The circus that is AFC Leopards elections

The forthcoming AFC Leopards elections are turning into a circus with front-runners for the chairmanship facing allegations of financial impropriety, mud-slinging and even involvement in witchcraft ahead of the exercise tentatively set for July 23.

Dark clouds are hanging over the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) giants and 13-time domestic champions if indeed some of the serious claims against candidates for the top job are anything to go by.

However, they have moved quickly to deny the allegations as propaganda.

The AFC Electoral Board called for postponement of the exercise from July 3 to allow them time to authenticate the names on the voter’s register presented by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) but patience in the Den is running thin.

Last week, the Sports Dispute Tribunal that has been arbitrating the leadership wrangles at the club ruled to extend IMC’s mandate to July 30 further inflaming  critics who want them out at the earliest opportunity after accusing the officials of siphoning the club’s coffers.

This comes against the backdrop of political and tribal intrigues that have surfaced in the battle to manage the 13-time league champions who last lifted the title in 1998 that enjoys its bulk of support from the large Bantu community of the Luhya.

Current IMC co-chairmen, Dan Mule and Mathews Opwora, former FKF Vice-President, Robert Asembo who is also former Ingwe Secretary General and Mombasa Branch Chairman Maurice Amahwa have emerged as the frontrunners for the top seat.

Mule and Opwora have led the club jointly since the Tribunal incorporated the IMC last December when factions allied to the duo threatened to split the club into two following months of in-fighting that saw the team degenerate into a Den of confusion.

In this digital age, social media and chat forums has become the ring where club supporters are airing out the dirty linen from the club with reckless abandon, with some lurid claims made against the leading candidates.

Some of the allegations are simply staggering.

Mule has been castigated on social media for keeping quiet when things are not right at the club that flies against his campaign position of bringing transparency in the running of the team.

Although he enjoys some level of support across the Ingwe divide, his detractors cite him for accepting to be part of the IMC that pockets a sitting allowance of KSh10,000 for every session.

On Tuesday, he was categorical he would not drop his bid for the chairmanship and vie for the vice-chairman’s post to pave way for ‘the owners’ of the club to take up leadership.

Opwora has been embroiled in two scandals one where he was implicated in the withdrawing of Ksh1.8m from the team’s coffers to refund rejected sponsors, sports betting Betway by his IMC co-chair, Mule. Tribunal chairman, John Ohaga, who was a signatory of the team at the time was also adversely mentioned.

According to Mule who sent bank statements to Citizen Digital in March to prove his sensational allegations, Opwora and his cahoots withdrew the money from Ingwe’s account to pay back part of Betway’s Ksh10m sponsorship money they had supposedly misappropriated once the cash from their new deal with rival betting firm SportsPesa was received.

-Vehemently denying-

Mathew Opwora
AFC Leopards fans pose at Nyayo Stadium during the unveiling of Betway deal. [Photo/Sportpicha.com]
He was again accused of pilfering Ksh2.2m from the Ksh5m raised to offset player salaries in a Harambee last season when the team was lacking a sponsor.

Opwora vehemently denied the allegations and to date, no legal action or otherwise has been taken against him and when contacted he did not answer calls by the time of going to press.

Asembo is under fire for his appalling record as the vice-president of Football Kenya Federation (FKF) besides the fact he was ejected from the club in 2011 when serving as Secretary General in yet another leadership tussle.

“I want to secure the majority because those who are opposing me are the minority. Everything gives me an upper hand above all my rivals for the post,” he asserted.

Waves of fans in the Den have dismissed his bid saying he has nothing new to offer the club or football in general.

“These allegations are coming from IMC yet people know the problems they have brought to the club and if I was them, I would not even contest. Why are we not having elections? Why are players suing AFC?” the vilified former FKF deputy boss charged.

“I need to be the chair then people judge me correctly for being in that office,” he added.

Amahwa is accused of having been in Opwora’s camp that pocketed money from the player’s harambee in question besides being lambasted on Ingwe social media platforms as an architect of the court battles that brought IMC to power.

He ignited further debate when photos and video surfaced depicting him visiting a graveyard with allegations of engaging the underworld to secure the seat levelled against him.

Amahwa accepted he was a signatory to the club’s account alongside Mule, Opwora and co-secretary general Maurice Osundwa but denied he was part of the scheme to skim off cash from the team.

“Money can be withdrawn by any two of the four signatures. In the case of the Ksh2.2m, it was Opwora and Osundwa,” he counter-claimed.

“Amahwa’s name should not be dragged into this because I’m clean and the matter was reported to the Tribunal where Opwora said he would return the money,” the chairmanship candidate insisted.

On the graveyard photos and video that was aired on a local television station, the Mombasa Branch boss denied he was there on a witchcraft mission saying he had gone to consult the pioneer chairman of the club, Joseph Agoya.

According to him, it was Agoya who then took him to the grave of his brother, Israel Mutoka, to pay his respects.

“I wanted to learn more about what happened and how the club was set up so that I have a proper background of the team if I get to lead it.

“He showed me where Mutoka was buried and nothing more, it was not witchcraft. A grave has nothing to do with witchcraft because even Christians visit the grave of Jesus Christ and that cannot in any way mean that they are practicing witchcraft,” he asserted.

Report by Godfrey Ashiali