SCANDALS are a notable part of our national life. We have seen enough of them that Nigerians live beyond shocks from scandals. What remains fertile is the imagination that we bring to scandals, as we wait for all the scurrilous details or add some of our own if we fail to get what we want.
Dr. Amos Adamu, easily one of the most famous (some would say notorious) sports personalities in Nigeria has fallen on the wrong side of the ethics of the Federation Internationale de Football Association, FIFA, which wasted no time in punishing him.
Adamu is protesting his ban over allegations of a London newspaper last month that he demanded a bribe of $800,000 to cast his vote for the United States of America in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
Reynald Temarii, President of the Oceania Football Confederation was also in the same wrap. He was alleged to have demanded for $2.5 million for the same purpose. Both denied the allegations.
The FIFA Ethics Committee last week found them guilty in different degrees. Adamu was banished from football activities for three years in addition to a fine of about N1.57 million. Temarii got a one year suspended ban and will pay half the fine imposed on Adamu.
Four other FIFA Executive Committee members received various bans for other offences — Ismael Bhamjee of Botswana (four years), Amadou Diakite of Mali (three years), Ahongalu Fusimalohi of Tonga (three years) and Slim Aloulou of Tunisia (two years). They will each pay a fine of about N1.57 million.
Africans should be bothered about the high number of their people caught in these scandals and the picture they paint of the conduct of the continent’s sports administrators.
While Adamu said he would appeal the decision which he considers confounding, FIFA in handing out the punishment said it was more lenient on Temarii for not seeking the money for his personal use but for the development of the game in Oceania.
Adamu was caught on tape allegedly asking for the money to built artificial turfs in Nigeria. The Ethics Committee made no mention of his earlier newspaper statements claiming he played along with those offering the money since he told FIFA about the deal.
Our immediate concern is the absence of a framework for dealing with matters of this nature back home. Those who say Adamu disgraced Nigeria are right, but what offence is called “disgracing the country”?
Is FIFA against corruption among its members? Yes, if they are caught. Influence is a key appeal of FIFA membership.
Those who are so inclined peddle it during bids for lucrative properties FIFA has made out of football. The only thing wrong with what Adamu and the others did was that they were caught, so openly, that FIFA had to punish them decisively to rescue some of its own sagging image. Under other circumstances, FIFA could have covered the allegations. FIFA cannot afford further scandals around the World Cup, its most valuable property.
Our attitude to Adamu from this point will really be important. Many people are latching on to the Adamu publicity train. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, that is steadily acquiring a notoriety for speaking, before thinking, is one of them. It purportedly will try Adamu. What will be the offence? Why the sudden interest?
Under what law will it try Adamu for his awkward business with FIFA? Does the EFCC know that there were calls to probe the 2003 All Africa Games? Did the EFCC show any interest in the allegations of impropriety with the FIFA U17 World Cup Nigeria hosted last year?
The outcome of EFCC’s investigation of Adamu is predictable. EFCC will claim FIFA refused to make information available to it after some of its operatives would have wasted enough public resources in trips to Zurich. EFCC should concentrate its efforts on the ceaseless stream of cases overfilling its vaults. Nigerians would want to see them prosecuted. The Adamu-FIFA scandal is none of its business.
Adamu will be a recluse from now, a tough life for a man who has always hugged the headlines and believed he deserved media space for his achievements in sports. A three-year ban effectively puts him away from the international side of football which he sufficiently appropriated to himself. He is not expected to return.
Will Nigeria realise the consequences of allowing one man to be too many things, at the same time? Under the guise of representing Nigeria, Adamu became Executive Committee member of CAF and FIFA in quick succession and the President of the West African Football Union, WAFU. All three positions are gone — and Nigeria will not get them for years.
It is important to note too that while corruption, influence peddling, abuse of office and similar offences are treated with levity in Nigeria, when Nigerians are in international positions, they have to align with the standards of those organisations.