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Coach Sunday Oliseh: Our ‘Guardiola’ abandons ship

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
WHEN the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) appointed ex-International, Sunday Oliseh, as National Coach of the Super Eagles, to replace Stephen Keshi, in July 2015, an effusive Amaju Pinnick, the NFF Chairman, described the new coach, as the “Guardiola” of Nigeria. Oliseh was going to do to Nigerian football, what Pep Guardiola had done to Barcelona FC.

Oliseh’s relationship with the football authorities was always loaded with controversy, dating back to when he captained the national team. Oliseh had a very arrogant and impatient streak that was likely to be a source of tension with the senior players in the national team.

File: Sunday-Oliseh-embraced-Solomon-Dalung
File: Sunday-Oliseh-embraced-Solomon-Dalung

The most capped Nigerian player, skipper and goalkeeper, Victor Enyeama ran into a headwind with the new coach. He retired from the national team, as well as striker Emmanuel Emenike. Things did not go as people had hoped, with the coach.

He took Nigeria’s home-based players to the CHAN tournament in Rwanda, and could not get out of the preliminary rounds. Nigerians were shocked! And in response, Sunday Oliseh posted an online response, in which he described his critics as “insane”. Just a few months down the line from his much-publicised appointment, things seemed headed for the rocks.

Unhealthy backdrop

The NFF was scandalised by Oliseh’s rude online statement they seemed to have made up their mind to fire him, but the sports minister stopped the NFF from carrying out the sack. There is an important game coming up against Egypt, which might determine Nigeria’s participation in the next African Cup of Nations tournament. We had failed to qualify for the last tournament.

And the rocky relationship with the coach was certainly an unhealthy backdrop against which to prepare for the game. The NFF wanted the coach to present his plan to the Technical Committee, but the coach would not. There was a directive sacking Tijani Babangida from the technical team around coach Oliseh, which he disagreed with.

And as usual, there were arguments about salaries owed the coach and members of his technical team. Stories surfaced that Oliseh’s Belgian assistant was even begging for a backlog of payments in order for to take care of an ailment. Sunday Oliseh was also refusing to return home arguing that he wanted to stay abroad to monitor players.

It was within this whirlwind of controversies, that Sunday Oliseh announced his resignation at the weekend. He was barely eight months in the job. A short but very controversial tenure ended in an acrimonious divorce between the coach and the NFF. Nigeria’s football is the worse for it!

Reports emerged this week, that the NFF  accused Oliseh “tricking (it) into paying his salaries only to jump ship with less than a month to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier with Egypt in Kaduna”! That must be one of the most incredible statements I have read in recent times, but it just went to underscore the depth of rot in our football.

There was no indication that the NFF leadership had met to analyze Oliseh’s appointment in the first place; nor learnt critical lessons for the future. Lunacy has long been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The administration of Nigerian football has remained mired in controversy and sustained accusations of corruption and the institution of an oligarchic system controlled by individuals who see football as the “Milch Cow”, extorted for their own personal ends.

Those who genuinely love the sports, and have played for the country, and who can make a positive turnaround, like Segun Odegbami and Adokie Amasieamaka, are not allowed to get the opportunity of leadership. The spoils system central to the corruption, ineptitude and the gradual bastardization of the beautiful game in our country, continues to reign. This is actually the system that must be uprooted before we can take football back to where it should truly belong in Nigeria.

When Sunday Oliseh, the much-vaunted “Pep Guardiola” of Nigeria, abandoned the leaky ship of Nigerian football, as the National Coach over the weekend, he exposed frontally, the depth of crack that they have been papering over for years. It was more than a pinprick for Pinnick (no pun intended!). If a root and branch reformation is not carried out in the administration of Nigerian football, the game will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis. That is the naked truth.

Nasir-Rufai:  A day with the governor

I HAVE written many pieces about Nasir El-Rufai’s near nine-month administration in Kaduna state. I have very strong connection with Kaduna, the city and state. I believed that Nasir El-Rufai, along with a group of other governors that I publicly endorsed, was certainly going  to make a major impact on governance, over the next four years.

It is safe to restate that El-Rufai hit the ground running and over the past nine months, has set a pace that people around the country have admired. It was one of the first administrations to implement the TSA at the state level, thus discovering huge sums of money in accounts scattered in different banks over the years.

