By Ikeddy Isiguzo
IT will be pointless counting the number of committees that have looked through Nigerian football. One more committee will not do any harm if it can proffer solutions to the viral challenges Nigerian football faces.
A Ministerial Committee of Experts on the Reform of Nigerian Football, which Sports Minister Yusuf Suleiman inaugurated on Monday, will wade through the morass that has become Nigerian football in search of solutions to the crises it is enjoying, in addition to recommending ideas that will assist the growth of the game.
The committee has a major task before it. Anyone expecting dispassionate answers to the challenges will be disappointed. Football is a passionate game and its followers never miss an opportunity to express it. How will the committee manage the passion and sieve it as it ploughs through heaps of suggestions for solutions? I am wondering, just as many others may be, if a committee was necessary in the first place, if there will be something new to add to the files bulging with seasonal advice from works of former committees. It will be challenging.
Distractions from the beneficiaries of the crises should be expected. More distractions will come from those who have helped in getting football to this point, as they try to defend their actions and inactions. Talks will be aplenty, suggestions paltry, and action hopefully plentiful to prevent another round of crises soon.
My concerns are many but can be captured in the admission from the beginning that we have two illegal bodies trying to run football. The Nigeria Football Federation’s illegality cannot be condoned even while this committee is working. We cannot pretend we do not know it is illegal. We need an interim committee to run football. Act 101 gives the Minister powers to be decisive in football matters. He must use those powers for the good of the game.
Again, I have concerns about the refusal of football officials to develop the game. Their interests have been in devouring the game – the proceeds from FIFA, sponsorship fees from different organisations, budgets from the Federal Government and other opportunities that football generates.
“It was clear to me immediately on assumption of office that my first assignment should be to bring peace to the football family because a lot of efforts, time, and resources have been consumed by the crisis ,” the Sports Minister said at the inauguration.
Former Chairman of the Nigeria Football Association, NFA, Brig.-Gen. Dominic Oneya (rtd) arrives with his own baggage, having been in the NFA in different roles. Will he protect his former colleagues, some of who fuel the crises? Can he act without the bias of involvement?
“There is the need for peace in order to promote football, especially as we have all realised that those good resources and time could have been better utilised and we all know there is need for reforms too. We are at a crucial moment in our sports administration when we must face our challenges adequately, knowing that we have the capacity to deal with such challenges in view of our talents and resources ,” Suleiman said.
I do not think that Nigerian football has lost anything through the crises that would match the loss of the past years of wastes and wanton administration of the game. The current concerns are more about Nigeria not qualifying for certain competitions or doing badly in them.
None of these should be enough motivation for a committee. The future of the game is in shreds. We have spent years harvesting the work of others, some dating more than two decades. Our attention has been on winning, no matter how the results are achieved. Those who have this attitude believe Nigerians will only ask questions when we lose.
What propels them to act is to foreclose queries about their activities. I am grateful to whatever factors that precipitated the crises. Many questions will be asked. It is the duty of the committee to seek answers for without them, the future will remain in ruins.
We have a timely challenge in our hands, one that must teach us to handle our matters for the benefit of Nigerians. FIFA ruined our football with the collaboration of many Nigerian officials who placed the Zurich-based body over our football. We must forestall new incidents of our football officials importing FIFA’s cultish approaches to the game in Nigeria.
Minimal attention to the development of the game is mostly responsible for the crises. Vast opportunities that can contain the ambitions of many who want a role in football are warehoused and wasted. As the doors open for another surgery on football, it must be done with the detailed care and knowledge that the patient is in a precarious situation, worse than the one buffeting its mentor FIFA.
The major challenge is for us to find development niches for our football away from the bad influences that FIFA visited on us from Decree 101 to Act 101. The future is so bright but we cannot allow it to blind us.