By Victor Okoye
Abuja, Oct. 27, 2020 (NAN) The Anambra State Football Association (AnSFA) has been engulfed in crisis in recent months as a result of its upcoming elections which will either replace or keep in place the board led by Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah.
This FA has never been short of crisis, such is it that this has been the lot of the football sport in the state for ages.
Every four years, there have always been dramatic events leading to or in the aftermath of the state FA elections.
In 2016, it looked like a do-or-die affair for many of those who aspired for positions and it took the setting up of two Normalisation Committees before elections were held with Ubah winning.
Even then, it was alleged that underhand issues led to the elections being held a day before the advertised date.
It was also alleged that many of the cleared candidates did not know how or where the elections were held.
This led to several petitions to both the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, as well as the Senate Committee on Sports.
All of these did little or nothing to change the status quo and Ubah continued at the helm of affairs in the FA.
Fast forward to 2020 and the crisis has once again reared its ugly head, with the incumbent fighting to continue on, after having extended his tenure by three months before an election was conducted virtually.
The Electoral Committee headed by Jude Anyadufu conducted the elections on Aug. 2 which produced Sen. Ubah as the winner and presented to him a Certificate of Return.
However, the results of the said elections did not go down well with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the Anambra State Government which failed to recognise the elections as legitimate.
They claimed the elections failed to meet the expected standards and was also conducted amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
NFF then set up a Caretaker Committee, chaired by Emeka Okeke, to administer football in the state for three months and organise fresh and credible elections this Friday.
The Electoral Committee had since released both the time-table and guidelines for the elections, with the AnSFA Local Football Council election on Thursday and the FA Board elections for chairmanship and membership positions on Friday.
Successful candidates have also emerged —— Chikelue Iloenyosi, who is a Personal Assistant (PA) of NFF President Amaju Pinnick, and Okeke, who resigned as Caretaker Committee Chairman.
Alongside all this, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, had waded into the issue, inviting the warring factions to a meeting on Oct. 14.
In his argument, Ubah had pointed out that going by the NFF Statutes, the federation lacked the power to put in place a Caretaker Committee.
“This is contrary to FIFA and CAF rules, and such a committee can only serve as a supervisory body.
“Also, the role of NFF and Anambra State Government in the state FA elections can be described as external interference and I am against holding any fresh election.
”It is a ploy to scheme me out, with all y investment in football in the state and country,” he said.
Ubah, while also citing NFF’s statutes, which is against government interference, added that it was very clear that the state FA elections are exclusively an internal matter.
”So, only the Electoral Committee has the power to annul or accept the result of the state FA elections.”
On the other hand, Ibrahim Gusau, a member of the NFF Executive Committee, had quoted Article 85 of the Federation’s statutes to defend its actions.
“This article talks ‘about matters not provided for’. That is, the Federation can use its discretion,” he said.
However, Victor Baribote, a former NFF Second Vice-President and an Ubah ally, referred Gusau to Article 18, Sub-Section 2 of the NFF statutes.
”This gives the local FA Congress powers to sort their internal issues without any interference.”
Ubah has also backed his defence of his re-election with 169 pages of paperwork detailing the illegalities which he said contravened the football rule books.
He therefore insisted that he remains the Chairman of the FA having fulfilled all the electoral guidelines.
After he heard from both parties, the minister promised to come out with a decision after embarking on further investigation to broaden his knowledge on the issues.
At the end of this, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development in an Oct. 19 letter instructed the NFF to stick to its statutes and uphold Ubah’s election.
The letter signed by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Gabriel Aduda, read as follows:
”The Ministry of Sports advises the NFF to uphold the results of the election conducted by the Anambra State Football Association, and all grievances should be channelled to the Electoral Committee in line with the NFF Statutes and extant laws.”
It added that NFF’s action of setting up a Caretaker Committee was against its own Statutes, something which the federation confirmed in its letter of April 17, 2019 to the Katsina State Football Association.
The Federation had pointed out that FIFA, CAF and NFF frowned at setting up a Caretaker Committee in an election matter.
The upcoming elections have not been without some drama, with each side accusing the other of not being qualified to run.
Okeke’s camp is of the view that Iloenyosi is little known in the state, and he has not contributed anything towards the development of football in the state.
”He was only formerly a PA to Ubah during the early years of his first four years. He is not popular in the state’s football circle and all he is hinging on is to have Okeke disqualified on frivolous grounds,” Okeke’s supporters said.
Iloenyosi, alongside his ally and Vice-Chairmanship candidate Chinedu Okoye, on their part have sent petitions to the Appeals Committee to have Okeke disqualified.
Their petitions are on the grounds that Okeke as a former Caretaker Committee Chairman and a club chairman is ineligible to contest.
They have also argued that Okeke is a FIFA-licensed football intermediary and should not be leading the FA.
However, it is now left to see if the NFF will heed the Sports Ministry’s advice or rather choose to go ahead with fresh elections as planned.
Until then, the Anambra State FA crisis continues with no end yet in sight.
It is however hoped that any decision taken and agreed to by all parties involved would be for the good of football in the country.
Such a decision should ensure that the state FA is not thrown into another chaos and another four bleak years in football wilderness.