Kwara FA elections: The Even, The Odds, The Facts
By Jimoh Bashir
Come Thursday June 13th, at the Conference Room of the Kwara State Sports Council in Ilorin, 23 delegates, representing the 16 Local Football Councils and other components of football development in the state will vote, to decide the fate of Kwara football, at least for the next four years.
The other delegates, asides the Chairmen and representatives of the 16 Local Football Councils are the National Association of Professional Footballers (NANPF), Nigeria Football Coaches Association (NFCA), Kwara chapter, Kwara Football Referees Council, the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), the Nigeria National League (NNL), the Nationwide League and the Nigeria Women’s League, all of which also have one votes each.
Four candidates are contesting for the post of Chairman, and they include former Nigeria Premier League (NPL) Board member, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Owolabi Wopa Agbaji, former Chairman of Kwara United Footbnall Club, Alhaji Sulyman Toyin Olokoba, who are from Kwara Central Senatorial District, and the duo of Engr Jibril Idris Etsu and Alhaji Idris Abdullahi Musa, who are from Kwara North.
Four candidates are also contesting for the position of the Vice Chairman, and findings revealed that they are somewhat attached in one way or the other, to each of the four Chairmanship candidates. They are Alhaji Abdulkadri Shuaib, Chief Afolabi Ajide Salami, Bashorun Kayode Bankole Emmanuel and Alhaji Umar Bolaji Yahaya.
Seven candidates are jostling to be on the Board from the three Senatorial Districts, as each of the Districts are expected to have three members on the Board.
The elections on June 13th, 2019 will go down in history of football administration in the state as the
most interesting, at least for now, considering the controversial build-up, the compatible and incompatible team-ups, the intrigues, and especially, the betrayal that goes with it. The eventual outcome will obviously open wounds that may take long to heal.
The desperation to be on the hot seat might not be unconnected with the high rising stakes of the body, under the control of the out-going Board headed by Mallam Busari Ishola. The Board pursued and achieved firm grassroots agenda, which culminated in the constitution of Local Football Councils in the 16 Local Government Areas of the state.
Also, the award and construction of Football House in Kwara state by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), asides regular organization of grassroots football competitions, are part of the legacies the first official football coach in the state will leave behind. This and many more achievements have aroused massive interest in the FA.
The battle started with the somewhat sentimental issue of marginalization of the Northern part of the state. Candidates from the North had argued that since 1973 when the Football Association was inaugurated in the state, no candidate from the region has had the opportunity to be on the hot seat. While some bought into the sentiment, others waved it aside, especially those pursuing the Kwara Central interest.
Kwara Football Association was officially inaugurated in 1973, with Alhaji U. S. Mustapha as the pioneer Chairman. He served between 1973 and 1975.
Between 1973 and now, over 16 persons, either appointed or elected, have served in that capacity, including the out-going Chairman, Mallam Busari Ishola.
There were also some non-indigenes who had served as Chairmen at one time or the other. They include the then Captain Sa’ad Abubakar, who is presently the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, Captain P. A. Winful, Alhaji Usman Adenuja and Emmanuel Dada Obafemi, a retired FIFA Badged Referee and former Registrar, University of Ilorin.
Between 1973 and 2005, constitution of the FA has always been through appointments, mostly by the government or the stakeholders. The first democratically constituted FA in the state was that led by Chief Michael Kunle Adesiyun. The Board was democratically constituted in 2005, with representatives from the three Senatorial Districts of the state.
That tenure was supposed to terminate in 2009, but it was moved forward based on the resolution of the Annual General Assembly (AGA) of the NFF, which shifted the tenure to December 2010, together with those of the other 35 states of the federation and Abuja, to bring about uniformity. The decision was taken at the NFF Congress held in Makurdi in 2009.
After completing his tenure in 2010, Chief Adesiyun had sought for another term. He had the backing of the stakeholders, all of whom addressed a memo to the government on the need to allow the Offa-born administrator continue in office. At the end of it all, the stakeholders have their say, but government had its way. That power play brought up Mallam Busari Ishola as the Chairman.
