•Insists September hand over date remains sacrosanct

Says Nigeria’s failure to qualify for Qatar 2022 W/Cup is a wake up call

Former Super Eagles, national U20 and U17 coach, famous for leading the Eaglets to their triumph at the 1993 FIFA U17 World Cup, Fanny Amun is one man who has seen it all in terms of Nigerian football. Apart from being one of the few Nigerians that have handled more than two national teams at various times, Amun rose to the top hierarchy of Nigerian football when he occupied the office of the secretary general of the Nigeria Football Federation and retired as an Assistant Director in the Federal Ministry of Sports in 2007.

His experience on matters concerning sports is vast and he seems to have ready answers to sports-related questions on the tip of his fingers. We sought his opinion on various issues concerning Nigerian football and he was down-to-earth in his responses. He takes no prisoners and says it as it is.

As a patriot, Amun is not happy that the Super Eagles will be missing from the spectacle to be staged in  Qatar between November and December this year, the FIFA 2022 World Cup. We asked, where  Nigeria got it all wrong not to have qualified for the World Cup.

“It might sound strange but there was just nothing wrong as the qualification games were played on fair play through the legitimate FIFA processes which are ever very transparent for every affiliate member to engage in.”

Always frank, at times to a fault, the coach said every other nation had equal right to go to the World Cup. Hear him, “Not a good story line for Nigeria not to have qualified but if l share from the wise position of a former chairman of the NFA, the World Cup ticket is never a birthright of any nation. “Strikingly, it might be a lesson for the future. It was just in same manner Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals in Germany; with same avoidable crises, which is a story for another day. It is a wake up call for us to get better prepared in future.”

He traced the travails of the Super Eagles to the sudden changes in the technical crew, particularly as that was effected so close to the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon.

“Absolutely,” he said. “There was much pressure on the federation by a group of acclaimed experts that influenced the changes, which l actually saw as interference, if the truth must be said.

He continued, “Like you know, sports in Nigeria and football in particular, remain as a unifying factor and amongst the over two hundred million plus Nigerians.  There are some self-acclaimed administrators and coaches. They are never satisfied except it goes their own way, like the removal of Mr Gernot Rohr which was contrary to the decision of the executive board that favoured the  retention of his services  However, some are very objective in their opinions but it is worrisome that it now affects those who are officially saddled with the primary responsibility of running or managing the sport in the country.”

Amun absolved and defended the Sports Minister, Mr Sunday Dare against the accusation of meddling in the affairs of the Nigeria Football Federation, like the choice of a coach for the Super Eagles, a development that has resulted in the team’s struggles in recent times.

“Not to my knowledge. Actions of the sports ministry should not be seen as in your word, as interference, bearing in mind the statutory roles that include, but not limited to, formulating policies, funding through budgetary allocations and applying the strength of government corporate value, political will and timely intervention at all times. Same applies to the same roles by the International Olympic Committee IOC, the world football ruling body FIFA, the confederations like CAF, National associations in the likes of NFF, States and local sports associations in the course of their oversight functions to prevent violations for the good of the game.

“I am very conversant with procedure and to the best of my knowledge the office of the honourable Minister can’t be undermined. For instance, in an elective congress, some seek to activate the government political strength to canvas for favour in the name of being endorsed as the preferred candidates.

“Ironically it is on record that after such election some of the candidates use strong words like they do not need government funding to run the federation’s activities.  In same manner, they claim through public outcry that the government never funded their annual programmes which are usually lies in order to discredit, blackmail government and the sport’s ministry. The strict compliance on procedure can’t be circumvented through all sort of negligence.” 

Amun does not believe that heads of sports federations are telling the truth when they say they do not benefit anything or that they are sacrificing their personal funds, comfort and family well being by volunteering to serve.

He said, “The usual noise that for official assignments a family suffers and words like ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ are cook and bull stories that must attract my strong opinion.  All services are of immense benefit to improve financial position and diverting funds into private pockets without having the interest of the  country at heart. I further confirm that it would have been golden for them to resign from public office if there were no benefits. Instead, they pretend not to have personal interest but inside of them it’s all for personal interest. In a civilised world, less than 0000000001 percent problems in Nigerian sports would have attracted a letter of resignation based on honour. But here we do not see that. Instead, people plot to perpetrate themselves in public offices.” 

As a former scribe of the NFF, we sought his opinion on the method of employment of coaches by the football house following the recent appointment of coaches for all the national teams. Amun didn’t see anything wrong with the appointments. He would not even talk much on the much criticised reappointment of coaches Salisu Yusuf and Ladan Bosso.

His view: “Just like the critical questions that affect policies and running of the Association which I usually avoid, such issues that need clarity should be better addressed by a competent insider; not in a manner that one speaks out of ignorance when relevant information may be lacking to speak properly on such critical national issues. I don’t want to misinform the public.”

