Today I want to talk to my friend and colleague, Ade Ojeikere. His e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org aptly captures it. Ade, as he is fondly called, is a powerful writer and most times, writes satirically. But the one of Saturday, February 23, 2013 in the Sporting Life was definitely not a satire.
Ade, known very well as a friend of the present NFF Board in trying to defend them, wrote so much on how Stephen Keshi and John Obuh, coach of the Flying Eagles have introduced blackmail or arm-twisting, to get what rightly belongs to them.
He proffered that for embarrassing the NFF and Nigerians at a time they were still celebrating the heroic feat of the Super Eagles at the Nations Cup, that the coaches should be sacked as their action, which he said was tantamount to blackmail, was unheard of in the civilised world.
I want to draw Ade’s attention to what happened at the 2010 World Cup when the French players boycotted a training session over a grievance they had with the authority. So such things happen in the civilised world, at least to draw the attention of the authorities to an unpleasant situation.
Ade said Obuh’s action brought shame to Nigeria, that he should have exploited a better option to drive home his protest. Who told Ade that the coach has not tried or even exhausted these other options and had no other option than to go public?
One of the options Ade suggested was for the coach to have reported to NFF’s supervisory body, the National Sports Commission, NSC. The same body that has been accused by the NFF and Ade himself in the past of interference when it tried to look into activities of the NFF including embezzlement of funds? Why resort to the NSC now?
To make an excuse for the NFF’s inability to pay its coaches, Ade further blamed the government, indirectly the NSC, for not providing funds early enough for competitions. Was coach Obuh crying over funds to prosecute Flying Eagles campaign in the African Youth Championship or his personal salary? The two must be separated because they are two different issues.
For an NFF that fights for autonomy, it behoves on the Board members to source for funds for some of its primary activities like payment of staff salaries. Even if the money to prosecute the competitions haven’t been released, a functional NFF should be solvent enough to fund the project until the government money, which definitely must come, comes.
It is the practice with some other federations not spoon-fed like the NFF. The athletics body, the AFN did it under Dan Ngerem and is still doing it under Solomon Ogba, so why not the NFF? Here is where proactive men with foresight are needed to serve as chairmen/presidents of associations or Board members.
I will urge Ade to dig into the history of the NFF and see that it has never met part of its contract with coaches, foreign or Nigerian. The foreigners are better off as FIFA always comes to their rescue by withdrawing from source and paying them whenever it wants to pay the NFF monies accruing to it from FIFA activities.
The Nigerian coaches, on their part, are at the mercy of egoistic NFF Board members. I don’t know whether Ade is aware that a coach like Godwin Izilein is still owed some money since 2004 after he led Falcons to win the African Women Championship in South Africa. They claim they did not receive money on time from the NSC and asked Izilein to beg the girls to play as their money would come later.
After lifting the trophy, the money still did not come and the girls protested, refusing to return home unless their money is paid them. They argued that if they don’t get paid in South Africa, they may never get paid. Was that not a vote of no confidence of the NFF?
The girls went as far as carrying the flag of the defunct Biafra Republic in protest of their ill-treatment by the NFF. And pronto, the then NFF held on to that to deny Izilein his reward by reporting to then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that the Edo-born coach instigated the players. What a laughable but cruel way of punishing an innocent man. How can an Edo man instigate players to carry Biafran flag?
At the end of the embarrassment, the players and all other officials were paid their allowances and reward from the government but Izilein was denied. Till today no one has said what happened to his money which must have been released by the NSC. No one even investigated the circumstances of the national embarrassment in South Africa and Izilein, like an orphan, is left to lick the wound of the NFF’s injustice alone. This is what I expect Ade to do and not castigate officials who are asking to be paid their wages, for up to 10 months or more for God’s sake.
Was it not better Obuh protested here in Nigeria than getting to Algeria during the competition to ‘embarrass’ the country? To avoid the Keshi resignation or Obuh public protest, Ade should advise the NFF to pay its workers promptly.
Can Ade tell Nigerians who among the NFF Board members in South Africa during the Nations Cup who had, sleeping, waking up, eating, picnicking, shopping, watching matches and doing other nocturnal activities, as their daily routine, was not paid his or her ecstacode fully? Why should coaches who are always receiving the fire on the sidelines not get their money and yet keep quiet. If the arm-twisting option, like Ade likened it to, is the panacea to their plight, then it is allowed because they too are humans and have families to cater for.