BY DELE ABERUAGBA
As all roads lead to Abuja this Saturday, December 10 for the elections into the executive positions of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club, it has again been reiterated that no single individual is capable of holding the nation to ransom or act in defiance of the directive of the Ministry of Sports in Nigeria.
Needless to state that the Hon. Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung had directed that the elections be held in Abuja to pave way for neutral ground and ensure security of electioneering activities, facts emerging has it that this is being disregarded by parties besides that of the Vincent Okumagba-led group and loyalists.
As at press time, indications were rife that the other party had insisted it would hold its own elections in Lagos, in defiance of the Minister’s order to have it held in Abuja.
Speaking to SAFARI NEWS in a telephone interview, Prince Vincent Okumagba said yesterday that his supporters and 90 per cent of the states’ delegates would be in Abuja in total compliance with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) directive that the poll be held in the federal capital for transparency and security purposes.
According to Okumagba, “We had a letter written to us by the NFF reaffirming the election in Abuja on Saturday, December 10. “We have been in direct contact with over 90 per cent of the chairmen and their secretaries confirming their arrival dates. You would vividly remember that in 2012, we tried to hold election in Lagos; it was marred by violence and irregularities, which led to a court suit. Since then, the club has been operating on two parallel lines and such has retarded the upward movement of the club, until the reconciliation meeting by the NFF on October where a truce was reach in a communiqué signed by Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, chairman, Board of Trustees and Prince Vincent Okumagba, national chairman and was witnessed by Bola Oyeyode who acted as NFF Reconciliation committee chairman.”
After this reconciliation, “The Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, wants the election to be held in a neutral ground to ensure free, fair and credible polls with adequate security and free from any form of intimidation of any kind”.
The electoral committee of the club for the Lagos election, headed by Elder Bankole Ademola, has already announced that tomorrow will be the manifesto night for the polls.
Basically, Okumagba who has been serving as acting chairman of the Club told SAFARI NEWS, the Sports minister in his wisdom has directed that the elections be moved to Abuja to ensure that controversy like we had in 2012 do not occur. “A communiqué was sent to me and was duly signed to that effect, we received guidelines and signed to it, so I don’t know the reason why the other party are afraid to come to Abuja and more so go against the directive of the Sports Minister that they want to have the elections in Lagos.
“Just shortly before your telephone, I was in touch with the minister, he insisted that the directive of the ministry must be adhered to, adding no individual must take Nigeria for granted. Although ours is to drum support for the players, we cannot exist without the Sports Ministry, we create conducive atmosphere for players to ne motivated, and if this must be achieved, then he insisted we should have a good house, more so we signed a communiqué to that effect that the elections be held in Abuja”.
Asked if he foresees a bright future for the Supporters’ Club, Okumagba, who’s confident he will assume his position as the valid chairman of the body said the future is really bright for the club after the elections because it will be will be observed by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) and the Ministry of Sports, and we will be issued our certificate of return as elected officers as authentic executives of the Nigerian Football Supporters Club.
According to him, “Our duty is to mop up support for the players and this we have been doing, for instance like we did in Uyo and Calabar. We will continue to do all that to support the players in and outside Nigeria.
“As ambassadors of Nigeria, we put the image of Nigeria in spotlight abroad, our major concern is to motivate the players by drumming and singing. If you are familiar with our songs, it will tell you that we always wanted them to do more. If we don’t drum or chant our songs, they usually feel the impact. For instance in Atlanta 96, we were 3 goals down but the moment we started doing our thing, we met up with them and came out gallant. That’s the great thing we do and we are proud ambassadors of the country. Our tradition is that whether they are doing well or not, we keep drumming and singing, it helps in motivating the Nigerian teams”.
Okumagba did not forget to clamour for federal government’s support in meeting their needs towards supporting the players. “We sure need the backing of the government and even corporate organizations. Funding has been our bane because our travelling around costs so much money, paying of hotel bills and all that. We do not have rich people amongst us, though we have a number of prominent men but not too many members are very okay. They enjoy supporting Nigeria at international matches and even local here. But for us, we try to carry everybody along, I strongly believe the government and even corporate organizations can do more to assist us and more importantly help us have more members.
In Uyo, for instance, we had like 500 members; we can do more to raising membership to like over 1,000 and even 2,000 which is my ultimate target.
Vincent Okumagba joined the Supporters Club in 1995 immediately after the USA 1994. In 2004, he became ex officio member, as executive for the first time. Thereafter in 2008, he vied for 1st- vice chairmanship but for reasons enumerated above, elections could not be held for certain reasons and heated controversy. In 2013, the then Chairman resigned because of ill health and by constitution being 1st Vice, he assumed the position as acting chairman pending when the election would be formally held and the election is this Saturday.
From SAFARI NEWS, it is hoped that we will be speaking with Vincent Okumagba after Saturday elections as the active chairman of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club.