By Olanrewaju Akojede
Rafiu Ladipo, President-General, Nigeria Football Supporters Club (NFSC), on Thursday said that detractors should stay away from the club because it would remain an indivisible entity during his lifetime.
Ladipo made the assertion in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) while speaking about efforts to unify the Club this year.
He said that the Club was open to everyone, but that things must be done according to the laws guiding it, adding that the present administration of the Club would ensure unity.
“Nigeria Football Supporters Club will remain indivisible and I want all detractors to please stay away. We have rules guiding the Club and disgruntled elements should toe the line of the constitution.
“I want to say that Supporters Club is a registered entity with a valid constitution, so our actions are guided by the law. We don’t just wake up to change rules.
“It is disturbing and laughable for a group of people that are suspended for going against the rules and provisions of the Club to form a splinter group.
“What do these people know about the Supporters Club? Unfortunately they are new members not more than five years, yet, they want to usurp authority,’’ he told NAN.
Ladipo said that the Club, formed about 62 years ago, remained a legacy that must not be allowed to be disjointed because of those agitating for positions not meant for them.
“Those agitating in the Supporters Club said they want leadership position and they want it by all means, that is not what leadership is all about. I have demonstrated what leadership is.
“I will not sit back and watch what we have laboured for in the past 62 years to be rubbished; We sweat for this Club, energy and time not to talk about financial obligations.
“When talking about the operations of the Club, even our sponsors are aware and we have the records of those they are sponsoring because we need to keep appropriate records.
“We operate an open door policy, so there is no reason to have any splinter group. Those that are ready to work will be accommodated but those that want trouble should be out,’’ he said.
Ladipo said Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should have midwifed the unity of the Club and not be fanning embers of disunity; a position he said he had noticed.
“If NFF is coming to support us, they should but not to divide us. We have been doing our things over the years and getting sponsors for all competitions.
“It will not be proper for us to have two supporters clubs in a competition. It will have dire consequences and this will not be good for the country.
“World Cup is a big project at hand now and all hands must be on deck to ensure our success. We need to make a mark at the World Cup and the African Championship of Nations (CHAN).
“Nigeria Football Supporters Club has always been the best in any competition we attended, ranked above some footballing nations, this is our legacy and we must strive to protect that,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Samuel Ikpea, National Chairman, Nigeria Football Supporters Club (NFSC), on Thursday said the Club would take 1,000 of its members to cheer the Super Eagles at Russia 2018 World Cup.
Ikpea made the disclosure to NAN in Lagos while reviewing the Club’s preparations for the World Cup holding from June.
He said the Club had set machinery in motion toward ensuring that the supporters club was adequately represented in the quadrennial football fiesta in Russia.
“We are already mobilising our members for the World Cup in Russia. We have sent messages to the 20 registered member states and Abuja to send 50 of their members for the competition.
“We have been in the business of doing that for a very long time now, we also have members outside the country and we are ensuring that wherever they are, they are going to Russia.
“Our Marketing Unit is already saddled with sourcing of funds and the sponsors of our trip to Russia because we are a non-governmental organisation (NGO), so we need to source the funds.
“I want to assure Nigerians that we have been doing that for the past 62 years when the Club was formed and we will not fail this time around,” he told NAN.
Ikpea said that the Club had received little support from the Nigeria Football Federation and the Federal Ministry of Sports, adding that this would not derail its programme in Russia.
“We have not been able to receive any good support from NFF or the Sports Ministry, since the inception of the new government as against the last administration when we received N50 million.
“We are hoping that since this is a World Cup, something may come out, but we have been talking to various corporate bodies, we have put a machinery in place to achieve that.
“We have not had any issues like Visa racketeering since the Club was formed and to my knowledge of about 16 years in the administration of NFSC, we have yet to record such.
“We have good understanding with all the embassies as far as visa issuance is concerned and none of our member has ever absconded after competitions. The records are there,’’ he told NAN.
Ikpea said that the suspended and dismissed members of the Club had their fate decided by the Congress of the Club, a decision which should be respected by all the football stakeholders.
“There are some people that have been suspended and some dismissed because of their anti-club activities. We have all the evidences against them, including police report.
“All their actions are well documented and I think every good leader should be able to respect the decision of the Congress of any particular entity.
“We expect that both NFF and the sports ministry should be able to respect the Congress on the expelled members but if they chose not to, that is not in consonance with the change mantra.
“I am aware that those members have chosen to form a parallel supporters club, Nigeria Eagles Supporters Club and Nigeria Athletics Supporters Club. Their actions have truly vindicated us,’’ he said.
Ikpea said that the suspended and dismissed members had ulterior motives of causing disaffection in the club, adding that since they could not achieve that they went on to form another group.
“The dismissed members were able to form another group since they cannot achieve their aim of scattering us in NFSC, so they have formed another group.
“Their actions, I may not be able to clearly state whether they have the support of the Minister of Sports and NFF or not, but they are not part of us.
“I will advise that they leave the NFSC alone and not destroy what some people have helped to build since 1957 when the Club was formed.
“We don’t have any problem with the NFF and we are ready to work with any administration because supporting the national team is a national symbol more than individual or administration,’’ he said.
Ikpea said that the Club would ensure adequate support for the Eagles with the efforts of its partners, adding that it had no issues with Telecommunications giant, Globacom over sponsorships.
“As far as we are concerned, World Cup is a target for us and we have set up committees to take care of all the logistics from the flight tickets to hotel accommodation.
“We have no issues with Globacom over their sponsorships, in fact, we have a good relationships with them. It’s just that the economic recession in the country may have affected the company.
“We have sent our proposal to them and we are hoping to have a good response from them and if not, we will look for other sponsors to foot our bills.
“I use this medium to call on corporate organisations to give their support now that the national team needs it and not until they come with victory then everybody wants to associate with them,” he said.