Professor Ishaya Chuwang Pam
By Samuel Torlumun, Anthony Maliki, Jack Moses Ekwe-Ekwe
His glowing ebony colour typifies his inner pure mind-Just shinning. Unassuming, modest, easy and simple to blend with persons of all status while his love for what he does, goes overboard. Medicine, sports, history, military history in particular are all into him. He adores them with great passion. Perhaps Professor Ishaya Chuwang Pam, a gynecologist and obstetrician is a former Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) with his legacy still resonating uptil now, but he is best known for moving the JUTH Football Club from an obscure position in the league to national limelight.
How JUTH FC took Nigeria’s professional league by storm.
Enthusiastically, Professor Pam gives insight into how the JUTH FC was rejuvenated to a top Nigerian team: “Well, when I became the Chief Medical Director of Jos University Teaching Hospital in 2005, I found out that the hospital has a club playing at the Division three of the league. More of amateur Division three and that club has been in existence since around 1989 but on a low key.”
According to him, when he came in, one of his plans for the hospital was community social responsibility and felt sports was the best way to address it and at the time Jos was in crisis. He continued: “So, I felt it as a duty to try and bring peace to Plateau State through activities like sports because it brings the youth together meaningfully and they play and there is no tribe or religion.”
JUTH: The grand revival plan
Speaking further, Professor Pam unveiled his plans: “So, I put up a plan. I set up a committee and invited distinguished sports persons and community leaders in Jos. I had the likes of Yemi Kosoko, Adamu Jeje, a former national player, Felicia, who was a referee. We call her FIFA. So, I charged the committee to give me a blueprint to run a club successfully. I appointed Mr. Emmanuel Zira, an experienced football administrator and they put together a plan for me on how we could transform the club into a meaningful body that will impact sports in Plateau. So, based on their advice, I transformed the club and bought the license of Bank of the North (BON) Football Club and we started from Division three and within a year we got into Division two and from there, we got into the Premier League. The changes we did was we ensured that all transactions were transparent. The players were being paid salaries through the bank and employed in JUTH. Everything was done transparently and that helped to professionalize the club. We got coaches that did good job.”
Professor Pam said he took the blueprint to the board and was approved, so nothing was done haphazardly. He said a budget was given a greenlight and included into the hospital budget which he took to the National Assembly and monies approved for the club. An average of about N48million per session, a sum Professor Pam described as a far cry from what other government clubs were getting running into hundreds of millions.
So, he explained that “we took off from there and based on our modest budget and targeted youths. We didn’t go for big names that will be earning big money. We went for the youth of around 18 years old who were seeing money for the first time and they were ready to put in their best in the field.”
‘We accepted rejected players’
He said: “Our strategy was all the players will come to Jos looking for slots in Mighty Jets, Plateau United and other teams and when they fail in the screening, they now come to us as a stop-gap and we picked the ‘rejects’ and because we were targeting the young players, we now became a very big force of those players that were rejected and anytime we were playing those clubs that turned them down, they were ready to die on the pitch. So, the rivalry began- Mighty Jets, Plateau United and JUTH. And we were all in Division Two and so Division Two now became tough and Jos decided who gained promotion. That was how Jos became the centre of football in Nigeria because every club has to come to Jos three times and that helped the economy because each time a club comes, a lot of business blossom and sometimes you have these big clubs in Division Two. So, from there we groomed players, we discovered many players, we gave players opportunity to enter the league. Players like Ahmed Musa, Uche Agbo, Bright Silas, Chris Madaki, Chinedu, Gobi Elisha, Jimmy Ambrose, Hamza, Kabiru, Chudi, Aliyu Aliyu, Ifeanyi among so many of them that are still playing football at top level now. Many coaches came through JUTH FC. Abubakar Hassan, Glory Agunmon, late Tony Ubaka, Samson Siasia. We have had a lot of players and coaches and all of them will tell you that one of the best times they had was in JUTH because we were very professional. We didn’t owe anybody salaries or bonuses and what they needed we gave them. So, that was how we built the club. Eventually, we gained promotion twice to the Premier League, we won the state FA cup thrice and we gave Plateau United a run for their money when their budget was four or five times more than ours. I think we contributed greatly to sports development in Nigeria”.
In terms of challenges, he said; ‘It wasn’t all smooth sailing with JUTH FC‘
Though, it all looks like a well-crafted drama with happy-ending. But it is not so. Why? Pam explained: “No, it wasn’t because Nigerian football is not run as a business. Ninety-nine per cent of the clubs are government clubs, so you don’t expect any income. So, I always have to keep defending my budget and when there is a budget cut, it affected the team. So, many times, I had to raise money from friends and relations and from my pocket to meet up the gap. Because we are dealing with a young team, the money was not going to come immediately. Indeed, it was at the time I left my position as the CMD and chairman of the club, that we started having players abroad where transfer money could come and unfortunately, it was around that same time that they disbanded the club. So, we worked for six years, planted, the crops grew and then, when the money was supposed to come, they threw it away.”
‘We take sports as a joke’
He said unfortunately sports is regarded as a hobby. “We see sports as a joke. We don’t know it contributes up to six per cent of Gross Domestic Product of most of these countries abroad. It is a major contributor to the economy of the United Kingdom, Germany and many European countries. Players are bought and sold for hundreds of millions of pounds. Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona stadium is owned by the local government, so it is a big business but we see it as a joke in Nigeria and you now have government running sports. Government should allow the private sector to run sports. You find that political appointees getting jobs for the boys. They are the ones that are made commissioners of sports and youth development; they are the ones that are made the chairmen of football clubs. That attitude triggers down and those clubs are being used as conduits. They all go and get money. You will hear a state government tells you that their club is spending N1billion and the truth is when you dig deep, you find out that is not true. The players are not getting anything and there is no infrastructure. Government should provide the infrastructure and the framework and leave it to the private sector. These government clubs should be privatized.”
