Alabi Arabambi: Beyond been a ‘Mascot’

Alabi Arabambi: Beyond been a ‘Mascot’

He is popularly known as Arabambi or Oganla, an adoption based on his support for the famous Fuji Musician, Alhaji Wasiu Alabi Pasuma, but his real name is Bashir Ahmed Alabi. He is one of the few ‘One-man’ Supporters around in football, and today, prides himself as the first recognized ‘Mascot’ for Kwara United Football Club, and a member of the Prince Vincent Okumagba faction of Nigeria Football Supporters Group, the Super Eagles Supporters Club (SESC).

Before now, he has identified with some other clubs which include Crown Football Club of Ogbomosho, El-Kanemi Warriors of Maiduguri, Enyimba International of Aba and Kano Pillars Football Club, arguably because of his closeness to the Chairmen of those clubs as at the time he identified with them.

Arabambi hails from Alkali’s Compound, Oke-Alfa area of Agaka, in Ilorin West Local Government of Kwara state. He is one of the children of the famous late Alhaji Mahmood Hameed, the former Comptroller of Customs in Agaka.

Because of the son of whom he is, one would expect that he is well educated, but despite the efforts of his father to get him educated to the highest level, he left school midway to join his friends then as a furniture making apprentice, in 1991.

“I went to Taoheed Nursery and Primary School, and later, Ansaru-deen Primary School, for my primary education. I also went to Ilorin Grammar School, and left in 1991, to go and learn a vocation, that’s furniture making that same year. I got my freedom from work in 2001, after learning the work for about nine years.

“I had to stay that long before my freedom because my father didn’t want me to learn the vocation. He wanted me to go to school. My friends from the neighborhood had started working and getting money and that discouraged me from following the wish of my father, because if I had done so, I will not get money like my friends.

Arabambi was also a great footballer and table tennis player. He was in the school team, and when he left school, he played for so many clubs, including the defunct Diskabog FC, then under the tutelage of Coach Kabir Sulaiman Dogo.

“I started playing football from my primary school days. I was a defender, and left footer. I played alongside former Kwara United defender, Bolaji Ahmed, who is currently with Gidado FC. I later played under current Wikki Tourists Coach, Kabir Sulaiman Dogo when he was with Diskabog FC, and later joined Baba Amuda Ozogular at Super Strikers FC. I also played table tennis in school. We had table tennis boards all around in the neighborhood then.

“I represented Ilorin West Local Government then, in an Inter-Local Government table tennis tournament, and also encouraged some table tennis players by bringing them to the stadium to play.

And ultimately, Arabambi graduated to be one of the popular symbols of individual and collective support for the round leather game. He started by teaming up with some football loving enthusiasts to form Kwara United Fans Club, a sister supporting arm for Kwara United Football Club, Kwara United Supporters Club, in 2013.

“I was among those that formed Kwara United Fans Club in 2013. I, late Bolaji Karamoh, Alhaji Shehu Abdulkadri, who later became the pioneer Chairman, Alhaji Tunde Bamidele Aluko, who is currently the Board Chairman of The Herald Newspapers, and few others. Six of us started the journey. I provided the hand plank that we were initially using to drum support for Kwara United Football Club at the stadium.

“I left the group because of some differences. Then, I used to go with Kwara United FC to away matches.

Arabambi left school midway to go and learn furniture making, and today, his love for football and the fame and money it has brought to him has made him to do away with the vocation he learnt for nine years.

“I love football very much. Today, nothing can stop me from supporting the game. I started from playing the game. I played the game with passion. When playing, I played for various youth clubs and also participated in numerous competitions. And now, following and supporting the game has taken the furniture making business away from me. Though, I still do it once in a while.

“Even when I was learning furniture making, I will leave our workshop in the evening to go and play the game. I learnt furniture making from Ahmed Furniture at Ita-Amodu area in Ilorin. My nickname when learning furniture was “Kuuru”.

Now, only a large amount of money can make me go back to the job. If I can get up to N10million, I can establish and Furniture making business and employ people to do it.
Arabambi went solo in the football supporter-ship business around 2007, when he came back from Hajj.

