Ebi Ezekiel Egbe is the C.E.O of Monimichelle Sports Facility Vonstruction Limited. He is contesting for the chairmanship of the Bayelsa State Football Association. In this interview with ANIEFIOK JAMES, he restates his opposition to the recent FA election in the state. Excerpts…
You have been reported as rejecting the recent FA election in your state. Why would you do that?
The election is not over yet because what we witnessed at the Laktic Hotels wasn’t an election. We are in the 21st century and times are changing. If the association has election guidelines then it has to be followed properly.T Theelection we had was done without following guidelines. That is why I am asking for the cancellation of that election , so we can conduct a new election.
Can you be specific on the areas where the guidelines were not followed?
Barely three months back, I got interested in running for the position of the FA chairman in the state because I realised that we have a stagnant football association in the state. I know and understand the power of state FAs during my stay in England where FAs are very strong and what they attract to states. I have been here in the state for the past ten years now and nothing different has happened to our football locally. If not for what I am doing for football in the state there wouldn’t have been any impact in our football, so I thought of contesting to see if I could use the platform to market Project Bayelsa to the world. In actualizing my vision, I consulted Dr. Singabelle, and told him of my interest to contest the chairmanship position. He promised to get back to me but never did, and I even made further moves to get to him but be never responded, only for me find out that he connived with some persons to deprive me my right to participate in the election. They flawed the process after they lied that I could only appeal on the day of the election which is actually in the guidelines, when I saw their fraudulent moves to scheme me out. I wrote a petition some months ago but they told me they couldn’t accept it until the day of the election. On the day of the election, at the venue, they at first refused collecting the petition and when they collected it they failed to attend and give hearing to it. They hurriedly under 15 minutes did a kangaroo election and announced Barr. Pobeni as the winner. If we want to get things right in the state we need to throw away sentiment, the FA is being controlled by All Star International, characters that never played football. We had about 13 of them out of the 17 delegates that voted. That was unfair, and that is one of the reasons I am contesting the result.
You already petitioned the NFF?
Sure and I am waiting for the outcome. The fraud was too obvious..Secondly, the ex-players association’s chairman, Ebitimi Amgbare was not granted access to vote instead his deputy was allowed. Can you imagine that? This is Bayelsa and such controversy shouldn’t happen here. They know that I am not a push over, this is my 30th year in the football industry. I am not the kind of guy they can cheat easily. I am patiently waiting for the outcome. I am not a violent person because I believe in playing by the rules, I want fair play. To me, I am not desperate to be the FA chairman in the state but because of what we deserve to benefit and we are not getting from the country in general, if I can operate outside the federation for 30 years and I have become so popular and impactful then that should tell you something if I become chairman. Coming on board is for me to use the platform to help my state, so we boost football tourism in the state. We have the most beautiful compact stadium today in the country and we have an FA that can’t make a case for local games to be played in the state. With me, I can market that stadium to the NFF, and our state will be showcased around the world, let us just see how the election petition goes.
If the NFF looks into the matter and the outcome remains the same, what will you do?
It’s impossible, I know the kind of NFF we have, they’ll intervene and give me fair hearing. But if it goes the other way and they say Monimichelle you lost the election and you don’t have a case, I will just walk away.
If it turns that way, will you support the leadership?
Why not? I have always supported the FA and a lot of football programmes in the state. I am FIFA match agent and not just coming to struggle for position. I am the only FIFA- licensed match agent in Nigeria, and just because I came to establish my office in Bayelsa state that’s why they look down on me, I can decide to move my office to Abuja or Lagos. We are talking about establishing where we are from that’s why I am here. I don’t have to be here, and these guys can’t frustrate me to go back to Lagos, Abuja or London, I will stay here and fight that cabal and break their wings, so that guys like me who are in the diaspora can come give what they can offer to the state.
Won’t a crisis like this be detrimental to the progress and development of local football in the state?
Definitely it is, if you don’t bring the right people in places of leadership it becomes a problem. You must bring guys who have the capacity to go out and negotiate what the state can benefit from, and in the national they have a lot of respect for me and if I become the chairman the people know I will always go out and lobby for things that will boost tourism in the state and also help in developing grassroots football. We don’t want a dormant FA, and as a Bayelsan I feel ashamed when I go out and nothing is said about my state FA. I want my FA to be the best in the country, because today we have the best pitch, track and flood light in the country. I want to do the same with the FA, take football to the grassroots, boost education and build the capacity of the youths, and I can’t sit and watch these local guys behave like they own the football.
How have you helped in developing young Bayelsans?
I don’t think there’s anybody that has helped in developing Bayelsans than me, I have taken a lot of youths to different football academies outside the shores of this country, but we have a challenge that when they go they don’t stay but want to come back in a hurry.
Also in para- soccer, the channels kid soccer tournament that just finished I sponsored the team that went from our state. I do a lot not just for the state but the country as a whole.
Our national teams both female perform poorly when they go out, what do you think its responsible?
The playing surface is our biggest problem, we have poor facilities. We don’t have good pitches in the country and also no female academy in the country. We’re doing our best and also encouraging government to do more in terns of facilities. The football sector is so powerful, every corner in our neighborhood you’ ll see kids playing football in the state. We have a good pitch and that is why we are hosting so many football games in the state, we don’t want to throw away opportunities to sell the state, I understand the business and in order to improve our tourism base through football.
Your advice to the youth?
The youth of the state need to keep their heads clean, if you want to play soccer we’ ll give you the opportunity and also match it with education. They need to stay away from cult activities, don’t think you want to grow up to become a politician but someone successful outside politics, because when you see someone that survives well and not a politician becomes a problem to politicians and that is what I am suffering today. The local guys are doing everything to chase me out, but I am not going anywhere, I am here to stay. We own the state and we’ll build it together.