Express FC’s marriage of convenience with Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi was doomed to fail due to lack of due diligence from both sides.
I was least surprised when Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi threw in the towel as Express FC chairman last Friday, barely 18 months after taking over. In the meantime, businessman Hassan Bulwadda has taken over the helm till the end of the season.
Looking back, it is a win-win situation for both parties simply because it had become evident that Nakiwala was overwhelmed by the responsibilities and expectations. She could be feeling relieved to get out of the hot seat.
On the other hand, the club’s alarming decline required an instant intervention which, in this case, was Nakiwala’s resignation.
Her reign has been inconsistent and she leaves a somewhat forgettable legacy with several club faithful wondering whether she really had the club at heart or she was using the position as a stepping stone to enhance her political ambitions.
The real surprise to me was her appointment in the first place, given the complexity of the club and her lack of football background. But as one prominent member of the club board told me then, she fitted the bill of the person Express yearned for; someone who can mobilize fans and funds.
In Nakiwala, he glowingly said, the club had got a shrewd person that would mobilise the much-needed financial backing. In fact, shortly after taking over, Nakiwala promised to raise Shs 1 billion within months through friends, sponsors and her connections within power circles.
Cracks developed when Nakiwala took a familiar trend of disassociating with club struggles while being seen to promote herself.
She was the face of the successful fundraising campaign in July, 2016 at Wankulukuku in which more than Shs 100m was raised. Months later when players literally begged for their outstanding allowances, Nakiwala was a no-show to comfort them.
When DStv came on board as sponsor with Shs 300 million, she zealously portrayed it as her own scoop. The now infamous Vincent Onyebuchi incident, in which the player nearly lost his leg due to negligence after an injury he sustained while on Express duty, further cast doubts on Nakiwala’s competence.
Her thoughtless excuse for stopping Onyebuchi’s medical care when his contract expired was unfortunate. Over the last few months, as the club plunged into its lowest ebb in more than a decade, Nakiwala went under the radar and only resurfaced recently to stake Shs 2 million for every player if they avoid the drop.
Now that she has parted ways, it has become clear that for all the good intentions she had for the club, she lacked passion to see Express through thick and thin. Passion is the most essential element in football. It is what drives people like Ben Misagga to maintain Villa as a contender or how Godfrey Kirumira almost singlehandedly kept Express on top from 1998 till 2005.
It is not that Nakiwala found the club any better but it is the failure to meet expectations that reflects poorly on her Express CV.
At the moment, the Red Eagles sit at the bottom of the Uganda Premier League but the new administration doesn’t need to press the panic button just yet.
Bulwadda’s interim committee is full of energetic and passionate people that I believe can help Express to not only survive relegation but restore the club’s pride. I believe individuals such as Erias Kamudasi Serunjogi, John Kitenda, Abbas Byaruhanga and Hamza Jjunju will reawaken the club’s lost soul due to their longstanding relationship with the club.
With just 12 games left before the end of the season, Express are set to fight the relegation monster up to the last day but I believe six wins could be enough to survive the drop. However, the new committee should not look at this as the ultimate achievement because we have seen this scenario many times in the recent past.
They should look beyond and have a roadmap for the seasons to come, failure of which will lead to a recurrence of this survival syndrome. There is no point in Express surviving the drop when they cannot challenge for titles as they used to. Ugandan football needs a competitive Express and this can only be achieved if the club is organized.
I have already heard some agitation for fresh club elections but I don’t think this is the right time during the transition process, especially when there is a likelihood of elections further splitting the club.
KCCA and Vipers, the most organised clubs, didn’t first go to polls to settle financially and administratively simply because being at the helm is not a means of survival but a voluntary task.
The author is operations director of The Observer Media Ltd.