Sunday, 6 April 2014

‘How God saved me from Yugoslavian witch’ — Taribo West

taribo west 

SITTING face-to-face with Taribo West, flamboyant erstwhile Super Eagles defender, a mere breathe away surely evokes memory and emotion.
Friendly and good-natured, the former strongman in the heart of Super Eagles defence in the 1990s quickly sized up the reporter without been offensive as he sauntered into the visitor’s lounge of his impressive duplex. The four walls of the lounge abound with pictures of people dear to the footballer turned preacher. His mother’s portrait, (who died three months ago) is striking among the lot, with that of his two daughters as well as his with notable career highlights in the colours of Inter Milan, Derby County, Super Eagles, Julius Berger and Kaiserslautern.

In the room are also images capturing Taribo at different times with his spiritual mentors: Pastor Ayo Oritshajafor, Bishop Ayo Don Dawodu, Paul Adefarasin, Ashimolowo, Bishop Noel Jones and others. This room without doubt is a reporter’s delight and strongly exhibited emotion translating to questions for Taribo West, the man with multi-coloured dreadlocks in his playing days.

Though the dreadlocks have been taken away, Taribo is still colourful on the pulpit as founder and pastor of Shelter in The Storm Ministry with branches in Port Harcourt and Lagos. West speaks extensively on his ministry, which started off after he was spiritually delivered in Milan, Italy but not before he retraced his step back to the streets of Port Harcourt where the journey to soccer stardom began for him.

Born into a large polygamous family, the former Inter Milan player recalls how his late mum, who he fondly calls Mama kicked against his football addiction as a teen.
“My mother personally did not want me to play football but my father was an ex-footballer and he gave me all the encouragement,” said Taribo, a member of the historic team that won Africa’s Olympic Soccer Gold medal with Nigeria’s Under-23 at Atlanta’96. “For him to play football was not a problem but for Mama, it is a big problem.

“In the middle of that we were always having problem with Mama because she would not allow us to go out and play football or spend time with our playmates in the compound because we usually play street football.
“She objected to our playing football but Papa would oblige us and I think his encouragement helped me to become what I am today. My father was a disciplinarian. He liked his family to always be together and at peace. He is a very quiet man that doesn’t have any problem.

“He can assimilate and adapt to any issue in life. So Papa was always there for us teaching us how to become great in life. I went through that like all the children. From my father’s side we are two but from my mother’s side we are eight because my Papa happened to be my mother’s second marriage,” he further revealed.

Taribo has always been strong minded in body and spirit, one factor that propelled him to excel in later years as a tough defender at Italian Serie A.

He said: “At a very tender age I could personally take on three players when we are playing street football and when I have the ball, it is difficult for anybody to take it from me.

“I played for my primary school and by the time I was in Primary 5, I was already the captain of the school. My passion and tenacity for the game just keep growing to the point that I dreamed about it every now and then. So from the primary school I moved onto to secondary school and I just kept playing.”

Providence took young Taribo to the feet of famous Port-Harcourt-based catch-them-young coach; Monday Sinclair who he said discovered his raw talent and carefully nurtured it like flower.

“From secondary school I was opportune to go for trial with the feeder team of Port Harcourt big club; Sharks,” squealed Taribo. “That was where Coach Monday Sinclair saw that I have a special football gift and drew me closer to him.

“I learnt the basic things in football at that academy from the feet of Sinclair. The man is just a blessing to us and he told us that some of us would become great stars for this country and football would take us to the four corners of the world. I never knew I would be one of them.

“But as he was talking, it just keyed into that dream, maybe, because of my passion for the game and decided to learn everything there is to know in the game and make a career out of it.”

That experience, Taribo confesses, became the turning point in his soccer career.
“In 1985, I decided to seek greener pasture in Lagos where I joined Ibukun Oluwa FC owned by Chief Teluwo. The same team later became Obanta and Vigilante FC. But the first name of the team was Ibukun Oluwa and it was based in Ijebu Ode but has a feeder team in Lagos.

