FOR many football lovers, the mystery fire that gutted the NFF Glass House in Abuja, almost destroying the Accounts Department, has already been tainted as an act of man, not of God, although proper investigations will tell us which is which.
With news of missing or badly disbursed monies trailing the leadership of the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, after the recent World Cup tournament, there is no way suspicious Nigerians would not call it sabotage or an attempt at cover-up.
Before they left for Brazil, the Aminu Maigari-led NFF Board was impeached and later sacked on various alleged charges of misdemeanor.
But on the two occasions when Maigari had cried wolf, FIFA had intervened, like a parent who always stands by a bad child no matter what he or she does, to save members of the NFF, reinstated them and threatened the Federal Government for what it termed “regular interference with the running of football in the country”. That looks like what Blatter or the Secretary-General would scream from the touch line when another is picking up the bills.
It is not right for FIFA to say that a country responsible for funding football should not interfere with the rules of the game in that country. Who made that rule anyway: Havalenge or Blatter? If FIFA, an advocate of the so-called Fair Play, is responsible for the full funding of national football houses, one can understand that position, but that is not the case except for some dollar windfall in a World Cup year. So, its overbearing use of the sledge hammer of banning Nigeria whenever the country is poised to discipline its erring football association officials is totally wrong.
While the Football House was about coming to terms with the out-of-favour warring combatants, the NFF Glass House located in Zone 7 of Abuja, on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 went up in flames, with accounts files and other documents burnt.
This sad development has raised issues of sabotage and possible cover-up of financial misdeeds within the controversial establishment, which, for the rising number of critics of the NFF, it has become a Cash Cow for all those who are running the Glass House.
The football house was only recently accused of owing the coach of the national team, Mr. Stephen Keshi, five months salary, as well as failing to provide him official house and car. Keshi’s back room staff also suffered the same fate. This is apart from players being shortchanged of their allowances by NFF officials after they had taken care of their own.
Mike Umeh, the second vice president, had immediately called for criminal investigation into the fire as the development occurred during working hours when workers were in the office. He expressed disgust that the fire occurred at a time a man who had been impeached was returning to the office.
Apart from the accounts department, the office of the Secretary-General was also gutted by fire and all the files and documentsburnt to ashes. Corruption has always been an issue in the NFF, but somehow, it seemed nothing had been done to stem it.
Could it be that the slogan, “those who live in glasshouses should not throw stones”, makes no sense to the NFF, hence the seeming endless rot in the Football House.
Was every official a partaker of the booties in the Glass House? Or could it be that the talk of corruption within the FIFA which regulates football around the world has infected the NFF? Does this explain why FIFA constantly shields corruption in NFF from being blown into the open?
Since football has become the opium of Nigerians, any attempt to clamp down on the NFF has become a blackmail instrument against the country, while the officials rape the treasury of the NFF with glee and confidence.
I recall the last time Mr. President threatened to shut down football in the country for at least three years, many Nigerians reacted by saying that would undermine the future of talented young footballers who are hoping to eke out a living by playing soccer in foreign countries.
But every passing day, we are slipping into deeper mess. My only comfort now is that our girls, the Falconets, did the country’s image a world of good by putting up a sterling performance at the just concluded FIFA Under 20 Women World Cup.
NFF is overdue for an audit probe and if any investigation finds any official culpable of malfeasance, he should face the appropriate sanctions.
William Bozimo, a veteran journalist, wrote from Asaba, Delta State.