Part of the sentiments adopted then was that ‘it’s the turn of Kwara Central’ to run the office, and that was championed by the former House of Representatives member, Dr. Abubakar Kannike, when he was the Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development in the state.
In the forthcoming elections, the candidates from the North are of the believe that if the sentiment was allowed in 2010, why not in 2019, to allow the region to have at least, a sense of belonging. Apart from queuing behind the North in the next election window, some candidates and delegated from Kwara South are supporting this agenda because, according to them, the Northern part of the state also have the right to be on the seat. Other delegates from the South are seeing it from another angle.
For the candidates and delegated from Kwara Central, they believed that zoning should not be part of football development, like it is in conventional politics. The other groups are those who have pitched their tents with the candidates they believe can move football forward in the state, irrespective of, and without any sentiment. These three variables will come to play in deciding who gets what in the elections.
However, whichever way the pendulum swings, Kwara football stakeholders want a vibrant FA that will give credence to their incessant sacrifice and commitments. Kwara is a youth and sports friendly state, and the youths can only have a guaranteed footballing future with an FA that has mission and vision.
Far ahead of the elections, the four Chairmanship candidates had reeled out their plans, at a stakeholders’ forum organized by Sportspro International, at the Kwara State Stadium Complex.
Alhaji Wopa, who is former Chairman, Marketing Committee of the defunct NPL had promised to bring in formidable sponsors to lift Kwara football, especially at the grassroots. He also campaigned on rallying support for all youth clubs in the state by using football as empowerment tool, and also putting in place training and retirement plans for coaches and players. He proposed a four-year plan that will accommodate seminars and trainings, marketing, security, as well as annual Award Night, a forum for appreciating those that contributes to football development in the state.
Alhaji Sulyman Toyin Olokoba is the former Special Assistant on Sports Matters in the state. He promised to take football to the next level. He also promised to develop football at the grassroots, just as he has demonstrated before now, and presently doing in Ilorin East, as the Chairman of the Football Council.
He again promised to broaden the platform of sponsorship of football, and also increase patronage from government for football development, and to develop all components of football development, including the refereeing, coaching and others.
Engr. Idris Jibril Etsu is the Founder and Proprietor of Jibril Taka Football Academy, from where some players have graduated to stardom. He promised to sustain the support for youth football development, support for coaches and other stakeholders. He has the experience of having been on the frontline of football development in the state for over 18 years. While canvassing for support, he had averred that the Northern part of the state has been marginalized in the development of football, especially in leading the FA.
Another grassroots champion from Kwara North is Alhaji Idris Abdullahi Musa. The Kaiama-born sports administrator surprised all with his entry into the race, especially going by the support he has been able to gather. His ambition had thrown confusion into the system, especially when many thought only Engr. Idris Jibril will be championing the Northern agenda.
Alhaji Abdullahi, popularly known as ‘Thuraya’ promised to introduce football league in the state. He also promised to institute a platform for upgrading the knowledge of coaches and administrators on regular basis if elected. He based his campaign on the structure of accountability, transparency and development, at all levels.
Football has grown beyond mediocrity level, and the stakeholders are growing with the trend. With or without sentiment, Kwara football stakeholders, all of whom will entrust their fate in the hands of any of the four candidates, at least for the next four years, must know that leading the FA goes beyond creating enemies. We are in it together. It is also beyond what we think of presently, it’s about the future. The future of the game, the future of those in the game, especially the youths, who will rise through whatever system and plan that will be adopted. It is also about us, all of us, because it will go beyond the candidate that emerges at the end of the race. We will be in it together.
If we do it right, history will not forget us, and if we do it the other way, anything that goes round will definitely come round, just like football itself.
Whoever emerges at the end of the contest, let us all allow football to be the winner, for the sake of the youths and the next generation of footballers yet unborn in the state.