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Kojo Williams became a national figure when he was elected as the NFA chairman. He also left the position in quick and controversial manner with allegations of his high handedness and introduction of stringent rules to the board of football body. There were complaints of his arrogant nature. But many might not know this, his gait was what first gave him away as being ‘arrogant’, but according to him, he is not. From the Glass House headquarters of the NFA, the football buff walked away and never looked back. He tells Azuka Ogujiuba and Adedayo Showemimo about his love for football and other sports and wait a bit, his plans to re marry
And He Walked Away…
In school, they used to call him the African Child because he looked like the boy on the back of that famous book by Camara Laye, The African Child. But when he grew up, he behaved like the real African man, not a boy this time and Kojo walked away. Not from life but from a system that did not understand him. His election as the chairman of the Nigeria Football Association, NFA, was seen as a departure from the norm. He was youthful and ebullient. Charismatic and with an aura that is both arresting and captivating, Kojo is your kind of man for the job. And when he came on board, many expected changes. However, those who had rejoiced at his coming might have done that too early. Hardly did he spend a month. He walked away. Was he forced to? Perhaps. But he does not seem to have any regrets. He still remains himself and may be, still believes that the nation lost something by his exit. He does confirm this:
“The only thing that saddens my heart is that if we had followed the programme I had then, our football would have improved a great deal, we would have gone far. That’s the only thing that pains me, aside that I have no regret.”
There is the school of thought that he had lobbied for the job and hence should have thread softly and not take on the powers that be inside the Football House. He just laughs. Mirthlessly. Why would he have lobbied? And who would he lobby?
“Why would I want to lobby for the job? Lobby for what, with all those board members then? They were all just jammed up people. Of course, I won’t go back. They said they impeached me, and it was fine so I left. Of course I know my value and I know what I brought to the table, so they are the losers, they can all go to hell.” Some measure of bile? May be. But that is also understandable. And he is even busy right now. When asked what he does now, he replies straightaway: “I do more of consultations and sports marketing. I’m involved with some state governments and also some countries in Africa. I also do consultation for FIFA as well.”
Arrogant in My Strikes? Check My Dad…
One of the things he has had to deal with, even since when he was school, is the fact that he is arrogant. A question is directly put across to him: a lot of think you are very arrogant how is that? He just smiles. To him, it is one issue he has had to deal with since when he was in secondary school when the principal used to flog him because of the way he walked “as if he owned the world”. But it was a visit to the school by his father one day that changed that perception.
“One day my dad came to see me in school and when she saw my dad walking, she didn’t say anything. Two weeks after, my mum came to see me in school during visiting days and my principal called my mum to the side and said in Yoruba ‘Mo ti gba ese’ (I’ve offended you and God) and my mum said why and she said she has been beating me because of the way I walk thinking I was very arrogant. So she said she saw my dad walking recently and she noticed that we walk the same way; so my mum smiled and said that is how he walks like his father.”
And this has even continued in the ‘lineage’. He tells the story of his own son.
“For instance my son was walking at The Palms recently and an ex-school mate of mine saw him walking from behind and when my son turned around, he said to him: ‘you must be Kojo’s son because you walk like him and look like him’. I’ll give you another instance, there was a day I was walking on the aisle at the Ministry of Defence, and a general saw me walking, and he beckoned on me and said ‘I like the way you walk, you walk like a General’. He said he wished I could come and teach his officers how to walk. So it’s just a natural thing, I don’t know about being arrogant. I guess in life whether you like it or not, everybody cannot like you.”
And those Formative Years…
Kojo’s growing up, according to him, was lovely. He was very close to his dad whom he describes as a “very cultured man and very warm”. He says apart from being his father, he was his best friend and he gave him a lot of opportunities and exposure from a very early age.
“What I like about him is that he gave me balanced life. He’ll take me to a 7-star hotel in Europe and then bring me back to a boarding school in Abeokuta. My dad was ahead of his time in everything; he knew how to treat a woman, he was very hardworking, he was very humble and sophisticated and he dressed well. Everything he had was the best so I learnt a lot from him. My dad really pampered me, but then he was also strict because there were limits to certain things I could do. I remember that I started having an apartment of my own at age 17, but then there was a line and if I crossed the line he would withdraw the benefits from me, but then it was all nice.
And as early as age nine, he had loved football so much and back then his grandparents were staying at Igbosere in Lagos Island and he would tell them he wanted to go play football outside, but it was just a decoy. From just going to play outside, he would find his way to the stadium to watch football and enjoy himself. “I was very adventurous as a child and I really enjoyed travelling a lot too.” And about his father’s fashion sense, Kojo is very blunt and direct: “He was well ahead of his time with the things he did and the way he dressed. He was a funky person.”
