FEATURE: 2023 Kwara Football elections: The Intrigues, facts, politics

FEATURE: 2023 Kwara Football elections: The Intrigues, facts, politics

Kwara State Football Association 2023 elections has come and gone, but what seems to be a smooth sail for the winners at all levels right from the Football Council elections to the state elections was full of intrigues, funny moves and moments, as well as politics, all of which underscores historic dealings of the major actors.

One of the major achievements was that, for the first time since the Kwara State Football Association was constituted in the 70s, all the positions, from the Football Councils to the state levels have been fully democratized.

The process towards the democratization of the FA began four years ago, with the election of Mallam Idris Abdullahi Musa on June 13, 2019. He was also the first from the Northern part of the state, as he surprisingly defeated three other challengers to the seat.

The Kwara State Football Association was constituted in 1973, with Alhaji Usman Mustapha as its first Chairman.He served between 1973 to 1975.

Alhaji Mustapha was then a Senior Administrative Officer and Treasurer of the Ilorin Divisional Local Authority. Other officers included Alhaji Ganiyu Jaiyeola as Secretary, Mr. E. A. Olawoye (Treasurer), Mr. J. B. Ashola (Financial Secretary) and Mr M. B. Asaju (Publicity Secretary).

Between 1973 and now, roughly around 18 Chairmen have served in that position, including the incumbent, Alhaji Idris Abdullhi Musa.

Fondly called Thuraya, Alhaji Idris won with 10 votes of the 22 available votes. Other contenders then were: Alhaji Sulaiman Toyin Olokoba (Six votes), Alhaji AbdulRazaq Adebayo Owolabi Agbaji Wopa (Three votes) and Engr. Idris Jibril (Three votes).

As interesting as the election was, it importantly sets the tone for other elections that will follow from then on, including the recently concluded 2023 elections that held in Kaiama on June 13th, 2023.

But the genesis of the whole thing actually started way back in 2010, when late Alhaji Busari Ishola contested against Chief Michael Kunle Adesiyun. Chief Adesiyun had served one term, and was seeking the second term.

Chief Kunle Adesiyun’s board was inaugurated in 2015, in a semi-democratic arrangement. The tenure of the Board was supposed to end in 2009, but the resolution of the Annual General Assembly of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) extended the tenure to December 2010, together with that of the other 35 states of the Federation and Abuja, to bring about uniformity throughout. The decision was taken at the NFF Congress which held in Makurdi, in 2009.

After completing his first term in office in 2010, the Otun Fiwajoye of Offa had sought for another term, the second term. He had the backing of virtually all the stakeholders, all of whom put up a memo to the government of the day, on the need to allow the Offa-born Chief to get a second term.

The stakeholders, who included the then Chairman of Kwara United Football Club, Prince Oladimeji Ladi Thompson, the then Chairman of Bukola Babes (now Abubakar Bukola Saraki FC) Mallam Abdul Adama, the former State Pillar of Sports, Chief Donatus Agu Ejidike, the former Chairman of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Bunmi Adedoyin, the former Administrator of Kwara Football Academy, Kumbi Titiloye, the Chairmen of Supporters and Fans Clubs of Kwara United, messrs Abdulkadri Idris and Shehu Abdulkadri Ajao, as well as the Chairman of the Supporters Club of Bukola Babes FC.

“We wish to express the views of all Kwarans in the football industry, particularly the major football teams and other stakeholders. We want to solicit for your approval for the continuation in office of Chief Michael Kunle Adesiyun as the Chairman of Kwara State Football Association, the position he had served diligently, and which Kwara teams and stakeholders are benefitting from, greatly”, the letter read in part.

Dr. Abubakar Kannike was then the Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development.

No doubt, Chief Adesiyun takes the credit for the uplift of the image of Kwara FA to an enviable status, which now makes it a cynosure of all eyes.

But due to the pressure to have a candidate from the Central installed, with the claim that the said candidate had been contributing to the development of football from his playing days, Chief Adesiyun threw in the towel.

