By Paul Bassey
Last year, Nigerian football was at the cross roads.Good will set in, court cases were vacated, peace was expected to reign. Never again, the rancor, acrimony, inefficiency and corruption that bedeviled the sport we hold so dear.
This year, we were expected to take a decision, move forward, to the promised land.
This year, I believe we were doing just that. The appointment of Coach Samson Siasia is believed to be one positive step in the right direction. Never have Nigerians being so united behind one man.
Against all prognostications, Chris Green, a Barrister, emerged as Chairman of the Technical Committee of the NFF peopled with credible personnel and his sermon is that of change, of development and of a rebirth of our football.
Suddenly there is hope that our football can rise again. That even those who did not want to have anything to do with our football are now positively disposed to helping to reposition the game.
Then came the Uyo AGM, and news filtered in that certain decisions had been taken, decisions which ordinarily sounded funny when treated in isolation; that Lulu and co had been pardoned and their Impeachment annulled. That Owumi had been deposed and Elections ordered within fourteen days. That state elections were to be held within fourteen days and so on.
Two weeks ago I took space out to write on my understanding of the Owumi debacle. What I cannot comment upon is the interpretation of the amnesty granted President Lulu and co. someone asked me whether it means that President Maigari and his board are ready to step down and allow the return of Lulu? I cannot say, because the congress communiqué impeaching Lulu was everything but ambiguous.
Then came the order that state FA elections should be held as a matter of urgency. I must commend the NFF for effecting this decision even without clear cut directives on the setting up of electoral panels and directives to that effect.
The result, predictable result has been the overwhelming return of NFF members as state FA Chairmen. I thought it was fashionable to even get NFF members resign their state positions the moment they get to the national level as a means of enhancing participation and broadening the football scope in the country.
One case that does not cease to amuse me is that of Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi. I appreciate his constant war cry of “ not guilty” as regards his present predicament, yet this is a man who years ago was condemned never to hold any public office in this country. Yet his state FA props him up as Chairman and the state and national administrative and judiciary apparati does not find anything wrong with that.
Late last week, I got this notification that guidelines have been revised and new dates set for the women and other leagues poll that will count towards the filling of the remaining posts in the executive committee of the Nigerian Football Federation.
My first observation is that contrary to the Statutes of the NFF, the elections are to hold in Abuja, outside a congress floor of the NFF.
This is confirmed by the revised guidelines that stipulates that “ each club shall be represented by one delegate and shall be entitled to one vote” this again violates the Statutes that empowers State Chairmen to vote in elections of this nature.
I need to be educated whether at the Uyo congress of the NFF or thereafter, there was a motion moved and adopted for a change or amendment of the Statutes, a bible that the NFF professes to hold very dear, and to defend with their blood.
On eligibility of delegates, club owners and club administrators of the Nigeria Women League are listed. Question. Who are clubowners, club administrators? Are they not in the main political appointees? Men who will not mind a move to the top using their position as a pedestal?
In the initial guidelines it was decided and wisely too, that the Nigeria Women League position in the board should be filled by a woman. This gender sensitive position, which is trumpeted by the United Nations and is amplified by our first Lady seeking 35 per cent women participation in our political dispensation can only be lauded.
If my arithmetic is correct, there are twenty women football leagues in this country and over 17 of them are manned by men. What this translates to directly is that going by the current guidelines for election, a man is most likely to win, depriving our women of the chance of managing the women game as is being done world wide.
I hear argument to the effect that FIFA and CAF exist without women on their board. Not a very good analogy. In Federations and Associations world wide, women are put in charge of the women game.
In Africa, a woman Sombo Izetta Wesley held sway in Liberia for as long as I can remember until she stepped down last year. Lydia Nsekera has been a phenomenal success in Burundi as President of the federation. Two years ago, she aspired to step up to the CAF executive and many of us know why she did not succeed.
I treasure, with nostalgic feelings the foundation of our women game. I remember Princess Jegede and Gina Yesseibo among others. I remember that in 1991, I was one of the privileged journalists to cover the first ever FIFA Women World Cup in China and the lessons of that experience has left me with no doubt that women are better for women.
Since then, Jegede, Omidiran and co have fought relentlessly to sustain the women voice in the NFF board, without much success not to talk of when there will be no one to fight for them any more. A man in the NFF board representing the interest of women will be quickly submerged by the men game, lacking the passion and interest to face the women challenge squarely.
Our women have given us so much in the midst of so little. We need a woman who will translate their passion into concrete terms. A woman who will take the game to the highest level, on and off the field, market the league and improve their welfare in a society where they have always been treated as second class.
A man can do it, but I repeat, a good woman will definitely do it better and they abound.
SAD, SO SAD.
Coach Siaisia has just come back from touching base with some of our players abroad, only for Yakubu to descend to a lower league and for Obinna to display such crass indiscipline at a match his club was struggling for survival and needed the compliment of all its manpower.
Sad. Very sad.
See you next week