Chikelue Iloenyosi is a former Super Eagles player who represented the country in many international competitions before quitting active football. After his retirement from football, he set up an NGO known as 042 Football Legends Association with the sole aim of ensuring good welfare for both retired and serving players.
Presently, he is the national President of the newly formed All Nigeria Players Union.
In this interview with Emmanuel Jemegah, he opens up on why the union was formed, its objectives and plans to make it more vibrant than others before it
Recently you along with some ex-internationals and former national league players came together to form All Nigeria Players’ Union. Can you tell us what led to this latest development?
The new players’ union became necessary in order to address some of the welfare issues affecting both retired and active players. It’s all about integrity and the development of our football. We’re not out to harass, witch hunt or antagonize anybody.
All we are out to do is for the benefit of our members who have been complaining about the absence of a true union that can represent their interest and that’s why when other groups are writing all sorts of lies against us, you can never see anybody from our group reply them because we’re not out for confrontation because they’re all our friends. What we’re doing is to fight for an improved welfare of our members and for the love we have for our country.
What are some of the attributes that make your group different from other players’ union in the country?
These other groups you mentioned have been there for more than three decades without anything to show for their existence. Don’t forget that the PFAN Chairman in Delta State, in the person of Ikedia died sometime ago and they did nothing. They did not even deem it fit to go and visit his family and commensurate with them. What they are interested is embezzlement of public funds.
They are only interested in criticizing the NFF but they fail to tell Nigerians or put it in the union’s platform that the same NFF they’re antagonizing gave them 50,000 dollars, pay for their office accommodation and gave them laptops and computers. One may be tempted to ask why they are fighting the same Federation that is doing so much for them. So, what I’m trying to tell the world is that this time around, we want to get things right.
When you look at those that constitute our executive, you’ll know they are people of integrity. People like Joseph Yobo, Julius Aghaghowa etc. All of them came out to say enough is enough. You will also realise that for all these years they’ve been there, they’ve not written any letter to NFF for affiliation. We are the only ones that have written such letter and they replied us and told us we’re the apex players union in the country with the NFF President congratulating us.
Are you saying there is an existing relationship between your union and the NFF?
The answer is yes, because without an existing relationship, the NFF cannot acknowledge our letter and describe us as the apex players’ union. Our letter went to the board of the executive committee of the NFF, the President, General Secretary and Secretary of the players’ status. It went through due process and approval was given to us because they discovered we are people with integrity and that was why our inauguration was well attended.
But some Nigerians are afraid that they’ve seen similar unions in the past and that at the end of the day, this will end up in crisis. How are we sure your own union will not toe the same line?
I can assure you that our own union won’t be like that because like I said earlier, when you look at our exco, you will marvel at the quality of individuals there. They’re people with integrity with names to protect. These are people who are not interested in filling their pockets.
They’re people who are ready to make sacrifices and work for the good of others. We have already spent more than N30 million which is our personal money to ensure things work out well because we’re people driven by passion. The other day, I met Etim Essien and he confessed to me that he had decided not to have anything to do with players union but when he saw the calibre of people in our group he decided to join us.
Talking about welfare, a lot of club sides are owing players many arrears of salaries and allowances, what is your union going to do about that?
We have a lot of work to do on that. We intend to enter into discussion with the NFF, LMC and club owners to see how this issue could be resolved and in doing this; we intend to have the contact of every player because it’s not going to be business as usual. The other day I discussed with the chairman of chairmen, Barrister Isaac Danladi and he accepted all my suggestions. We’re going to ensure that due process is followed in the whole issue. Once our registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is out, we will now become a fully registered union under the laws of the land.
You know our registration process is on- going and it remains some few weeks and the approval will come out and we will get our certificate of incorporation. For your information, the other unions are not registered. They’re just making noise and giving NFF ultimatum, meanwhile they are not legally operating under the law as a legal entity and very soon we’re going to petition EFCC and other relevant security agencies to make them account for all the monies they’ve embezzled. I was their treasurer but I never signed out any money. They’ve been putting it in the platform that I was in charge of money meanwhile I have not seen any money or part of how they spent it
Apart from Yobo and Aghahowa, what type of support are you getting from other ex- internationals and national league players?
The response and support have been encouraging. Somebody like Emmanuel Amuneke is with us and presently our platform is filled up and we’re making efforts to set up a telegram. If you visit our platform, you’ll marvel. You know that we don’t just take anybody. Before we take you, you must come for screening and tell us why you want to join the union. This is not like before when they register anybody whether they played football or not because all they wanted was to be collecting registration and annual dues.
