By Paul Bassey
Friday in Abuja, in a cab I had hired to take me to the airport, the driver in search of ‘good music’ stumbled on a phone- in programme that was discussing the interview that the NFF (The Federal House of Representatives insist they are NFA) had with Samson Siasia. I told the driver to stop.

Oga, you no want music again?, he asked. I said this was more than music. (He did not understand we had stumbled on the part when Dominic Iorfa, Acting Head of the technical department of the NFA was saying that the Football Association has offered Siasia more money than any other Nigerian coach but that the Bayelsa-born tactician was insisting on ‘15 million naira per month’!

Dominic went on to say that the negotiation was inconclusive since Siasia had to jet out to Egypt with Heartland. Thereafter the phone lines were opened and Nigerians were told to call in. I listened as over 80 per cent of the respondents argued and vehemently too that Siasia was worth more than N15 million. That if we could give a failure like Lagerback over N30 million a month, Siasia should collect no less.
There were a few dissenting voices who pleaded with Siasia to collect less, say N10 million. That this was a national assignment and so on.

Before I continue let me go back to this Siasia ‘Phenomenon’, as I will want to classify it. The first time it reared its ugly head was when we were looking for a coach to take us to the junior World Cup in Egypt. From nowhere there came this tsunami of voices crying for the employment of Siasia.

I was one of those who warned Siasia against accepting that appointment. That it was too close to the competition and his inputs may not be evident. I said the signs were not right. That the Lulu-led board had repeated countless times that they did not want to work with Siasia and that if forced to engage him may work against his success.

Siasia, his advisers and supporters will hear nothing of it. They said he was a football magician, the best thing to happen to us since we beat Bulgaria in our first World Cup match in 1994. ‘We want Siasia…we want Siasia….’

They chorused. Siasia went to Egypt and failed, woefully. The leadership of the NFA threw a party as it were, laughing at the downfall of our touted messiah.

The drums have started beating again and the dances are getting to frenzy point. A friend once asked me the type of ‘juju’ Siasia had. How come millions of Nigerians do not want to hear  the name of another coach? My answer is a very simple one. That Siasia flaunts a lot of credentials in a period where success at international level has become very disappointing.  We must, however, pause to appreciate the fact that all Siasia’s triumphs have been at junior level, that cadre where Nigerians have become notorious for age cheating. The Super Eagles is going to be one hell of a different kettle of fish. Quote me.  And this leads me to my trip to Abuja.
I will forever remain grateful to the House Committee on Sports for a stakeholders forum that greatly and sincerely addressed the problems of Nigeria’s football. They came from everywhere. The young in Amaju Pinnick to the old in Chief Jonathan Ogufere.

Enthusiasm met experience. Passion and patriotism reigned supreme as Nigeria’s football was put on the operating table and x-rayed. For three days I benefitted immensely. I drank deep from the quality of papers delivered and the revelations exposed as six former ministers, five former NFA chairmen, three former FA Secretary generals all came round to look at where we derailed and chart a way forward.

Perhaps, I should acknowledge the fiery and firebrand presentations of Barrister Richard Obienu, Gara Gombe, Ikeddy Isiguzo, Pinnick Amaju, Dudu Orumen, Alhassan Yakmut, Nduka Ugbade, Amodu Shuaibu……for three days, I sat there and took all in. wiser, better informed and convinced that there is a future for our sports, football.

Of all the people I have mentioned, perhaps the greatest punctuation was the one provided by Patrick Omorodion of the Vanguard. While contributing from the floor, Patrick said he just wanted to “Let coach Amodu know that we ALL ( capitals his) contributed to Eagles qualification for the World Cup and he should stop all this ‘I did this, I did that’ that has become his trademark”.

Here can be found the key message of the just ended forum. A sum of all that was said at the National Assembly was, and emphasised by Chief Ogufere was that until the unity of the football family was guaranteed, that, we were going nowhere.

Apart from the unity and cooperation that bonds individuals, the forum unearthed basic fundamentals that needed to be addressed if we must forge ahead.

Let us take the clear case of the PTF. Whereas Former Minister Gimba leads a vociferous group including Obienu and Amodu that believes the PTF caused our undoing in Anglola and South Africa, Col. Aminu and Dr. Ekeji argue and intelligently too that when there was no PTF in 2006 that we did not qualify for the World Cup. That it was the PTF that facilitated and guaranteed our World Cup qualification. However, because these two bodies did not work in tandem, disaster struck.

Before getting to the Super Eagles stage, we need to return to the basics. Age cheating must be eliminated. Infrastructure guaranteed, the league strengthened, sponsorship and marketing adopted and credible and knowledgeable personnel appointed to run our football.

All these factors are intertwined. The sooner we recognize, identify and start addressing  them, the better for us all. We do not expect to start winning competitions when we do not develop the game. It was Chief Onigbinde who said that a situation where the technical committee of the FA is given more prominence than the technical department is a clear case of the ignorance that has so far consumed us.

Whereas the technical committee is expected to define policies, it is the technical department that implements. I am struggling to say that THE EMPLOYMENT OF SIASIA IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO OUR FOOTBALL WOES. Football is far greater than the Super Eagles. For Siasia to succeed a lot of other variables must be activated. And until our house is put in order we will just be putting one leg forward and two legs backwards.

Reclaiming our crown
Today, we will start the battle of reclaiming our birth right which is the English Premiership title. Poor Newcastle.
See you next week


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