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Afrinvest’s fascinating re-invention of rangers

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He cuts a towering image in Nigeria’s financial industry; looming over the landscape like a monument on an iconic location. It is not so much a result of his imposing frame as it is about his overwhelming influence. Yes, if the saying, never judge a book by its cover ever needed a symbol, Ike Chioke is a perfect stand-in for it. He does not take time to impose himself on any environment. His regal carriage puts everyone around him in their place.

In fact, he took only eight months to impose himself on the Nigeria Professional Football League. As the Group Managing Director of Afrinvest West Africa, Chioke is the unseen hand behind the current renaissance of Enugu Rangers.

When he signed a sponsorship pact with the club in October 2023, it was with the modest ambition of helping it to a decent spot on the table at the end of the season. But on Sunday, June 23, 2024, Chioke was in Jos, Plateau State to claim the league shield with Rangers after a dazzling run that saw the club finishing ahead of its closest rival with five clear points atop the log.

 

Indeed, the Rangers-Afrinvest partnership has kept much of Nigeria’s professional football league talking with its startling outcomes. In the season under review, Rangers was the most imperious club in Nigeria, ratcheting up an unbeaten run of ten games and winning the league with a game in hand. In addition, the club’s home games swiftly rose to the important item on the social diary of the people. Every game attracted impressive crowds to “The Cathedral” as Rangers’ home stadium is fondly called by its fans. The momentum rose to a fever pitch, game after game, and finally hit the roof with the club’s historic drive into Okpara Square with the league trophy on June 23, 2024.

As would be expected, Rangers heroics have drawn attention to where it should be. Enugu residents are nodding in gratitude to Afrinvest for injecting Rangers with the adrenaline that egged it to victory. They speak respectfully of Ike Chioke for turning his Midas Touch from the financial sector to a winning touch in the Nigerian football league. They credit him with the new zeal that has ignited the hitherto dormant “never-say-die” spirit in Rangers and turned the team into the lethal weapon of Nigeria’s professional football league. They speak highly of his unassuming nature and infectious interpersonal skills as well as his unobtrusive approach to getting results without raising hell or making any member of his team lose face.

But getting results is second nature to Chioke, a First Class civil engineering graduate from Obafemi Awolowo University and a Rhodes Scholar

whose mazy career in the financial industry is the stuff of fairytale. He swept through the upper echelon of the global financial market in a career blitzkrieg that saw him working at different times with Arthur Andersen, Goldman Sachs, Salomon Smith Barny Inc. and Citigroup. In the process, he chalked up a staggering industry experience that has set him apart as an authority in strategic advisory in corporate finance, covering mergers and acquisitions, project and structured finance and debt and equity capital market. A direct outcome of this background is that Chioke is wedded to excellence. The whiff of excellence is his ultimate aphrodisiac. He sits astride a financial conglomerate that houses six thriving subsidiary companies with deep roots in investment banking, securities trading, asset management, investment research, trust services and financial technology. Once Chioke takes anchor on any project he believes in, he never lets go until he has made a loud statement.

Indeed, the re-invention of Rangers is in full swing. Chioke’ clinical efficiency is already at work; and slowly, Rangers will evolve from its present shape into a thoroughgoing professional outfit with every component working like a song. It certainly feels as though the club’s finest hour has come. The Ministry of Youth and Sports in Enugu State is presently headed by the debonair Lloyd Ekweremadu; calm, focused and result-oriented. Rangers also has an insanely driven General Manager in Amobi Ezeaku whose passion bubbles over. Ezeaku is many things rolled into one including player-manager and tactician with a dizzying inclination towards oratory. The synergy between these two and Chioke holds a great deal of promise for Rangers as a football club and as an emerging business concern with a keen appetite for merchandising.

Indeed, with Afrinvest, it is daybreak for Enugu Rangers!

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