He is calm, handsome and collected. Rev Samuel Ikpea, National President of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club is not a loud talker but insists on living up to his word. Says he, “my word is my bond.”
Ikpea’s emergence as President of the club followed a fractious election in 2015. But he admitted that whatever problem that attended that election has been overcome. “We are one big family,” he said, urging Nigerians to disregard some ”expelled” members who call themselves a faction of the club. Ikpea spoke with Jacob Ajom on a wide range of issues, including “the rebirth” of the supporters club, and a well articulated programme which will be unveiled soon. He spoke at the Ayinde Giwa Street, Surulere headquarters of the NFSC in Lagos. Excerpts:
What is the significance of your election in the life of the club?
It marks a new beginning that a new face has emerged at the helm of the affairs of the club. My emergence will usher in new thinking on the way we do our things. We need to re-brand the club and make it wear a new look. For instance, in those days it was support for the national teams only. We now want to get involved in grassroots football development. We want to throw our weight behind clubs and organise matches for all categories of our national football.
When did you join the club and what has been your experience up to your present status as President of the club?
I became a member of the NFSC in 1991 and in 2000 I became the 2nd Assistant National Secretary. I rose to the post of National Secretary in 2004 and in 2015 I assumed the leadership of the club as National President.
How do you combine this with your Pastoral job, being a Reverend?
I want to say that as a Reverend, it became easier for me to win more souls and share the word of God with my members. When we finish talking sports, I share the Gospel. It indeed makes my job very very easy. I am really accomplished as a man of God because I have the opportunity to share the word of God both inside and outside the club. None of my callings is suffering because of the other; instead, they complement each other.
Can you clear the air on talks about immoral practices among club members; like visa racketeering and other illegal acts?
People will always talk. Those who are looking for what they stand to benefit from an organisation and failed in that bid will always want to destroy. In my 30 years membership of this club, we have not had any immoral issues. We move with one mission, which is to ensure our teams win matches: we fast and pray ceaselessly. We even go to the length of making suggestions to the technical teams.
We have very important members of the society in our midst – lawyers, judges, military Generals and even Obas. We are a group of very important members of the society. Can anyone prove that the club engages in such infamy as visa racketeering?
What has been your moment of regret in your 30 years of being a member of the club?
My biggest regret since I became a member of the supporters club was in Mali 2002 African Cup of Nations. We went by road in 6 buses through Ghana. When we lost in the semi final, I felt very bad after all the suffering.
What can the Super Eagles do to ensure they qualify for the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations?
My prayer is that we are going to qualify. To ensure this happens, we must have a united front. All stake holders must come together and avoid internal crisis. With this kind of unity we will conquer all comers.
What is your biggest challenge as a club?
Our biggest challenge is finance. We always find it tough to meet our international duties because of our lean purse. But members sacrifice a lot. Each time we go out, our host countries inflate almost everything. Our cry is that government should take up the responsibility of funding our activities because we go out there to support a patriotic cause.
You spoke of bringing in new innovations that will attract more corporate patronage than you have now. What are your plans?
Yes, the club will witness a rebirth. We will re-brand the club and make it more visible with more teams than just the Super Eagles. Our female teams don’t enjoy the same level of support the Eagles get. We will change that. Other teams and even at the grassroots level, including organising novelty matches.
Very soon, a well laid out blueprint will be made public. It is sure to attract sponsors to us.
What is the real name of the club as some people address it as Nigeria Football and Other Sports Supporters Club?
In 1999, President Obasanjo advised that since Nigeria participates in other sports, apart from football, the club should go by a name that will be all-encompassing. We changed the constitution to read Nigeria Football and Other Sports Supporters Club and we registered same with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Two Years later, during Adenrele Yusuf’s reign, we reverted to our original name as some people came to him and advised that there was no way we could support all Nigerian teams every sport. The two names belong to us.
As for those you call faction, they are not members of this club. They are those who have either been expelled or sanctioned by the club on disciplinary grounds. We are on big family. We have no factions.