Have you been a sports person or played football?
Not really. I played a little bit in secondary school but I have passion for it. But in our own days, parents were not interested. ‘You just go and read’ that’s what they will tell you.
Jos provided great players to football national teams, no more now
He noted that Jos is known for sports and entertainment. “Until recently, in every national team, you will find at least six players who can trace their roots to Jos, but that tradition is going now. The only person from Jos in national team is Ahmed Musa.” What to do to reclaim the spot? Professor Pam said: “We have to rebuild the system and we can start from the top by ensuring that competitions come here. So, I think that the state government should, despite all the constraints, do what they can to make sure they build the infrastructure for Plateau United FC continental matches be played in Jos. Then, of course, the coach has to strengthen the team by getting quality players who can play on the continent. Playing on the continent is not a joke.”
Regret in involvement in football vis-à-vis disbandment of JUTH?
The medical doctor said: “My regret is that people didn’t see the vision. They were looking at it from a very short-sighted approach complaining about the amount spent on the club. Many say we are a hospital but government has given institutions the power to engage in business. So, institutions owned hotels. If you go to the University of Ibadan, you will see a hotel, a bookshop, University of Benin Teaching Hospital has a golf course. JUTH has guest houses, one in Jos and the other in Abuja and they did not make more money than JUTH FC.”
No transfer hard currency from Ahmed Musa?
Professor Pam told Apex News Exclusive JUTH never enjoyed any transfer money for Super Eagles Captain Ahmed Musa who once played for the club. “By the time of first transfer of Ahmed Musa happened, JUTH FC would have gotten N200million which would have accounted for four to five years expenditure. But that money has gone because the club was disbanded and the number one rule of FIFA is that that money is for grassroots. So, if you don’t have a club, you won’t get the money. So, if JUTH had remained even in the academy, they would have gotten the money but this thinking, short-sightedness of why do we pigeon-hole ourselves of saying ‘I am a medical doctor, I am not supposed to be in sports.’ Socrates, who played for Brazil was a medical doctor. Segun Odegbami is an engineer. If God gives you ability, why do you compress yourself into one segment? Our boxing team used to come from the army, athletics used to come from the police but they are gone now. Now, the army is not interested in boxing, police not interested in athletics.”
Have you stopped at JUTH or have plans for the future?
On plans for the future, he said: “I enjoy sports. For me, I am still involved in sports. I make my opinions and contributions known. I am always at the stadium. I watch and support Plateau United FC, Jos passionately and my voice is always heard in football matters.” Moving forward, the Professor of Genecology and Obstetrics opened up: “Apart from that, even in the University of Jos, I am coordinating the establishment of the Institute of Sports, Medicine and Management. The Vice Chancellor has given me the task of establishing that institute and when it is established, it will be the first degree-awarding institution in the country and we are collaborating with a foreign university. By now, it would have been established but for the COVID-19 outbreak. We are also looking at establishing certificate and diploma courses in collaboration with the National Institute of Sports. All our sports people don’t have to go to Lagos or Abuja for courses. We have a lot of sports people here and what is hampering their development is that they don’t have certification. They have the practical experience but anywhere you go now, certificate is important and the cost of sending one person to Lagos now is prohibitive. So, we should have more of such institutions. We are talking with the sports institute and they were quite excited. I think the University of Jos in the near future should be offering some of these courses.”
On family, he spoke about his parents first. “I am the son, the fifth child of Lt.-Col. James Yakubu Pam of Blessed Memory and Ngo Elizabeth Pam also of Blessed Memory. Both of them served this country diligently in the public sector and they were both honoured with the membership of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” On his father, he gave a summary: “My father was killed in the first coup of January 15, 1966. At that time, he was the Adjutant-General of the Nigerian Army. Before then, he had served as Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion of the Nigerian Army. He had a very distinguished career in the army even though his life was cut short at 33 years. He had served Nigeria in the Congo, South Cameroons, Tangayika and the Tiv riots of 1964 and brought peace to Tivland without more violence using his peacekeeping experience. Even though that was misconstrued by the coup plotters who keep calling it genocide, but there was none.”
Speaking about his mother, he said: “My mom was a civil servant. She worked under General Yakubu Gowon. She served in the Federal Electoral Commission. She was a Commissioner of FEDECO in the 1979 election in Bauchi, 1983 election in Owerri. She retired and she was the Chairperson of the Peace Committee during the administration of General Ali, when he was the interim Administrator of Plateau State.” Going further, Professor Pam explained: “So, from my background, I picked up interest in public service. And by the way, I am a twin. I have an identical twin brother in the UK. His name is Ishaku Pam. He is right now a Consultant Physician in the Isle of Man. There is Mrs. Keneng Daze who is a business woman. She is retired and into business. She runs a filling station. Immediately after her is Justice Jummai Sankey, who is a presiding judge in the Court of Appeal in Gombe State and there is Yusufu Pam, a former Attorney-General of Plateau State. He is now in private practice. Then my brother and I, the twins. Then my youngest brother, Ibrahim Pam. He works for the United Nations. He is currently in South Korea with the Green Climate Fund.” (Professor Pam spoke to Apex News Exclusive team in Jos)