*How they waved, greeted, and stabbed me
*After 25 years in South Africa, returns to Nigeria and establishes a new church in Philippines
Nigerian football is corrupt, rotten —Peterside. Bishop Idah Peterside, a former goalkeeper for Nigerian football who is now a church founder and preacher, claims that despite suffering a crushing defeat in the most recent Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) elections, the experience gave him the courage he needed to return to Nigeria after living in South Africa for 25 years (SA).
after living in South Africa for 25 years, going back to one’s origins
Yes, I’ve returned to Nigeria in full. I spent 25 years of my youth in South Africa. In 1998, I traveled to South Africa. It’s 2023 already, which is 25 years away. I visited there when I was quite little. Back then, people referred to it as Japan. I departed in search of brighter pastures.
In all honesty, I don’t have much else to give South Africa. I sacrificed my life. We constructed a fantastic church (Christ Ambassadors Church) with space for roughly 4000 people. It was then time to return to Nigeria.
I joked with my wife that I wouldn’t pass away there. I’ve decided that I need to return home where I still have time to make a lot of contributions. However, my focus right now is on the church ministry rather than athletics.
If only my wife were here, I could ask her about her reaction to what I told her. Thank God, the woman replied. Even after years of marriage, it still doesn’t feel the same as being at home. She was only following me since back there (SA), it was all about me and my profession.
In contrast to where one is in Nigeria, her parents, siblings, and essentially the folks she grew up with are all still in this nation (Nigeria). So, for her, that was a huge relief. She is overjoyed. My kid recently began kindergarten. To demonstrate that we were truly back, we enrolled her in this school a few days ago.
God’s command is to go home
Although we are delighted despite not knowing what tomorrow brings, we do know who it belongs to. Additionally, God gave a heavenly directive stating that our stay in South Africa had come to an end. I explicitly prayed to God for guidance on this goal as we made the decision to obey.
I’ve been trying to get back exactly three years. I admitted to my wife that I had a very strong intuition that I should return, but we were unsure. The election (for the NFF Chairmanship) was what caused things to alter. It was a good time to think after I lost the election.
The circumstance got me to reflecting. Where would you reside if you had been elected or had won the election, I wondered. Nigeria, I replied to myself. I instantly prayed to God and apologized for being like Jonah, who was reluctant to depart.
The answer came quickly. All of my possessions, including everything I needed to transfer out of the country and return to Nigeria, were on the ship between November and December of last year. I sold all five of the automobiles I had. I listed my house for sale and gave my assistant control of the church. I gave up all I had to, and as a result, I have nothing to own in South Africa. And I made the decision to return home.
having faith that the church you worked so hard to create would be left in capable hands to continue the legacy
The young guy I placed in charge of the ship commands my complete confidence. Remember that he collaborated with me for 13 fruitful years. People may change, but if we don’t pass the torch to the successors we’ve prepared, there won’t be a legacy.
I won’t always be here, even now when I’m back at home. Success then refers to your capacity to produce a deserving heir. In my 20 years as the Church’s pastor, this man has been like a younger brother.
And now, 13 years later, he is an adult, married with kids, the pastor of one of the branches in Tembisa, the city where I used to play football. For Tembida Classics, I was a player. I then transported him from there to the main office.
Before I took him to Tembisa, he was with me in the office, and now I had to bring him back with such great faith. I must believe in him. People who have been taught by us, who have worked with us for a considerable amount of time, and who have proven to have high character and ability must be trusted.
And he must be successful. Keep in mind that I am a Bishop with networks. I go to other churches as well. It is similar to giving him a branch. The headquarters are wherever I am.
keeping up the ministry at home?
We now have a temporary location to worship in Port Harcourt, just as I went back home. The location is Jevinik Place. In order to launch the ministry on January 29th, the Christ Ambassadors Church has finally secured a deal with the location to have services there for at least the upcoming year. Therefore, we are making measures to make that happen.
Church ministry is a difficult calling. It is my life, as you noted. Therefore, my church work is by no means over after I return to Nigeria. I live for it. If God can assist me there, where I established one of the largest churches and where I had my own christian television, then he can help me everywhere.
God is the same everywhere. If I approach God with similar trust, everything I require, He will reward me suitably. 22 people made up my crew in South Africa. It is clear that the new owner acquired the workforce and all the expenses. There is nothing there that I own.
We just ended. I’m also here Nigeria by faith, believing that the same God who provided for me in South Africa will do so again in Nigeria.
Football career, then life as a bishop
It is distinctive. The world of football is glamorous. Not a life of self-sacrifice, though. It is a life of solitary endeavor. When it comes to ministry, it’s no longer a solo endeavor. Your existence is for others. You remind me of Governor Nyesom Wike, who used to compare himself to a trash can where people pour their trash.
Someone phones you as he is battling with his wife. Someone comes to you because their children are acting off. Someone comes to you because he is broke. However, as a football player, you are idolized. People genuinely want to be with you, to assist you, and to be your friend. You find it all enjoyable.
