By Onochie Anibeze
Did President Goodluck Jonathan order that the Nigeria Football Federation elections be postponed?
World Football governing body FIFA was trying to ascertain that and possibly take the necessary action before Sports Minister Isa Bio stepped in and cleared the air. President Jonathan never gave such directives and the minister said so before delegates to the NFF Congress fixed the elections for Thursday.
The sports ministry, we gathered, had implied that the Presidency wanted state elections to be held before the NFF elections since the tenure of the state chairmen had expired.
The same message, we gathered, was passed on to the Executive Board of the Federation which met on Thursday and succumbed to the pressure from the sports ministry to postpone the elections. The Presidency and the National Assembly were said to have seen reason for postponement.
There were good grounds in agitating for the states to hold their elections first but personal interests swayed the scheming observers noted in the politics of the forerunners. Those who felt they had a chance to win wanted the elections to hold. Those who feared they had no chance wanted them postponed. The sports ministry wanted it postponed but tactlessly showed their hands and FIFA observer Primo Carvo noted this before Bio arrived from London to distance himself from what the ministry had presentedÂ as a directive from the Presidency.
Bio said that the â€œPresident never gave any such directiveâ€ but pleaded that he be given some days to contact the Presidency on the elections. He had been away for medical treatment for more than two weeks and was yet to be briefed on NFF matters. He said that government had no candidate and that all the President wanted was a â€œtransparent,Â free and fair elections.â€
â€œThere was nothing the ministry did not do to postpone the elections but we did not agree. The ministerÂ told us that he thought that the tenure of all the FA chairmen had expired and that he did not know that some people still had six months, some up to one year. He was the one that calmed matters,â€ one FA chairman and a delegate to the Congress said on phone. Two other delegates confirmed this.
There was a plan for a Normalcy Committee to run the federation for three months during which they would organise elections after the states would have held theirs.
But in asking the commissioners of sports in various states to ensure changes in their Football Associations the ministry drew a battle line with the football heads who vowed to fight back. Again, asking them to dissolve themselves was another blunder which, the chairmen said, was never going to work.
So, while the Executive Board of NFFÂ agreed with theÂ ministryÂ for a committee to run federation pending the time proper elections are held the delegates to the Congress were never going to approve that. Even some members of the Executive knew the plan would not work but played along in meetings with the ministry. Confusion was going to set in when Bio resolved the matter by telling the truth which was that President Jonathan never ordered any postponement. His action saved Nigeria from a possible FIFA sanction following the scheming of the sports ministry which, no doubt, had good intentions but lacked the tact to lead Nigeria well.