Eben Enasco Reporting.

Amidst brinkmanship by the Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu to avoid an imminent impeachment, where he asked the federal high court, Abuja Division to protect him, another trouble seems to be looming.

This time, it is some aggrieved stakeholders in the Edo State Football Association, FA, and Sports Commission who are accusing the Sister- Inlaw to the Deputy Governor and the Permanent Secretary Sports Commission, Sabina Amemonophena Chikere, of interference and playing ethnic cards.

The group who claimed to have been very upset with her decision to impede the business of the Edo Football Association’s Chairmanship Election, thereby, stoking a crisis in the sports space said they are ready to resist her and unite members in the state.

But in what seems to be an upturn of a coin, the Permanent Secretary, of Edo State Sports Commission, Sabina Chikere when contacted denied the alleged interference while reacting to the allegations.

Chikere who narrated how she contested the FA chairmanship position and lost despite receiving government backing, described those pointing accusing fingers as baseless and their actions as distractive.

She pledged, however, the commission’s commitment to work with any of the interest groups contesting the position who emerge as the Chairman, urging them to work hard to earn the trust of the sports electorates.

Her words: “It’s funny! very funny for people to sit down and begin to cook up stories by saying I am interfering. They have their roles and we have ours and we all know this. We all have their status. They do their elections and if you are eligible you obtain their forms. Forms have been on sale for some time now and it was announced. I one’s contested and I lost. Nobody can interfere in their election. There is no way anyone can interfere. We are not supposed to interfere. The electoral committee that was set up and that I saw can not be maneuvered. Edo State Sports Commission is indeed the governing body and we know our boundaries. Those accusing me are just trying to hold on to something maybe because they are not qualified. I am standing here to say I am not interfering, Edo State Sports Commission is not interfering. Edo state as we all know wants to make the destination of sports in Nigeria and we have been working towards it.
Anybody that wins or emerges we would work together and deliver the mandate of the state government”.

However, in a recent outburst by a critical sports personality in Edo State, KINGSLEY BELELE IGBINOVIA, a former Super Eagles Player over the running of affairs in the Sports Commission and extension of the FA, you will understand that they were a pair full of contradictions.

Igbinovia who spoke to our correspondent said all is not well at the state Football Association and sports commission in Edo State, seeking a quick intervention from Governor Godwin Obaseki ahead of the Football Association’s Election.

The call out of Sabina Chikere is likened to “there when needed, but needed more before now”, and this is the typical synergy of stakeholders and critical managers of football and other relevant sports activities in Edo State that attracted huge investment and collaborations.

But before the news broke recently that the deputy governor Comrade Philip Shaibu had made plans to approach a Federal High Court in Abuja to take legal actions against the run of play with his Boss, and Governor, to restrain him from his duties, Sport cycle in the state had run smoothly even though some stakeholders said the issues have been bedridden and needed an urgent medications.

Igbinovia decried the ethnic bigotry within the sport cycle allegedly staged by Sabina Chikere through the Deputy Governor’s directives.

He also accused her of only seeing his tribesmen from Edo North as the only group fit for supposed juicy positions why others are made to eat the crumbs or stay icy.

He explained how the Permanent Secretary Chikere through the deputy governor has been playing ethnic card, leading to the removal of the previous chairman Osaro Asemota after spending barely seven months in office and bringing in Comrade Abu who is from Etsako West to take over the football affairs.

Igbinovia alleged that Chikere through the deputy governor had also monopolized the affairs of the sports commission, engaging only her kinsmen while others are not considered.

In his words; ” He brought in one Comrade Abu and told them the Stadium is his farmland. Anybody that wants to work in Edo Sports Commission must come from Edo North”.

“As we speak now, the sports commission chairman is from Edo North, the Deputy Governor is from Edo North, the Permanent Secretary is from Edo North, and the immediate past chairman who was removed due to allegations of corruption was also from Edo North”.

“Now the Edo FA election has been lingering and was supposed to have been held since February 13, 2023”.

“Because of the Deputy Governor’s interest, to put somebody from Edo North, it could not hold because the other two major ethnic groups from Edo South and Central resisted his decision”.

