Obiano, Ifeanyi Ubah flex muscles on football turf | Dailytrust

Obiano, Ifeanyi Ubah flex muscles on football turf

  Governor Willy Obiano (L) and Senator Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah
Governor Willy Obiano (L) and Senator Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah

Without any doubt, it is an open secret that two Anambra State business moguls, Governor Willy Obiano and Chief Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah are arch political rivals.

While governor Obiano is the leader of the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, in the state, Ubah like a lone ranger, is the pillar of the Young Progressive Party, YPP and the only Senator on the platform of the young party in the National Assembly.

However, the rivalry between these two Anambra state heavyweight politicians now transcends partisan politics to the game of football where the two rivals are said to be slugging it out in the ‘dirty’ politics of the sport.

At the moment, the Anambra State FA is engulfed in crisis and Ubah believes his political rival, Obiano in a bid to deflate his rising political profile is vehemently opposed to his re-emergence as the Chairman of the Anambra State Football Association.

It will be recalled that Ubah who is the founder and sponsor of one of the two privately owned clubs in the Nigerian Professional Football League, NPFL, FC IfeanyiUbah obviously rode on the back of popularity earned through the club to the Senate and he is said to be aiming to become the Governor of the state in 2021.

What is playing out in Anambra state is not coming to many as surprise considering the potency of sports, particularly football as a political tool for mobilisation of electorate.

For instance, Silvio Berlusconi became Italy Prime Minister because of his position in AC Milan just as George Weah emerged as Liberian president using his fame as a footballer.

In Nigeria, Jim Nwobodo once emerged the governor of the old Anambra State in the second republic by riding on the popularity of Enugu Rangers Football Club, of which he was chairman.

And now in the same Anambra, the quest for political power is threatening to tear apart the very fabric that holds the state together even as elections into the Football Association were held and winners emerged.

The Anambra FA elections were originally scheduled to hold on July 27 and 28, but were suspended by the state government, citing the continuous rise in the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the Electoral Committee went ahead to conduct elections on August 2 and Ifeanyi Ubah, a Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District in the National Assembly emerged as chairman for a second term.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the elections has since pitched members of the association against one another with factions emerging to pursue their factional interests.

While one of the groups is led by Ubah, the Chief Executive Officer, CEO of Capital Oil and founder of FC IfeanyiUbah of Nnewi, the other referred to as the interim board of the association, is led by Emeka Okeke, son of a popular industrialist, G.U.O Okeke which allegedly draws its support from the governor of the state, Obiano.

Thus, while Ubah was celebrating his re-election victory, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) described the election as a sham and “a charade of very low grade” that would not stand.

This declaration no doubt triggered the ongoing Anambra FA leadership crisis.

It was also gathered that NFF president, Amaju Pinnick is out to halt Ubah’s FA ambition because he is allegedly not on good terms with him.

Meanwhile, he is in bed with Governor Obiano who is said to be in a popularity contest with Ubah.

Another twist to the saga is the allegation that Pinnick is out to frustrate Ubah because he favours his Special Assistant, Chikelue Iloenyosi to emerge as the FA chairman.

This allegation has since been denied by a top official of the NFF who spoke to Trust Sports on condition of anonymity.

Ubah and Obiano ‘enmity’ began in 2017 when the latter allegedly reneged on his promise to give him the ticket for Anambra South Senatorial District, if he pulls out of the governorship race.

During the week, Ubah paid a visit to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare in Abuja where he accused the state of interfering in football matters which is against the rules.

He said he is being haunted because of his desire to contest the Anambra State governorship elections in 2021.

“I want Nigerians to know that nobody bought form for my position, nobody challenged the panel that he bought form and not given the right to exercise his franchise.

“But the state continued to interfere which is against the rules of football and I kept my cool.

“They continued to bastardise the affairs of Anambra football by illegally interfering.

“The NCDC DG gave us approval to conduct the elections with some guidelines only for the state to write a letter that the state NCDC saying that elections can’t be held for 8 people in a hall for 200 people.

“Meanwhile, the government had a month before the elections lifted the ban on social gathering.

“They are fighting me simply because I want to contest for governor next year.

“The state has not given the FA one naira in the last six years.

“It is now one year to elections and the government wants to build a stadium.

Other states have been funding their clubs and the FAs, only Anambra never did.

“I am the only FA chairman in Nigeria that has taken my members to the UK, to the World Cup, to Egypt and maintaining a premier league club in the last 5 years.

“I have seen government clubs going down,” he said.

Obviously Ubah intends to remain the FA boss to boost his chances of emerging the governor next year and this has further pitched him against Obiano who, according to several reports favours the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Chukwuma Soludo as his successor.

Meanwhile, the Anambra state government has denied involvement in the FA crisis and the insinuation that the NFF refused to recognise Ubah as the FA chairman because of the state 2021 governorship election.

The state commissioner for information and public enlightenment Mr C. Don Adinuba told Daily Trust Sports that the state banned every election in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the NFF election and town union elections.

According to him, the state government and the NFF issued a circular stopping the conduct of the election, yet the Senator went ahead and organized the said election, which NFF described as a charade.

“The stoppage of the elections has nothing to do with the 2021 governorship election.

“In every part of the country, no government allowed public gatherings of such magnitude.

“The Rev. Father in charge of the elections wrote and advised for the stoppage, the government gave a directive stopping the elections and every other public election including market, and town union elections.

“The elections were fixed in Awka South with the high level of COVID-19 record and he took the election to his house when it was clear it could be held in Awka South and the NFF said it was against the rules” he said.

The Commissioner, therefore, said that the 2021 election is still very far and the state government was not afraid of Ubah as he is not a threat to the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA in the state.

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