Fresh crisis brews in Heartland FC
By Tasie Theodore
The crisis rocking Heartland Football Club, FC of Owerri has taken a different dimension as the club’s Chairman, Barrister Charles Babatunde Ezekwe-Board chairman has revealed why player’s salaries were withheld even as he is threatening to resign his position if the club’s General Manager, Godson Onyemobi is removed.
Speaking to members of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria SWAN, Imo state chapter at his Owerri residence in Achike Udenwa Estate, New Owerri, the former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman in the state stated that after the ousted Governor, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha promised to increase their subvention and asked them to downsize their staff strength and number of players to a more manageable size, he felt sacking some persons and sending them to the labour market at that point would have looked callous and inhumane.
Barr Ezekwem continued by saying that he rather held a meeting with the players where they agreed to take a pay cut in the interest of all adding that they even signed an agreement to that effect.
Frowning at the spate of allegations and derogatory comments leveled against his Board and the management team of the club, Barr. Ezekwem maintained that he has never been a signatory to the club’s account even when the suspended General Manager, Hon Ifeanyi Chukwudi was still on duty but that the GM and the club Accountant are the ones who have access to club funds.
Recounting how he was using his personal funds to run the club’s affairs especially when the government wasn’t ready with funds, Ezekwem disclosed that after the club’s misfortunes began in the league due to poor performance by some of the players signed early in the season, he had to use the connections and knowledge of the GM, Onyemobi to get good legs – about 17 of them on loan – without spending money. He said he was then surprised that instead of getting praises he got knocks from his detractors even after recording resounding victories against Rangers of Enugu, Abia Warriors and Enyimba lnt’1 at Aba among other feats.
The Board Chairman further disclosed that in order to carry everyone along that he increased the welfare package of the workers and the players with the aim of getting optimum results believing that their subvention will be increased. He recalled that even Gov Rochas Okorocha had released over M100m to the then Chairman aside the monthly subvention the club was getting before his Board took over and queried why some people are hell bent on sabotaging the club’s progress just because his board suspended the former GM, Ifeanyi Chukwudi over what he termed gross mismanagement of funds and misconduct.
Speaking further on why the N30m given lo the club wasn’t enough for them in January, he said that unlike what obtained in the usual setting, Heartland FC just like other clubs, executed 7 games in January among other logistics they incurred, pointing out that he even had to augment at some point when funds were not available, culminating to him being owed about N8m.
The Chairman who argued that his Excellency, Sen Hope Uzodinma assured him that his board wasn’t among those dissolved, explained to SWAN members the major reasons why his detractors were attacking him and insisted that he would not hesitate to resign his position as the club Chairman if his GM, Godson Onyemobi is finally removed recalling that Gov Ihedioha had on assumption of office abrogated the Ministry of Sports and established the Imo State Sports Commission by law, wondering why the Commissioner is not properly guided in some of his actions and utterances.
He however informed that if for any reason Heartland is displaced from NPFL, then the Sports Commissioner and the Accountant should be held responsible alleging that they and some elements who are not comfortable with his success as Executive Board Chairman as well as their action of sacking the previous GM have been the major bone of contention in thwarting efforts to boost the fortunes of the club.