Celebrating Ukwuani Icon: Focus on Legendary Paul Okoku: page 3 Ndokwa Vanguard

Paul Okoku a native of Igbe Ogume in Ndokwa West Local Government, Delta State attended St. Paul’s Catholic Primary School, Apapa Rd., Ebute Metta, Lagos. Because of the civil war he and his family relocated to Ogume in 1968, where he attended L.A. Primary School, Ogume and moved back to Lagos in 1970 and resumed at St. Paul’s Primary School, Apapa Road Ebute Metta, West. Lagos. While in the school he displayed his skill in football. During the All Mainland Youth Soccer Tournament in 1979 Paul Okoku played his heart out which endeared him to many important personalities in Lagos State. Moreover he was the youngest in the tournament.

He was awarded a scholarship by the late Adeniran Ogunsanya in 1979 as the youngest player of the tournament. At the time, Ogunsanya was a gubernatorial candidate for Lagos State contesting against Alhaji Lateef Jakande, who won the election eventually and Alhaji Shehu Shagari won the presidential election.
He played for NICON, Lagos, National Bank, Lagos, Abiola Babes, Abeokuta, Leventis United, Ibadan,
National Bank won the Oba’s Cup in 1981 where they defeated NEPA in the semifinals and defeated Stationery Stores in the finals.
In 1981, National Bank lost to ACB in the finals of Lagos State challenge cup. Though, he did not play in that final match because the Nigerian Football Association, NFA, would not release the players in the camp for national assignments. Monday Ibekwe of ACB was his roommate then and he was not allowed to play in that finals too.
In 1983, he played for Leventis United, won the Oyo state challenge cup where he featured prominently. He was a member of the team.
In 1983, Leventis United lost to DIC Bees in the quarter finals of the National challenge cup at the national stadium, Lagos. He was a member of the team.
He played for the Lagos State Academicals during the National Sports Festival, “Edo 1981.”
He played for the Youths Sports Federation Of Nigeria (YSFON), and they won the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, (Sweden), Dallas Cup (USA) both in 1980 and 1981.
Paul Okoku was the Vice Captain of the team that won the West African Football Union, (WAFU) Nations Cup for Nigeria, tagged President Shehu Shagari’s Cup, in 1983.
He had his first international game for the Super Eagles against Morocco, in Rabat, for the 1984 AFCON qualifier. They had played goalless draw in Benin two weeks earlier. They won the match and thus qualified to represent Nigeria for the 1984 AFCON championship.
He attended Zumraltu Islamiyh Secondary School briefly before transferring to St. Finbarr’s College in 1979.
At St. Finbarr’s College he met late Stephen Keshi and with the support of other team mates they brought laurels the school in 1980 & 1981 respectively.
He attended Alabama A & M University, Huntsville, Alabama, USA, where he bagged his B.Sc in Finance.
When he played for St. Finbarr’s College, they advanced to the semifinals stage of the Lagos State Principal’Cup, in 1980 (captained by late Stephen Keshi), losing to CMS in 1980., and losing to CMS again, in the semifinals in 1981.
Paul was a member of the 1984 AFCON Silver medals winning team, captained by the late Stephen Keshi. His teammates were Henry Nwosu, late Mudashiru Lawal, Peter Rufai, late Rashidi Yekini, late Yisa Shofoluwe, Humphrey Edobor, late Patrick Okala, Ademola Adeshina, Chibuzor Ehilegbu, Tarila Okorowanta, Sunday Eboigbe, James Etokebe, late Bala Ali, Clement Temele, Kingsley Paul, John Benson, late Wilfred Agbonabare and Danladi Mohammed.
He was a member of the Super Eagles team that made history and set a record for being the first Super Eagles team to get to the finals of AFCON, outside Nigeria, since the inception of the tournament and won the silver medals losing to Roger Milla, Theophilo Abega and Thomas Nkomo led Cameroonian national team, including Djonkep Bonaventure and Antoine Bell. Of course, Nigeria won it as the host in 1980 (in Nigeria). Before then, no Super Eagles team ever made it to the AFCON finals outside Nigeria, but they did under the leadership of Coach Adegboyega Onigbinde assisted by Coach James Peters.