We’re not interested in such things since we believe that when people see the good work you’re doing and the caliber of those running the union any letter you write to corporate organisations be it AITEO, GLO or MTN will be honoured and they will invite you for discussion and sponsorship will come in. Unfortunately, all of them that have been shouting players union never played for Nigeria. We’re here not because we played football or understand the game but because of our passion and we want to take the players union to another level.
There was a time NANF under Harrison Jalla started plans for a Players Estate but nothing came out of it. Is your union thinking toward that now?
The thing worked out. They were given land but they later sold it. What am trying to tell you is that Jalla or Austin Popo are not our problem. Our problem here is that we want to get it right. We’re not thinking about them. We want to move on and that’s the most important thing.
But if for any reason, they want to join your union, will you accept them?
We’ll accept them if they apply because they’re ex- players but they must abide by our rules and regulations. We have a strong constitution which is on our platform so that whenever any member goes contrary to the provisions of the constitution, he knows the penalty that goes with it.
You know that the major problem many unions similar to yours are having is financial problem, how do you intend to solve this?
The funding thing is what we’re going to sit down with the NFF and LMC and see how they can help us. We will definitely get sponsors because once you do something as an NGO and people see what you’re doing, they will want to partner with you. We are going to take things one after the other because Rome was not built in a day. We are also going to see how the Federation will engage some of our colleagues as national team coordinators and curators in other to make them fully engaged and earn salaries.
Are there plans to have branches in all states of the federation so that people will not see the union as a Lagos or Abuja affair?
It will interest you to know that we have branches in all states of the Federation and coordinators in all the six geopolitical zones of the country. The other time I traveled to the East to coordinate their activities while Larry Kubanji went to the South/ South. Some are also in the South West, North East, North West and North Central coordinating our activities and the response we are getting is massive.
Last year you aspired to be chairman of Anambra FA and at the end of the day there were so many issues surrounding it. What’s the position now?
The situation is that they’re trying to vacate the Court Order. After the order has been vacated, there is something they call from the status second ballot which is for you to come and take a bow because the status talks about single majority. But you know that when you have people gang up against you, they will do anything humanly possible to frustrate your efforts. Before that election, I complained to the chairman of the caretaker committee and the electoral committee chairman that they have changed the delegates list and smuggled some unknown names in the list in order to favour them but as God want it to their greatest surprise, I got that one vote because if I didn’t get that vote everything would have started afresh.
But because I got that vote, once the order is vacated, I will be invited to come and take a bow. You know you can’t lose election against yourself. It’s not done anywhere because unopposed is unopposed anywhere. Having said this; I want to tell you that NFF is working on that and by the special grace of God, It will come to pass.
Outside All Nigeria Players Union, you have this passion to help your colleagues, you have the 042 Football. So what’s happening to it now?
We’ve done a lot of things with it. You can see our Instagram and our Facebook pages. We’ve done a lot to help players and that’s why I keep on telling people that I’m not in players union because I want to take over or for financial gains. I have an NGO which ensures welfare of players. Right now, they’re crying because am no longer dedicating much attention to it because of my involvement with the players union but I told them to exercise a little patience. We have in 042 more than 600 people on our platform and if I want I can tell all of them to register with players union but it’s a different ball game because that one is 042 and this one is players union but all of them are aimed towards players welfare.
We understand your beautiful daughter is doing well in the United Kingdom. Can you tell us more about her?
Yes she has already done her traditional wedding but because of COVID-19, everything had to be suspended. The important thing is that the girl is happy and I’m happy too. Am also grateful to my wife who has been my backbone all these years and I pray that God Almighty will bless all of us with good health and long life.
So when are you expected to join the club of grand fathers?
By the special grace of God that will be very soon. Very soon I look forward to becoming the youngest grandfather in town.
Nigerians will like to know what you’ve been doing since quitting football.
I have been in business. If you come to Abuja, I have a marvelous office where I run my NGO and personal business like contract jobs and other things. I’m also a football administrator. I will say that life has been good to me not because I have the opportunity but because God has been so wonderful to me.
People call you General in football circles. How did you come about that name?
The name came about because I have always been a General in anything I’m doing right from when I was a child. Although I have a General in my family but am the original General because I control things and make sure everything is in good shape. So, the General is not only because of football but am the General Overseer of everything I am doing. So, I always come out first in everything.