My Youthful Looks? God Has Been Kind…
With his specs precariously perching on his posh and polished face, Kodjo still cuts a figure of a debonair young man who does not seem ready to grow and age. While he admits that health and good looks come from God, one has to apply certain things to be able to be on top health and looks wise.
“The body is a temple of God. So for me the body, which will wither away with time, and would be buried. But then to get your body in shape, you need to have that right frame of mind. Your spirit and soul must be alive to God. That Godliness is what you pass to your body. Honestly speaking, looking good and keeping fit is a lifestyle for me; it’s something I have always done right from school. It’s a culture I’ve imbibed and honestly speaking, I am not doing it for anybody; I just do it for myself. It’s not about flaunting my body or showing off, I just do it because it’s a lifestyle for me. That’s all. And most importantly, it’s a spiritual thing, because health is a gift from God and you have to take care of it properly and the only way to service the body is by eating the right things, exercising, having the right frame of mind, contentment, showing love to people whether they hurt you or not, just be happy in Christ.”
Part of things that have ‘kept him in shape’ is that he always exercises on a daily basis. Every day, according to him, he is up at 6am to do his “stomach exercises and body stretches” then aerobics class from 6:30 for one hour, and after that, his weight training for another one hour. Even with all these, he still insists that it’s the grace of God and the inner peace “you have that reflects on the outside; because the reality is that there’s really nothing about the human body. But you just have to take care of it by exercising; it’s like a car, you need to service it. But because I guess I’m a sports person, and I’ve always had this training regime and I still follow it.”
I still live with it, because in this part of the world a lot of people don’t really have time for exercising the body. As an individual, you also need to know when your body needs rest, for me, if I do serious training for a stretch of 3 or 4 weeks. I can decide to take 4 days off and I’ll start off again, and believe me I don’t feel body pains when I do exercises regularly, it’s only when I go off exercises for a long period of time that I begin to feel pains (smiles) as a matter of fact, I feel much better and more in shape now than 10 years ago when I was 45 years old. I might not be quicker in the aspect of speed, but am stronger.
He is very cautious about what he eats.”I eat a lot of vegetables and fruits. I have a good meal a day and I don’t eat before going for training. I only take fruits after. I am not really a breakfast person. I eat brown rice, chicken, a lot of guinea fowl and fish.” Then he has a word for those who eat beef regularly and in large quantity. To him, that is not healthy and he does not eat it at all. “I don’t eat beef, because it’s not healthy, if you eat beef, it takes nine days for it to digest in your system, so I eat more of vegetables and then I love roasted plantain; I eat it every day.”
My Sports, My Passion…
Kodjo does not seem to know much about any sport outside football. Yes, it seems so but anyone who holds this view probably does not know him all too well. In fact, when he begins to talk about other sports, then you begin to have an idea of how deep he is in other sports. He talks about tennis, boxing and athletics in ways that shows he knows what he is saying.
“I love tennis and I play tennis as well, even though I have not played it in a while and I even love female tennis. When you see Serena Williams hit the ball, you enjoy it. I also love boxing, even though it’s no longer as interesting as it used to be, but I still love to watch a good boxing bout. I love athletics too, because I was a middle distance runner back in the days.” But he has his exception as far as sports are concerned: “I don’t like Golf for anything; I am not interested and nobody can convince me otherwise.”
While Nigerians have their favourite European clubs with the attendant craze and emotional attachment that go with them, Kojo is not one of them but he does admit that he loves Chelsea coach, Jose Mourinho because, according to him, he “is a tactical coach” and he also likes the way his team, Chelsea plays.
“Though, I am not a Chelsea fan, but I enjoy the way they play. I like Athletico Madrid and Bayern Munich too. Manchester City is good too. As a kid, as much as I was a Stationary Stores fan, I loved watching Enugu Rangers when they came to play in Lagos because they were strong and well built. However, if you ask me, the best player in the world now is Messi. I feel sorry for Ronaldo because he’s equally good, but Messi has an edge.”
His recent comment about the Super Eagles could not have ruffled few feathers. But he stands by what he says. To him, the country was just lucky to have won the Nations’ Cup in South Africa last year. Technically, the team is not strong. That is Kojo Williams for you; even when he knows that this will not help build friendship between him and Stephen Keshi, he has to make his points.
“I said winning the Nation’s Cup was a fluke. We weren’t good enough and I’ll still repeat it because I know what I am talking about. Technically and tactically speaking, we weren’t good enough at all. The NFA did a good job though, but for Keshi to come out and say all those things is just a joke, we are not there yet. We don’t play good football and when the World Cup comes you’ll realise what am saying.”
Did Kojo ever wanted to be anything professionally as a young child? His answer was so straight forward.
I always wanted to be a Business Executive. I also liked marketing and public relations but then, my father was an engineer and I felt I should also be an engineer but at the end of the day I got into sports management. But I never had the ambition of being a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant.”