“I undertook screening with the feeder team and passed the trial. Chief Teluwo later asked me about my school life and I told him that I dropped out of school but would like to go back. That was how he enrolled me at Ansarudeen Comprehensive High School, Isolo. Then, the feeder team used to train in his compound in Owode, Mile 12.

“He also gave me us an apartment in Awoseyi in Somolu and we would go to school from there and train with the junior team. In the weekend we would play other junior teams around us and it was like that until about a year when he took some us to join the main team in Ijebu Ode. The team was in the second division of the Nigerian league at that time.

“In the team that time was players like Godwin Okpara, Demola Fetuga, and Benjamin Ifejiakwu who were all members of the Golden Eaglets and they were part of the team that represented Nigeria in 1989 and Fetuga was the captain. I played a year there and I was like the revelation in the team that year and from there I moved back to sign for Sharks into the arms of the man that trained me as a kid; Coach Sinclair. I played one year there too and moved on to Rangers and that is where I came into limelight. They brought me out.
“In 1991, I was the Player of the Year and left Rangers to come back to Lagos and signed for Julius Berger. I just played one, one year in all these clubs.”

Not content to play local champion, Taribo began to dream bigger. He was convinced that he could take his trade to the highest level at home and abroad. “I have grown up a bit and I now have a dream, which is to play for the national team and travel abroad. I was invited to the Flying Eagles and we were supposed to go for the U-20 competition in Mauritius. I was training with others in the national camp in Ota when one evening a manager, a Frenchman just strolled in and said

‘He was looking for me since he had information that I was the best defender in the Nigerian league and that I was the kind of person he was looking for.’ He said he came all the way from France and would like to see me play. So we talked and negotiated and he told Coach James Peters what he had come for and he allowed me to go for trial with FC Auxerre in France.
“I went for the trials, did well and signed a pre-contract. Then I came back to Nigeria for the competition in Mauritius and we did not do well. I did not do well either. We were sent packing in the first round and Nigerians were mad with us but I went back to Europe and that was how my career in overseas kicked off.”

He added “I did well in the first year, second year and third year and became an integral part of Auxerre. I spent four and half years in Auxerre and it was marvellous. I won two FA Cups and one league title there. It is one of my best outings. I enjoyed myself thoroughly because France made me open up.

“I quickly adapted to the weather and the environment but loneliness and the food was difficult. I couldn’t adapt to it quickly. At a point I was so tired that I went to meet the coach that I just want to return to Nigeria because I feel too lonely. The coach was like a father he sat me down and asked me; ‘Do you know Basile Boli? I said yes! Do you Know Eric Cantona? Do you know Jean Tigana? I said yes! He said ‘all those players passed through this process. I have seen your ability and your time will come just be patient and keep your head down.’ He challenged me and I took the decision that I was going to make it in Europe, starting from Auxerre. Though I was playing regularly but I was not in the first team. But some way, somehow, people will get knocked or get tired and I would be drafted in and from that point they would not get back that shirt because I would so impress that everybody will want to see me play again. At that point I made up my mind to do all I can to break into the first team.”

That resolution knocked him back to shape and later shaped his biggest transfer to Italian giants, Inter Milan.

“After my fourth year, Inter Milan came knocking and I made the switch to Italy- Inter was my biggest move. Auxerre made good money from the transfer and did too and I found myself in the midst of world class players like Ronaldo, Diego Simeone, Youri Djorkaef, Laurent Blanc and Roberto Baggio, it is like playing with the best and that also opened me up to the world. I became an item too in world football. We had four players that were like the toast of the fans, Ronaldo, Youri Djorkaef, Baggio and I from the back with my trademark hairdo and ruggedness, the fans just love it. They love players who play with their hearts and my four and half years at Inter were incredible.”

