Stories by Patrick Omorodion
In my opinion, I had thought that as a Ph.D holder, the Secretary General of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Bolaji Ojo-Oba should be very familiar with the popular axiom, â€˜To whom much is given, much is expected.â€™
No, I was wrong in my assessment of a man who has come to be one of the longest serving, if not the longest, official of the NFF from its days as NFA.
Nigerians have taken football as a relig
ion rather than a past-time and show so much passion for it that even the government, be it local, state or federal, have come to realise this and have thus crowned football â€˜the king of all sportsâ€™ in the country.
This explains why its administration was taken out of the normal appendage of the Sports Ministry or the present National Sports Commission where peanuts, in terms of monthly allocation, are handed out to sports associations, and made a full fledged parastatal with a huge budget.
Before I continue let me put down here what Ojo-Oba told Nigerians who are worried stiff over how their â€˜lifeâ€™, football, is being run. Said he: â€œI am aware that football is King of sports, but let us not continue to pretend that football is the ONLY sport.
That football is the â€˜King of sportsâ€™ does not mean it is the only sport. Every minute, every hour, we ask questions of football, of the administrators, of the coaches, of the players, of the referees, and so on. But we keep quiet about the failings of the other sports and those other sports remain comatose.â€
This statement of Ojo-Oba is capable of pitching other sports against football and causing their athletes to revolt. That they have kept quiet so far is because they too are equally obssessed with the game.
Is Ojo-Oba not aware that the budget of all other sports in one year is nothing compared to what the government spends on football just for one game that raises the citizensâ€™ blood pressure beyond normal?
Her reeled out how boxing, weightlifting, athletics and table tennis have all gone under and yet nothing is said about them. Painfully, he mentioned the recent World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Germany, describing the sport as a failure.
How much was given the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) for the athletes preparation, participation and allowances. Mind you, they do not get any bonus if they qualify from one stage to another like footballers get.
Officials of some of these so-called lesser sports have said several times in the past that if they can get one tenth of the amount spent on football, nothing will stop them from always triumphing.
These sports often prepare for events for months only to be told that their athletes can no longer travel for the competition because of lack of funds. At times they travel in batches and get stranded because of rigorous connecting flights all in an attempt to cut cost and get very cheap tickets.
Football never suffers this kind of humiliation. Players are treated like kings and most times fly business class for competitions or ferried on chartered flight.
The bonus each player gets for drawing a match is enough for some federations to send their athletes for competitions, even in African countries where they fail to go for lack of funds.
Just to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, the government set up a Task Force which raised almost N1 billion while a few athletes who qualified for the World Championship in Berlin were begging for funds to attend.
They missed the Opening Ceremony and some events because the AFN could not raise enough funds and the government did think they deserved support as footballers get.
I believe Ojo-Obaâ€™s friends and family members should talk to him to let sleeping dogs lie because if he continues to infuriate Nigerians over this football matter and the â€˜dogs are let outâ€™, he may not survive their attack.
The â€˜dogsâ€™ include the government who may want to look into the books for once to know how all the monies the NFF gets, including the â€˜missingâ€™ US$236,000, are spent. This is my honest advice.