Surprisingly, he is not one of those who wear the church they attend like a garment. Mere seeing their cars, you know their church. He is not one of them.
“Worshiping God is not about the church you attend, even though a lot of people attach a lot of importance to the church they go. I am Catholic today and I come from a very strong Catholic background, though at a certain time I was in the Redeemed Church and honestly speaking, there’s nothing wrong with the Redeemed Church just that as times goes on you get to realise certain things and you move on. l am a highly spiritual person; I believe worshipping God is a spiritual thing. It is between you and God. I am not involved in church politics; mine is to worship God and mind my business. But I do a lot of evangelism outside the church.” And perhaps as result of this, he believes there is nothing he has to do differently. “I am a fulfilled man,” he tells THISDAY. “I just keep asking for God’s wisdom and understanding. I just want to work for him and be His voice, not as a motivational speaker, but as a spiritual speaker; speaking the truth as it is in the Bible, serving humanity is what I just want to achieve.”
Kojo does admit, though, that he did a lot of “stupid and crazy things as a teenager that I don’t want to talk about.”
On politics, he does not have issues with serving his fatherland. Only that the way politics is played in these shores scares guys like him. “I don’t have any problem serving the nation. I have no problem having political ambitions, but definitely not the kind of politics we play here, because it’s jungle politics. I am not interested in that because we are not civilised when it comes to politics. Until we get to that level when there’s a bit of civility, then I can consider it, not when it’s a do or die affair. Of course, I am concerned about the state and well being of the nation, but I am not going to join a group of thieves and people that have no fear of God in them. I won’t be part of that nonsense.”
Before the repulsion of politics here spoils the discussion, Kojo is asked if he is romantic. His response tells more of what he picked from his father.
“Oh, I love romance (laughs). I’m a lover boy. If I love a woman, I love her with my whole being. But it has to be the right woman; it’s not just about the looks, it goes deeper than that.
I learnt a lot about romance from my dad because my dad knew how to treat a woman. He was a lover boy to the core so I picked a lot from him. Back then when you were chasing a girl, we would write letters and when she replied, you would keep it under your pillow for days; that feeling was priceless. But now things have changed. Then, it would take months to get a girl to say yes, and the day you finally got to have a dance with her, it would feel like the end of the world. Yet, you have not even kissed her, just hug and you’ll be melting away. But now it’s all changed.”
His view about marriage itself is that it is a sacred thing that must be respected. To him, you have to seek the face of God before going into it because, according to him, “we all have our God ordained partner from heaven; we just need to be careful and patient to find that partner, and not just chasing shadows. Marriage is highly sacred and spiritual.”
As a single parent, does he still want to remarry? He is very direct, even with some element of sarcasm. “Yea, I will. I will remarry someday by the grace of God or do you want me to live alone (laughs). God didn’t create us to live alone.” And his kind of woman? “She has to be extremely God fearing and I mean true godliness not just by word of mouth. Then she has to beautiful, sexy and I like tall women with long legs.”
If there is one thing that the man should be praised for, it is the innocuous but poignant admittance of some personal limitations. And he does this through the description of his kids.
One thing am very grateful about is that, my kids are far better than me in terms of conduct. When I was their age, I took more risks than they did but they are more grounded kids. They weren’t as rebellious as I was when I was their age and I see it as a blessing. My kids are just much more calmer; they never give me any headache. For instance they love to stay indoors and play video games, but when I was their age, I would go clubbing, driving fast cars (laughs). I remember those days when I go out late at night, my dad won’t sleep till I got back in the morning. But the truth is, if you never did those things, you’ll never know life and you won’t be in a position to advise people against them.”
And for those who do not know how far he has gone in fatherhood, hear him reel out the ages of his kids. “My first child is 34. I had him when I was doing my A levels. But in my marriage, I have five kids: the first is 27, the second is 22, the third 20 and the last is 14. Then I have a boy that’s 7 years old.”
Kojo is not crazy about fashion but he admits that he has loads of wristwatches. Yet, there are times he does not even wear one. On clothes, he has this to say:
“I guess I won’t wear an agbada. It’s nice but I am very clumsy and uncomfortable in it and I don’t also know how to adjust it and then also with agbada, I think people use it to deceive people and lord over people.”
And one last thing? He has this to say about his education:
“I went to Our Lady of Apostles Nursery School, then I moved to Children Home School in Ibadan, and then to Omolewa Nursery and Primary Institution. I then proceeded to St. Peters College, Abeokuta and from there I did my A levels in England and then moved to Hamburg Polytechnic in Germany. My first degree was in Business and commerce and then, I later went to study engineering like my father.”
Age appears to have tempered the restlessness and the adventures. And there is the possibility that even if he is provoked now, like a mature african boy he has become, he will not walk away again. Not likely…