“I went to Umrah in Saudi Arabia in 2006, and went for Hajj in 2007. When I came back from Hajj, I went for some matches, got some money, which I used to buy my first car. Some clubs gave me money. I got money from El-Kanemi Warriors, Crown FC and Enyimba FC. And that further spurred me to go deeper into the business. I also used part of the money to buy a parcel of land. That was when I finally bade goodbye to furniture making business.

“But I must say that, doing it alone has a lot of challenges. In it, there is disappointment, molestation and harassment….even Kwara United that is my state team; I have experienced disappointments at some points, from supporting the club. But all that didn’t, and wouldn’t discourage me.

“And that’s why I will want to commend the current Chairman of Kwara United FC, Clement Kumbi Titiloye and the Chairman that served before him, Prince Oladimeji Ladi Thompson. They are wonderful men. I will also want to commend the former Chairman of Crown FC, Noah Bello. Anytime I go for Crown FC matches, I always sleep on the same bed with him. I was also one time supporter of Kano Pillars FC and El-Kanemi Warriors. I equally want to thank Chief Felix Anyasi-Agu and former El-Kanemi Warriors Chairman, Alhaji Babagana Kalli. They are all great men. Then, Babagana Kalli used to buy Sallah ram for me every year.

Following the game of football has taken him to virtually all parts of the country and beyond. And that has earned him the nickname “Alhaji Kwara”, especially in the Northern part of the country.

In 2018, he was supposed to be in Russia as part of the Nigeria Football and Other Sports Supporters Club crew that would drum support for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. He was noticed by the leadership of the club following his exploits in the business. But as faith would have it, he couldn’t make it to Russia.

“I learnt about my inclusion on the list of supporters to Russia from the news. Some people also called me, and also advised me on how to go about it. But when I got to the President-General, Alhaji Rafiu Ladipo in Lagos, he told me there was no ticket anymore and that if I wanted one, I should go and bring N750, 000. (Seven hundred and fifty thousand naira only). Since then, we have not met, until I saw him in Cameroon during the 2021 AFCON.

“I was in Cameroon for the AFCON on the bill of the Kwara state government. And that’s why I will forever be grateful to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, as well as the facilitator, the Executive Chairman of the Kwara State Sport Commission, Mallam Bola Mogaji.

“Going to Cameroon for the AFCON was interesting. I never knew it was going to happen. I was a surprise to me. Mallam Bola Mogaji told me about it some months before then, but I never took it serious. He asked for my passport, which I gave him. Three days later, he called to tell me that the money for the trip was ready, and that I should send my account details. The rest is history.

“That experience opened more doors of opportunities for me. I was with Authentic Nigeria Football and Allied Sports Supporters Club (ANFASSC), under the leadership of the President, Prince Abayomi Ogunjimi,but I later left that group for the Super Eagles Supporters Club (SESC), under Prince Vincent Okumagba. I went to Cameroon with ANFASSC. I joined them in Abuja, where we took a flight to Yola, Adamawa state, where others joined us for the trip to Cameroon.

“In Cameroon, Prince Abayomi Ogunjimi accosted me that he heard that I got money from Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, and that I was supposed to give him out of it. He harassed me severally. He took us to the Nigerian Embassy in Cameroon, got some money, but never gave us out of it. I later met some Nigerians who encouraged me to join the Okumagba faction. And when I was taken to Prince Okumagba, he accepted me wholeheartedly.

“Supporting football has taken me to so many places, and has made me to know many people. I travel a lot, even at odd hours, just to catch up with schedules. That’s why I always pray. I pray a lot. My wife and daughter are also my prayer warriors. My wife is from Ogbomosho. My family is solidly behind me on this job.

“I will keep supporting football up to my old age. I cannot imagine me doing any other job that will stop or discourage me from supporting the round leather game.

And why does the name, Arabambi sticks to him so well that very few people know his real name?

 “I like Alhaji Wasiu Alabi Pasuma and his music. I have been following him since he started music. His brand of Fuji music is unique. There is none of his songs that I do not know how to sing. And that’s why I am “Arabambi”, and now, “Oganla”, just like him.

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