In his address during the Elective Congress that produced late Mallam Busari Ishola as the Chairman, he said, “with all sense of humility, I am by the grace of God today, a fulfilled man, and in the spirit of fairness and patriotism, I have paid my dues. And without any regret whatsoever, but with due respect for the feelings and aspirations of some eminent and prominent individuals, I have decided not to seek re-election into the Kwara FA, to give peace a chance, after all, the state is bigger that any group or individual, and in consonance with the popular adage, “you quit when the ovation is loudest”.

After the completion of two tenures consecutively, late Mallam Busari Ishola sought for the third term of office, a move that did not go down well with the stakeholders. He had to bow to pressure to jettison his ambition, and paved the way for the election of another candidate.

Two candidates showed interest from Kwara Central. They are Alhaji Sulaiman Toyin Olokoba, who was highly favoured to win it, based on followership. The other candidate from the Central was Alhaji AbdulRazaq Adebayo Owolabi Agbaji Wopa. There were also two candidates from Kwara North, Engr. Idris Jibril, and Mallam Idris Abdullahi Musa.

The factor that played against both Olokoba and Wopa had been that, they were both from the Central, coming after nine years spent by late Mallam Busari Ishola, also from the Central.

Even the body language of the government then favoured a candidate from Kwara North, a region that had not tasted the position before then. The out-going Chairman, late Mallam Busari Ishola aligned with that arrangement too, and it wasn’t difficult for him, with the support of Kwara South delegates, settling for Thuraya because of his running battle with Engr. Idris Jibril. Engr Idris had been in the fore-front of the campaign against late Ishola’s third term bid.

Equally, his perceived association with Niger State FA Chairman and NFF Board member, Alhaji Ahmed Fresh worked against him. Thuraya, against all odds, emerged as Chairman.

The just concluded elections in Kaiama had its roots in the sacrifice made by Chief Adesiyun, as well as the resolve by Kwara South to wait in the wings, in fulfilment of the rotational system which was verbally agreed.

The elections in Kaiama was a script that had been long written, with Thuraya been the actor that was dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘t’s on the actualization of the “unwritten” agreements.

Engr. Abdullateef Ahmed Olaide, a strong, vibrant and passionate candidate from the Central coming at this period could be said to be coming at the wrong time. As the elections drew nearer, it was gradually becoming clearer that Kwara Southerners were not going to drop out of the queue, and this slimmed the chances of the young Engineer. They took this decision not for personal reasons, but for collective ambition. They were not prepared to sell their birthrights.

Again, Kwara North was a ‘no-go’ area. That was the arrangement that decided where the pendulum swung.

Thuraya won by 19 votes to four, and while addressing the press after winning the election, he expressed surprise that his challenger, Engr Olaide could even get as much as four votes.

The transition could not but witnessed some intriguing moments, like exchange of provocative letters, tempering with vital and confidential documents by some personalities, name calling, litigations, inciting statements…all of which underscored the desperation of some stakeholders.

All these advantages and disadvantages dotted the processes right from the Council Elections, up till the final elections, which also had to be delayed for the Court case instituted by the Players Union to be withdrawn, before the elections could hold.

For Mallam Idris Abdullahi Musa, popularly known as Thuraya, he is the most underrated ‘Game Changer’ in Kwara and Nigeria football. The rise to stardom of the Kaiama-born Administrator was so fast and full of meanings that you will hate to love him for what he has so far contributed to the system, coupled with the potentials to do even more, but for those who are looking at his personality.

Mallam Idris Abdullahi Musa, a former Councilor in Kaduna state, where he made waves in the round leather game, rose to reckoning in Kwara state as an Agent of the then Global Mobile Telecommunications System, the Thuraya. The Football Administrator, after his playing career, mostly in Kaduna state, rose to become Players’ Agent. He was former General Coordinator of Abubakar Bukola Saraki Football Club, from where he surprisingly joined the FA Chairmanship race in 2019.

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