We pressed further to know if the CHAN Eagles coach Salisu who was caught on camera taking bribe in order to influence the selection of his team as head coach of the CHAN Eagles, should have been reappointed to the same position after serving punishment from the NFF. Amun insisted: “The reappointment of Mr Salisu Yusuf as a coaching staff should not raise dust since the Football Association is much more competent to speak on his trial. After the fair trial with the competent committee which had a respected detective and an official report was presented to the Association with critical details that may not be available in the public domain.”

The tenure of the Amaju Pinnick-led executive board of the Nigeria Football Federation expires in September. According to the NFF Statute an elective congress will produce a new board that will take over from the present board. This, however, will be preceded by a General Assembly that will prepare ground for the elective congress. After the suspension of a court injunction which had delayed the GA from holding, it is said the NFF board has been working assiduously to ensure the process is triggered to usher in a new board. There is also another school of thought which says the NFF leadership is pulling every string to ensure the September hand-over date does not materialise till after the World Cup and next year’s AFCON which CAF has now postponed till 2024. Amun, however remains optimistic on the September date, as he put it, “September remains sacrosanct” and nothing can change that.

He said, “The reality on ground is that the September date which the outgoing executive board will end their tenure remains sacrosanct and the usual trend of activating the procedure as contained in the statutes can’t be circumvented. A legitimate secretariat and the present congress are knowledgeable enough to guide accordingly in order to avoid any lacuna and delay the processes one second longer, after the expiration of the outgoing executive board.

“Every concerned Nigerian is of the opinion that the noise about allegations of miss-appropriation against this present board has been so loud over time that all that is needed is for the suspects to confront the relevant agencies and clear themselves of the allegations once and for all. The most worrisome aspect is to confirm if those alleged documents are real or fake in order to clear their names and get settled to concentrate on the big task ahead of them and to interpret the statutes and perform the oversight functions including the transition come September 2022 when the present executive board would have ended their tenure.”

The timeline for the election is still not out yet and time is running out as the general assembly which is a precursor to the elective congress is yet to be held. While the football fraternity is worried stiff over the seemingly slow process, the NFF is confident September date is irreversible.

At the general assembly, the NFF will be confronted with the issue of amendment of the Statute in order to accommodate more stakeholders.

Another issue is that of state FA Chairmen, some of whom have been in office for over 20 years and have formed themselves into a powerful bloc. Amun had this to say, “The issue has been, whether the official name is Nigeria football Association, NFA, headed by a Chairman or Nigeria Football Federation under a controversially amended statute with a president that has further disenfranchised others. l regard this as a failure of leadership. An amendment of laws and statutes are a continuous process which the last was about ten years ago.

“When a Nigerian leads he adopts sit tight tactics in order to perpetuate himself in office as if he knows it all. To the best of my knowledge the content of the decision of the NFA congress at the Presidential Hotel in Port Harcourt which remains a reference point till date was lopesided document. The larger the congress the merrier the democratic forum to engage on issues in extensive discussion not the negative influence that a communique is conspicuously one sided that has made our participation to be likened to a farm land that has no owner. in the past years.”

In the build up to the elections, former Nigeria internationals have been very prominent in the struggle for change. Some have even declared interest to contest for the president of the NFF. Coach Fanny Amun had this to say. “if the truth must be said the violations of the decisions of the 2004 NFA congress through controversies that trailed the two amendments is part of the long standing crises hunting the football community. Rules, regulations and amendments of statutes are a continuous process so long as the need arises; not on the basis of sentiments to disenfranchise a sector and take advantage of others.

“Take for an instance, the Nigeria Football Supporters Club, once the pride to all football enthusiast and the player’s union have polarised into numerous groups over a matter that could been resolved amicably. Instead the NFF is taking advantage of the situation and align with a particular group. It is a clear case of failure of leadership on the part of the regulatory authority.

The options available are not limited to the following considering that the benefits are enough to accommodate others in our distinct roles in a country of well over two hundred million credible Nigerians. In the past relevant affiliates were accommodated and that had always produced a larger board. Again, that has resulted in the present state of our football and sports in general where competence has lost its value to mediocrity. Only those “yes sir group “sycophants “’ that are assured a place to serve in the executive board and sub committees that have dedicated their time parading the door steps of the secretariat instead of formulating policies for the secretariat staff under the supervision of the general secretary.

“The secretariat could be directed to consider an amendment process with certain frame work that could be considered to have a larger congress that will accommodate relevant affiliates. The processes that will produce the next president must be credible, free, fair, transparent enough to ensure justice, equity. The congress should produce a northern President this time around to consolidate a credible gentle man structure after the last military dispensation in 1999. The strange words like continuity and experience including a strong contact with the football authorities will only be out of sentiment to dis-enfranchise others to further enrich the self-acclaimed superiority that has never meant well for Nigeria.

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