High Chief Emeka Inyama is a man of many parts. A renowned sports administrator, politician, former Commissioner of Sports, NFF board member, Former Chairman of Nigeria National League, a renowned journalist of great repute, a born again Christian and the most successful chairman in the history of Abia Warriors Football Club. For a man of many parts, how he effortlessly combines his numerous role is hard to fathom, but he does these all with relative ease, setting trends and achieving results and great feats regularly. He is held in high esteem by many due to his antecedents. A very busy man, he spared papilonews.com a few minutes of his precious time to speak on some very salient issues. We hope you enjoy reading this.
Q:: With you at the helm Abia Warriors won promotion from the Nigerian National League Division B after many years of trying. How were you able to achieve this feat?
A:: Our promotion was a provision driven by set targets, and determination to achieve those set targets. It is one thing to set targets, and another thing to achieve the set targets, as this takes determination, dedication, discipline, focus and many other factors. Abia Warriors had been in the Nigeria National League for many years, the only challenge was to win promotion to the premier League so at the beginning of the last season my board and I set a target in place which we knew, if we worked together and followed resolutely, we would achieve our aim at the end of the day. We set the pace and standard in players welfare, paying remuneration better than even many premier League clubs were paying at that time. We also paid attractive match bonuses and made sure these were paid promptly, and when you motivate your players well they virtually play out their hearts for you because they know there will be no stories concerning their bonuses, allowances and salaries. Our organization too was second to none. From day one, we put in place many structures to ensure a smooth running of the club in order to meet our set targets and to the glory of God we achieved our target.
Q:: After winning promotion, you did not relent and instead have been rubbing shoulders with the more experienced Premier league ‘big boys’ in your three years in the premier league. What makes Abia Warriors FC tick?
A:: What we have going for us is the style of leadership we have in place, the caliber of players we recruited, discipline, commitments and the wisdom and tactical acumen of a very experienced technical crew. We engaged coach Kennedy Boboye as our technical adviser which proved a master stroke because it was quite helpful. Boboye knows the terrain well, and his vast experience and contacts helped us achieve the little we have achieved now. He brought a lot of things to the club, and has been immense in his contribution especially in the general organization of the club, and his technical and tactical ability is immense. We also retained the services of Coach Chijioke Osuagwu who won the promotion ticket for us and ably Isah Ladan Boso our former technical adviser in his two seasons here as we knew his knowledge of the boys, knowledge of the local terrain and ability to read a game would be very useful to us.
Q:: What necessitated your choice of Coach Boboye as head of your technical crew?
A:: Before we employed Coach Boboye, we had employed Isah Ladan Bosso as our technical adviser. Bosso is a very good coach whose exposure and knowledge of the game was very helpful to us but in the game of football nothing lasts forever and at the end of last season both parties parted ways. We wanted the best coach in Nigeria so we approached Boboye after he resigned from Sunshine Stars. Boboye is vastly experienced as a player and as a coach and did a wonderful job at Sunshine Stars last season so we decided to hand over the reins to him. It has not been a bad decision at all.
Q:: How have you handled motivation and welfare of your players?
A:: I believe that the purpose of a team is not just to compete and win, but to take care of the players and workforce because they are the geese that lay the golden egg. Without players, there won’t be any team. As a journalist, I often criticized sports administrators who did not take players welfare seriously, so when I became an administrator I placed premium on the happiness and welfare of my players. I always want to know how my boys are doing, their camp conditions, their feelings on and off the field and things like that.
Q:: Can you please expatiate on some of the way you motivate the boys?
A:: When we were in the NNL we paid the highest salaries, now in the Glo NPFL we are amongst the teams that pay the highest salaries. We also endeavor to pay salaries promptly. We pay very attractive match bonuses, and have a great welfare package in place for the boys to cater for their medicare and other needs. Our team camp is one of the best in Nigeria. We motivate the boys to get good results, and the players testify that our welfare package is amongst the best, if not the best in the country. Even other clubs and players from other clubs give us kudos.
AWG: That’s amazing. Please keep it up. What other structures are you putting in place for Abia Warriors?
A:: Plenty. Abia Warriors is a club run on international best practices. We are in the process of taking Abia Warriors to the top of football in Nigeria and Africa, not just on the pitch but in terms of organization and management. We have acquired a large portion of land from the state government as permanent site for Abia Warriors Sports Complex. The first phase of the project will consist of three training pitches, a gymnasium, indoor hall for basket ball, table tennis etc and a 50 room hostel for the players. The second phase will be a 3 Star hotel to yield revenue for the club. Also, our welfare package extends to our teeming fans too. We are the only club in Nigeria with a theme song for our fans and to create a unique identity. This theme song is danceable and the fans love it. We are also amongst the few Nigerian clubs that have rolled out club merchandizing. Our jerseys are on sale in store and online at a give-away price and the fans appreciate this and buy them up regularly and when you come to our games our stadium is a sea of red jerseys. We are the first club to carry out raffle draws in every game. This is done during half time and fans have already won plasma TVs, gadgets, handsets, DVD players and club jerseys with as little as N200 tickets. We also invite and host big Nollywood stars to watch or games. We do all these to appreciate our fans and encourage them to continue to show us their support. We have set another target which is to be one of Africa’s best teams in the next 5 years not just on the pitch but in terms of management, infrastructure and organization and with determination, focus and God on our side we know we can achieve that.
Q:: On a personal note, tell us how you have been able to combine your numerous personal and political duties and being Chairman Abia Warriors to such notable effect.
A:: It’s all down to organization and structure and in Abia Warriors we have a structure that makes things run effortlessly. Whether I am around or not, everyone knows what to do and club business flows even in my absence because our secretariat is well equipped in man power and gadgets to continue to run seamlessly at all times. In all modesty, we have the best secretariat in Nigerian football, the former LMC Chairman Hon Nduka Irabor himself confirmed it when he visited in 2014. He said he couldn’t believe it but it is as a result of putting solid structures in place and manning them with the best hands in the business. Our Secretariat has full internet facilities, the club is online real time, the website is always active with financial packages, HR packages, what have you, online 247. I try my best to put up to three decades of experience in sports administration and marketing to good use in Abia Warriors and it is working.
Q:: Tell us in all sincerity your targets for Abia Warriors FC this season.
A:: This is our third season in the league and even though we haven’t done badly and have always ended in the top half of the table running shoulders with the front liners, this season our aim is to go for the title or at worse grab a continental ticket. Anything can happen. We started marvelously well and were unbeaten for a long while but experienced a bad patch at a time. However, we are back on track. Like I said, anything can happen. Don’t write us off from the title race.
Q:: Abia Warriors has a crack team this season. Who can you rate as your favourite player?
A:: Indeed we have a crack assembly of players, that is the reason why I tell you confidently that we are still in the title race. What we need are two away wins and we will be right at the top if we can grab maximum points at home. As Chairman of the club, I am like a father to all the players so as it is not right for a father to have a favorite amongst his children as he will be partial, I do not have a favourite player amongst my players.
Q:: Okay, who has impressed you most amongst your players?
A:: I’ve been impressed by the efforts of the whole team. As a team we have achieved more so its team work that matters most above individual performance. I also know that if we work harder as a team we can achieve much more. I am proud of my team and I am pushing them on to greater heights through adequate motivation and inspiration.
Q: Its been a pleasure talking with you Sir.
A: The pleasure is all mine. On behalf of my management, players and our technical crew we would like to show appreciation to all of our fans amazing support of Abia Warriors FC. May God continue to bless you all for supporting the ultimate warriors.