by Paul Erewuba
For many years the Nigeria Football Supporters Club was embroiled in leadership crisis. But on December 10, 2016 elections held to reconcile aggrieved members, Reverend Samuel Ikpea emerged the new chairman after polling 168 votes to beat rival, Alarape Muritala.
He did not leave any one in doubt of his mission and vision of the 62 years old club.
Recently, he spoke to Saturday SunSport in Lagos.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
I am Reverend Samuel Ikea, married with three kids. In 2000, after I finished my Bible course with Faithful Bible Theological School, I was ordained as a Reverend in the Assembly of Faithful Church.
I am from Esan, Edo State and I joined the Supporters Club in 1991. By the year 2000, I became the second Assistant National Secretary, and later in 2004 the Secretary General. In 2016, I emerged the National Chairman.
Q: Before now, people thought Supporters Club was Rafiu Ladipo’s property, but with your emergence as the chairman, what is the significance of your election in the life of the Club?
Yes, as you said, for about 30 years or more, all you heard about was Rafiu Ladipo.
On the 10th of December, 2016, there was an election and I was elected the National Chairman. To me, the Supporters Club would be re-branded. We are going to witness a re-birth of the club. It is not going to be like those days when we used to concentrate on supporting the national teams alone, this time around, we are concentrating also on grassroots football and other sporting activities that will encourage the youths of Nigeria.
Q: How will you cope as a Reverend gentleman with the responsibility of being chairman?
As a Reverend, it becomes an easy job for me. Being a Reverend is not all about preaching in the church. As a Reverend, and Supporters Club Chairman, I share the word of God with them. People love sports. We talk sports and after that I share the word of God with them. I feel very happy that in a very big opportunity for me in fulfilling my calling. And Supporters Club work is not suffering.
And I know that many lives are always touched. I do communicate with converts and we pray together. They call me to pray for them.
Q: The Supporters Club had been tainted with allegations of visa racketeering, and members flirting with other people’s wives and husbands. How do you intend to curb these?
First, let me correct the impression that the Supporters Club had been embroiled in racketeering and all what not. There has never been anything like that since the existence of the club.
People will always talk, and people who peddle such rumours are those who are too ambitious looking for one or two things from the club. And when they don’t have their way, they look for a way to tarnish the image of the club.
I have been with the club for close to 30 years and I can tell you there has never been any time that members are having immoral acts among themselves. Any time we travel, especially when the Super Eagles have crucial matches, we go there fasting and praying for the team to succeed.
We are more joyous when our team wins. We don’t go with the aim of committing immorality; we go in with prayers and supplications to God.
We have Lawyers, National Assembly members, sports administrators, Reverends, Journalists, Doctors, Businessmen, etc. These are respected gentlemen and women who cannot descend so low. And on the issue of visa racketeering, there is no time such has occurred. The Embassies are there for you to verify. If we travel to any country, we have a procedure. We seize the passports of those who came with us and when we are going, their passports are given back to them.
All the allegations are unfounded and they are meant to rubbish the club’s image for reasons best known to them.
Q: There has been talks of someone else claiming to be the Supporters Club Chairman. Between the two of you who is the authentic chairman?
We do not have two Supporters Club Chairmen. Two captains cannot be in a ship. I want the public to know that Vincent Okumagba was never elected as the national chairman of the Supporters Club. He was appointed as an acting chairman. Before we did our elections, there were a lot of anti-club activities by him. One was the submission of names to the Brazilian Embassy during the Olympics. After he was impeached for anti- club activities, he went away and ran to the NFF. The NFF called us for a peace meeting and it was presided over by Bola Oloyede. We entered into an MOU which was widely publicised that we should conduct an election on December 10. He was also asked to apologise to us. He was brought back and asked to pick a form. He complained of the composition of the 13-man electoral committee. He was asked to pick his choice and removed three names which the NFF approved. Out of the 12-man electoral committee members that he approved for himself, 11 were in Lagos to conduct the election, only one was absent. We held the election in Lagos and I won. The election was supervised by Dr. Amos Adamu, Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi, Alhaji Aminu Maigari, Chief Ojo-oba and other prominent sports men and women including journalists.
Q: What are the high and low points in the course of supporting the Super Eagles?
The passion you have for a particular thing keeps you going. And this is one thing that has been encouraging me. The saddest moment in my life was in 2002 Mali Nations Cup. We went to Mali by road with six luxurious buses from Lagos. And with all the support, the Eagles crashed out in the semi finals. In fact, the whole world came crashing on me. When I looked at all the sufferings we had, I looked up to heaven and shed tears. I was so emotional that I fell sick.
Q: Pinnick’s victory at CAF, what is your take on that?
It is a great one. And I am so happy that he defeated boastful Anjorin of Benin. Pinnick’’s victory will definitely attract positive things to Nigerian football, I have no doubt about that. We should therefore support him.
Q What is the real name of your club. Some say Nigeria and other sports while others, Nigeria football Supporters Club. Which do we call it?
In 1999, our Grand Patron, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said we had been supporting only football; it was time for us to support other sports. That was the year; we change our constitution and changed the name to Nigeria Football and other Sports Supporters Club. The two clubs are registered by us, but for now, the real name we are maintaining is Nigeria Football Supporters Club.
Q: What are the challenges facing the club?
Finance is one of our challenges. We spend our own money traveling all over the continent and the world to support the Super Eagles. Sometimes, when we land in some countries, they up the prices of the hotels, claiming we are giants of Africa, that we have money. We use our individual money and it is not funny. I would say Government has not supported us and I want the federal government to do so.
Q: What changes do envisage for the club?
This administration will not only focus on supporting the national teams alone. We are going to be involved in supporting grassroots sports. We would be partnering with the NFF in organising friendly matches and team up with the NFF. We are also going to have Supporters Club museum where we will have our relics displayed. These and many more are some of the things we would be doing aside supporting the teams.