Your Excellency, sir, recall that about a week ago, I addressed you through this medium, urging you to rescue the darling team of Imo State, Heartland FC, from the hands of some political hawks parading as football managers and administrators. I understood that you really commenced an inquiry to determine the veracity or otherwise of my claims. However, few people who are currently benefiting from the rot routing Heartland went to town, labelling me as a PDP analyst. What a senseless talk!
Sir, I am here again, employing all manner of facts as my evidence even mentioning some established football personalities as witnesses. The following are my stand:
1. The problem of Heartland is the commissioner of sports.
The man lacks basic knowledge of what football management is all about. He does not understand his primary responsibility as a supervisor of sports in the state. Rather, he is now, what some sports commentators in the state call “commissioner of Heartland”. This is so because; the sports commissioner does not carry himself as one who supervises the generality of sports development and growth in Imo. Instead, all his activities are centered about Heartland. Since he came in as the sports commissioner, which other sport under his ministry has he touched positively? He cannot mention any!
2. The sports commissioner usurps the functions and duties of the general manager of Heartland This is why the team stumbles here and crumbles there. Examples. (A) After putting up a spirited performance against Katsina United away, it was expected that Heartland would devour Nassarawa United in Owerri in their next game. It never happened. Why? The reason was that the commissioner for sports went on air to announce that the players had no reason to lose the game in Katsina as they were not owed any kobo.
To that effect, the players went on strike, urging the commissioner for sports to provide evidence of payment. It took the intervention of some members of government and that of the general manager of the team before the players agreed to honour the home encounter against Nassarawa United. As a matter of fact, the players never trained for that outing and so they worked into the pitch straight from their protest. Needless to say Heartland lost 1 -2 at home
(B) After the Nassarawa home loss, expectation was high the commissioner for sports would turn a new leaf. Sadly, no dice. And the trip to Jos against Plateau United beckoned. The government released players and management’s salaries.
What happened next was a clear case of administrative rascality and an express show of official impunity. How? The sports commissioner, for whatever reason, refused to pay the players and the management team. In view of that, most senior players of the team refused to travel for the Jos tie. The technical adviser equally never travelled to Jos for the same reason of nonpayment of salaries. Expectedly, Heartland lost in Jos. In the last away game against Jigawa in Kaduna, the commissioner, once again sidelined the general manager and took the team to the northern Nigeria enclave. He handled all the logistic provisions while the general manager was mischievously left behind in Owerri. An illegality will only produce an illegal result and so Heartland lost yet again in Kaduna against Jigawa. These are signs that if the commissioner is allowed to continue in his inanity, Heartland are doomed.
3. The activities of the sports commissioner, Mr Dan Ogu, run fowl of football management. Heartland has an accountant, bank account and a cashier as well. In addition, the management performs the team’s budget defence. So, why should Ogu disburse the team’s money? The usual and normal process is for the ministry of sports to wire the club’s money directly to their account. But Ogu does not do this. He rather handles all the club’s financial concerns.
4. The Enyimba chairman, Felix Anyansi Agwu has lifted about eight league and seven Federation Cup titles. He led the People’s Elephant to a back to back CAF Champions League glory in 2003 and 2004. Had the respective sports commissioners in Abia State conducted themselves in the way and manner Ogu is going about it, Enyimba would not have achieved the glorious height they attained. Therefore, Ogu should be told in unambiguous terns to act within his purview on matters concerning Heartland if the team must find their footing in the ongoing season.
5. At least, Ambassador Nwankwo Kanu is one of the most recognizable faces in modern global football. He should be asked if the present activities of Ogu in Heartland whereupon he cages the general manager by not remitting money due to the club but rather handles it himself, is appropriate. Prince Lemmy Akakem who just turned 70 last week, still remains the most successful chairman of Heartland ever.
We must reach out to him and get his opinion if it was right for Ogu, as the sports commissioner, to have gone to an away game to directly handle Heartland affairs without the general manager. There is also an Olympian, a World Cup star and FIFA U-17 World Cup winner, Mobi Oparaku, who is also a member of Heartlandis management. We must ask him if what Ogu is doing is right.
6. For the avoidance of doubt, we must ask Ogu to let us know who is spending Heartland’s funds. He should tell Imo football fans why he does not remit the team’s funds to it’s account. If he feels otherwise, he should provide evidence.
7. We painfully recall that Heartland went on relegation for the first time in history.
Indeed after 40 years, when OZB, also deputy speaker then, wrongly took over the affairs of the club thereby usurping the powers of the chairman who was Bash and in the process the team was relegated. Again, now, deputy speaker, Rt. Hon. Amara Iwuanyanwu, has also assumed almost the position OZB took in 2016 on Heartland. If care is not taken, the deputy speaker will lead Heartland to relegation this season as OZB did.
And now to the root of the matter. Ogu is being smart. He has dragged Comrade Chinasa Nwaneri into his inanity. But Nwaneri is innocent here. He is your trusted back man. Though he is not a football personality, and this is why he should not allow Ogu to mess him up. Nwaneri is a grassroots mobilizer and he does it well for you. Let the commissioner leave Nwaneri out of this and let Nwaneri not allow himself to be messed up.