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No, ….Not again

By Paul Bassey

I was convinced that last week was the best time to go watch the World Cup, so off I went to Brazil, with the intention of taking in the match against France and from there, who knows?

The moment I stepped down in Sao Paulo, I was hit with a blizzard, an off the field tornado, so fiery and fierce that there was no way we could have beaten France on the field of play given the after effects of the imbroglio.

I had waited till today to be able to recount my Brazil experience, wonder when the Sports minister arrived to be involved in a battle so deadly that he was dancing naked with the NFF President on the streets of Brazil, if you can pardon the reference to the Colonel Mumuni Aminu and Minister Jim Nwobodo saga.

Tamuno Danagogo, Sepp Blatter and Aminu Maigari
Tamuno Danagogo, Sepp Blatter and Aminu Maigari

What I heard transpired in Brazil was so acrimonious that I did not need a soothsayer to tell me that our football was heading to the rocks.

Predictably, when I landed in Nigeria, it was at the airport that I got a call summoning me to Abuja “urgently” to discuss with the Sports minister as a stake holder on the way forward for our football. I thought this was okay and made plans to travel to Abuja, but between the airports and my house in Ikeja, I was inundated with calls regarding what the “real situation” was.

What really took me aback was the news that a court, sitting in Jos had sacked the NFF Board and declared the business of running sports suspended until the hearing of a motion on July 11 ….and that the Honourable minister had not wasted time in obeying the court injunction.

I said to myself, “….not again”. When are we going to learn? Who advised the Honourable Minister? When, where have we ever heard of Football matters resolved in courts of law? Chief Onigbinde was the first to react, and he did not have to be clairvoyant to foresee a FIFA sanction.

How can I forget the arrival of Bolaji Abdullahi as Sports minister? At a time litigations against the NFF littered our courts? Sam Sam Jaja, Baribote, Harrison Jalla”s NANF , Ray Nnaji, Segun Odegbami (CAS).

Add to these, some aggrieved parties and individuals……   It was at a public hearing at the National Assembly that Abdullahi won my heart when he stood up to declare that he was ready to prostrate, plead and beg those that had cases in court to withdraw their cases for amicable settlement within the family.

He asked and got phone numbers and addresses of the aggrieved parties and started a process of reconciliation that ushered in peace and progress for our football. It was during the Abdullahi peace moves that efforts were made to reintegrate members of the football family, bans were lifted and football found an enabling environment to thrive.

If the Aminu Maigari led NFF Board say today that they are the best NFF Board ever, they will be grateful to Abdullahi and the peace that made it possible for them to attain such enviable heights, including the qualification for CHAN for the first time in our history, winning of the FIFA U-17 trophy, winning the Nations Cup after over 19 years. Not only qualifying for the World Cup, but equaling a 16 year record by reaching the round of sixteen after the disasters of 2002 and 2010 .

Nigeria has an history of confrontation between Government and the NFF. Must we recount this time four years ago when the Sanni Lulu led board was booted out of office after coming back from a disastrous World Cup in South Africa? The believed government planned coup was hinged on allegations of non performance and financial irregularities. This time, pray what are the offences?

The first time that the Maigari administration’s peace was jolted was when after winning the Nations Cup, Coach Stephen Keshi resigned and heaped all the blame on the NFF for his action. That the NFF should not have interfered in his work, should not have queried him when the team was doing badly etc……All hell was let loose. Government stepped in, people in high and low places went on their knees and pleaded with Keshi not to resign.

The NFF was vilified and blacklisted. Reception parties were planned without the involvement of the NFF. I remember attending the reception of the Super Eagles at Aso Rock by President Goodluck Jonathan and how seating provision was not made for the NFF Board in the hall.

Top government functionaries like the Senate President have been quoted castigating the running of football etc as a fallout of the South African faux pas. Since then, there has been no love lost between the NFF and Government.

I had mentioned my Brazilian experience and hope I will one day have the opportunity of recounting how the minister and the NFF President were at war, leading to the present debacle.

Back to the beginning. My trip to Abuja was aborted when I found that there was a court order contrary to the statutes of CAF and FIFA.

That the order read inter alia……… “ an order of interim injunction restraining the second defendant (Alhaji Aminu Maigari) and all the purported members of the Executive Committee and Congress of the first defendant, (Nigeria Football Association) from further controlling, commanding or managing the affairs of the 1st defendant and all football matters in Nigeria pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction filed in this case….

“…..restraining the 2nd Defendant and all the other purported members of the executive Committee and congress of the 1st defendant from further parading, presenting, or holding themselves out as executive committee and congress of the defendant pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction pending before the honourable court………”

The hearing of the motion on notice was fixed for July 11. I wonder why those who quickly acted on the court order, also went ahead within 24 hours to flout the provisions restraining the CONGRESS from operating, by convening an extra ordinary meeting of the congress.

If the government wanted this present board out, all they needed to do was go through the proper channel as stipulated in the statutes of the NFF, CAF and FIFA.

Besides, what is the hurry? elections are just a month away, let those interested go to the polls and change the status quo if they are convinced they have better innovations to offer and that this administration was not good enough for our football.

Last Saturday, someone woke up and decided to go the “proper way,” the congress way. A meeting was said to have been convened where the NFF sins were tabled and discussed, guilty verdict pronounced, NFF Board and management sacked, league running bodies dissolved, committees set up.

Fair, very fair. This is what could have been done in the first place. All that remains is for the proceedings of that congress to be documented and sent to FIFA as the Tuesday deadline of the FIFA order looms.

Convener, Attendance list, (How many chairmen and secretaries and affiliated bodies were present) Was there a quorum? recorders, motion movers, How many Chairmen voted for what motion, who voted against? who abstained ? Venue and agenda of the congress, …. and so on.

Nigerians in CAF and FIFA are better placed to corroborate this position.

This is what happened and was made available at the Lulu “Ouster Congress” and everyone went home “happy” and we moved on.

We ask for no less.

Let no one be deceived that the bluff of a FIFA sanction can be called. It will paralyse football in this country, turn us into a pariah state and hit the youth of this country who will be thrown out of all football competitions until we learn to operate by the rules

See you next week.


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