustrious career.
I have searched and searched and googled but I not lucky to find any photograph of Audu, so I will just describe him and request any good artist among the supporters to draw out an artist’s impression.
Audu Ibrahim was a tall chap, ebony black, muscular and very athletic. He had a handsome, boyish face, and for some strange reason a similar unique fore-hair line as the great Haruna Ilerika’s. Some people said he hailed from Kano, but others said he was Ghanaian (which is more likely, as so many skillful Ghanaian players came to play for Stores). He started as a schemer in the No.4 position, taking over very easily from the mercurial Sanni Mohammed who played for the Super Eagles until Muda Lawal arrived on the scene.
Audu held the midfied like a general for Super Stores for many years and you could easily compare him to Manchester United’s Roy Keane. He combined the role of a schemer with that of a defender, played box to box, and contributed immensely to Stores winning or avoiding defeat on so many occassions. In fact Audu mentored and prepared the way for other great midfielders like Olumide Banjo and Akeem Ogunlade to emerge.
It was a no brainer that Audu Ibrahim was elected Captain of Stationery Stores: He was a leader on the pitch. At a stage when the likes of sensational Emannuel Jackson were bowing out and Stores was having a gap in central defence, Audu was drafted to a permanent central defence role. Again, he did the job spotlessly as if he was born as a No.5.
Somehow, as age wore on, human weaknesses set in and perhaps the thought of life after football became overwhelming for Audu. Again too, it was his own perfection that did him in: A team losig 0 – 4 once in a while, especially to a fantastic opponent, shouldn’t create an uproar, but when Stationery Stores lost a game by that margin to the richly assembled Abiola Babes in 1985, there was bedlam in the supporters and management community. To these people it didn’t matter that Stores lost away in the home of one of the strongest clubs at the team. All they knew was that a team with players as good as Audu Ibrahim in defence should not lose 0 -4 to anybody, not even Real Madrid !
Like play like play, what started as some joke became an official matter. A probe panel was set up by the club, and the report of the panel stated that some players collected money before the game. The biggest casualty of the whole drama was Audu Ibrahim who had to leave the club after so many years of meritorious service.
Reports had it that Audu wept like a little baby when his indictment was announced. That was how one of the most glorious chapers of Stationery Stores’ history ended on a sad note. Ever since, no one seems to remember Audu Ibrahim again.
This is over 30 years after that sad episode. I think to err is human, but to forgive is divine. Audu Ibrahim’s contributions to Stores for what I think spanned 5 – 10 years was a thousand time more than th 3 points that we lost to Abiola Babes. We need to forgive Audu. Stationery Stores FC must officially forgive Audu and commemorate this with a special all-star game.
As I write, we don’t even know if the man is still alive or not. We don’t know how his family is faring. Worst of all, the club where he spent the best part of his youth serving will not even remember him – all because of some small human error that cost the club 3 league points. This wrong.
I’m happy that when another bribery issue came up some years after Audu’s case, the club had the maturity to treat it quietly in-house, without inflicting another permanent damage on another player’s career.
Let’s forgive Audu Ibrahim and restore his well earned place as one of the greatest players of Nigeria’s greatest football club, Stationery Stores.
Stationery Stores ’80s photo with Audu Ibrahim standing