By Paul Bassey

I have some fears. The fear that by the time you get to read this column, some of the view points canvassed therein may have been overtaken by events. That is how dynamic the issue is so much that situations change by the minute, by the day. I wish I could hand over this column this week to Alhaji Gara Gombe that incurable critic of the Lulu administration and a crusader for a better football culture.

Thursday evening he flew into Lagos and gave me a shout. Of course our discussion was hundred percent on the forth coming NFF elections. What does he think of the candidates? He was not impressed. What about the fears that the next President, thanks to zoning will emerge from the North?

Gara was angry. He wants zoning to be left to the politicians. He does not bother if all the principal officers are from the same zone as long as they are tested and trusted football people able to deliver.

I then put him on the spot regarding some of the aspirants and the response he gave to me was as interesting as it was revealing. Because he could not do that for all the candidates I reserve those views less they impact either negatively or positively on the chances of the other candidates.

Let it be said however that Alhaji Gara Gombe is not impressed with the quality of the field.
Am i? I have no choice. You can only lead a horse to the stream, you cannot force it to drink ( infact I have been told that there are some horses you cannot even lead to the stream, not to talk about forcing them to drink )As at press time nine candidates have been screened to contest for the election as President. It presupposes that pending their clearance, the next President of the NFF will come from this list.

Who are they? We have from the North Central,Lumumbah Ade of Plateau State, Chief Oyuki Obaseki of South South, Fan Ndubuoke of South East and Alhaji Sani Ahmed Toro and Acting NFF President Aminu Maigari, both of Bauchi flying the  North East flag. From the South West we have two candidates, Chief Olusegun Odegbami and Sports Commissioner Bukola Olapade, both of them from Ogun State, while the list is completed by the North West Candidates of Dr. Tijani Yusuf of Katsina state and Shehu Dikko of Kaduna State.

Before going further let me quickly say that I was a bit surprised by the full list of candidates as released by the electoral committee. On that list could be found Rotimi Pedro, CEO of OSMI from Lagos State. Also from Lagos is Taiwo

Afinni and Deji Tinubu. Very interesting.
Headmaster Mutiu Adepoju filed in his papers from Oyo, chairman Christian Chukwu from Enugu while Francis Moniedafe interestingly is a contestant for membership from Adamawa.

From the North Central I am happy to see Suleiman David, Ben Agarry and Suleiman Yahaya Kwande. While the South South battle reads like a who’s who in Nigerian football, starting from Jay Jay Okocha, Aisha Falode, Fanny Amun, the one I call
FIFA and barrister Chris Green. In Akwa Ibom state FA chairman Chief Effiong Johnson has come out to challenge incumbent, ex junior international Patrick Ekong.

Before now, I was of the opinion that only three women were interested in the membership of the NFF. Chief Mrs. Gloria Shoda of Ogun has joined Princess Bola Jegede, Alhaja Ayo Omidiran and Aisha Falode. I wish I had the power to choose the next NFF board. Devoid of politics I would have gone for veritable football people and they abound here. Unfortunately though, I will be realistic to the point where it is strongly rumoured that given the Chairmanship of Davidson Owumi at the Nigeria Premier League, the presidency of the NFF has been ceded to the north.

Current member of the NFF and Acting Vice President Mr Obinna Ogba is reported to have even said so hence his desire to opt for the vice presidency in the forth coming elections.

Chief Oyuki Obaseki, while consulting with friends on the desire to come out, was told that the only obstacle he was likely to face, was Owumi’s automatic choice as second Vice President of the NFF.

As you are reading this, political alliances are being forged. Chief Anyansi for instance we gathered was told not to contest the vice presidency position which he was interested in, in exchange for the of the chairmanship of the technical committee if he eventually gets on board.

In summary, the vibes are so strong that barring a miracle, the next president of the NFF will come from the north led by the incumbent Aminu Maigari who it is rumoured was promised the plum job if he could do the hatchet job on Lulu.

Then comes Alhaji Sanni Toro, the Blatter of the lot. Hon Toro flaunts experience. He says he is best placed to deliver, politically and administratively since he was there before, for six years as secretary general in addition to nine other years in the secretariat.

Stepping out to challenge him is another former secretary general, the intellectually oriented Dr. Tijani Yusuf. Completing the list is the upwardly mobile Shehu Dikko, consultant to the NPL in the million naira years of sponsorship, who though considered as a good business oriented candidate may lack the football base to forge on.

What I have tried to do is an exercise in zoning, one that I do not believe in but which we have come to accept. I remember when campaigns were on for the Chairmanship of the NPL, and a group came out to canvass a northern chairman for the NPL with the sole aim of dislodging the set up at the NFF level. It did not work. Victory for Owumi generated celebrations in the North as it was declared then that a Northern president for the NFF was now a fait accompli. The situation has not changed.

 I wish I can be proved wrong. I wish the congress of the NFF can go ahead and set an example for the PDP to follow and vote in candidates not based on their geo political ancestry but on their football knowledge and expertise.

Much ado about scholarships
So much energy has been spent on the issue of scholarships for the Falconets that I do not seem to understand where the problem is. How can you give scholarships to girls who are not in school and are not likely to go in the future?

The Super Four
For the third consecutive year I have been an active participant in the Super Four, that ceremonial event that rounds up the domestic league and announces the commencement of another season. Every time I watch the Super League, I wonder why this country cannot produce at least four players that can walk into the Super Eagles with ease. In Ijebu Ode, Pillars, Kwara United, Sunshine and of course Enyimba were a good advertisement of the domestic league. Fans who took time out to watch the matches went home given value for their money.

All these clubs need to excel in Africa is the injection of one or two quality players and the development of a continental attitude and approach that is different from the domestic scene.

For me the greatest victory of the Ijebu Ode experience was the will to OUTLAW MATCH ABANDONNEMENTS. I told the clubs at a pre match meeting that I found it strange and a disrespect to local officials that whereas they do not walk out of continental matches, they pulled out their players at the slightest provocation at home and this was a Nigerian disease that has to be cured.

God Bless Owumi and his vibrant lieutenants. If they stick to their guns and resolve to sanitise the league, history and posterity will find a place for all of them.

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