By Paul Bassey
Let me quickly credit the Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasir el Rufai with the ingenuity of this headline.
Secondly, I quickly reply the Sports Editor of Vanguard Igwe Tony Ubani that “……,,I have not left you….”
Tony while calling to congratulate me on my appointment as Akwa United Chairman, noted that I had not written my column for some time and wondered whether I have “ ……….left us “ ( laughter)
It is perhaps too late to start to explain how I got to this challenging post of Chairmanship of Akwa United. Yes God has been faithful when it comes to sports and football administration in Nigeria, Africa and the world.
Yes I am a member of the Scrabble Federation of Nigeria Board, marketing and Sponsorship member of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria AFN, Secretary General of the Association of Sports Veterans Nigeria, Chairman media sub committee of the National Sports Festival,Member Technical and Development Sub committee of the Nigeria Football Federation, CAF instructor on Club Licensing, FIFA/CAF Security Officer, CAF General Coordinator, FIFA/CAF Match Commissioner……..yet none of these positions could have prepared me for what I have passed through in 21 days as Chairman of Akwa United.
My immediate decision to put structures in place, help the LMC to ameliorate the organisation of the league from my little corner………….has been put on hold by a post whose success is dependent on what a group of eleven players and seven reserves do on the field on match day.
A classic example will suffice.
When the announcement was made officially on March 1, there was a league match the next day and I was told to superintendent. From where I sat I heard spectators wondering whether I will win the match and whether I was going to be a lucky chairman etc…..
I am not the coach of the team, of course I was not going into the field to play, but here I am ready to be judged by what I do not have direct control over.( Thank God we won)
That I believe is the fate of most Chairmen who must find time between the suffocating match schedule to put administrative structures in place, such as can run on auto pilot without the chairman tied down twenty four hours.
This, can be difficult. Take my recent fixture as an example. Played Plateau on a Friday, Ikorodu United on a Wednesday, Rangers International on Sunday, Warri Wolves on Wednesday in Uyo, off to Bauchi on Sunday against Wikki, then we hit the road on Monday morning destination Katsina for a rescheduled match against Elkanemi……wear and tear, huge financial commitment …………
I have addressed the management I met on ground and wondered why I cannot, by a simple tap of a button see which players have played which matches, what was their performance ratio, how many yellow and red cards, injury records and so on.
This is critical because less than three days in office there was a player that was left out of a match because the coach was not properly briefed as to how many matches he was to miss due to a red card he received
What about the Club Captain, Secretary, Team Manager, Curator, Camp Commandant……..do they know their roles? How professional are they?
Contracts , transfers, agents and conditions of service…..my Akwa experience is huge. Nigerian clubs must be professionally run. Players must be educated and tutored on the bigger picture, one that has to do with their career, different from the daily quarrel over feeding allowance and such pittance that are ephemeral.
In two weeks, I have come to appreciate the performance bonuses of the LMC and as I confessed to the Chief Operating Officer, my colleagues have not said enough on the fact that if you win an away match you get as much as N500,000 bonus, N200,000 for a draw and some cash for enhanced spectatorship.
Kano Pillars can win money every week for the crowd that turns up to watch them, but I have also told the LMC that whereas 8,000 people can fill the Sani Abacha Stadium, 10,000 at the Nest of Champions may appear scanty due to the massive and state of the art structure that seats more than 30,000. Our spectators have put the Africa disaster behind them and are back in great number so LMC get ready with your cheque book !
When I saw our account credited with N 200,000 by the LMC I asked questions and they said it was for the draw at Akure against Sunshine. Yesterday I told my players to target that in Enugu. Yes Enugu. Sunday morning I bought a national sports paper and jumping at me was the headline GO BEAT RANGERS SILLY IN ENUGU……quickly called the reporter and told him to mind his language because that was not mine. I have great respect for clubs and Rangers is more than a club, it is an institution. How can I tell my boys to beat Rangers “SILLY”
A fellow Chairman has called to say I have not seen anything yet. That they will fabricate stories, put words in my mouth and most times will report that “ ………when contacted the club chairman was not available for comments…..”. Well, this is my culture medium and I pray and expect to be treated a bit more fairly because I “ will always be available for comments”
At this point I want to appreciate His Excellency the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State Mr Udom Emmanuel who has found me fit to serve my state in this capacity. He calls me PB and believes I have the capacity to deliver. I thank the Honourable Commissioner of Youth and Sports Sir Monday Uko, my Principal, whose oversight functions I cherish.
My current constituency, The Club owners body have welcomed me with prayers. The LMC, NFF, SWAN…Colleagues in Africa and Europe, past Chairmen of Akwa United, Akwa United Supporters Club, Referees, Coaches, members of the state executive council, Honourable members of the House of Assembly ( some of them drove all the way to Enugu to support the team against Rangers) the generality of the Nigerian football family…the goodwill and acceptance has been overwhelming and I remain humbled.
There is no doubt that my predecessor in office has left behind mighty boots for our small feet, that is why we crave prayers and the favour of the Almighty.
Akwa Ibom is in the vanguard of sports revolution in Nigeria. The provision of adequate infrastructure is the priority of the Udom administration, one that is a continuation of Senator Godswill Akpabio’s Nest of Champions, unarguably one of the best stadiums in the world.
Sports performing centres are springing up in various locations in the state and the ministry of Youth and sports is focused on a plan that will afford the youth adequate fora for the manifestation of their God given talents.
I have been told by the Commissioner that the Godswill Akpabio Stadium is too good to “ lie waste” that we must bring back Africa to Akwa Ibom. I say “Amen……SO HELP ME GOD..”
See you next week