Sport Guard

September 18, 2022

A dangerous dimension

By Patrick Omorodion

The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF is like the proverbial tortoise that is always in the news, mostly for the wrong reasons. From late last year when the AFCON was barely a month to commence in Cameroon, till this moment, the federation has been embroiled in one controversy or another.

The Amaju Pinnick-led board didn’t consider the closeness of the AFCON before booting out Coach Gernot Rohr. In his place, home boy, Austin Eguavoen was hurriedly drafted and the result was the crash of the Super Eagles in the quarter-finals after raising the hopes of the entire nation with a surprise victory over the Mohamed Salah-inspired Pharaohs of Egypt.

This was followed by the loss of the 2022 World Cup ticket to rivals, the Black Stars of Ghana right here at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja. As a result therefore, the call for the ouster of the NFF Board gained momentum.

As has always been the tradition in every election year, some stakeholders who have been crying of being shut out of the electoral system dusted their ‘fire-arms’ and went back to the trenches to fight for representation on the NFF Board. This was after they had agreed to withdraw the lawsuit they filed at a Yenagoa High Court seeking to stop the election until their cry was heard.

Shortly after, following the recommendation of the Ibrahim Galadima Committee on a 10-year master-plan for the development of football, President Muhammadu Buhari had advised the NFF to amend its statutes before the election to include all stakeholders.  The advice was ignored and September 30, 2022 was fixed for the Elective Congress in Benin City.

Right now the NFF has so much to contend with. First the league arm, the League Management Company, LMC of the federation headed by its second vice president, Shehu Dikko was asked to fold up by the sports ministry which suddenly remembered that the Supreme Court had declared it illegal earlier in the year.

With its Abuja office now sealed up by security agents, nobody is certain when the new football season will commence even though the LMC is still flexing muscles with a lengthy epistle which it wrote to declare its legitimacy.

Another knot the NFF has to untie in the coming days is the order by a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo that the status quo be maintained and the September 30 election put on hold until the matter before his court is determined, maybe by October 30, 2022.

The world governing body, FIFA says football matters shouldn’t be taken to court. When it said this, it didn’t say whether it includes when stakeholders’ fundamental human right is infringed upon. Over the years, some stakeholders have appealed to the NFF to open up the electoral space so that as many as those who are qualified to contest could do so.

Their appeal has however, been ignored and the result is that there has always been litigation every election year. However, a dangerous dimension has been added this year. An adage says that those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable.

The introduction of terrorism or threat of terrorism into sports election matters is a joke taken too far. This is why one is forced to ask who are members of the Nigeria Football Stakeholders who have issued threats and actually wrote to the sports minister, Sunday Dare and the NFF president, Pinnick?

The letter dated August 7, 2022 was received by the office of the sports minister on September 11, 2022. In asking for the cancellation of the September 30 election, the group, represented by one Dogogo Johnbull as secretary general, accused the NFF Board of some crimes including, ‘blatant refusal to adjust the statutes to accommodate all intending stakeholders to come to the board’.

And because their demands have not been met, the body issued the following, ‘refusal to adhere to our warning will be met with very serious consequences, we will not hesitate to bomb and bring down the venue of the election and blood will flow’.

One wonders why till this moment the government has not done anything about it even wihen the signatory of the threat is known with a given address.

At a time when terrorists are threatening the existence of the country, it is unimaginable that a dangerous dimension has been added to football election in Nigeria and the government is acting as if all is well.

If those behind this threat are allowed to go scot-free without any reprimand, the government should just accept that it has endorsed terrorism into sports administration and should be ready to contend with for more terror groups in subsequent elections.