COMMENT By Kunle Fayiga Follow on Twitter
However, managerial turmoil duly ensued at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, and Imama had to leave the Coal City.
He duly opted to join El-Kanemi Warriors.
The Desert Warriors have gained a reputation for their strong home form in the NPFL, with Maiduguri's geographical location making it a particularly tricky venue to access.
Indeed, El-Kanemi went unbeaten on their turf in 2017, only failing to claim maximum points twice.
The Borno State capital club were also in the hunt for the continental places for much of that campaign, but could not make it count in the end as they ultimately finished sixth.
Perhaps this is why Imama was employed, to improve on the club’s status, but the famous coach could not made a name for himself in the far North East.
Ultimately, his time at the club ended in disappointment, and he was ultimately relived of his duties.
Although the NPFL ended prematurely this year after the prolonged suspension, El-Kanemi were a shadow of their former strong self. They might have ended in 13th place after 24 games, but they were just a point off the dropzone.
At home, they may have avoided defeat, but drew four times in 12 games. It's a poor record considering how important it is to win at home in the NPFL. On the road, they didn't win a single game, with only a solitary point to show for all their efforts.
Imama has been involved the Super Eagles since 2016, when Gernot Rohr came on board. He took part in the unbeaten World Cup qualifiers, spending time at the 2017 Wafu Cup in Ghana and the 2018 Africa Nations Championship in Morocco, assisting the now-suspended B team coach Salisu Yusuf.
The CHAN tournament coincided with the start of the 2018 NPFL season, and meant the coach missed a considerable amount of games with El-Kanemi.
He was also part of the coaching contingent at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, meaning more absence from the El-Kanemi Stadium.
Report have it that Imama Amapakabo is set to take over as the U23 manager as he will replaces the suspended Salisu Yusuf — Israel Bankole (@israelbankole12) September 12, 2018
He's been spotted sitting next to Rohr during Nigeria’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, which is potentially an indication that he will be working more closely with the German as Yusuf remains suspended on corruption charges.
It has also been reported that he will take charge of the Under-23 squad as they start the journey towards the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo with the U-23 Afcon qualifiers, and certainly the coach is a busy man!
#FINALSCORE w/ @1walebakare X @Aywenger X @Youngstriker9
*Update "Super Eagles assistant coach Imama Amapakabo has stepped down from his managerial role at NPFL outfit El Kanemi Warriors following the end of his year-long deal." #No1FamilyRadio pic.twitter.com/bmroCoxaFk — Inspiration FM 100.5📻 (@ifm1005ib) October 5, 2018
All these indicate that Amapakabo was not the right fit for El-Kanemi Warriors, despite allegedly being the highest paid coach in the Nigerian top flight.
He was reported to have left El-Kanemi after their 1-0 Federation Cup quarter-final defeat by Nasarawa United in Aba in October, citing the end of his contract, which started running in January this year.
Perhaps, there was really no point employing Imama in the first place!
This is not to discredit his efforts with the club, but the fact is that his heart is not with the Maiduguri outfit, and considering the terrible year they've had compared to the high of the previous campaign, they can be thankful the campaign has ended before things got worse.
Mohammed Baba Ganaru has been appointed as his replacement, and the former Yobe Desert Stars coach has hinted that his aim is to improve the club's fortunes.
DONE DEAL 📌@ElkanemiFc has unveiled another #NPFL winning coach Mohammed Baban Ganaru as their coach for #NPFL19 season after parting ways with former coach @imamakamapakabo #NPFLTransfer19 #MeetNPFLStars🌟 pic.twitter.com/KpgXPqSsOQ — #MeetNPFLStars🌟 (@MeetNPFLStars) November 15, 2018
"My objective now is to work hard and build from where my predecessor has stopped," he told media at his uneviling in Maiduguri.
"El-Kanemi Warriors played with an identity and it is the same thing I plan to do too to ensure that [we] are a delight to watch and achieve positive results too.
"I want to assure them that they are going to see a renewed El Kanemi Warriors that won’t struggle like they did last season."
Babaganaru certainly has a tough job on his hands, even though he has stated the obvious about his new employers.
El-Kanemi pride themselves in being one of the most feared teams in the NPFL, and since Amapakabo couldn't improve on their previous standing, new boss Babaganaru must keep to his promise or he might face the music much earlier than expected.
Unlike his predecessor, he must demonstrate his full commitment to the job if he's to help Warriors realise their potential.