I learned for the first time that you must fill out a form at the airport when I quit playing football. In my playing days, I never filled out any forms at airports. They just take care of all the booking and legalities for me whether I’m entering or leaving South Africa. You are outstanding.
And keep in mind that I previously worked on football for television, but this (church) is different. I am human enough to be aware that my upbringing wasn’t very prosperous. Despite the fact that my parents were middle-class, I knew that you had to control your own fate. In serving God and in ministry, which I think I have done by grace during the 20 years that I have been a pastor, I simply picked my own destiny.
losing the NFF presidential election
After I lost the election, I kept silent. This is what I want to say: Nigerian football is rotten and corrupt to the core. One of the FA Chairmen—I won’t divulge his name—just passed away. God rest his soul. He phoned me and offered to assist you in the election. You would have to pay this or that in exchange.
I drove over to his house and gave him some campaign money. He need logistics so he could run. We first met in Benin, and he invited me to visit him there. I went. Everything was OK, he claimed. We have discussed many topics with various people. We’ve witnessed both this and that.
In the end, I only received one vote. Do you comprehend? I’m not saying because he didn’t vote for me, but the system is what it is, and it means that extremely capable individuals cannot be part in Nigerian football as it is now organized.
What a letdown it was to go through that painful experience at a time when there is a growing need for ex-football players to take charge of Nigerian football.
They wouldn’t permit you. This is a cabal. Take a look at Nigerian football’s past. Has a footballer ever served as the top administrative body? None. During my session, I visited a few eminent individuals. I was told that I was an outsider. How, I asked? I spent how many years playing football at the highest level in Nigeria. Someone claims that I’m an outsider even though I’ve worked for Nigeria and served as the Eagles’ media officer.
Who is an insider, I ask them. Since the State FA Chairmen are all 36 and have voting rights, they turned and questioned me, “First, you are not the Chairman of an FA.” Two, neither you nor the players’ union, coaches, or referees’ union are in charge. So,
They made it clear to me that I was an outsider. To be President of the NFF, you simply cannot be from outside. You’ll ruin everything for us. I had to learn a difficult lesson. I then watched Netflix and all of a sudden noticed the FIFA corruption. I understood that Nigeria is a small country. It’s a mechanism up there that cascades down to the FAs. It may even be conducting business at the state level.
Therefore, action must be taken. We must alter the Nigerian football voting system. This group of people cannot choose who casts a ballot in an election. I’ve always advocated for equal voting rights in every unit of groups with voting rights, including the state FA chairmen, referees, and players union—about six of them.
There should be six votes for each group. Therefore, it is my duty to lobby the officials; yet, even the officials must be wholly independent of the NFF. Because the NFF President now has complete control, everything. I literally mean everything. He won’t pay you or set up games for you if you don’t support him as referees.
This mechanism must thus be flawed. Six people must be a part of the players union, six coaches, six referees, six FAs, and six aspects of women’s football. I was also able to learn. I had numerous wonderful encounters with journalists, athletes, and fans from all around. During the campaign, Rufai, Oliseh, and other players were yelling and cheering for me.
People called me during the campaigns and told me, “We are behind you,” just like Peter Obi. Can you accomplish this? I’m also a persistent man. Then I took a chance, and people started to dislike me. Ex-football players, that is. When people in Anambra state, Benue, where I played in the local league before heading overseas, started to protest, it was one thing that hurt me the most.
You may argue that individual is a football player and would comprehend our situation in these situations. Ironically, these were the individuals that greeted me with a grin and a handshake before stabbing me.
How did the allegations of vote buying make you feel?
It was a crime scene, of course. We wouldn’t have a President of the NFF if the EFCC had been present because practically everyone would have been behind bars. There was no secret agenda. It had opened. Since the election, I haven’t brought up this subject. People would have criticized me for being furious and bitter because I had lost.
I wanted to make a fuss, but they phoned to explain how things operate. However, we can’t remain silent for very long. We want to play good football. While watching the World Cup, I was in Qatar. I sat down and gave a headshake. Why shouldn’t Nigeria be present, I pondered. It hurt so much. I’ve never felt such suffering.
I’ve participated in World Cups, but this was the first time I felt hurt because I’ve grown to the point where I can make decisions. I knew we would have qualified for this World Cup if we had made the proper choices.
We left behind. Have you noticed that it has been almost three years since anybody has addressed Nigerian football? On a global scale, we are no longer there. Who is phoning us from Africa even? You can hear Senegal, Morocco, and Cameroon. Who brings up Nigeria?
Cautioning on popular sentiment Nigeria might not yet make it to the next World Cup.
Ibrahim Gusau deserves a chance, in my opinion. We don’t want to pass judgment on the young guy before he has had a chance to explain himself. The present NFF President must get all the assistance he requires from us. It is not about a specific person. It concerns our game. We will all be pleased if we find someone who can modify the rules of our game, whether he is a farmer, doctor, or lawyer.
