football

By Patrick Omorodion

It was former Director General of the defunct National Sports Commission, NSC, Dr. Patrick Ekeji who wrote in his book, Odessey of A Green Eagle that every sports minister appointed to heads the sports ministry comes with a mindset.

When this book was published, it was Abdulrahman Gimba, a Niger State-born lawyer that was in-charge of the sports ministry and he didn’t take lightly to that part of the book. But Ekeji was saying the truth.

Otherwise how would anyone describe the decision of every sports minister who comes on board to concentrate on mostly football to the detriment of other sports.

This was exactly my feeling when the Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima-led  committee submitted its report on the 10-year masterplan for the development of football in Nigeria.

Segun Odegbami had advertised his television programme, Sports Parliament which was to discuss the development as it relates with the advise given by President Muhammadu Buhari for the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF to restructure by amending its statutes which has been the bone of contention by stakeholders who feel shut out by a clique running the sport.

This was Odegbami’s reply to my question: When the NFA (he believes that is the football house’s real name) gets it right, it will impact all other sports. That’s why this (the restructuring) must  be ‘do or die’. We must ‘kill’ the monster.

And the monster are the chairmen of the State’s Football Associations who were made powerful by a former ‘powerful’ sports administrator, Dr. Amos Adamu whose words were law when he held the sports sector with vice-grip.

Before these chairmen were made so powerful, football had an easy and rancour free election process with known constituencies which provided the electorates. Rather than elect a member as their delegate, each of them were made to have a vote each. From then on, they formed a formidable force that decided who becomes NFF president. 

Again here is what Odegbami wrote about these ‘monstrous’ group called State FA Chairmen.

“The State Football Associations became ‘illegal’ individual members of the NFA. They were and still are simply the coordinating bodies of the NFA in every State, and their role is limited to the States. They were always a part of the General Assembly of the NFA that meets every year end to conduct the business of policy direction for the NFA, but they never voted at elections, until the government, with Amos Adamu in control, erroneously introduced them into the constitution, as the ‘Joker’ to get rid of Galadima and regain control of the NFA.

Suddenly, the State Football Associations, from the blues, became the most powerful group in Nigerian football. Their diabolical introduction changed the face and fortune of Nigerian football. Things have not returned to normalcy since then.

That ‘error’ of expanding the place and power of State Football Associations and inserting it (in ignorance of the long-term consequences) into the NFA constitution, is the biggest hindrance to the growth of Nigerian football administration today. To move forward the faulty decision must be reversed. Those aspects that give it ‘oxygen’ must be expunged for progress to be made.

To amend it, according to the constitution created by the same new power brokers, needs their approval now. They constitute 37 of the 44 members of the General Assembly that can do the amendment.

Yet, no one surrenders power once they have it. The State Association Chairmen will not give it up unless they are compelled to do so.”

He equally said that “ A dangerous battle line has been drawn in the sand between the Nigerian Football Federation and the Federal Government of Nigeria.  Following a speech delivered by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, when he received members of the committee he set up to come up with a 10-year masterplan for football development in Nigeria, the country is at the edge of a cliff.    

What the NFF now does will either tip Nigerian football over the edge into an abyss, or turn it around and put it back on track to possible new development.

The President ADVISED the NFF to respect the recommendations of the Committee by amending its statutes to ensure equity and fair representation by all members of the Nigerian football family before embarking on the election slated for September 30, 2022.  

With barely one month to the expiration of the tenure of the present NFF, the elections be delayed any more, the board’s tenure CANNOT also be elongated. Will the NFF respect the government’s wish, or play ‘clever’ and attempt to sustain the illegality, the unfairness, and the lopsidedness in the electorate for a new leadership, a situation that has brought Nigerian football to a sorry state, what many people consider the worst in history?

The question now is, will the NFF be able to fully restructure and open up the space for other stakeholders to come in while ‘killing’ the monsters created by Dr. Adamu? Meaning amending the statute and reducing the voting power of the State FA chairmen from 37 to  one? 

Considering that the NFF has just 26 days to its Annual General Assembly in Benin City where they are supposed to elect a new president, will the election be postponed to allow for President Buhari’s advise to be respected or will the NFF go ahead and called the federal government’s bluff?

Already one of the stakeholders, Harrison Jalla is reported to have gone to court to stop the election until the statutes is amended as canvassed by footballers, both past and present. This is a signal that the country will be faced with another long legal battle, as is usual every election year, for the soul of Nigeria’s football. 

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.