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Cleaning The Mess In The Glass House By Adewale Kupoluyi

The imbroglio that engulfed the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) after the national team’s poor outing at the last World Cup appears to be assuming an embarrassing magnitude that should no longer be allowed to continue. Before now, there have been litigations, court injunctions, dissolution of the federation board, suspension by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the ouster of Alhaji Aminu Maigari as the NFF President. Rather than taking stock, learning from our performance and planning ahead, our football administrators are busy engrossing in power tussle while little attention is being accorded sound football administration in the country. The crisis in the Glass House, which started some years ago with the removal of Alhaji Sani Lulu-Abdullahi from office after the 2010 World Cup, brought in the regime under Maigari, who was in the saddle for four years that was mired by so much acrimony. Going by FIFA rules, NFF is meant to be autonomous, independent and free of government’s control. The plight of NFF worsened with the election of Chris Giwa as its new helmsman. While the Maigari-led congress dissolved the executive and electoral committees and fixed September for elections into the next board, another congress, allegedly backed by the government voted and elected Giwa as the NFF President, an election already rubber-stamped by the Ministry of Sports. FIFA has insisted that it would not recognise any person or organ that is not elected in furtherance to the NFF statutes (As contained in Article 17 of FIFA statutes). No doubt, this decision by the Nigerian government has pitched its tenth against FIFA, which has warned that the nation will be sanctioned if the Giwa’s faction does not vacate the office, as other notable football stakeholders such as the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA), Association of Professional Footballers of Nigeria (APFON), club owners, coaches among others, have also decried the infighting that has turned into a national embarrassment. The Guild of Sports Editors, the umbrella body for sports editors recently met to review recent happenings and equally expressed the need to salvage the situation without further delay.

Aminu Maigari

Aminu Maigari

The NFF crisis has taken much toll on our volatile football administration as virtually all the tiers of the league are being suspended at a critical period when our national team, the Super Eagles, is expected to begin its title defence against Congo in the next year’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in the next few days. Currently, the nation’s football league comprising the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) also known as the Glo Premier League, the Nigeria Nation Wide League (NNWL), the Nigeria Women’s League and the Nigeria National League (NNL), have also suspended their activities indefinitely as a result of referees’ boycott. From the unfolding events, one can say that NFF is unarguably the architect of its own misfortune. For instance, it would be recalled that an Abuja High Court had stopped the election that brought Maigari and his team into the board four years ago but Maigari, rather than obeying the law, decided to hide under the threat of FIFA ban, ignored the court ruling and went ahead with the election. Again, a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi also nullified the elections conducted into the NFF elective offices. Inspite of this, the Maigari-led NFF board brushed aside all the court rulings and refused to vacate or appealed against them. Apart from the disrespect for the courts, the Maigari-led NFF board had been bogged-down by one crisis or another going from the alleged missing dollars inside an aircraft, high-level corruption, match-fixing and strained relationship among board members, who were said to have illegally constituted a the League Management Company (LMC), to run the Nigeria Professional League.

The Ministry of Sports, under Dr. Tammy Danagogo, appears to be incapable of overseeing the operations of NFF effectively. Rather, it has deployed overbearing and divide-and-rule tactics that have been counter-productive. While the Maigari group is enjoying the goodwill of FIFA, the Chris Giwa team on the other hand has the backing of the Nigerian government. It is expected that with the series and grievous allegations leveled against the body, the ministry should have demanded accountability from the NFF. But whenever this happens, the impression that is given is that FIFA would sanction the nation because of government intervention. Up till now, the inferno at the NFF secretariat in Abuja is yet to be investigated, especially in the face of information that the fire extinguishers at the secretariat expired since 2012 without any attempt to replace them. The ongoing stalemate is nothing but a clear manifestation of the absence of the genuine passion for service by those that are benefitting from the humongous situation and would rather prefer that the status quo ante be maintained.

As a way forward, Nigeria should put in place, a sound football administration where those saddled with such responsibility would consider national interest foremost; instead of leaving the game to a few vested interests that appear to be after their private pockets. From what we have been seeing so far, we can safely say that those involved in football administration in Nigeria have no real interest in developing the game. This could be due to the ‘free’ money that comes from the government that makes the NFF secretariat the toast of politicians. Unfortunately, we have failed to tap the immense opportunity in the football business for national development in the sense that it has the tendency to be the only sport that is capable of self-funding and revenue generation in Nigeria and elsewhere. If the government stays away from football in terms of full control – because it has been proven that government cannot run football administration effectively – it is possible that the right calibre of people that can move in and drive the game forward. What FIFA wants now is a shift in date that would allow for more time to conduct free and fair elections. Therefore, the election that brought Giwa into office should be revisited as directed by FIFA and democracy should be allowed to take its full course in the bid to choosing experienced and selfless leaders for NFF. We cannot afford to be banned again by FIFA. This should be the ultimate concern of our football administrators. They should stop throwing stones in the Glass House!

Kupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, vide, adewalekupoluyi@yahoo.co.uk, Twitter, @AdewaleKupoluyi

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