Monday, 18 May 2015

Akwa Ibom football association- Journey through the wilderness

Akwa Ibom football association- Journey through the wilderness
By Amos Etuk

These are not pleasant times with the state of  football administration in Akwa Ibom State following the new dimension which formally has positioned the football body in the state as non-existent after a very obvious improperly conducted election exercise that has been riddled in controversies.

The present crises that may have put the lights out at the moment in football administration in the state is the non-recognition of the Chief Effiong Johnson led board as the Nigeria Football Federation sent last week Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau, the Chairman of State Football Associations in the body to preside over a stakeholders meeting and proffer new measures that would chart the way forward for a new body to emerge. That is a position which Chief Effiong Johnson last held while nserving on the last board.

At the end of the well attended stakeholders meeting held at the Uyo Stadium, it was resolved that the Effiong Johnson led board be formally dissolved following a series of petitions filed by various stakeholders on the process leading to the exercise and the conduct itself as being a sham.

Alhaji Gusau, who was accompanied by a member of the Nigeria Football Federation Technical Committee, Mr. Paul Bassey stated that before the election, a letter had been sent to the election committee to put on hold the election but wondered why the committee went ahead to conduct the exercise an act that was seen by the football House as undermining its directive and authority.

The election committee was headed by a former sports commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Christopher Ekong while Barrister Christopher Essien, Barrister Oboho Oboho, Hon, Emmanuel Ebe were members of the committee and Mathew Peters as Secretary.

Despite the composition of the committee which stakeholders had seen as competent and objective have shown much transparency in its schedules, the wave of opposition became swollen after several vested interests may have conspired to give the incumbent some advantage taking the elections to his home base in Oron and manipulating the delegates list to favour a particular candidate which did not go down well with the other aspirants before the elections as there was outright undue interference in the whole process.

For the records, the aspirants who sought to occupy the office as Chairman of the State Football Association were Chief Effiong Johnson, the incumbent now disposed of the seat, Senator Aloysious Etok  an outgoing member of the National Assembly and Mr. Aniefiok Ekarika.

Yours sincerely recalls prior to the elections that observations had been made on the quality of candidates that had presented themselves to chart a new course for football development in Akwa Ibom State and their content as the first two aspirants who have been in government circles for several years have failed to make any meaningful impact to develop football in the state.
It was also observed that Chief Effiong Johnson has spent several years on the saddle at the helm of football in the state and has failed to generate any meaningful growth in our football under his leadership and made the Governor’s Cup a primary fixture under his tenure lose all glamour and even sponsorship from the State Government. His tenure has also not witnessed any grassroots developmental programme for football in Akwa Ibom State.

It is on record that the Governor’s Cup has failed to attract any private sector sponsorship under his tenure as the glamour of the competition has continued to nose dive as Local Government Areas have not shown much interest in recent times and depend on mercenaries to execute fixtures during the competition.

One of the challenges that may now be turning the tide against Chief Effiong Johnson is that as the then Chairman of Chairmen in the last board of the football house, he was among the leaders who opposed the emergence of the Amaju Pinnick led board despite the glaring statutes of FIFA which frowns at undue interference by government and the use of courts to undermine Football Associations.

His acts which did not go unnoticed and was widely condemned may just be his hang man in the present board like I have repeatedly stated. The pendulum must have swung the wrong way on the path of his vision fighting against the then Alhaji Sani Maigari led board as he has been left out in the cold in the politics of Nigerian football and the loss Akwa Ibom State suffers as we have no representation on the board after positions may have been shared.

Fighting a cause which was more of a national embarrassment and shame to the state has not helped Chief Effiong Johnson who despite the compassion given to him by the electoral committee failed to impress the football house who has moved against him. He is a victim of his own uncertain plots of ambition.

Obviously, Chief Effiong Johnson did not take the dissolution of the board at the stakeholders meeting in good faith as he lamented that Alhaji Gusau had no right to dissolve the State Football Association which he had as emerged winner and inaugurated.

The embattled football administrator who has been in the saddle for twelve years and still clinging on to power along the path and vision of his likely sit tight role models in the persons of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and CAF President, Alhaji Issa Hayatou  pleaded that he has all the documents to back him up on the conduct of the election as contained in the FA Constitution while re-stating that he will not back down of the race as he will seek redress in a competent court of law to seek justice.

Obviously, Chief Effiong Johnson has a long way to go in climbing his way out of this mess as it could further be traced to party rivalry influenced by chieftains of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom State.

For Senator Aloysios Etok, his entry into the race does not make any difference despite the fact that he attends matches of the state darling club side, Akwa United Football Club sparingly and most stakeholders do not have any utmost confidence in his leadership of the football body. We should also intimate him that the Football Association Board is no retirement ground for former political office holders.

The third candidate, Mr. Aniefiok Ekarika who also spoke at the meeting said for the election to be conducted without the presence of the national body was a big slight and enough evidence that the whole exercise should be cancelled.

However, most of the stakeholders who spoke at the event appealed for calm by all present as they believed that a compromise would be reached to find a way out of the present imbroglio rocking the state association.

Barrister Christopher Essien, the Vice Chairman of the Electoral Committee observed that there were no weighty issues addressed by the football body to warrant the dissolution of the board in the state as the Constitution of the Football Association does not provide room for any interim committee.

For Hon. Isong Isang, the Special Adviser to the Akwa Ibom State Governor on Sports, said that the meeting would chart a new course for football development in the state as all was not well with the conduct of the elections as even himself as the then Chairman of Akwa United was kept in the dark over the conduct of the elections. That itself is a big slap or dent on the whole electoral process.

The issue today despite the 48 hours given by the Alhaji Gusau directive is that, Akwa Ibom does not have a credible candidate as presented by the previous electoral board as we need visionary candidates that would be able to chart new and meaningful projects in developing our football and not men who are interested in ripping the system of any financial commitment for the sport.

What needs to be done is to do the right thing and get it done with all amount of transparency and credibility. We need men who have integrity and can command the interest of the private sector in bringing better fortunes for the beautiful game.

We can and must do away with these candidates as we have no need for them as they do not have any blue print in projecting our football to any reasonable and responsible progress today and even in the nearest future.

We need visionary leaders who can work to pivot Akwa Ibom State in the likes of Delta State who have a sustained private sector sponsorship in football as we expect that midas touch from a visionary administrator to bring a renaissance as we work towards the vision of the Udom Emmanuel led administration.

For now, we do not need any of these candidates presented. We believe in a more credible exercise and well accepted process for football administration in Akwa Ibom State. These so called candidates are yesterday’s men. The next delegates must not wish out the future of our football to some idle leaders of our football. We must stamp them out. No apologies.

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