He was a member of the Flying Eagles team that won the Tesema Cup against Ivory Coast, led by Youssouf Fofana. Thus, they became the best U-21 team in Africa after both teams had qualified for the U-21 World Cup, in Mexico, 1983,
He was the deputy captain to late captain Ali Jeje, of the historic Flying Eagles team to the 1983 edition of the U-21 World Cup. Their team, Flying Eagles, 1983 set, was the first national team in the history of Nigeria that ever represented Nigeria in the World Cup. They played against the likes of Marco Van Basten, Rene Roord, both of Holland, Bebeto, Geovani and Dunga of Brazil and Youssouf Fofana and Oumar Ben Salah of Ivory Coast during the Tesema Cup.
For setting the record of being the first Nigerian national team to the FIFA World Cup tournament, they were awarded scholarships to the university level and National honours. Though, 38 years later, the promised scholarship is yet to be redeemed.
He played for the Super Eagles team during 1984 AFCON tournament in Ivory Coast and in the Chinese “Great Wall“ tournament, in China, 1984, against Canada.
In 1983, he played for the Super Eagles in a four teams (pre AFCON) championship tournament against Togo, in Ivory Coast.
He was one of the Super Eagles players, alongside his teammates, Chibuzor Ehilegbu, Ademola Adeshina and Bala Ali chosen to join one of the English Premier League football teams, Wolverhampton, “The Wolves.” the botched trial for the English Premier League (EPL) team, “The Wolves,” Britain, in 1984. They were arrested by over twenty uniformed soldiers of the Nigerian Army at the airport just as they were boarding the plane to Britain, to join “The Wolves.” So, that dream never came true for them as a result of the arrest.
Paul Okoku is the founder and CEO of the Greater Tomorrow Children’s Fund, (GTCF). It’s a 501c(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt organization registered in the USA and in Nigeria as an NGO. The organization is giving back to the less privileged children of the general public in the United States of America (USA) and Nigeria.
Just to mention a few of their humanitarian projects:
In 2020, the organization (GTCF). sponsored a toys drive in Atlanta, USA.
In 2017, the organization (GTCF), donated bicycles to the less privileged children in Atlanta, USA.
In 2019, they sponsored a winter coats drive where they donated winter coats and jackets to the less privileged children.
In 2018 and 2019 respectively, they partnered with Deloitte, for a joint project for the New Hope for Kids, in Orlando, Florida
They took their (GTCF), humanitarian project to Primary Schools in Ogume in 2016.
The organization (GTCF), in partnership with Honourable Ossai Nicholas Ossai, donated 20,000 textbooks to 40 schools across Ukwuani communities, Delta State.
They donated technology equipments to St. Paul’s Primary School, Apapa Road, Lagos.
The organization (GTCF), sponsored a football tournament, medical drive, and also donated food items to the children at Internally Displaced Persons, (IDP), camp, Abuja, in 2017
In 2016, the organization (GTCF), donated relief items to help the children at the Internally Displaced Persons, (IDP), camp.
They sponsored inter house sports for the pupils at St. Paul’s Primary School, Ebute Metta, Lagos.
In 2020, the organization, (GTCF), partnered with African Children’s Fund to give palliatives due to the Corona Virus pandemic to over 200 children in Ilesha, Osun State.
In 2020, the GTCF humanitarian organization gave out over 200 toys to the less privileged children in Atlanta, Georgia, in celebration of Christmas.
In 2021, the non profit organization donated over 200 toys and bicycles to children in the Southside of Atlanta, Georgia, for the Christmas celebration.
In 2014, he, late Stephen Keshi and Godwin Odiye, donated personal computers, laptops and a 3 in 1 printer to St. Paul’s Primary School, Apapa Road, Ebute Metta, Lagos. As a result, The Rotary Club of Lagos Mainland awarded former player of Nigeria Super Eagles and founder of the Greater Tomorrow Children’s Foundation (GTCF) Paul Okoku with the Rotary Humanitarian Merit Service award. Also, Stephen Keshi and Godwin Odiye were recipients of the awards.

 

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