Football through its local connections and global appeal has been inscribed with tribalism, protest, and political symbols since its inception.
Football as a game has been seen as a platform that offers a unique and special space for a particular form of identity depending on the scope of the actors which ranges from the fans to the players, the coach and the game managers.
In recent years, football has been used by the political class, especially for social mobilization as well as political propaganda.
With football clubs formed in line with the tenets of its domain, the game has been associated with ethno-national and religious communities, and political ideologies and parties.
Many politicians see being in charge of a football association or club as a means of enhancing their appeal to electorates on their way for political offices.
Silvio Berlusconi became Italy’s Prime Minister because of his position in AC Milan just as George Weah emerged as Liberian president using his fame as a footballer as a pedal for the top job.
In Nigeria, Jim Nwobodo emerged as Anambra governor by riding on riding on the popularity of Enugu Rangers Football Club, of which he was chairman.
And now in the same Anambra, the quest for power is tearing apart the very fabric that holds the state together where elections for positions in the state Football Association were held and winners emerged.
The Anambra FA elections were originally scheduled to hold on July 27 and 28, but they were suspended by the state government citing the continuous rise in the spread of the coronavirus. However, the elections were held on August 2 and Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, a serving Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District in the National Assembly emerged as chairman for a second term.
However, the results have pitted some politicians against each other leading to the factionalisation of the association, with one group being led by Ubah, founder of FC Ifeanyi Ubah of Nnewi, while the other, referred to as the interim board of the association, is led by Emeka Okeke, son of popular industrialist, G.U.O Okeke which allegedly draws its support from the governor of the state, Willie Obiano.
Senator Ifeanyi Ubah is the owner of a Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) team, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, which he founded through the acquisition of Gabros International Football Club formerly owned by Chief Gabriel Chukwuma while Okeke is the chairman of Aspire Football Club, the current champions of the Anambra Football League.
While Ubah was celebrating his victory, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) described the election as a sham and “a charade of very low grade” that would not stand. Here began the leadership crisis.
It was gathered that NFF president, Amaju Pinnick who allegedly is not on good terms with Ubah is in bed with the Executive Governor, Willie Obiano who is said to be in a popularity war with Ubah, to halt the elections.
It has also been alleged that Pinnick is outs to frustrate Ubah because he favours his Special Assistant, Chikelue Iloenyosi to emerge as the FA chairman.
Ubah and Obiano ‘enmity’ began in 2017 when the latter reneged on his promise to give him the ticket for Anambra South Senatorial District if he pulls out of the governorship race.
However, Ubah ditched the party and move to the less fancied Young Progressives Party (YPP) on which platform he is serving as the senator.
During the week, Ubah paid a visit to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare where he accused the state of interfering in football matters which is against the rules.
He said he is being hunted because of his desire to contest the Anambra State governorship elections in 2021.
“I want Nigerians to know that nobody bought the form for my position, nobody challenged the panel that he bought the 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 the 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 hold for 8 people in a hall for 200 people. Meanwhile, the government had a month before the elections lifted the ban on social gatherings.
“They 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 the government wants to build 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 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.
It was gathered that Ubah intends to remain the FA boss to boost his chances of emerging the governor next year and this has further pitted him against the Obiano who according to several reports favours the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Chukwuma Soludo as his successor.