His incredible time in Italy was however punctured by Coach Marcelo Lippi, according to Taribo.
“At a point Marcelo Lippi, who helped Italy win the 2006 World Cup left Juventus for Inter and from the beginning he said ‘he doesn’t like my style and he’s reforming the team and if I want to go I can go.’ For me I have had a great time in Inter and did not want to leave. On my third year at Inter, Liverpool came and I signed pre-contract with them, then ran back to Inter and that year Liverpool won everything. So it was difficult for me but staying back was really tough because true to his words, he did not play me at all.

“So midway into the season, AC Milan came and because it was also in between my ministerial work and I did not want to leave Milan, I took the offer. But it was a wrong move because you don’t do that with two rival clubs in the same city. It is like moving from Stationery Stores to Berger in Nigeria. In the middle of that I found myself playing in the same position with that two of Italy’s greats; Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta. I took their position and it became a trouble so bad that I had to leave. I played only five games because I signed half the season coupled with the fact that I was away on national assignment. In the five games that I played, I was man of the match in four and scored one goal. After then it became a trouble and I had to go. That was how I left the AC Milan,” he said with a tinge of irony even as he revealed more drams in his eventful career.
Rest of the world

Taribo went on to play in England, Germany, Iran, Qatar, and Yugoslavia and he noted that money wise, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Kaiserslautern, Derby County and Qatar paid good money.

Football may have given Taribo fame, honour and money but he confessed that something vital was lacking in his life until he met a United States (U.S) based Nigerian prophetess; Patience Ngozi Ikemefuna. Their meeting was eventful and dramatic and Taribo’s countenance and body language change the moment he started his narration of the tale that altered his life forever.

“I was in the United States (U.S) doing my own thing; clubbing and partying. One night I was out with friends when this lady, a Nigerian who has migrated to the U.S a long time ago, came to meet me. Her name is Sister Patience Ngozi Ikemefuna. She strolled into the party and asked for my name. I was enjoying myself and admiring the view when she met me sitting on my own. She said may I know your name? I was surprised at that question so I replied ‘I have no name’. She said what do you do? I said I do nothing. She said where are you from and I said ‘I’m from nowhere’ in a very aggressive voice and manner. So she left.
“In less than 30 seconds after she had gone, I experienced a resounding slap from nowhere followed by an audible voice in my ears; ‘do you know that woman? Why did you behave that way to her? You must find her and apologise to her right away.’ So I started searching for her but the place was so big and it was difficult locating her quickly. But I persisted and saw her among some people and excused her. When she got to me I told her ‘I am very sorry I don’t know what came on me.’ Then I gave her my name and number and she also gave me her card telling me that whenever I am in any trouble I should call her. And that was how I returned to Milan and we were always in touch, though I continue to do my own thing.”

Taribo continued to unfold the drama; “One day she just called me that she is on vacation and looking for where to spend it. So I asked her to come to Europe that I would take care of her in Milan. About a month later, she calls back to say she is ready and how do we see. So I called my ticket officer and wired her a ticket Dallas-Washington-Milan. She got to Washington and got stuck and called me again. So I called the ticket office again to make her a business class to Milan and eventually when she arrived I went to the airport to get her.

This thing that I want to tell you I will never forget in my life. I picked her up from the airport to take her to my place. On getting to my door of my house, she couldn’t enter. She just stayed by the door. I was impatient because I had to get back to training. I said enter now because I have limited time. She looked at me and said; ‘which audacity and power do you have to stay in this environment.’ She had to battle with me, for about 20 minutes I was trying to convince her to enter. As soon as she entered I gave her the key to the house and called my girlfriend, a Yugoslav girl I have been dating for up to two years now, introduced them and asked her to take care of her until I come back. So I drove off to training.
“My training ground is about a drive from Lagos to Ijebu Ode but because of the good road, if you drive well you would be there in 20minutes. So in the evening when I got home she called me and asked about the girl in my house and I told her she is my girlfriend. She looked at me again and declared: ‘that girl is a witch and you have been living and sleeping with a witch.