“Looking at football; in the state, I have been involved in the sponsorship of Bendel insurance.

Anytime I come to watch insurance play, I always encourage each goalscorer with 20,000 naira. So by implication, if the team wins by four goals, each scorer will receive 20,000 naira each for the match. I have been supporting football from behind through the purchase of Jerseys, and other valuable kits

“Sabina Chikere on her own, selected the electoral committee members which is not in line with the Edo FA mandate.

“The Acting Chairman, Dr. Aghedo, who doubles as the Bendel Insurance team’s doctor was given three months after they suspended the former chairman Abu for suspected financial misappropriation to conduct the election”.

“I can tell you, the PS hijacked it especially when they noticed that those who indicated interests in contesting the position are mainly from Edo South”.

This he said, brought about acrimonious precedents at the sports commission, adding that it could undermine sports development in the state.

According to him, “After the closure of the interest form, they reopen sales of the interest form again and twice at the die minutes for that matter to accommodate their choice wherein to manipulate election results and upset the four contestants who are from the Benin-speaking zone”.

“The man in question is not based in Benin but in Asaba who is a lecturer and from Edo North. They propelled him to obtain the interest form after twice closing dates and promised him they will manipulate the FA election results in his favor”.

“We received this information and find it difficult to swallow these bitter pills. We are not happy with this development and waiting anxiously for the outcome”.

“And only recently the current Secretary of the Edo State Football Commission who is from Edo Central, Uromi precisely Andrew Unuagojie was unlawfully removed from his position because the man told them he can not join them to manipulate procedures”.

Unuagojie they removed is a level twelve officer and a holder of a master’s degree in sport management and has been working as the assistant secretary to one Emmanuel Ajibola who just retired four months ago.

Continuing, Igbinovia said, “Immediately after he took over office, he moved to clean the mess and correct some anomalies. They told him not to venture into all that. Unuagojie refused and then told them he only receive directives from NFA”.

“They now brought another man from Delta State, Tony Owens, who is not in line with the football administration. He is just personnel from the accounting department.

“He has no coaching certificate and nothing to point at that bound him to football management. They brought him to act as a stooge to manipulate the FA election”.

“Even one of their supporters Bennad Joma told a lot of people right there at the stadium that the election committee selected by Sabina through the directives of the deputy governor made Professor Darlington Obaseki the Chief Medical Director, UBTH, as the chairman of the electoral committee”.

“Funny enough the man boasted that wherever the Deputy Governor decides that the result should go is where it will go”. He also said, “Only people from the Edo North will remain in power until the Deputy Governor’s ambition to become governor is sealed”.

Igbinovia said, “This is how bad it is now at the Edo State Sports Commission where they have turned it to ethnic bigotry”.

Once they know you are either from Edo South or Central you are in trouble”.

“I want to call on all authorities and the Edo state Governor to wade in and restore the ones celebrated input and outcome in Sporting activities”

And with that, the “obashaibu” partnership in sport and other areas of development that brought the refurbished Samuel Ogbemudia stadium, the promotion of the Insurance of Benin to the elite league, the Hosting of the Sports Festival, and the total rejuvenation of sports in the state, will tear apart if nothing is done to arrest those fingered planning to destroy this onerous legacy.

The “obashaibu” midfield partnership that brought about total patriotism from sportsmen, women, and critical stakeholders in Edo State Sports activism whilst successes recorded is now sinking.

The pair started together raking in years of achievements until personal ambitions ahead of the 2024 Governorship election is seemingly putting the final nail in the coffin.

There were many narratives around the “obashaibu” partnership.

Most were often exaggerated and none ever told the full story, especially in the internal structure of sport development in Edo state.

They were the safe and dependable pair, but couldn’t be depended on to beat simple understanding even now the suspected personal ambition is affecting all areas of governance.

There is a saying that the best ability is availability.” The reality is what made both the Governor and his deputy united whilst the most selected midfield pair over the last Six and a half years simply because they were the most available, but not the preferred pair.

Since they were preferred by those who presented them during the September 2016 governorship elections, they should be able to justify their mandates and fix the brewing crisis in the Edo State Sports Commission in extension, political space.

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