By Pual Bassey
I had intended this week’s column for my readers, especially those I cannot reach on phone or by mail. I had wanted to use the space this week to wish all of us a greater 2011, sportswise.
I ended 2010 with the belief that 2011 cannot be worse. That we survived the crises of 2010 called for celebrations and prayers for a better 2011.
I repeat that I do not belief any year in our nations sports could be as traumatic as 2010, therefore the cross over called for celebrations.
So I thought.
News emanating from Uyo, after the NFF Congress has really taken me aback, made me wonder whether the confidence I had developed in this NFF was not too hasty. I am referring to the annulment of the NPL elections.
When I first heard of the election of Davidson Owumi as Chairman of NPL, I remember writing in flowery language, praising and supporting the installation of a man who did not only play the game to the highest level ( National team ) but also administered same.( Rangers )
As chairman of club owners, I also said that Owumi was in a position to know where the shoe pinches and that he was condemned to win. This, I believed was the best thing to have happened to our football.
Then came a contention by Baribote the former Bayelsa United Chairman and Honourable Abdulazeez of Ranch Bees and I came out again telling them to please allow progress and development to triumph over selfish interests. I said this because I did not understand the basis of the protest and wondered where it came from.
Messrs Baribote and Abdulazeez were at the NPL Congress in La Monde Hotel in Abuja where decisions were made to streamline election guidelines. One of the decisions taken at that meeting with ALL the 20 league clubs present was that since management committees of clubs differed ( In some cases we have Deputy Governors as chairmen of clubs, others have GM’S, others have Chairmen and so on ) the NPL Congress decided that any member of management or executive committee of any club was free to contest election as chairman of chairmen.
It was also recommended that instead of contestants being nominated by zones they should draw strength from their states. Ironically, it was honourable Abdul Azeez who sponsored this motion and it was adopted.
It is interesting to note that at that time Davidson Owumi had not declared his intention to contest so it is laughable, claims that the guidelines were put in place to favour Owumi.
I go back to say without any fear of contradiction that the election was accepted by ALL present, backs slapped, congratulatory wishes delivered as Owumi was sworn in amid acclamation.
Then came claims contesting the election and I felt this was not proper. I was told and reliably too that it was the case of drum beats in the bush, forcing Baribote to dance on the bush path.
Since due process must be followed, the NPL went ahead to constitute an Appeal Committee as demanded by the FIFA Standard Electoral Code. Let me pause here to say that less than 72 hours after I was appointed the secretary of the NPL Electoral committee, petitions rent the air.
One argument was that as friend and sympathizer of Chief Obaseki, I was one of those he had brought together to perpetuate himself in office. That the FIFA Electoral Code had to be used and that is how I was dropped.
So, another committee was set up, it ran the election according to the dictates of FIFA and when an appeal was filed, the NPL ran back to the FIFA Code, set up an appeal panel and its submission advantage Owumi was accepted and ( signed ) by the aggrieved parties including Baribote.
Before you could say “ Bayelsa United” Baribote came out again to contest the appeal decision and said he was going to court. At this point, the Lulu led NFF came out from the bush with their drums and decided to beat it in public.
In a move that defies all understanding, the NFF decided to set up an ARBITRATION PANEL UNDER IBIDAPO OBE WITH THE SOLE MANDATE OF MAKING SURE THAT OWUMI DOES NOT MAKE IT TO THE NFF BOARD.
Yes. Oh yes that is the whole crux of the matter. As chairman of NPL, Davidson Owumi becomes, automatically, the Second Vice President of the NFF and that was to happen over Lulu’s dead body as the English adage goes.
According to the FIFA STANDARD ELECTORAL CODE,( a document Lulu swore to protect,) under Appeal Procedures, Article 12, it is stated that “ DECISIONS OF THE ELECTION APPEAL COMMITTEE ARE FINAL”. Where did Lulu draw his own arbitration panel from?
Throughout the tenure of the ill fated Lulu board FIFA became the scorpion that they used to sting all of us. You dare not touch them. Yet here was a situation where the supremacy of FIFA was being challenged by the NFF ( Sacrilege ) in order to settle personal scores.
Needless to say that the battle between the NFF and Chief Obaseki’s NPL would have ended long ago, if not for the support of Davidson Owumi as Chairman of club owners who deployed all the might of the clubs behind Chief Obaseki. This did not go down well with the NFF which even went as far as banning him from football in the land.
Owumi was NFF enemy number one, only for him to emerge as NPL Chairman and sit on the same table with them ? No way!
I do not know what the Uyo decision is all about, but I dare say that if Owumi and Baribote should contest elections ten times, Owumi will beat him eleven times. It is about personality, it is about history and contribution to the game in Nigeria.
If on the other hand Owumi refuses to let go his rightful mandate and recontest, then he will receive my support, one hundred percent.
Despite all the hurdles placed in his path, Owumi has gone on to prove that he can take the league to greater heights.
Without funds he made the league to start. Without funds he has made a lot of innovations including the respect of the rule of law and I can testify that the era of playing league matches on sub standard pitches are over.
Thanks to Owumi and his board, no more political approvals for pitches that have become an eye sore to our televised league.
Most importantly, the league has a sponsor that cannot be faulted. The choice of MTN over Globacom was a professional decision devoid of emotions and only people like Owumi could do that.
Please where and how did the NFF arrive at this very unpopular decision, a page out of the Lulu administration?
My dear President Maigari, in the name of all that is good, in the interest of the youths of this country, let Owumi be.
Welcome to 2011. See you next week.