One 68-year-old sports promoter sauntered into our newsroom yesterday and said â€œIâ€™m here to support President Jonathanâ€™s action withdrawing Nigeria from FIFA events and I hope that you people are already doing so?.â€
I told him I had a question for him and if he answered it I would support President Jonathanâ€™s action.
â€œSir, if your son were playing for Heartland, Shooting Stars or Kano Pillars and had a chance to be spotted by foreign scouts to move to Europe for a professional career that would fetch the family foreign exchange and all of a sudden the President says no more football would you support him?.â€
He stared at me and all the people around. For seconds he could not utter a word.
â€œYou cannot answer this, sir, I continued. He remained quiet. I told him that it was the same question I put to one ex international who had been loud, celebrating The Presidentâ€™s decision.
In his case, I asked him if he were still playing or if his brother had a chance to earn a living from football and this happened would he support it? The former player was dead on phone just as the man in our newsroom who bubbled before the question.
When the man gathered himself he yelled â€œbut a local player can still go abroad even if there are no competitions. He doesnâ€™t need NFA to go abroadâ€
I told him that only NFA could issue international clearance and FIFA said all contacts with Nigeria will be stopped. More so, a player needs competition to be spotted. I also informed him that FIFAâ€™s letter spelt out the implications of the Caretaker Committee Nigeria appointed following their withdrawal from FIFA events last Wednesday.
FIFA has given Nigeria up till 6 pm today to withdraw the letter or be banned. My position is that our President, through his action, has expressed anger over the way football is run in the country.
Everybody feels same way and would want all those running football to give way. But we are in this crisis today because the sports ministry has failed to address the failure of the NFA and also failed to advise the President on the easy ways to change the NFA board without incurring FIFA wrath, something Nigeria did before. I, therefore,Â plead as follows:
*That Nigeria withdraws the appointment of the Caretaker Committee today and convenes an Extraordinary Congress of the FA where they will take decisions on the forthcoming NFA elections, extending the deadline for entry so that those they want on board can pick forms and enter for the elections.
*That the Congress, the highest football authority, can extend the date of the election to allow for campaign of the new candidates or to address any matter arising including necessary changes.
*That whatever the government or Nigerians want, they can achieve through the Congress and FIFA will applaud it. The impeachment yesterday was within the statute and the Congress could ratify it.
*That it is wrong for us to destroy the careers of a generation of players, destroy an industry because a group of people failed us and we lacked the expertise to sort out our problem.
*That we should note that football is a generational thing and that those saying that we could shut down for a period to reorganise are wrong because there are thousands of players who could be at their peak during the period of ban and who may never have the chance to make it to another level again.
*That the President Should please reconsider his positionÂ to save thousands of jobs the FIFA ban will kill. I recognise that many people are offended and they are pouring venoms on the Sani Lulu board, forgetting that it is no longer about the Lulu board but about Nigerian football and careers of many who would suffer from the ban. The Lulu board is already gone and we have to move on.
*That we should not forget the millions those in sports marketing contribute to our economy, the investment of companies like Globacom, MTN and international bodies like adidas who are theÂ sponsors of our national teams and consider the business side of football, the employer of labour that it is.
*That time factor is against the idea of using the withdrawal as a ploy to make a statement and later resolve the matter because FIFA will act hours from now.
*That this crisis should serve as a lesson to the Presidency that has appointed nine ministers of sports in 11 years of democracy, noting that if knowledge was considered we probably would have avoided this mess.
The man referred to left Vanguard saying â€œI agree, I agree, we shouldnâ€™t kill our football because of Lulu board but we need changes in all sports and not only football.â€