By Niyi Busari
In recent time, Anambra State Football Association (ANSFA) has consistently been in the news for the wrong reasons.
ANSFA had notified the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) through a letter dated 27th May, 2020 and signed by the then Secretary of the Association, Onyedika Chijioke, on the FA Election time-table prepared by the Electoral Committee. The Association on 31st December, 2019 appointed football stakeholder, Jude Anyadufu as Chairman of the Electoral Committee. Without wasting time, the Committee which was made up of Rev. Obinna Dike, Godwin Maduoko (lawyer), Ezeukwu Okechukwu (lawyer), Ijeoma Nwosu (an ex-FIFA referee) as members rolled out the 2020 election programmes and was announced to the public.
On June 1st, 2020, the sales of nomination forms was announced for interested candidates who wish to contest in the election to purchase. Pre-election programmes of the 2020/2024 Anambra State Football Association elections were rolled out. Some of which involved; publication of full list of candidates for the FA Board and Local Football Councils, screening of candidates at the State FA office, Awka, as well as publication of successful candidates for both State FA and Local Football Councils, while the election date was scheduled for July 27th, 2020.
The Anambra State Government advised the Electoral Committee to shelve the elections citing Coronavirus pandemic which ravaged the whole world. This came at a time, the State Government lifted ban on religious gathering as well as public markets across the state.
To avoid placing itself against direct confrontational with the government, the FA through a letter to the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Iheaweazu, requested for NCDC’s regulations, recommendations and guidelines for the state FA elections. Chikwe in his response letter gave the FA the permission to carry out the elections with a 5-page guidelines on how to conduct elections during Covid-19 outbreak in Nigeria.
Sequel to this, the election which was earlier conducted on 27th July, 2020 was annulled and shifted to August 2nd for a virtual elections. Hence, the initial plans to conduct physical election was jettisoned for virtual elections.
The incumbent, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah was announced winner of the election and issued certificate of return by the Chairman, Electoral Committee, Jude Anyadufu. The Secretary of the Association, Chijioke Onyedika, who resigned few days to the elections wrote a letter dated August 3rd to the NFF stating that the election could not hold on 27th July following state government’s directive to postpone the election due to Covid 19 pandemic. He added that as at August 3rd the day he wrote the letter, the Anambra State Football Association has no board and seek advise from the NFF on the next line of action.
On its part, the NFF without hearing from the Electoral Committee (the only body that has the power to annul or ratify the FA election) and the State FA, two days after receiving the letter, set up a Caretaker Committee to take charge of the State FA. Obviously, he federation acted against its own statute. This is clearly stated in the statute that the NFF lacked the power to set up a Caretaker Committee and also lacked same to annul FA election. The NFF in a letter dated July 4th 2019 written to the Katsina State FA stated that FIFA, CAF, NFF and State FAs statutes frowned at setting up a Caretaker Committee.
One week after the NFF set up the Caretaker Committee, the elected Chairman of the Anambra Football Association, Ifeanyi Ubah petitioned the Ministry of Sports to look into the matter and settle it to forestall unforeseen crisis.
With a genuine intention to settle the crisis, the Ministry of Sports called both parties (NFF and Anambra State FA) into a dispute resolution meeting at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja. And having listened to each of them, Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare came up with a lasting solution to the crisis. He advised the NFF that the issue of amendment to the guidelines for election into state Football Associations election is an exclusive right of the Congress, he also added that the NFF violated its own statute by setting up a Caretaker Committee. The minister told the federation that the August 2nd elections that saw Senator Ifeanyi Ubah returned as the Chairman of the Anambra State Football Association, was duly conducted in line with Covid 19 protocols, hence the NFF should ratify the election.
The minister without mincing words advised the NFF to refrain from holding another election. Surprisingly, NFF went ahead and promised to oversee another FA election in Anambra state which was scheduled for October.
Few days to the illegal election, there has been controversies from the two candidates who wanted to contest for the position of the Association Chairman. On Monday 26th October, 2020, one of the candidates, Dr. Emeka Okeke who is seen as state government candidate was reportedly disqualified by the Caretaker Committee, though the report was later debunked by the Secretary of the Appeal Committee. As if that was not enough, the other aspirant, Chikelue Iloenyosi, who is believed to be NFF anointed candidate foresaw a foul play that may affect his emergence as Chairman. In a short video available to BSN SPorts, he threatened to disorganize the oncoming election and vowed to tell the whole world all they have been hiding about the oncoming election.
“You see, what is happening in #EndSARS that is what is going to happen in Anambra football because I am going to take this thing to the next level. Chikelue, the Personal Assistant to NFF President, threatened.
“If the right thing is not done. By the special grace of God, the EndSARS nationwide protest is small because I am going to organize the whole students in the country and Anambra State to have a protest if they fail to do things right.”
With this, it seems the illegal elections will bring more problems than solutions for the NFF. The earlier the federation listen to the advise of the Minister of Sports, the better for them and Nigeria football.