By Patrick Omorodion
I don’t want to sound like a broken record but I remember writing here a couple of months ago that the coup plotted against Davidson Owumi by Rumson Baribote and his cohorts will come back to haunt the Nigeria Premier League and our football in general.
Months later, that prediction has come to pass as those who wined and dined to celebrate the fall of Owumi are today drawing daggers against the same ‘annointed’ leader they told us was the solution to our league crisis.
Going down memory lane, the crisis we are again faced with in the NPL is an off-shoot of the gang up by the Sani Lulu Abdullahi group to oust former Nigeria Football Association, NFA Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima from office albeit, illegally.
When Lulu was hounded out of office and his co-traveler, Aminu Maigari was installed against the popular wish of Nigerians, one condition, the mafia strangulating Nigeria’s football gave to Maigari to support him was “remove Owumi” as NPL Chairman and in effect from the NFF Board.
They cooked up a story that he was not eligible to contest the election where he beat the same Baribote, not minding that he was cleared by the same electoral committee they set up in the first place.
They also scuttled the MTN sponsorship the Owumi leadership had secured for the League but up till this moment, failed to secure another one, making the Nigerian League, ironically tagged the best league in Africa, run without a sponsor and clubs playing without a prize.
They, including the club owners or is it caretakers, have realised their folly and are now at daggers drawn with Baribote. The Maigari-led NFF is pretending to be mediating when in fact it is part of the problem why our league is in comatose now.
How on earth do we think we can do same wrong things all the time and expect a different result. Until we stop running our football, nay all sports, on sentiments, we will keep groping in the dark while smaller countries like Equatorial Guinea and possibly Cape Verde will continue to teach us football lessons.
Congrats Uduaghan but …..
Last Sunday at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, I saw a joyous Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan lifting the Yakubu Gowon trophy presented to Delta State as the overall winners of the 18th National Sports Festival, tagged EKO 2012. The governor had cause to grin from ear to ear because Delta State invested heavily on the festival and naturally deserved to win it. But what Governor Uduaghan may not know and should ask his Lagos State counterpart, Babatunde Fashola, is whether sports is truly being developed in Delta State like in Lagos.
Lagos, like Cross River State whose athletes dominated the women’s 100m race but lost the gold and silver to other States as their athletes jumped ship to contest for other States, believe in grass-root development, but what Delta and Rivers do, is buying up already established athletes with their petro-dollars which most States don’t have in abundance.
Again that is why Delta State sports officials are drumming it into Governor Uduaghan’s ears that the festival must be open so that their elite athletes resident in Europe and America can come home and compete and help them win the festival easily.
This is a far cry from the Samuel Ogbemudia legacy of the Midwest and Bendel era when quality athletes were churned out from remote parts of the State and they dominated the national scene for years and made waves abroad also. That is what Lagos, Cross River and a few others are now doing.
Chairman of the National Sports Commission, NSC and Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi may have fallen for the battle cry of Delta to make the festival open when he pronounced during the opening ceremony that from 2014 in Calabar, it will be an open festival.
I know the minister doesn’t have the veto power to so do. The power to make changes in the sports festival rests on the National Council for Sports, the same body that shouted Delta State down on the same issue early this year when it met in Lagos to ratify the rules and regulations for EKO 2012.
If Governor Uduaghan could think beyond Delta State and Mallam Abdullahi wants the best for Nigeria’s sports, they should have the courage and humility to meet with Dr Ogbemudia who is still very much around to ask him the magic wand he had that made Midwest and later Bendel a power house in sports.
It is not enough for our athletes to shine during the sports festival and yet fail to make any serious impact at the Olympics or Commonwealth Games. It is high time Delta State hosted the National Sports Festival, not behaving like Cameroon who keep conquering Africa in the Nations Cup but doesn’t want to host the event.