It’s not about any former players or coaches; it’s about football. It concerns a visionary person. Give Gusau a chance if you wish to raise concerns, in my opinion. He’s been in office for little over three months. And I’m resolved to stand by him. When I lost the election, I acknowledged as much. I sat next to him and told him, “I’ll be here for you, but I’ll talk now.” I promised him that I would speak out if he wasn’t feeling well.
How might things have changed if you had prevailed?
As a matter of fact, I am no longer responsible for joining difficulties. I tried to propose a solution, but they rejected it and advised Gusau to handle it. He could have his own strategy, and I have mine, so I’m at a loss for words at this time. He is now in office. Let him speak out and offer his thoughts. If he came to me and asked how I might assist, I would respect that and do so.
If you had won, how would you have been able to run both NFF and your church?
I would have immediately taken a break. I have no doubts about it. I had previously put it out and spoken about it with my family. I would have taken a sabbatical for four years and given the church to someone else. But as it is, I’ve left South Africa and am back in Port Harcourt, which is where I call home. Life goes on.
Just hoping that as I come to build another church in Port Harcourt, people would start to see the other side of me. the aspect of myself that most folks back home don’t know. I’ve spent 20 years working in the church and as a pastor. Preaching God’s word is now my true work and my calling; football has become my husband. In Port Harcourt, I’m hoping they’ll let me have the room.
There are many outstanding men of God in Port Harcourt, some of whom I have had the opportunity to counsel. Do not forget that I have a home in Port Harcourt. I’ve asked for guidance from several of these godly guys, both the big lads and the little ones. I don’t have to know what to do if I ask for advice.
I would want to welcome everyone in Port Harcourt who is now reading Vanguard. In Jevinik Center, New GRA Port Harcourt, is where our church, Christ Ambassadors Church, is located. Place that is easily accessible. We cordially invite everyone to our church’s opening celebration on January 29. God will continue to assist me in carrying out His plan for His people, as He has done in the past. We find this development to be exciting.
He laments the loss of South Africa.
Almost anything. There, I stayed for 25 years. I now belong to the group of persons. What God accomplished for me in South Africa is indescribable. It is inexplicable. To me, South Africa became open. I was assisted and blessed by the nation. I have financial, spiritual, and physical blessings.
Money and my family came to me from South Africa. Since I was nothing when I left my own Nigeria for South Africa, I would never talk negatively of that nation. South Africa is responsible for who I am today. Everyone has the right to speak anything they wish. Although there are difficulties everywhere, South Africa was my promised land.
I had to return home despite everything. My home state in Nigeria is called Rivers. I also think that Nigeria will favor me. I’m a native son. I’m from here, you see. We’re back and ready to relax. I connected with a group of old pals the day before. Both parties were enthused.
I am surrounded by some excellent folks. Some people have already inquired about how, what they can do, and the help I need to settle down after learning I won’t be coming back. We live with two children who are illiterate in everything—not even pidgin English, garri, or swallows.
Do you think we should order some pizza, Daddy? There could be pizza, I informed them, but you’ll learn to swallow, speak banga, and understand local language here. They must alter their behavior.
excitement about Rivers, where he is going back there after 25 years?
The status of Rivers excites me. My house is here. I played football for Rivers United and the Port Harcourt Sharks. While competing at the Sports Festival, I earned gold. I hope the future governor of Rivers state would knock on my door given the expertise I’ve gained both at home and abroad, especially in sports and media.
Remember that I worked for one of Africa’s largest sports TV networks. I anticipate the leaders saying, “As a son of the soil, we are happy to have you back.” Come help us out a little bit. I’ve spent 25 years working steadily in sports and the media, so the experience I’ve earned outside cannot be wasted.
So I hope that whoever is elected governor will welcome our kid home with open arms. In civilized environments, that is how it is done. I’m fortunate to still be youthful. By the grace of God, I am well and alive. I have intelligence because of God. I’m now lot more ready to put my state’s needs first. The country is occupied. Later, we would arrive.
Still going on NFF presidential
How could you possibly overlook Atiku’s fourth attempt? How many times did Buhari attempt to win the president of the country? Why would a first attempt fail a young mind like mine? There is no question that we will return. We want to help, but for now I want to focus on myself.
My brother Christopher Green, the fantastic Commissioner for Sports at Rivers, is here. Soon, I’ll send him a message to let him know that I’m back. We call him Nwamfor. We would offer our suggestions whenever you felt they may help the game’s development.
Money is no longer the first priority at this point. It is no longer a driving force. That one was created with humility. We can certainly afford to buy petrol. The desire to use our extensive expertise for the benefit of society is what matters most.
I’ve had a lot of amazing home support on my quest to participate in decisions that would improve Nigerian football. I must also recognize Sim Fubara, the Rivers PDP candidate for governor and a fellow citizen, who shared the sacrifice of running for the last NFF presidency with me. Through it all, Fubara provided me with unwavering support, and I can attest to his good character and passion for the greater good.