It was therefore interesting that El-Rufai could openly tell the people that his administration was not going to wait for the monthly Federal Allocations before paying salaries. The administration’s most ambitious programme must be the Schools Feeding Programme, which I have written about and which has been at the heart of discourse because of the teething problems of implementation.

Problems of  implementation

Last Friday, for the first time, since he was elected and sworn-in as governor, I was finally able to visit Nasir El-Rufai in his office at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House in Kaduna. On the morning I visited, he has just signed two bills into law: The Kaduna State Tax (Codification and Consolidation (Law) and the  new Pensions Law.

The new tax law consolidates all taxes payable in Kaduna state in one law and in one document. While the new Pensions Law opens up the way for a contributory pensions system in Kaduna, as against the old ‘pay-as-you-go’ system. In 2015, the government had uncovered a pensions racket that was costing Kaduna N1. 3bn annually; while a verification exercise had removed 2, 484 ‘ghost pensioners’ from the payroll, leaving about 15, 781 pensioners in the system.

The tax reforms come against the backdrop of the painful fact that Kaduna does not generate or collect enough internal revenues to ensure the service delivery that the people deserved. And a study conducted by the Kaduna State House of Assembly had established that by 2025, the state’s entire revenues would barely satisfy pension liabilities!

This was the context which made the new laws very vital to the future well-being and the governance architecture of Kaduna. And in the nine months, the Executive has taken 20 bills to the House of Assembly, with nine already passed, including the two assented to, when I visited last Friday.

After the exchange of pleasantries with the Deputy Governor, the Speaker of the House and other leaders of the state assembly, Nasir met a delegation of the ABU Alumni Association. In the meantime, I was waiting inside the sprawling office and taking in the remarkable ambience. The former Vice President, Namadi Sambo, had awarded the contract for the new building, when he was governor. Of  course, the construction of new government houses became one of the more controversial items of expenditure when civilian government returned in 1999. In many instances, state governors used these new government houses to fleece states of huge sums of money! It was after the meeting with the Alumni Association that I had the opportunity to sit and discuss with the  governor. We examined the Schools Feeding Programme, and the problems highlighted by the media and other observers. He agreed that it was not smooth sailing, but any effort to feed about 1. 5 million children would likely face teething problems. He said it was a question of priorities.

Question of  priorities

Was the government going to begin feeding the children, or wait till all the schools had been fixed? Well, it chose to begin the feeding programme, while the schools were also being fixed: roofs; doors and windows; water and toilet facilities are being fixed in over 4000 schools in Kaduna. And the furniture items are actually ready.

He had visited a school in Ungwar Sarki as well as Queen Amina College the previous day, unannounced. The children in the primary school sat on the floor as they ate; el-Rufai said he apologised to them and assured that soon as the schools were secured, the furniture would be put in place. At Queen Amina College, the children were happy about the quality of the food.

The state spends N314millon every week on the feeding programme. I asked where the money came from that went into that and other programmes of the government. El-Rufai assured me that his government was making tremendous effort to ensure that there were no frivolous expenditure; the entire administration is making sacrifices to conserve funds and a regime of efficient collection of revenue is also being implemented. He believes that Kaduna would arrive at a point when it would no longer depend on the monthly federal allocations for its services.

Just that week, a whistle blower had assisted the government to discover about N1.5bn that was kept away in a bank! And that was a major vote of confidence in the work of the administration. We discussed several other issues of development, including the urban renewal project; the plan to construct a sports institute in Jere; the rehabilitation of mini stadiums in every local government headquarter.

To sum up, Governor Nasir El-Rufai was quite proud that the feeding of 1.5million children, led directly to the employment of 17, 000 vendors, who in turn hire people to cook and serve food. The 4, 000 primary schools in the state are being rehabilitated: toilets, water and the buildings as well as furniture will eventually be provided.

Secondary school students have been measured and are being outfitted with free school uniforms, and the tailors will be paid concurrently with delivery, once quality is assured. Teachers can now reach GL. 17, without leaving their classrooms as part of a programme to enhance career progression, while a massive training programme, in collaboration with many institutions has been worked out.

There are programmes in agriculture, healthcare, urban renewal, jobs creation, the creation of a Kaduna State Geographic Information Service, mas housing and so on. It was getting close to Juma’a and he had promised to pray in a mosque which starts its services earlier; I reminded Nasir of that, and I left his office, feeling assured that these would certainly become the best of times for Kaduna state!

 


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