By Paul Bassey
Immediately after the meeting of the FIFA –CAF Consultative Committee last week in Lagos, I travelled out denying myself the full benefits of the reactions that followed our determination to step in and stem some of the anomalies rocking Nigeria’s football.

When I came back, my colleague Ade Ojeikere referred me to an article and asked that I read it, in order to educate the writer, who incidentally is also a colleague. I promised I was going to, but told him that the education was needed more in the National Sports Commission than elsewhere.

I was proved right when the Honourable Minister was said to have told the NFF leadership to resign. This was a big joke. When I first heard, I advised the NFF to tell him to put it in writing.

The next we heard was that a document had been signed in which the NFF agreed to offer Mr. Sam Sam Jaja , Honorary membership of the board of the NFF, while Barrister Ray Nnaji is to be “compensated”. Very unfortunate development. Pyrrhic victory of sorts.  Ephemeral peace. This was followed by an unnecessary and wasteful courtesy call on the FIFA President in Zurich, despite our advice to the contrary.

The Honourable Minister should be grateful that the NFF is presided over today by someone who is a good listener (Although I believe he listens to too many people) An amiable personality who is interested in the development of the game, a virtue that was exploited, one that perhaps led him to sign a document that he was not supposed to sign. Another President would have called the bluff of the Acting Sports minister, preferring to defend the Statutes of the NFF as sanctioned by the General Assembly!

When the FIFA-CAF Consultative Committee decided to bring all warring parties to the table, we had football solutions in mind. We did not have to legalise the resort to ordinary courts in a situation where such people deserve to be punished. Jaja and Nnaji are football people. They would have understood our language.

What the minister has hurriedly done, in ignorance, is to blackmail the NFF into endorsing illegality. Any football person acting contrary to the statutes governing the game should be educated accordingly. I stand to be corrected, where in the world has a football matter ever been settled in or out of ordinary courts, except in Nigeria?

Now that Messrs Jaja and Nnaji have been compensated, how does that stop future litigation? How does that prevent Paul Bassey from going to court tomorrow to enforce what Mr Jaja has agreed to forget? What happens to others that believe they have been injured, those who spent money going to court? Some of them even went as far as the court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). How do we compensate those ones?

Let us assume that we even had to go as far as exchanging whatever, for the much needed peace, did we have to document and publicise it? I have been told, “why not ?” How do some people get cheap publicity and curry unmerited glory?

Let me however respect the views of Mike Itemuagbor and others who believe that though mistakes have been made, we should try and build on the weak foundation so established, by seeking a lasting solution to the problems of football in this country.

One way out, perhaps the only way out, as stated in the classic communiqué of the FIFA-CAF Consultative Committee is the fast tracking of the repeal of Decree 101 and the establishment of the NFF Bill which public hearing will commence today in the National Assembly.

To allow sanity return to Nigeria’s football we should hasten to establish the Nigeria Football Federation by the adoption of the NFF Statutes and the transferring of all assets (and liabilities) of the NFA to the NFF.

I  have come across a lot of documents addressing this all important assignment and I get worried by some of the contents which also signify the lack of understanding of the laws governing the execution of the game worldwide.

Again, at the level of CAF and FIFA members we have consulted widely. Mr Amanze Uchegbulam is the Vice President of the CAF Appeals Board and he sums up the issue simply by saying that we should at the level of the National Assembly enact a law that gives muscle to the NFF which is governed by a body of laws formulated by the General Assembly and approved by FIFA.

The NFF should also be empowered to amend its Statutes in accordance with the provision of the Statutes as will be validated or otherwise by the General Assembly. This is because the National Assembly cannot afford a verbose sentence by sentence resolution that will require perhaps five or more years to regulate on the floor of the National Assembly should  the need arise as an example, to amend certain laws in the NFF Statutes.

The supervisory role of government as regards grants, extended to the Federation is not lost in this latest development and must be properly captured and established to exclude the interference of government in the administration and development of football.

Let me go back to the very relevant view of Mr Itemuagbo as reflected by Onochie Anibeze in his column last Friday. That given our peculiar circumstances there is need to embark on an aggressive education of football people nationwide on the do’s and dont’s of football administration. That if for instance you want to contest any football election you should be made to abide by a foot note that forbids you taking football matters to an ordinary court outside established football redress mechanisms as spelt out by the electoral code.

Finally, I have heard and read so much of the Acting Minister’s resolve to leave credible footprints in the sports sands of our time. Can he now focus his attention on Judo, Boxing, Taekwondo, Tennis and Handball? We sure need a lot of resignations in these and other sports. I wish him well.

See you next week.

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