Enugu State Commissioner For Youth And Sports, Charles Ndukwe has been in a cocky mood, very upbeat that Enugu Rangers will break their 40-year old African title drought next year. Ndukwe speaks to Completesportsnigeria.com's SAB OSUJI, reiterating that after breaking their NPFL 32-years 'trophy-less' campaign, conquering Africa for the first time is the Enugu Rangers' next target.
That Rangers have won the league for the first time in 32 years is now history. But honourable commissioner can you tell us what this feat means to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and the people of Enugu State?
Governance is all about people. I'm still wondering the type of campaign rally that could attract the crowd that we saw at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium on that Sunday, October 2, when Rangers won the league after defeating El-Kanemi Warriors 4-0.
It was not just the people of Enugu, but the entire Ndi-Igbo and indeed Nigerians that love Rangers. Naturally, those people who love and support Rangers will definitely love the governor that pulled this historic achievement through. 32 years is not 32 days. It is the governor's passion that drove this historic moment through and God crowned it and the people of Enugu State including the governor are proud of it and we are proud of ourselves.
What did it cost the government that has been in office for just one year to make this historic moment happen?
The truth is that on assumption of office, the governor gave me a mandate that Rangers should start winning matches. But at that time, Rangers were not doing well in the league and there was this fear of a possible relegation. But we survived it. That's why I said from relegation threat to victory. But it wasn't a magic. I met the club whose players were on strike. I brought them to my office, entertained them, we spoke and I later took them to the governor, we sat on the Exco Hall and were entertained and even popped some Champaign inside the exco hall. They said this is the first time Enugu State governor hosted them. Some of the players have been like five, six years with the club and today having a rare opportunity to shake hands with the governor, dined and wined with him and even collected some cash from him as transport money was something they never experienced before in the club. And they wondered so we could be so recognised? That was the beginning. Again, we called the board and management members of the club and we became one, United family. That's why what we are celebrating today, this success, is not a one-man's effort. We correct ourselves whenever there was a mistake. Sometimes people would say I was interferring in the affairs of the club, it wasn't so.
The most important thing is that we've achieved success, such that had eluded this great club in the last three decades. It's a team work and we are happy and proud with ourselves and our chievement. Don't forget that the governor gave us all manner of support. Anything we requested for including bus, he gave us. At a point, the coach, Imama needed his car changed and the governor did just that. T
The governor released N33m for us to prosecute the Federation Cup. He made sure all the players' outstanding llowances and sign-on fees were paid. As we speak, there is no player on loan at Rangers. This used to be the case in the past when about 70% of the entire players were loanee players. The governor has cleared all that. So you can see when passion is driving a force, no matter how it hooks and kicks, you must keep going till success is achieved.
Are you saying that unity is a part of reason why Rangers won?
Yes, we are living our dream for the fact that this trophy has finally come, it unifies us the more. I always believe that once God says yes, no man can say no.
When are you holding a victory parade and officially present the trophy to the governor?
We've made a proposal and sent to His Excellency. He will tell us when he will be well disposed to receive the trophy and the players. As for the victory parade, that will hold on Saturday, October 15, 2016.
What manner of reward are we expecting for the players from the government because some have speculated houses, some say cash and all of that?
I'm not an advocate of cars. For me, give them land. If they are given land, they 're settled. Land is something that ppreciates in value over time. If later in future one decides to sell, he makes a lot of money. But then, players need to be taught financial discipline. Some of these players earn up to N500,000.00 per month. They need to be taught on the need for endurance and planning. But if the governor decides to give them cars and cash, fine but I know His Excellency is someone that has a large heart and whatever he's going to do for these boys will marvel everybody. Of course, he's not going to do it alone. He will table it before the state executive council where a decision will be taken.
What is your plan for the CAF Champions League next year bearing in mind that Rangers have not won it and that the last time Rangers participated in it was in 1985, exactly 32 years in 2017?
Well, we've won the league which has given us the opportunity to play in the CAF Champions League. It is my strong conviction we are going to win it. First we've broken the domestic league jinx, winning it after 32 years. Now, we are going to face the continent in which we won last in 1977. Rangers won the Winners Cup in 1977 but this time, 40 years after, we are going to win the most prestigious CAF Champions League. Like coach Imama said, we are starting preparation right away. We are going to do our best early enough. We know that the love people have for Rangers will propel us. We want everybody to support us. With the governor assuring us of adequate funds to make sure that the players are well motivated, why not.
There has been speculations over the future of coch Imama and you seem to have blocked other teams from poching him by giving him new contract…..
(Cuts in) We believe in continuity. He was with us two seasons ago. If he had been dropped would we have won this trophy? In sports, particularly football, continuity is very important. We've spoken with him and we have agreed to continue working together.
Thank you honourable commissioner for finding time to speak with Completesportsnigeria.com