On Tuesday, December 7, five Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (Rivers State), Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu (Abia State), Samuel Ortom (Benue State), Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri (Adamawa State) and Seyi Makinde (Oyo State) were reported to have held a meeting with the president of Real Madrid football club, Florentino, Pérez Rodríguez in Spain.
When the governors’ group photographs with Rodriguez surfaced on the social media, many Nigerians dismissed it as another photoshop designed by a mischievous individual to misinform and mislead the people.
This suspicion was strengthened by the fact that no reason was given for the meeting. It was simply said that five PDP governors met the Real Madrid president in Spain. The next thing was the five ‘tourists’ in group photographs with the boss of one of the most successful football clubs in Europe.
The moment I read the news and viewed the pictures, so many thoughts flooded my mind. I began to ask a series of pertinent questions. What exactly took five governors of the same political party in Nigeria to the Real Madrid president? Were they in Spain for a different reason but decided to use one stone to kill two birds? Why didn’t they reveal issues discussed in the meeting?
As the questions kept running through my mind, I refused to conclude that the governors were on another jamboree. I know it is Nigerian governors’ hobby to junket aimlessly at public expense but I found it hard to understand why the five governors with no known investments in football chose to visit a European football club president.
Amid these thoughts, I then remembered that the Rivers State Government is partnering Real Madrid on youth football development. There is much talked about Real Madrid Football Academy in Port-Harcourt. A former NFF Technical Committee Chairman, Barrister Chris Green is the General Co-ordinator of the academy.
Like many other projects embarked upon by Governor Wike, there is so much noise about the football academy but apart from some facilities that are on the ground, it seems there is nothing so serious to write home about. However, Real Madrid officials have visited Port-Harcourt several times to lend their support. Considering the benefits that can be derived from the academy, there is no basis to fault ‘Mr. Projects’ on the football academy.
In view of the above, I was tempted to conclude that it was Governor Wike who invited his PDP colleagues to ‘escort’ him to Real Madrid. If indeed the four governors used public resources to travel thousands of miles just to snap pictures with a white man and return to Nigeria, it would be the height of irresponsibility.
Even if the rest of the states are in affluence, I know for sure that my own governor is not among them. If I can wield the kind of power (late) Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada of Uganda had, I would order for money to be printed continuously for Governor Ortom. My Governor is not a glutton but he needs money. It will be shocking, if indeed. he spent the little he has to travel just to see Mr. Rodríguez.
Well, if the governors went to Spain to discuss football business, we would see the result soon. Barring last minute hitches, the 2021/2022 Nigeria Professional Football League will kick-off on Friday, December 17. I am eager to find out which of the five Rodríguez’s guests would give unflinching support to his club.
It is an open secret that the NPFL is dominated by government clubs, which in terms of organisation, are not better than some amateur clubs in Europe. What most of the governors do is to appoint their cronies as chairmen of the clubs. All they do afterwards is to sink money into these clubs. The clubs are mere political tools.
Maybe, after their tour of Madrid, the governors will turn new leaves and begin to show more than a casual interest in their clubs. If so, Rivers United who only recently crashed out of the CAF Confederation Cup may have enough cash to outbid others for the 2022 NPFL title.
After winning the CAF Champions League back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, Enyimba still depend on government money to prosecute matches. Fresh from the tour of Madrid, Governor Ikpeazu may be greatly inspired to give more money to the ‘Peoples Elephants’ and Abia Warriors.
Lobi Stars of Makurdi are among the most motivated clubs in the NPFL but they may have a better deal in the hands of Governor Ortom who also demonstrated by his trip to Real Madrid that he is a lover of football.
Governor Makinde also has Shooting Stars who are back in the Nigeria topflight to practise what he learnt from Real Madrid. One of the most successful clubs in Nigeria 3SC also called Shooting Stars have become a shadow of themselves but their fortunes might just change this time.
And if he learnt any useful lesson at Los Blancos, Governor Fintiri would ensure that poorly motivated Adamawa United make an instant return to the NPFL at the end of the 2022 Nigeria National League season.
If these expectations are not met, I will have no option but to continue to question why the five PDP governors spent huge public funds to visit a football club president who is not a political godfather.