“It was unbelievable and I simply told her to stop the drama. She said she had a dream and the girl attempted to strangle her and nearly killed her that afternoon in her dream. She promised that one day I would see her in action. In two days she now called for a bible class and asked my girlfriend to join us. She started manifesting and in less than 10 minutes the power of God came down and the whole place erupted. The girl instantly took off but the power of God seized her and there was noise all over the place. In the kitchen, the cupboards were opening and closing and in my room the wardrobe, doors and windows were opening and closing with so much noise. I was seized too by the power and thrown down.

“I saw the Yugoslav girl shaking on the floor and she began to change from one animal to the other right there before my very eyes. Sister Patience continued to manifest and the power hit her again and she started confessing all the things she has come to do in my life. I had this recorder so I dubbed everything she was saying. Sister Patience looked at me and said; ‘see wetin you carry and dey sleep with.’ (See what you are cohabiting with) The next day nobody told me I went to the bank and got some good money, about $15,000 dollars to $20,000 dollars and begged her to leave my house because we have been living together for about two years. I said take this money, go and help yourself somewhere and leave my life forever. I don’t want to see you again. Thereafter, the woman prophesised, that God would use me for His kingdom and I would leave the football field for His vineyard one day. She said I would be an apostle and how God would use me.
From that day the fire started burning and I have not looked back. It has been quite challenging but the Lord has been faithful. That is the story of my ministration and how my spiritual life started,” he started.
Shelter in the Storm

Today, Taribo, who never attended a theological school but learn under the inspiration of men of God home and abroad, talks with a new glow in his voice whenever the topic is wining souls for Christ. He sheds more light into his Shelter in the Storm ministry and his inspiration to cater for the poor like Jesus Christ did. More so, he wants to replicate what he is doing in Italy in Nigeria.

“The Bible talks about Jesus, prophetical words that were the key to his ministry. He said the word is preached to the poor. When John the Baptist was jailed by King Herod, someway, somehow, someway his disciples saw him briefly and he sent a message through them to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah and Jesus told them that the blind receive their sight and the word is preached to the poor.

“So when you go to the poor you don’t take from them but you release to them. That is the heart of Christ. The vision that God gave me is that I should lead the poor in spirit to him. I saw a lot of our people, coloured people, who are in need in several areas.

“Many of them came into Europe without documents, no shelter and no job. So we have to help them to live. That is the kind of vision that God gave me and I spent a lot of money trying to keep our people together. What I did was to form a cooperative behind the church because a church is supposed to be a non-profitable organisation. I have even started doing it in Nigeria. We got into good relationship with organisations that give employment and we pay government to acquire genuine documents for our people. So if you come, we deliver you and in delivering, you have a place to live. Then we secure your papers and job.

“If you have a job it would be difficult for you to leave the ministry. That is what we do with shelter in the Storm and at the end of the day; it gives life to a lot of people. But the thing is that when I went to Italy I went there to play football, it was not my spiritual ground so I needed to spend time with the Lord for Him to tell me my geographical ground. And I think that from the few work that I have done here, Nigeria is my spiritual ground. I have seen the results and that is why I have come back home to do what God has asked me to do. I must tell you that that is the only thing that I do that I have satisfaction.

“Every other thing that I have tried in order to have life, coaching, business and investing in football matters I have not experienced any kind of fulfilment in. I did not go into ministry for money. I had everything money can buy before going into the ministry. In-fact going into the ministry made me loses money. I had everything but one thing that was lacking is God. Look at the so-called pastors that we have all over the place; they have the head knowledge but not the heart knowledge. Such pastors are dangerous to people.
“I have met some pastors and all they want from me is connection because they see that my name and face can open doors. I have never been to any theological school but God gave me strong people as mentors. The first five years were difficult but I met Godly people like United Kingdom- based Bishop Ayo Don Dawodu, Paul Adefarasin, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, and Bishop Noel Jones who taught me well. They are my mentors,” he concluded with a relish.
The Nation

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